From Comme’s creepy clowns and Louis Gabriel Nouchi’s hot customers, to Mowalola’s criminally good fetish fest and Y/Project’s unusual ‘drunk English man’ inspo, here’s everything you missed
Is it just me, or did the last two weeks fly by in a flash? It feels like just days ago that Martine Rose packed up her new Nike collab in London, Mrs. P and Raf debuted the bizarro boot of the season in Milan, and yet somehow, Paris Fashion Week’s menswear edition is already finito.
With that in mind, as ever, we’ve rounded up some of the must-see moments from the city of lights’ SS23 edition: from Comme Homme and Junya, to homegrown talent in the shape of Craig Green, Bianca Saunders, and Mowalola, here’s what you missed.
Bianca Saunders switched London for Paris last season, debuting an elegant but slightly safe collection in the belly of the Palais De Tokyo for AW22. This time around, the former Dazed 100er hit her stride with a slick offering that demonstrated her affinity for colour, clean lines, and imaginative construction. On a model cast made up of friends of the brand and members of her community – poet Kai-Isaiah Jamal and GQ’s Pierre A M’Pele among them – the designer showcased boxy, wide-shouldered trenches with unevenly pleated silk backs (“the ‘mistakes’ or irregularities make things interesting,” she explained backstage), while luxe satin in popping shades of tomato red and olive green were fashioned into languid shirt and loose trouser sets.
Particularly fab was the denim – all boxy shouldered, cropped-to-the-hip jackets and straight-leg jeans in perfect, punchy indigo, as well as a standout version in shiny crinkled silver metallic. The whole thing was inspired by the ‘hard’ food served up alongside a traditional Jamaican meal: how yams and starchy plantain becomes soft and squidgy as it boils. The collection that manifested from that was an exploration of hard and soft, and how our external personas contrast against our interior beings.
In among the big, bombastic shows of Paris Fashion Week – looking at you, Louis Vuitton and Rick Owens – rising labels like Hed Mayner were busy making quiet impact with considered collections and intimate, stripped-back presentations. This season, the designer making his name with bold, oversized silhouettes and offerings steeped in personal stories, offered up an understated edit of wearable clothes.
Slouchy knits in fine gauges sloped off shoulders, while shirting and handkerchief-style tees crafted from flea market-procured antique linens and cottons came crumpled and seemingly well worn (this was a collection that hadn’t seen a steamer, and felt all the more modern for it). Elsewhere, Mayner’s XXL outerwear was present in bold-shouldered trenches that were cinched at the waist, pumped-up blouson leather jackets in muted shades of petrol blue, and yet more of his brilliant, boxy blazers.
Fresh from showing his SS23 ALYX collection around the edge of an abandoned swimming pool in Milan, Matthew Williams headed straight to Paris to debut what he’d been working on at Givenchy for the past six months. With guests sitting around a huge white cube, from which a milky white mist emanated (fab for those feeling the heat, less so for those wearing lewks incorporating silk lol). As the show kicked off, models stamped through a similarly milky pool, sending water splashing as they went.
This season, Williams was exploring the archetypes of a typical American wardrobe, expanding his language at the revered maison, and putting his own elevated spin on the street silhouettes and sensibility he helped pioneer during his early days as part of #BEENTRILL#. To this effect, skin-tight trousers with plentiful utilitarian pockets were crafted in neon hues of green, pink, and yellow, and matched with neat camo jackets with clean zips and minimal detailing.
Techy, functional gilets emblazoned with brash logos came paired with pumped-up cargo shorts, while shirting and tees were printed with the tarot card tattoo belonging to Williams’ himself. Stripping away the impressive set and the bolshy branding and retina-obliterating highlighter flashes, things got really strong when it came to the tailoring, as the designer turned it down a notch closer to the finale. Here, he presented a refined edit of crisp car coats, sharp blazers, and louche trousers, all with his own street-informed spin, like a slash to the knee a la a long-loved pair of jeans.
COMME DES GARÇONS HOMME PLUS
After a runway absence of more than three years, SS23 marked the long-awaited return of Rei Kawakubo, as she staged her latest Comme Homme Plus show in an almost all-black, barely-lit space (trust me when I say getting to my seat was almost as nightmarish as the Suspiria and Psycho scores that soundtracked the whole thing). As the show kicked off, a procession of creepy, masked clowns in voluminous hooped skirts, frock coats, and harlequin checks skulked down the uber-narrow catwalk, barging into each other as they went. Surprisingly, these masks weren’t a comment on the coverings we’ve been strapping to our faces for the last couple of years.
Actually, Kawakubo revealed she’d been thinking about medieval court jesters for the new season, calling them and the collection itself Another Kind of Punk. “Often, they would be close advisors of the king,” she told Vogue. “Coming from a different world with original ways of thinking, they would have the right to speak freely and give honest insights and advice. I imagined these jesters probably had punk spirit.” In a world that is increasingly individualistic and prone to far-right thinking, the Homme Plus show hammered home the importance of considering voices and opinions beyond your own.
LOUIS GABRIEL NOUCHI
Louis Gabriel Nouchi is one of the most exciting designers on the Paris Fashion Week men’s schedule, not only for his brilliantly realised, sensual take on the masculine wardrobe, but also for his casting. Drawing inspiration from Pierre Choderlos de Lacios’ risqué 1782 novel Dangerous Liaisons (if you’re looking for something iconic to watch this weekend, add cult 1999 movie Cruel Intentions to your list, given it’s based on the book), Nouchi put forward an offering of diaphanous, second-skin tops, slinky little vests and a plethora of leather shorts, suspenders, and kinky trenches, on a cast made up of both models, Instagram celebs, and his customers.
As per last season, the designer further hammered home how important it is to see ‘real’ bodies wearing the clothes he makes, and tbh, he’s completely right. Larger women may be slowly infiltrating the catwalk, but men beyond a sample size haven’t historically had a look-in – at Louis Gabriel Nouchi, there’s body hair, flab, and sweat, and his shows are all the more refreshing for it.
Sneaking onto the menswear schedule with another co-ed show, this season, Belgian legend Glenn Martens switched out the cavernous DPD depot for the verdant greens of a private garden in a former schoolyard, where he erected a gravel-lined catwalk for his models to crunch down. Collection-wise, it was (brilliant) business as usual, as Martens twisted and subverted classic denim into his own brand of bordering-on-couture creations: think trompe-l’oeil, skin-tight dresses printed with flared jeans and corsets, skew-whiff, pumped-up jackets with asymmetric fastenings, and flowing, multi-panelled skirts that swished violently round the ankles of those wearing them.
Kitschy Eiffel Tower prints also made an appearance for SS23 across louche jersey pieces that clung to the body, and that Gaultier collab first seen in his AW22 collection also made a comeback for round two, as Martens dug further into JPG’s archives and bastardised what he found. Meanwhile, a special mention must go to the offering’s jewellery. The sculptural carved necklaces were piled so high they became more like neck braces, while pendulous middle-finger earrings somehow managed not to slip right out of the models’ earlobes (or worse yet, rip them). The pieces took their inspiration from a tattoo Glenn Martens had spotted “on a drunk English guy”, he told us backstage, and if ever you needed proof beauty could be found in the most ugly of things, then there you have it.
After a blockbuster show last season, in which everyone from Mariacarla Boscono, to Paloma and Sage Elsesser, to Emily Ratajkowski walked, Alexandre Mattiussi impressed once again by dragging the fashion set to the very peak of Paris at sunset. In the shadow of the Sacré Coeur, the historic church that overlooks the bohemian Montmartre district of the city, the French designer showcased a quintessentially AMI collection infused with plentiful Gallic references: think classic nipped trench coats in luxe camel and inky blue matched with Breton striped tops and perfectly-faded denim cut-offs, sharp tailored jackets with glinting gold buttons and hardware, and high-waisted, wide-legged trousers worn with tucked-in tees and shirts, a jaunty handkerchief knotted at the neck.
Naturally, as is becoming standard at your typical AMI show, the model line-up was as major as ever, with Mariacarla and Paloma returning alongside new additions Kristen McMenamy, Karen Elson, and Cara Delevingne, who made a rare runway appearance by closing the show. Best of all, however, was seeing Audrey Tatou, aka Amélie herself, kick off proceedings. Consider the 13-year-old twee-AF Francophile in me deceased.
Last season, Junya Watanabe gave everyone a “WTF?” moment when he linked up with Jamiroquai frontman Jay Kay to drop a “Virtual Insanity”-inspired collection (truly not words I thought I’d write back then, and tbh, still not words I thought I’d be revisiting six months on). Anyway, I digress.
This time around, the Japanese iconoclast mined the work of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Keith Haring, and Jean-Michel Basquiat for the new season, splashing their artworks across neat workers jackets, relaxed denim, and classic tailoring via embroidered patches and bold prints. Bringing the offering into 2022 was a series of immediately recognisable logos: from Netflix plastered across a classic dad cap, to Coca-Cola across a trucker, the result was a new exploration of the rampant consumerism the likes of Warhol himself set out to document and deconstruct.
Drawing on his house’s rich history and looking to its founding father, Monsieur Christian Dior himself for another season, Kim Jones took us to the sea for SS23. Drawing inspiration from Dior’s childhood home in Granville, Normandy, Jones recreated the house in the middle of a field of wildflowers (especially planted for the event) at one end of the show space, while at the other stood a reconstructed likeness of artists Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell’s West Sussex home, Charleston, where the Bloomsbury set loved to pull up and hang out in the 1920s and 30s.
A longtime source of inspo for Jones (see: his debut couture show for Fendi, in which he sent models round a catwalk dotted with reading nooks filled with books by Virginia Woolf et al), this time around the designer splashed works by Grant across the chunky knitted sweaters seen throughout the collection. Elsewhere, the house’s legendary bar jacket was imagined anew, this season in light-as-air, diaphanous taffeta which showcased not just the style’s inner-workings, but also the unrivalled skill and craftsmanship of those working in the Dior atelier. Less delicate flourishes which demonstrated Jones’ propensity for streetwear came via utilitarian outerwear: much of it crafted in collaboration with Mystery Ranch, which is revered for its work with the rescue services.
Craig Green made his Paris comeback this season, after taking over a former sugar factory in East London earlier this year. For SS23, the designer had stripped things back. In an all-white space in the belly of the Musée de l’Homme, he sent out a tight, emotive collection inspired by idea of ‘the decorated man’ – aka those awarded medals of honour for bravery and honour. The result was an offering shot through with military flourishes, with Green sending models in technical vests, utilitarian, multi-pocketed coats and jackets, and combat-style pants storming down the catwalk.
It wasn’t just about flashy awards, however. Green also stated he wanted the collection to feel ‘useful’ which meant wearable saddles and stirrups, and ladders which were strapped to models’ backs and jutted out above them. His showstopping looks were present, too, this time in tent-like structures which billowed out behind their wearer, but not everything was quite so conceptual. Particularly strong were a series of understated denim looks, like jeans with ‘underwear’ that peeked from waistbands, and boxy vests detailed with Green’s signature circle cut-outs.
It’s been three long years since Mowalola Ogunlesi presented her final collection for Fashion East, so when she was announced as a last-minute addition to the PFW menswear schedule, it goes without saying that people were pretty excited. With COVID and a little appointment as creative director of Yeezy Gap alongside Kanye West meaning the show was a long time coming, her most fully-realised offering to date took the name Burglarwear and served up some serious fetish vibes.
Mowa’s signature baby tees came bearing supervillain-esque motifs, while her micromini dresses were even tinier than before, coming festooned with restraining strap and lace-up details: one look saw the model’s wrists bound in front of her, while another pulled them awkwardly behind her back. Elsewhere, a stand-out balaclava dress which clung to its wearer’s body like a second skin forced her arms in the air in submission, which, given the news of the Roe v Wade U-turn broke this weekend in the middle of fashion season, lent the look a new meaning in terms of body autonomy and control.
Nigo was back for round two at Kenzo, after making his debut at the helm of the house in January at a show where Kanye West and Julia Fox, Pharrell Williams, and Tyler, The Creator sat front row. This time, there was no sign of Foxye, but the streetwear behemoth and Bathing Ape originator seemed to be getting into his stride. On the agenda for SS23 was a preppy mix of school uniform-like tropes including chunky knitted sweater vests, slick, straight-leg trousers, and pinafore dresses, as well as a distinctly nautical theme seen via sailor tops bearing bolshy logo-embroidered Kenzo patches. In fact, those Kenzo logos were everywhere, as seen across cute sailor hats, classic berets, and signature varsity jackets.