From Marine Serre, to Comme des Garçons, and Wales Bonner, here’s a guide to everything that went down at the AW23 menswear shows
The AW23 menswear edition of Paris Fashion Week – which saw Rosalía take to the stage at Louis Vuitton, a blood-splattered Gabriel from Emily in Paris at Louis-Gabriel Nouchi, and a new bitch pump from Maison Margiela – has just come to a close. The grande dame of fashion month, Paris played host to behemoth showcases from brands like Dior and Saint Laurent and more tender offerings from Bianca Saunders, Botter, Kiko Kostadinov, and Loewe (which was beautiful and silly). Below, we round-up everything you might have missed from the latest season… before doing the same for Haute Couture, and the AW23 womenswear shows, which starts on February 9 in New York.
Marine Serre is shorthand for mayhem: every season, crowds of fans bring traffic to a standstill while showgoers are forced to find backdoor entrances to save themselves from a door crush. But this time, the sheer scale of whatever was going on outside the La Grande Halle venue was mirrored on its inside – watched over by thousands of members of the public and three colossal towers of deadstock fabric that Serre will use for her next collection. Titled Rising Shelter, models emerged from an amberous plume of smoke as a voiceover ventriloquised Serre’s thinking: “Everything is transformed. To love is to repair. It must be simple”. So, found textiles were spliced into corseted trench coats; serving plates were strung into breastplates and big boho belts; second-hand t-shirts became sinuous columns; and old motorcycle gloves were repurposed into bodysuits, while models were obscured in head-to-toe moon prints.
A jazz musician trumpeted in a gilded salon at the Place Vendome and Grace Wales Bonner translated the styles and sophistications of James Baldwin, the Maharaja and Maharani of Indore, and Josephine Baker onto the runway. At some point or another, all of those people visited Paris to soak in the city’s high society and so Bonner’s model cast took on the insouciant air of a flaneur – men who sauntered around Paris, observing and realising things, in the 16th century. There were tailored jackets and babouche slippers, shell-embroidered pea coats and drop-waist flapper dresses, tiered raffia skirts, and breezily draped silk shirts printed with the portraits of British painter Lubaina Himid. It was Bonner’s first physical show on the Paris schedule and she traced a noble line between herself and the historic proponents of Black art within the capital – emblazoning varsity jackets with the words “Sorbonne 56”, which was the first First Congress of Black Artists and Writers in Paris.
Though fashion has always stuck its fingers into gender binaries, conversations over what constitutes “menswear” and “womenswear” have reached a stalemate recently – and so plenty of designers are re-interrogating what might happen when the two imprints buckle in on themselves. Johnny Johansson’s latest menswear collection parodied masculine tropes to such an extent that they felt like something a drag king might wear: your boyfriend’s soiled denim, a pec-baring singlet, football boots, and all those crop tops beloved of jocks in 80s sitcoms. There were whispers of laced knickers, geriatric headscarves, and heeled winklepickers but the whole thing was shot in a cave man’s layer. At one point, a model emerged in a “GRETA” baby tee, which was not, unfortunately, a reference to Greta Thunberg, but Garbo – the embodiment of the tragic femme.
There are few garments with as much in-built status as the suit. But when shrunken, outsized, and crumpled at skew-whiff angles, Hed Mayner scrambles its power and anonymity. For AW23, the designer said he was actively glutting the suit from that kind of thing – twisting traditional tailoring to mammoth proportions, hacking sleeves from coats, introducing skirts, and squeezing adult models into a child’s size tuxedo. The deliberately ill-fitting proportions were meant to resemble a hand-me-down wardrobe, with items looking as though they had been repurposed and reworked – like all those American tan tights that models wore as face coverings. Mayner has always blown-up his silhouettes – like this season’s cargo-pocketed jawns, enormous ski jackets and fur coats – but this time around his locus was to go even further, making things “a little bit bent”, purposefully wrong.
In a massive optic-white box on the outskirts of Paris, Matthew M. Williams took a hacksaw to menswear archetypes. Couture-level suits were slashed at the hem, workwear staples were deconstructed and reconstructed, and Americana motifs (flames, plaid, camo) were brought together in a violent mashup. The collection gave off a nomad feel, where everything was broken and bundled back together. Cargos and sweatpants were sliced into skirts, python-print jumpsuits were worn at half-mast, and cropped hoodies gave way to layers of low-hanging tops. Each look contained about 100 component parts, often worn with wipe-clean waders, which were an appropriate choice of footwear for Williams to slosh through the sub-genres of masculine dress and kick up whatever landed at his toes.
HOMME PLISSÉ ISSEY MIYAKE
About halfway through the whiplash of Paris Fashion Week, Issey Miyake offered-up a palette cleanser. The show opened with dancers rolling their bodies beneath an undulating LED show – a balm for knackered editors – which reflected the shape-shifting geometry of the collection itself. Triangle prints were stamped onto trousers and coats in illusory repetitions, while others were printed with diagonal grids and thick, skewed lines. A new style of jacket was constructed with tubular sleeves; scarf skirts and ponchos were made from overlapping triangles of fabric; and long-lined two pieces featured pockets with neat rectangular folds that could be opened and closed for a change in silhouette. “A collection of elaborate formations reflecting the simplicity of basic geometry,” as the show notes read.
Anthony Alvarez had a foot in both camps when he staged a collection in the American Cathedral in Paris this week – drawing inspiration from the annual Mardi Gras festival, which sounds French but takes place in New Orleans. Keying into his own Franco-American upbringing, the designer showed classic workwear pieces embroidered with a European know-how: crystal flames tore through jeans and abstracted camo was realised in rhinestones. But this was first and foremost a collection about carnival – blasted in sequins, masquerade masks, and jester prints that recalled the visual tropes of a Mardi Gras band. Much to the dismay of Parisians – who probably think Americans are barbarians – there were garish, floor-skimming fur coats dyed in bolshy rainbow gradients, leopard print shirts, and zebra overcoats. Even more unassuming pieces (tailored tracksuits, sweater vests) were piped in coarse lines of neon.
COMME DES GARÇONS HOMME PLUS
This season’s Comme des Garçons Homme Plus collection was named Tailoring of the Avant-Garde, which (for obvious reasons) could have been the title for every single collection that has arisen since Rei Kawakubo launched her men’s imprint in 1984. Only – it wasn’t. For AW23, the designer shredded symmetry and silhouette with unsettling tubular limbs, shaggy portholes, and bulwark-shouldered harnesses. Bookended with the mad, incoherent scribblings of Canadian artist Edward Goss, blazers were ruptured with amorphous cutout panels, slit with zippers unto the hem, and streaked with lecherous bolts of fur. Nipped-waist jackets were upholstered with overstuffed deltoids, skirts were swollen with hirsute trims, and just about every model was crowned in barbed headpieces and Something About Mary wigs designed by Gary Card and Takeo Arai, respectively.
Between Anthony Vaccarello’s September womenswear show – when an uber-glam troupe of replicants in 80s-inspired power coats and hoods paced slowly around Paris’s Trocadero – and his epic Marrakech sojourn circa November 2022, Saint Laurent really feels like it’s having a moment right now. This idea was further solidified when the Parisian house landed back on the menswear schedule this season, with Vaccarello sending a line-up of suitable foils to Saint Laurent woman out onto the circular catwalk (expect this circular theme to continue: the designer is keen to explore perfection right now, as he explained backstage). Sheer, pussy-bow blouses, slick Le Smoking tailoring, and the sharpest, most covetable trenches and overcoats on the market right now rubbed up against louche, wide-legged trousers, slim, sleek tunics, and a series of don’t-bother-me knitted dresses, the necks of which extended right up to cover the nose.
Alexandre Mattiussi’s decision to show at the Opéra Bastille this season was a poignant one. Before fashion was even really an idea in his mind, the designer behind AMI auditioned to join the Opéra Palais Garnier ballet troupe, but dropped out due to the competitive nature of the profession. Still, he’s got good memories of the space, and wanted to go back to where it all began as he, like many other designers this season, hit a refresh on their creative output. Wiping his Instagram of all past posts as is currently de rigueur in fashion, Mattiussi sent the stripped-back collection he “wished [he’d] dropped” straight out of the gate when he landed on the scene a decade ago. Instead of the quintessentially French Bretons and slim tailoring were loose, languid trenches, soft suiting, and luxe, full length, hefty shouldered overcoats, many of which were layered over simple, high quality separates for the men and slinky slip dresses and sequins for the women. As ever, the FROW was major, with Catherine Deneuve, and French cinema icon Charlotte Rampling closing the show down as its final model.
If you weren’t aware that Nigo was something of an Anglophile, then the elusive designer’s AW23 collection at Kenzo surely hammered the message home. To a live, orchestral medley of some of The Beatles’ biggest hits by all female group 1966 Quartet – which culminated in a rendition of “All You Need is Love” – models weaved their way through the theatre showspace in cute pinafore dresses affixed with Kenzo badges, slim-fit tailored suits, and bohemian waistcoats and wide-legged trousers, as he paid tribute to the fashions of the 60s and 70s. This was in no way nostalgic, though – through innovative cuts and fabrications, it was a collection rooted firmly in the now. Notably, Nigo was also one of the few designers to pay subtle homage to Vivienne Westwood, littering the offering with an array of Prince of Wales checks and tartans, as he pillaged his own archives of the legendary dame’s pieces for inspiration.
There was no bombast to the AW23 Hermès show – no celebs, no overblown venue, no grand narrative – because the Hermès customer derives status from subtle markers of luxury. This season, Véronique Nichanian delivered a civilised collection of 47 looks cut from a palette of pale neutrals – caramel browns, slate greys, sage, and ivory – where deerskin, cashmere, lambskin, and silk twill broadcasted a refined, urbane attitude. There were wide-legged calfskin pants, scarf-spliced knits, leather-braided sweaters, and zip-up pullovers. Some more cunning details – like hidden pockets, leather-backed pea coats, and silk-yolked cardigans – offered a sensual timbre to all the metropolitan froideur. It was, as the show notes read, “an invitation to a winter journey where timelessness rhymes with innovation, where creation creates a resonance between comfort and sophistication.”