It’s hard to remember the last time the fashion world played such an endless game of musical chairs with its designers. At the tail end of 2017, it felt like our favourites were dropping like flies, and we were waiting patiently to see what fashion house they’d take the reins of next. In the end, the whole thing wound up to be woefully unpredictable, and we were left with a series of wild surprises and predictable choices that provided plenty of talking points for journalists, fashion fans and bloggers alike.
After a few months of feeling apprehensive about what our favourite labels’ latest outputs were going to look like — including plenty of Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton naysayers (who’s laughing now?) — we finally got our first look at the latest crop’s great work as Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2019 rolled around.
So with just Hedi Slimane left to debut his take on menswear with Céline, presumably as part of a co-ed show during womenswear season, there were just three names on the list that people were crazy excited to catch a first glimpse of: Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton, Kim Jones at Dior and Jacquemus trying his hand at an eponymous menswear line for the first time. From the rainbow-doused Palais Royal in Paris to the beaches of Marseilles, here’s our succinct run down of everything you should know about this season’s menswear debuts.
Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton
A spirit of fantasy, journey and optimism lay under Virgil Abloh’s first menswear collection for Louis Vuitton, and that manifested in his choice of set-up for the show too. Dozens of diversely-cast models — everybody’s place of birth, as well as the location of their parent’s place of birth was provided to attendees in a kit left on their seats — marched down a rainbow-coloured runway outside the famous Palais Royal. Perhaps, people will remember Abloh’s collection for the way it forced the storied house to think bigger, even after Kim Jones’ already boundary-pushing moves there. The collection itself was an ode to new beginnings and the idea of possibility: it started with a palette-cleansing set of ten white looks, that expanded into wearable (read: brilliantly basic) pieces, like slouchy suit jackets, boxy denim shirts and finely tailored tennis shorts. His accessories were the kind of forward-thinking pieces we’ve seen him turn into ubiquitous staples before: iridescent monogrammed holdalls, construction-worker gloves and fine porcelain-like chains that are bound to reach new heights when it comes to buyer desirability. But the most sought after garments? The LV x Wizard of Oz collaboration, including two knitted sweaters and a silk shirt that bore the iconic shot of Dorothy and friends skipping down the yellow brick road, their figures transformed into silhouettes. After all, through Abloh’s lens, everybody and anybody is capable of taking their place — achieving something that once seemed impossible à la the designer himself.
Kim Jones at Dior
As the high fashion world enters a new age, crossing paths with streetwear to make even couturier pieces a touch more casual, Kim Jones clearly felt a need to carve his own path and turn the industry back on itself. His first menswear collection for Dior (note, Dior Homme as a brand is dead — just check Instagram) saw the designer return to his atelier roots, and focused on the minute details that his tailoring prowess gave him the opportunity to toy with. For his debut, Jones’ scoured through the old archives of Dior’s womenswear to create a collection shaped by softness and romanticism. The opening look saw Prince Nikolai of Denmark march around a floral statue created by Kaws, wearing a double breasted seersucker-style jacket, with sheer blue-white stripes on the sleeves. The whole collection played with this idea of spinning classic sartorial pieces into something less simple, while still retaining a slightly antiquated feel. White striped trenches and tailoring were made from materials so crisp — and often see-through — that they looked like they would fall apart like butterfly wings if you touched them. Trousers made from these fine threads were held up with big-clasp belts designed by Matthew Williams — whose brand ALYX is one of the most talked about in the industry right now — in a pleasing juxtaposition of delicate and strong. Meanwhile, most models paired their Sunday Best looks with sneakers and a leather hip-bag: an allusion to the fact that, even when we try to break free, casual streetwear is the inescapable trend we’re bound to be buying into for the next few years.
Where better for French fashion’s handsome, homebird designer Simon Porte Jacquemus to debut his first menswear collection than an isolated beach by the town he grew up in? His first outing as a menswear designer was titled ‘Le Gadjo’, and used the archetypal, Mediterranean man — bronzed skin, nonchalant with his style, achingly beautiful — as his muse. It was distinctly more preppy than many critics had been expecting, considering how seductive and flattering his womenswear is. Patterned shirts, adorned with sunflowers and tropical prints, were either unbuttoned down to the navel and tucked into shorts, exposing chiseled chests, or worn like dress shirts, paired with formal ties. His knitwear, baggy and taking colour cues from parasols and beach bags, felt like they were designed for moonlit walks home from the seaside – budgy smuggler swimsuit underneath. For his first attempt at menswear — no easy feat for a man whose knowledge of the female form is so intrinsic, it’s bound to be a challenge to leave that sensibility behind — people were expecting something a little more soft and sensual. Nevertheless, Jacquemus’ crowd-pleasing pieces were the kind the high fashion crowd and beach adonis could swap out a like, and it was a welcome surprise. To the alps for autumn/winter 2019, Simon?