American Chic on the Runways of Paris


That same buoyant feeling carried over to the Comme des Garçons Homme Plus show later that day at an event space that was once a gilded 19th-century ballroom. Front row wags at the Salle Wagram quipped that the label’s designer, Rei Kawakubo, must have had a better time at May’s Met Gala than anyone had guessed, judging from a show that featured pieced jackets worn inside-out over glitter shorts by models resembling the spawn of Nico and Jello Biafra (a chronological impossibility, but never mind), all shod in Nike Air Max 180 sneakers.

The soundtrack was some sort of manic disco, a genre, it is safe to say, no one associates with this dour sphynx of fashion. Yet, aside from three jackets bristling with doll parts created in collaboration with the textile artist Mona Luison (although it could just as easily have been the prop guy’s from a Wes Craven movie), the mood of the collection was almost giddy. Particularly given the current climate in France — its fragmented political landscape, its high unemployment rate, its heavily armed security forces walking the streets — the raucous ovation Ms. Kawakubo received was fully merited.


Slide Show

Comme des Garçons Homme Plus: Spring 2018

CreditGuillaume Roujas/Nowfashion


Cooler in tone were a Hermès show on Sunday in the stone cloisters of a former convent in St. Germain and a Berluti one staged a day earlier in the courtyard of the old mint on a majestic evening. The worn stones of each location formed an austere backdrop for the jaunty, sportswear-inspired clothes produced for Hermès, by Véronique Nichanian, and for Berluti, by Haider Ackermann.

Each designer faced a similar challenge: creating normcore duds for the ultrarich. If the history of these two venerable houses was built on supplying discerning clients with authentic luxury goods, the modern reality is that the very rich now are different not only from the rest of us, but an altogether different breed from the rich of the past.

Berluti is a century-old cobbler transformed by a French multinational into an all-purpose supplier to the one percent. Hermès is a centuries-old saddlery that once supplied the carriage trade. In the past almost everything such houses created had pragmatic design roots in infantry or cavalry uniforms. Abstracted, most elements of the modern suit would have been familiar to Napoleon.

Photo

A look by Hermès.

Credit
Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times

Reacting to the reality that men no longer need that kind of armor, Ms. Nichanian turned her talent to producing relaxed American-style sportswear, like drawstring trousers and funnel-neck pullovers in cotton poplin, all in subtle spice colors. And, of course, there were the expected sneakers and sandals.

“Sophisticated letting go” was how Ms. Nichanian described her intentions, a slippery notion unless you remember Mick Jagger’s dictum that it is all right to let yourself go, as long as you can get yourself back. Those familiar with Mr. Jagger know he is abnormally disciplined in his habits, having learned long ago the effort required to make difficult things look easy.

One of the pitfalls in fashion, particularly men’s wear, is the temptation to advertise the cost of clothes through the use of exotic materials. There is nothing like crocodile to announce to the world that your jacket cost more than someone else’s annual mortgage payment.

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