PARIS -- For the first major collection of Paris Fashion Week’s menswear season, Givenchy’s models walked on water.
A giant font filled with milky-white water and frothing mist in the courtyard of the Ecole Militaire served as a fluid runway where models, often bare-chested and in waterproof footwear, stomped and splashed toward a blinding set light.
Matthew M. Williams clearly wanted to make a splash in his first standalone menswear show since being appointed in 2020. But did the American designer dive deep enough?
Here are some highlights of Wednesday’s spring-summer 2023 shows:
GIVENCHY MAKES A SHALLOW SPLASH
This was the high-fashion Givenchy of Audrey Hepburn in name only. Williams’ vision is urban, sports-infused and pared down.
The American designer, the former collaborator of Lady Gaga and Kanye West, brought his streetwear vibe again to the haute Paris runway. The muse this season was the style of Jamaican Reggae singer Alkaline, who worked on the show soundtrack.
These looks were defined by long and loose silhouettes, frayed hems, thick chains and fearsome facemasks.
Observations from Williams’ past produced many of the looks. The bomber jackets with laser-cut house logos that opened the show were inspired by those the designer used to admire in Harlem, New York. Elsewhere, the street styles of California mixed with preppy styles, such as torn tailored pants.
Williams said of his collection backstage that “everything is grounded in reality. I could see the guy in each look existing on the street — for me that’s a really modern approach.”
But at times this everyday vibe let the collection down. For instance, one simple pink sweat suit, worn open on a bare chest with gold chain, did not quite feel developed enough an idea for the high fashion runway.
Still, the tailoring was strong throughout — as expected for the house — for instance in one broad, '80s black tailored coat that cut a fine shape.
DIOR’S CRUISE SPA
Marking haute couture week, Dior is reviving a floating 19th century spa that existed on an elegant barge at the Pont-Neuf bridge.
The spa, which was called Bains de la Samaritaine, was reputed to be Western Europe’s most luxurious at the time and the mother of modern luxury spas.
This season, Dior is teaming up with Cheval Blanc Paris to create its own vision of the cruising spa, with a capacity for five passengers in four suites for a two-hour journey across the Seine River. It will run between June 29 and July 13.
The boat’s decor comprises rattan furniture and parasols in blue toile de jouy, an Dior pattern reinterpreted by current designer Maria Grazia Chiuri,
BLUE MARBLE BREAKS LOOSE
Streetwear and tailoring collided in a melting-pot of a show by designer Anthony Alvarez, who counts Justin Bieber among his clients.
Alvarez is one to watch -- with his fashion repertoire for the MTV generation mixing travel with urban wear and bright eye-popping color.
For spring-summer, he turned up the psychedelia to produce a flashy, loose fitting collection. Multicolored loose pants, with BLUEMARBLE printed across, met an acid yellow-green oversize coat with a marbled texture. An '80s pajama pant look was responsible for one of the collection’s best looks, in pearly white. It came among baggy jeans with rhinestoned four-leaf clovers.
But this show also harked from the designer’s rich heritage. Alvarez is New York-born with a mixture of Filipino, Spanish, French and Italian roots. The collection celebrated this globe-trotting vision. Ethnic shirts mixed with silken varsity bombers, and tied leopard foulards that looked both ready for safari and a rock concert.
The brand name itself is global — borrowed from the iconic photo of the Earth taken in 1972 by the Apollo 17 crew.
ETUDES TAKES THE TRAIN
Design triumvirate Jose Lamali, Jeremie Egry and Aurelien Arbet at Etudes used an abandoned railway on the outskirts of Paris as the setting — and creative springboard — for an urban-themed display.
It was the first in an upcoming series of site-specific shows, which use a location, or an environment, for design inspiration. Paris was a logical starting point for this French brand — albeit here the “lesser-known Paris” was what the house said it was channeling. Guests watched from the platform onto the Petite Ceinture, or Little Belt, railway — a thirty-kilometer track circling the city.
Frayed white jeans, distressed denim, hiking sneakers, industrial-looking baseball caps, boiler suits and workman’s aprons mixed with utilitarian toggles and straps. They seemed to evoke disenfranchised '90s youth, who might have wandered the disused railtracks.
These urban references riffed nicely on tailoring. Loosely tailored jackets, with a boxy '80s silhouette, came above matching pants that were cropped in a funky way below the knee, leading to military-style boots.
BIANCA SAUNDERS PUTS ON SECOND PARIS SHOW
One of only a handful of women designers in menswear, Andam Prize-winning British designer Bianca Saunders was in a confident mood Wednesday in a deft sophomore show that channeled her native London.
Saunders, who has Caribbean roots, quickly came to fame after graduating from Central Saint Martin’s a few years ago. Minimalism was at the heart of this display.
Oversize quirky details such as collars and pockets morphed creatively into artistic form, sometimes on looks that verged on the space-age. One silver glam rock suit with sanitized elasticated pumps evoked the pandemic.
Elsewhere, medieval peasant-like woolen undergarments, that felt quite Vivienne Westwood, was typical of her seemingly effortless trendy touch.