Valentino and Undercover put on a show in Paris
"The show must go on," seemed to be the motto at Paris Fashion Week Men's on Wednesday. For the second day of menswear runway shows a number of designers had decided to put on a real performance. Following the dazzling tap dancer who put in an appearance at Off-White's morning runway, Valentino enchanted its audience with a simultaneously intense and delicate show accompanied by the vocals of British singer-songwriter FKA Twigs, while Undercover presented its collection with a veritable dance spectacular.
As a late afternoon rain began to fall in Paris, Valentino created a poetic moment that seemed to break the usual hectic frenzy of Fashion Week. As the room was plunged into darkness, FKA Twigs took her place on a small stage that had been set up in the middle of the runway.
Accompanied by a pianist and a cellist, and wearing a long, crystal-encrusted lace gown, she sang the first notes of an almost mystical song that echoed out into the silence, seeming to summon the first models onto the catwalk. The music was a perfect match for the collection designed by Pierpaolo Piccioli for Fall/Winter 2020-21, which softened formal menswear wear with a romantic touch.
Impeccably tailored coats, shirts and suits were decorated with giant black and white or multicoloured flowers, appliqués inspired by the work of photographers Inez and Vinoodh. A gigantic long-stemmed red rose ran down the side of a pea coat, appeared on the back of a jacket and even popped up on mini-handbags with shoulder straps. Elsewhere, pink carnations and yellow bellflowers completed the bouquet on military jackets.
The slogans of French artist Mélanie Matranga provided another theme, with words such as "Need," "Bad Lover," "Good Lover" and "You" appearing on a variety of pieces. They were blown up to enormous proportions and even distorted at times, spelled out in black capital letters on a white jumper or blazer. They were also repeated in white lettering on a black background, or black on black, or took a more unexpected form, being written in sequins or tiny fringed tube beads.
"I wanted to bring a new kind of sensitivity to the male identity, mixing a romantic spirit with traditional tailoring. I'm trying to change menswear codes by taking key elements and putting them in a new context," said the designer, who teamed up with Onitsuka Tiger for his sneakers this season.
Piccioli emphasised this new direction with structural innovations, such as large slits which gaped wide under the sleeves of jackets and coats. "They're drastic efforts to take some of the stiffness away from the suit. I also added slits to the backs of shirts to give them a certain flexibility," he explained.
At Undercover, there was another, quite different show. After last June's dark, minimalist collection, Japanese designer Jun Takahashi seemed to be looking to make a big statement, inviting buyers and celebrities, along with the press, to Paris' Cirque d'Hiver for a striking dance show, which at times appeared to be a Shakespearean drama and, at others, a Kurosawa film, the whole collection reflecting a profound Japanese influence.
The show began with a sort of volcanic fog, which parted to reveal a silhouette moving strangely at the centre of a circular stage. The shape gradually transformed into a kind of gorgon that threatened a passing man: the piece's unfortunate hero, who would ultimately be shot through by a rain of arrows at the end of the show, after a series of vignettes.
Each mini choreographed scene was broken up by the runway show, in which Takahashi presented explorers in hats or berets, tartan jackets, striped jumpers and knee-length Zouave pants, along with alpine mountaineers trussed up with ropes, bags and cloth pouches, and sporting woolly hats and various layers of clothes, including coats, jackets, puffer jackets, gilets and tunics. Road workers also joined the show, wearing sporty ensembles decked out in reflective bands, all of which made them look like samurais in clothing reinforced by patches of padded or quilted fabric attached to their arms and shoulders.
On top of this, the designer also sent out a range of womenswear looks, having stopped his women's fashion shows in March 2018 after almost 16 years showing during Paris' women's ready-to-wear fashion week. As of June 2018, he has shown his collections during men's fashion week.
Among the spectators at the Cirque d'Hiver, one could pick out Piccioli. The Italian designer had come to support his Japanese colleague, who signed off on a collaboration with Valentino last season.
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