Louis Vuitton brought a little bit of a Glastonbury line up to the spring/summer 2016 menswear collections at Paris fashion week. Nile Rodgers, the Chic musician and super-producer, introduced the show from the DJ booth, while Kanye West, Marianne Faithfull and ex-One Direction star Zayn Malik could all be found among the crowd.
The show itself was less trip to Somerset than journey around the world. With show notes referencing New York, Tokyo, Bangkok and Paris, the collection was a dialogue between Asia and America – as if Ryan Gosling in Bangkok-set Only God Forgives was the moodboard reference. American staples came as crisp double-denim pieces, James Dean-style jeans and bowling shirts with a luxe edge. A Gosling-approved shape that has been dubbed the ‘souvenir jacket’ – a kind of slinky satin bomber – had Thai embroidery of cranes, monkeys and panthers, while Japanese Kobe leather was worked into flying jackets.
Branding was subtle but present in neckerchiefs and bowling shirts, feeding into an overall vibe of refined sportswear staples elevated to something slick. This was echoed by Rodgers’ soundtrack: well-loved hits including Carly Simon’s Why and Madonna’s Like a Virgin masterfully mixed.
Backstage, following a stellar photo-op flanked by West and Faithfull, artistic director Kim Jones explained that he had been influenced by a luxury global style observed from his travels. “There’s an easy, expensive-looking mood at the moment,’ he said. ‘I’m quite a commercially minded designer, so I’m looking at what our customers are wearing.”
That relaxed feel comes through in the branding. “We want to do it not in a tacky way, to make it feel chic,” said Jones.
LVMH, the conglomerate that owns Louis Vuitton, does not release figures for menswear, but the group is in rude health. In February, it was reported that profit jumped 64% and estimates put UK revenue from Louis Vuitton menswear at £127m. Jones – who once lived with Lily Allen and counts Kate Moss among his friends – has no doubt helped increase buzz around the house’s menswear. The British designer joined in 2011 after working with brands as diverse as Dunhill and Umbro, and this mix of influences has proved key to his success.
Earlier on Wednesday, the mood on the catwalk was less disco and more punk. At Rick Owens’ January show, models wore pieces that revealed their penises, with much debate following. This time, the controversy didn’t stem from Owens himself a model who held up a homemade sign to the cameras at the end of the catwalk reading ‘Please kill Angela Merkel’, followed by the word ‘not’.
While the exact meaning was unclear, it put Greece debt talks on the fashion agenda. Owens’ reaction, however, was more straightforward: the designer issued a statement, saying: “This was an independent statement and does not reflect the opinion of the house of Rick Owens.”
Owens would hope his collection – sleeveless leather jackets, slouchy jumpers, shorts and headpieces that looked like wind socks made of hair – would be the abiding memory taken away from this season. The stunt, however, threatens to steal its thunder.
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