As Paris Fashion Week enters the home stretch, we interrupt our normal runway coverage for a few important blind items:
No. 1: Which multi-tasking haute streetwear maestro, whose designs some say are a little “off,” is said to be about 99 percent likely to be tapped for the recently vacated men’s wear post of a marquee luxury brand at LVMH, and this despite the strong objections of its current women’s wear designer?
No. 2: Which industry darling who recently vacated his role as men’s wear designer of a marquee luxury brand at LVMH is said to be eyeing a similar role at one of its sister brands, with the expectation of taking over its women’s wear, too? (Hint: In this case, the LV stands for lily of the valley.)
No. 3: Which astrologically inclined women’s wear designer at a luxury brand at LVMH could be taking a short journey in the near future – back to her home country where a sister house that hasn’t seen creative change in decades maybe could use her help?
Are you all caught up now, or just confused? Good. With speculation on the fate of so many designers and brands at a fever pitch this month – and I’m just repeating the gossip here – it’s actually becoming rather too much to hope anyone can just be happy where they are. But if the gods of LVMH human resources are listening, I’d like to make a simple request: Please let Jonathan Anderson stay at Loewe.
Yes, I know there are bigger opportunities and fatter paychecks out there for qualified talent these days, but walking into the Loewe showroom on Saturday afternoon to look up-close at Anderson’s fall collection (shown on the runway at UNESCO headquarters the day before), it further impressed me just how marvelous his work continues to be. The first thing I saw was a small sculptural work by the Japanese artist Tetsumi Kudo, whose grotesque microcosms combined plants, human body parts, and technology in frightening displays. In this one, from the 1970s, a phallus was symbolically wound in brightly colored electrical cord. Though it was a small detail, the shape was echoed (less evocatively) in tightly wound cords that appeared through his collection.
Anderson is an avid art collector and well versed in its history, particularly in ceramics and the Arts and Crafts movement. His references are challenging for the casual observer to deduce. But he is one of the rare designers who happily explains his work, and he seems eager to share his love of learning (guests at his show were given hardbound books from his Loewe reading list, which includes Don Quijote, Dracula, Madame Bovary, Heart of Darkness, and Wuthering Heights).
Anderson’s Loewe is a rich, multi-layered affair. His clothes are ultimately beautiful objects that include both convention-challenging designs and classically desirable ones. In the former category, there were dresses with the tops and bottoms connected loosely by twists of fabrics and braids, leaving large portions of the body bared beneath. In the latter, in this show, were dresses that looked as if there were made of mille-feuille pleats, but in fact were painstakingly placed strips of leather that split apart to reveal bits of the cotton dress beneath. And coats that were so cute, like a brown woolen duffel with toggle buttons. And knits that were so desirable, like a navy mariner turtleneck.
By this point in the fashion cycle, we’ve seen any number of trends taking shape: Neon accessories, T-bone shoulder pads, sporty parkas, ugly sneakers, and more of the clear plastic overlays on shoes and coats (like they are still in their protective coverings from the dry cleaners) that wins my vote for least desirable. I’ve been amused to see so many editors and street style stars attempting this freshly shrink-wrapped look at the shows only to appear to suffocate once under the hot lights of the runways. Is that wrong of me? Well, sorry, but it doesn’t take a genius to spot a fashion victim.
Thankfully, there are designers out there who still make clothes that are humane, at least in style if not in price. Watching the fall collection from Hermès, designed by Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski, I had to be practically restrained from jumping out of my seat to rip the cashmere of their backs. On a runway set that resembled an enchanted forest, with crushed red rocks and spooky music, the models appeared perfectly poised and confident. After a few seasons where I’ll admit I had lost the script, I am fully back on board in terms of drooling over the riding coats, the black leather dresses – glossy, matte, pebbled, you name it – and the bright boots that looked so fresh. Also super smart were coats and sweaters designed with leather straps, like those of handbags, so they could be slung casually over the shoulder when it gets too warm, as often happens when today’s climate runs from hot to cold to hot ten times a day.
Joseph Altuzarra, the New York designer showing in Paris for his second season, also got down to business with tailored suits, a great Prince of Wales check jacket with rosette embroidery, and numerous coats that could be transformed from full-length to bolero styles by unbuttoning the bottom halves. This happened to be a very long collection, with segues into knitwear trimmed in too much silver hardware for our modern metal-detector-security-screened lifestyles. But there were also fantastic coats with knit collars and a few easy dresses that played to Altuzarra’s strengths after nearly a decade in business.