Sparks, real flames fly on day 2 of Paris’ menswear shows

By Jenny Barchfield, AP
Friday, January 22, 2010

Sparks fly on day 2 of Paris’ menwear shows

PARIS — John Galliano put the fear of God into the crowd Friday, with catwalk-side flame-throwers shooting real fire high into the air at his rollicking fall-winter 2010-2011 menswear show.

The British designer’s Sherlock Holmes-inspired collection — full of deerstalker caps and kilometers- (miles-) worth of fine tweeds — managed to wow them, too.

Givenchy’s Italian-born designer Riccardo Tisci drew on his Catholic roots for a pared-down collection inspired by priests’ frocks and monastic robes, while Belgium’s Kris Van Assche served up a collection of wearable dark suits with a grunge twist.

Yves Saint Laurent’s Stefano Pilati also delivered largely wearable suits in a somber palette. Then as a dare to his male consumers, he dotted the collection with an impossibly chic variation on overalls — to be worn, preferably, with dramatic over-the-elbow gloves.

Niche U.S. designer Rick Owens continued sharpening his vision of post-apocalyptic chic. Let’s just say it involved sweatpants, which are emerging as an unlikely must-have for men of style next season.

Sweden’s Jesper Borjesson made his debut at storied house of Cerruti with a collection of slim, vaguely 1960s-style suits in sumptuous mohair and bulky aviator jackets in shearling.

On Saturday, Paris’ four-day-long menswear shows move into day three, with displays by luxury brands Kenzo, Dior Homme and Hermes.


Only a Galliano could possibly call for props including a flame-throwers and a gigantic magnifying glass, stage such disparate characters as laced-up London dandies in ladies’ corsets and fierce-looking martial artists with pigtails — and then chalk the whole thing up to Sherlock Holmes.

Galliano looked beyond the caricature cinematic Holmes to Conan Doyle’s brilliant but troubled investigator and martial arts afficionado with an opium habit.

Models in layers of swishing overcoats in heavy tweeds and fur-lined deerstalkers opened the show, followed by straight-laced Victorian gentlemen in bowler hats and razor-cut three piece suits. Some of those particular characters — modeled on Holmes in his Baker Street daywear — were laced tighter than others, as evidenced by the ladies corsets that peeked out from beneath their slim trousers in Prince-of-Wales checks.

Then came Holmes the martial arts enthusiast, his head shrouded in gauzy bandages and wearing jewel toned briefs and dragon printed satin boxing robes. Holmes the decadent frequenter of London’s opium dens came next, in bejeweled Chinese pajama pants and jackets in deep purple velvet.

Security guards refused to let latecomers to the show crouch next to the elevated catwalk, and it eventually became clear why: Flame-throwers propelled massive flames several meters (yards) into the air as the models took a final lap on the runway, sparking shocked squeals from the generally blase fashion crowd.

“It was a super spectacle,” model-turned-photograper Ellen Von Unwerth gushed after the display, which was held in a hollowed out former bank on Paris’ glitzy Place Vendome. “I loved the story, the roles the guys played, and how sexy they were.”


Schubert’s “Ave Maria” boomed over the loudspeaker and the spicy odor of incense filled the ornate hall at Paris’ Sorbonne university as models clad in crocodile Jesus sandals and gilded thorn necklaces padded down the catwalk.

“Religion is a big part of my DNA and this collection was about my Catholic(ism) and every other religion in a way,” designer Tisci told The Associated Press in a backstage interview.

He said he had looked to men of the cloth — priests in their stark black and white frocks, the brown robes of Franciscan monks and the layered suits of Jewish rabbis — for inspiration because their garb represented “the most chic way, the most pure way of dressing.”

The show marked a departure from Tisci’s heavily ornamented style of seasons past: Gone were the heaps of chunky, Latino homeboy chains, the gilded star insignia and the keffiyeh prints — replaced by a stripped-clean silhouette in black and white. Slim, dark suits were worn with crisp white shirts — some so plain they were shorn even of their buttons.

Still Tisci, a critical darling who is known for his Gothic sensibility, didn’t come completely clean. The collection retained a hint of his trademark subversive kinkiness, particularly in the tailored black skirt-short hybrids worn over neoprene leggings.

“This is the real me,” said Tisci.


Pilati sent out bulky overcoats cinched tight at the waist — sometimes with what appeared to be fringed scarves — and suits with drop-crotched harem pants and long shirts with tails of tiny pleats that emerged, flirtily, from beneath the jackets.

But the uncontested star of the show were the overalls. In a charcoal or butterscotch tweed, they were cut like old time men’s swimsuits, with thin straps and a low-cut bib. One pair was worn with a pair of long, lean gloves for an added dose of glamor.

The result was surprising but immediately appealing, and it was easy to imagine the well-dressed crowd of fashion insiders strutting their stuff on the streets of Paris next fall in Pilati’s overalls.


Owens continued to plumb the depths of the dark side, delivering a collection full of asymmetrical hemlines and great floppy flaps of fabric that looked like the kind of wardrobe the father and son in Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic fable “The Road” would have fashioned out of found detritus.

Androgynous models with enviable cheekbones skulked down the catwalk in bulky, tie-waisted trenches in lacquered shearling or wrinkly microfiber with stiff, standup necklines and drop-crotched harem pants. Some wore ribbed turtlenecks with knee-length flaps in the front and back, while others sported leather tank tops that left their backs bare.

For added weirdness, their lanky arms tapered into blunt tips — the work of elbow-length leather gloves that ended in a kind of snout or suction cup shape.

Owens, who hails from California but whose designs look like they’ve never seen a ray of sun, strayed away from his usual somber palette, sending out some looks in light gray or shiny off-white. A fur-lined coat in blinding gold lame looked sure to please rap star Kanye West, who watched this and many other of the day’s shows from his front-row perches.


Paris had a grunge moment, as Van Assche served up razor-cut suits and plaid shirts that conjured Kurt Cobain after a makeover.

Models in oversized knit caps sported blazers with multiple lapels, their slouchy pants tucked into high-top motorcycle boots. Others wore zip-up jackets over sweatpants — a popular legwear choice on Paris catwalks.

“I’m not a real grunge fanatic or whatever, but if grunge means deconstructed tailoring and comfort, I’m fine with that,” Van Assche, who also designs for Dior Homme, told The AP in a backstage interview.

In what looked like an homage to the late Nirvana frontman’s fabric of choice, Van Assche sent out layered suits in somber plaid and topped off suits in solid black or charcoal with navy paid shirts with their sleeves scrunched up.

“It’s about a certain kind of luxury, but not too precious,” he said.

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