by Fiachra GIBBONS
It has been dismissed as the straitjacket of the wage-slave salary man. But the suit and tie is far from finished if Thursday’s Paris men’s fashion week catwalks are anything to go by.
Having been propelled to the top of fashion as the king of streetwear, Virgil Abloh turned his magpie gaze on the boring old business suit for Louis Vuitton.
Under a Magritte sky to symbolise the surreal blue-sky thinking that was involved, the hyperactive American designer set out his thinking on “reprogramming traditional dress codes”.
“Tailoring,” he promised, was about to be dragged out of its “corporate comfort zone”.
Abloh was taking scissors to tradition, and to hammer home the point he had a huge silver pair plonked down in the middle of his runway with a Magritte dream key and an eyeball.
Yet apart from the odd little detail, it was hard to see how the first dozen looks differed from anything you would have seen in a department store window anytime in the last half century.
Suited and shiny booted in shirts and ties complete with clips, his models looked at first glance like straightish young city slickers.
Look again, however, and you began to see the “surreal” details that Abloh — who showed his own Off-White label’s suit-led show Wednesday — said “make the ordinary extraordinary”.
Vintage brass Vuitton buttons were used to fasten the top of the wool gabardine jackets. Blink and you would miss a sawn-off waistcoat worn as a kind of cummerbund.
Powder blue braces that were somewhere between a harness and a holster gave another look a subtle and unexpected edginess.
Abloh said he was twisting and turning “the dress codes of an old world… re-appropriated and embraced for a progressive joie de vivre.”
– Zoot suits –
There was real joy and oodles of invention at Issey Miyake, which took the basic forms of the classic suit and frock coat and gave them a colourful modern zoot suit twist.
In fact, the Japanese pleat-master turned its show into a jazz jam session, with musicians press-ganged onto the podium as acrobats whizzed around on cyr wheels.
Valentino had given a masterclass in romantic tailoring the previous evening, with slits down the side of its suit jackets to make reaching into the pocket easier.
With such tailoring aces as Kris Van Assche at Berluti and Kim Jones, his successor at Dior Homme, to come Friday, this could be the week when the suit re-emerges from streetwear’s shadow.
There was even a touch of formalism about the American avant-gardist Rick Owens, who can usually be counted on to push the boundaries.
After a series of body-hugging cashmere knits inspired by Ziggy-era David Bowie’s collaborations with Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto, Owens sent out a series of cropped felt jackets with high sharp shoulders.
If that was not eye-catching enough, the Los Angeles creator topped that with hulking blanket coats “mimicking Le Corbusier’s Modulor Man”, one of which he wore himself.
British designer Clare Waight Keller also took on the suit in her fledgling Givenchy menswear line.
Her jumping off point was the natty Maharaja of Indore who was a style icon in Paris between the wars and who went on to build a modernist palace back home in India.