5 Unforgettable Moments from Paris Menswear Fashion Week

Jessica Michault

Paris Menswear Fashion Week recently took place and our SVP of Industry Relations, Jessica Michault, had the pleasure of attending. If you missed out on this Men's Fashion Week, then read on for Jessica’s scoop on the 5 unforgettable moments. 

5 Unforgettable Moments from Paris Menswear Fashion Week

Louis Vuitton's Paris

Menswear designer Virgil Abloh Louis Vuitton-ized the Place Dauphine on the Île de la Cité for his Spring/Summer 2020 show. The location is just a five-minute walk from the Louis Vuitton headquarters, across the Point Neuf bridge that, back in 1985, was famously wrapped in fabric by the husband and wife artists’ Christo and Jeanne-Claude. 

The wrapped bridge art installation concept trickled down into some of Abloh’s designs on the catwalk, but also permeated the entire mise en scene of his menswear show. From the LV monogram embossed green park benches and red bouncy castle to the “Louis” ice cream and crepes carts placed on the cobblestone streets and the vendors giving away free Louis Vuitton tagged trinkets, the entire public square became swathed in all things Louis.  

Abloh originally wanted his collection to be set in front of the Notre-Dame Cathedral but was moved to the square after a fire gutted the iconic French landmark. That fire also motivated Abloh, creatively speaking, to highlight the places and things we take for granted every day. And in this way, his take over of the Place Dauphine brought a new appreciation for the beauty of everyday things. 

All of this attention to detail only enhanced a show that was already a masterful exploration of diversity. One that saw Abloh use wildflower as a stand-in for the idea of how beauty is born from the meélange of differences. The idea being, that which makes us different makes us even more striking when we all come together. 

Balmain Festival

As luck would have it, designer, Olivier Rousteing’s ss20 Balmain menswear show took place on the first day of summer. This is also the date of the annual Fête de la Musique in France; which made it the perfect opportunity for Rousteing to create a free concert for his biggest fans. 

Balmain gave out 1,500 free tickets to the general public online in the lead up to the event, which sold out in less than 5 minutes. Then, Rousteing teamed up with the charity organization (RED) so that all the proceeds from the sale of food, drink and special Balmain Festival merchandise designed for the night were donated to help fight AIDS. And on the roster for the night’s musical entertainment was Darren Criss, Rag’n’Bone Man and Years & Years.

So, even before the first look of  Rousteing’s fashion show hit the raised, concert stage catwalk, the energy at the Jardin des Plantes was festive, to say the least. It only got more animated as the designer’s over 100 party hardy, statement-making looks came down the runway. And when Rousteing took his final bow, the ecstatic crowd showered him in the glow of their raised cell phones. It was the ultimate sign of approval from his social media savvy fan base. 

Bode’s Debut

If there is one menswear designer who is burning white hot right now it is Emily Adams Bode. She is currently on the shortlist for this year’s LVMH prize and earlier this month she won the CFDA Award for Emerging Designer of the Year in the United States. For her first ever runway collection the American designer decided to show during Paris Fashion Week in the intimate salon of a stately Parisian townhouse in the 16th arrondissement. 

The inspiration for her Paris debut was one that Bode had been holding onto for the perfect moment in her career. It hit very close to home and dovetailed beautifully with her artisanal aesthetic.  Her family once ran a wagon building business out of Cincinnati and was responsible for creating the ornate and imaginative wagons used by both Barnum & Bailey and the Ringling Brothers circuses. 

Bode spent months digging through the archives of the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida before designing her show. Then on the catwalk, those big top starting points turned into whimsical clothing like colorful prize ribbon pants, jackets adorned with strong man sports figures and graphic crocheted separates. When her very slow paced show finally ended, with some of the models wearing outsized retro paper mache heads, her audience was quick to give her a circus-style roar of approval.  

Thom Browne

Thom Browne’s shows are always as much a spectacle as they are an impressive display of meticulous tailoring. But this season Mother Nature added an extra level of hothouse drama into the mix at the designer’s midday show at the École des Beaux-Arts. The collection was presented under the glass-roof atrium, with the summer sun heating up the space well past the 35 degrees Celsius mark. 

There, standing like sentinels down the center of the venue, were 10 models wearing voluminous 2-dimensional renderings of the actual ensembles the models were sporting underneath. Thankfully it wasn’t long before football helmeted models in tutus’ came along to help the models out of that upper layer of clothing before the catwalk portion of the show got underway.

Speaking of sporting, sports were a cornerstone design element of this show. One that saw models in ball-like outsized footwear, carrying sporting gear shaped accessories and tennis-like sweatbands in the brand’s iconic tri-color stripes as they walked the runway. But the show’s real representation of true athleticism came in the form of James Whiteside. He is one of the American Ballet Theatre’s principal dancers and he pirouetted, leaped and pranced down the runway (in a seersucker tutu no less) with such abandon and showmanship in the face of such heat. It showed not only that he was “in the zone” but he also has some serious strength of will. 

Karl Forever

While not officially part of the Paris Menswear Fashion Week calendar, the Karl For Ever homage to the late, great Karl Lagerfeld was one of the highlights of the fashion week. Shown inside the Grand Palais, where he presented some of his most unforgettable Chanel shows, the who’s who of the fashion world came together for a one-night-only event that masterfully honored the iconic designer.

The opera director Robert Carsen was the man who came up with the concept for the night and expertly directed the entire event. Between the mile high images of Lagerfeld throughout the years, the wonderful anecdotes recounted by his friends and colleagues, the performance on stage by Tilda Swinton, Cara Delevingne, and Helen Mirren and the musical numbers from the pianist Lang Lang and Pharrell Williams; the evening felt rich and alive. 

It was also a great moment to discover aspects of Lagerfeld that only his closest friends knew about him. Such as his life long love of tango music, or how he got his beloved blue-eyed Birman cat named Choupette. But, perhaps the best moment of a very moving night was a video of Lagerfeld cracking himself up as he, take after take, could not get a video introduction done. He endlessly mixed up his French, English and German. The end result was that the whole audience felt they had finally, truly gotten to see the man behind the famed dark sunglasses.

Paris menswear fashion week

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