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PARIS — There’s a new gold rush on, but this time the fortune seekers are leaving California and prospecting nearly 6,000 miles away, on the runways of Paris.
A host of California-based brands, including Greg Lauren, Amiri, Nahmias, Reese Cooper and Rhude, made their Paris debuts during the men’s spring 2023 season, or returned to the French capital with bigger, more impactful on-schedule events.
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Even Russell Westbrook was in town, attending the Amiri show, and selling his collection, Honor the Gift, in the showroom here.
“Paris has an allure, and it’s the ultimate fashion stage. We become global here,” said Lauren after the Amiri show in the city’s Botanical Gardens.
Lauren, who presented his collection in Paris, added that traveling to the French capital also gave him the chance to “connect and reconnect with friends, fellow designers and partners. We’re supportive of each other, and being here, going to one another’s shows, is testament to our happy community,” he said.
Paris was sizzling (to quote the dapper Cole Porter) this spring season, but it wasn’t just the sun blazing down on guests in all the outdoor venues.
Running from June 21 to 26, men’s spring 2023 was the first major live showcase following the lift of lockdown restrictions earlier this year — and the industry rushed in. It’s also a city that’s flush with fashion investors, buyers and some of the biggest showrooms in the world.
Emmanuel Sanchez Monsalve/Courtesy of Greg Lauren
According to the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, there were 76 physical shows and presentations, with just eight digital-only events. While it wasn’t the biggest men’s fashion week on record, the days were packed with live events, and it was clear that designers, brands, press, buyers and VIP guests were eager to engage face-to-face once more.
Doni Nahmias, who staged his second runway show in Paris this season, chose the city because “I want to be respected as a top men’s luxury designer, and Paris is the capital of luxury,” he said.
Nahmias, a self-taught designer who counts Justin and Hailey Bieber, Lewis Hamilton and Jennifer Lopez, among his customers, has been using Paris as a chance to network, secure sponsorship and get his name out there.
His spring collection, which was tinged with nostalgia for a childhood spent swimming and surfing at Butterfly Beach near Sant Barbara, unfurled at the Palais de Tokyo (the favorite show venue of another California boy, Rick Owens). The soundtrack was put together by the American musician Boy Wonda.
NFL stars Malik Turner and Tyrod Taylor were sitting in the front row, while the collection itself featured a four-piece capsule with Bacardi Rum. The gender-neutral capsule had embedded QR codes that, once swiped, directed show guests to albums by “rising global musical talents.” The tie-up was part of Bacardi’s Music Liberates Music program.
Courtesy of Nahmias
Asked how Paris was working out for him from a commercial perspective, Nahmias described his latest runway outing as “worthwhile and special. With the energy much more vibrant, and a lot more people in town, we were glad to see such a strong buyer presence at the show. Sales appointments thus far have been going great, and it’s already shaping up to be our best season,” he said.
The Nahmias silk sets have been particularly popular with buyers, he said, which is not surprising considering that Jennifer Lopez posted a picture of herself last week wearing a set printed with hummingbirds.
“Our denim offerings are already seeing an increase in orders, which is great as it’s a category we focused on this season and have expanded. From the inception of the collection to the actual runway event, a successful Paris show has always been the end-goal, so it has been great to feed off the Paris energy and excitement,” said Nahmias.
California-based designer John Elliott was on a similar wavelength. He showed in Paris for the first time, at the Pompidou Center, and had a buzzy front row that included Mike Amiri, basketball players Jalen Green and Jordan Clarkson, model and reality TV star Jordyn Woods, stylist Aleali May and influencer Luka Sabbat.
“We really saw an opportunity in Europe and in Asia, worldwide, to become a global brand. And if you want to become a global brand, then you need to come to the biggest stage, and the biggest stage is Paris,” said Elliott.
Courtesy of John Elliott
Reese Cooper staged his first physical, on-schedule Paris show this season, and also opened a pop-up at 14 Rue d’Uzès that sold his first collaboration with Levi’s. It’s a collection of 10 trousers and jackets made from the brand’s deadstock.
Cooper had held presentations in Paris before, and was eager to return with a bigger show, post-pandemic.
Cooper said the theme of the show was “growth” — and the collection was bigger than ever.
He flew his entire team over from Los Angeles, and used the show venue, the Jardin des Plantes, or Botanical Gardens, as inspiration for the prints and patterns for his breezy, romantic collection.
Scarves depicting dozens of the botanical species within the park were hand painted, and then printed on to silk, by fine artist and designer Juliet Johnstone.
Gomez de Villaboa/WWD
L.A. native Mike Amiri also returned to Paris in a bigger way, staging a runway show in another part of the Jardin des Plantes.
“Pre-pandemic we were doing presentations here, but it was time for us to be part of the official calendar,” said Amiri, who brought his brand of fluid L.A. cool to Paris.
Fellow Los Angeleno Rhuigi Villaseñor officially debuted Rhude in Paris in 2020, returning to the capital for the spring 2023 season. He plans to stay put.
“Economically, it’s smart for my brand to maintain it here. I mean, we sort of started here,” said Villaseñor, who was named creative director of Bally earlier this year and will show his first collection for the brand in September.
“Whether we spend the expense on a party or whether we expend [on a show], it’s money spent for an outcome, obviously. With what the brand wants to do, and how we want to celebrate with our community and our customers, I think it’s healthy for us to keep the show alive,” he added.
Like his fellow Californians in Paris, Villaseñor stacked his front row with American friends including rapper Kodak Black and basketball player Karl-Anthony Towns.
Aitor Rosas Suñe/WWD
But it’s not just the Californians, or even the Americans, who are fixing their gaze on Paris. Even the Brits who were once regulars on the London and Milan calendars, are finding it hard to resist the city’s appeal as the premiere platform for luxury menswear.
“There’s been a magnetic shift, and Paris is now the epicenter of fashion. The city is a bit more radical, more progressive than other places. Things move faster here,” Ross said.
— With contributions from Joelle Diderich
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