The debuts in Paris, especially, proved that the lineup is giving the traditional womenswear calendar a serious run for its money.
Don't be fooled into thinking that Paris Fashion Week Men's is just a forum for menswear: With some of the most dynamic and zeigeist-y brands choosing to present both coed and genderless collections begging to be worn, it's giving the more traditional women's ready-to-wear calendar a serious run for its money.
Characterizing the showcase — which wrapped its Fall 2023 season in Paris over the weekend — is a pulsating energy driven by culture, charged with youth and underscored by inclusivity (whether gender, color or size) that both challenges preconceptions and disrupts patriarchal ideologies.
PFW Men's is "the most exciting" of the schedules, says Casablanca's Charaf Tajer, whose own co-ed Fall 2023 contribution to the schedule was staged around a decommissioned fighter jet festooned with flowers. The message of peace and seizing joy in the face of devastation drew inspiration from Syrian youth culture and played out in a sporty and optimistic line-up.
At Marine Serre, the driver has always been sustainability. Backdropped by three giant, tightly compressed blocks of the deadstock from which its products derive — in this case, silk scarves, denim and those purportedly "eco-friendly" canvas tote bags — the brand continued to prove that an upcycled label is both commercially viable and supremely scaleable for both sexes with its latest collection.
Meanwhile, at Kenzo's co-ed Fall 2023 production, artistic director Nigo riffed off British, American and Japanese street cultures of the '60s, '70s and '80s. The fil rouge? Checks and plaids in tribute to arch female provocateur, the late Vivienne Westwood.
"There's an eclectic feel to it that's very fresh," Natacha Ramsay-Levi, former artistic director of Chloé and Nicolas Ghesquière's right hand at both Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga before that, says of PFW Men's. (She's now co-designed a collection for Ecco Leather's creative exchange, At.Kollektive.) "It feels more young, more inclusive and more dynamic [than the women’s schedule]."
Arguably no one exemplifies this better than Ludovic de Saint Sernin, the enfant terrible of French fashion and newly-appointed creative director of Ann Demeulemeester, who's made a name for himself for his sexually-charged designs for all. The Belgian-born designer — whose brand has its origins in a leather jock strap — re-popularized the Edie Sedgwick "no pants" trend long before Kendall Jenner, and his latest runway provided new multiple riffs on it, alongside a range of micro mini skirts in his trademark crystal mesh.
"For our generation, everyone can wear a dress or jeans — it's about expressing yourself," says Florentin Glémarec, one half of young design duo Egon Lab (with Kévin Nompeix), speaking backstage after a show that offered a tougher, punkier take on this idea:
Meanwhile, at Dior Homme, Kim Jones peppered his collection with kilt styles and shorts so voluminous, they may as well have been skirts. These were oft teamed with meticulously embellished knitwear that borrowed techniques from the maison's haute couture atelier.
Gender fluidity cuts both ways, of course. Menswear has historically attracted a female audience, since Yves Saint Laurent introduced a ladies' tuxedo in 1966.
This season, Naomi Campbell attended the Casablanca show in a '70s-inflected multicolor striped suit, worn by a male model on Tajer's runway. The supermodel also wore a version of one of Jones' more traditional men's looks to sit front row at Dior.
Merve Manastir, founder of Manu Atelier, is a menswear customer herself. She gravitates toward the blazers for their oversized proportions, and dislikes clothing that's "too tailored and feminine."
"It's 2023, and we’re still trying to make women sexy and not comfortable and confident," she says.
Stephen Doig, men's style editor and assistant luxury editor at The Telegraph argues that "a cross-pollination between genders" is coming to the fore "now, more than ever." And brands are responding in kind.
Bode made its official women's debut during Paris Fashion Week Men's. And, though Ami Paris started in 2011 as a purely men's label, it launched womenswear four years ago due to demand from an already-established female clientele. Founder Alexandre Mattiussi's appearance in the final episode of "Emily in Paris" season three (which, according to Netflix, has reached some 35 million households worldwide) will do nothing if not further expand his fan base across gender expressions — and likewise the long poetic coats that walked his Fall 2023 runway.
(Speaking of the "Emily in Paris" effect: At Louis-Gabriel Nouchi show, actor Lucas Bravo walked the runway — catnip for the female gaze. What he wore was immaterial.)
Bianca Saunders' eponymous men's label (sold in Ssense's women's section, for the record) is likely headed in a similar direction to Ami. With fans including Kendall Jenner and Hailey Bieber, it made perfect sense for the designer to show her Fall 2023 collection on a mix of male and female bodies.
"I wear a lot of my clothes and try everything on myself — and if it looks good on me, then it will look good on someone else," she says. Saunders took her finale bow in an oversize bomber crafted from memory leather that matched a pair of voluminous pants that had just walked her runway.
Showing womenswear during PFW Men's also makes sound commercial sense, as the event shares a timeline with sales for the pre-collections.
"Pre-collection product stays on the shelves for longer before going on reduction," Ramsay-Levi says, adding that "the timing of when to show a collection always been a conversation in every fashion house."
Sacai, which also presents a full collection on the women’s schedule, has long featured a selection of women's pre-season looks on its PFW Men's runway. For Fall 2023, creative director Chitose Abe produced collaborative pieces with Carhartt, Nike and Moncler, which spanned both lines.
"It used to be all white men and big houses, but since around 2014/15, it's moved away from just being a trade show into more brand defining moments where content is created," says Jonathan Hirschfeld, CEO of Swedish unisex label Eytys, citing Rosalía's performance at the Louis Vuitton Fall 2023 debut as an example. (Another: Abe taking inspiration from Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar" for her latest.)
Then, there's the impact of streetwear, which can be most prominently seen on the PFW Men's schedule through Louis Vuitton's collaboration with KidSuper's Colm Dillane for Fall 2023. Shortly after that, Dillane presented a collection for his own label in the form of a comedy night hosted by Tyra Banks, who modeled 10 of the 20 looks. It proved one of the week's most talked-about events — due partly to the near riot that erupted at the door and partly to the subversive and thoroughly unrepeatable material which lambasted Balenciaga, Kanye West, Alexander Wang and Dillane himself, in equal measure. Challenging? Yes. Disruptive? Bien sûr. Compelling? 100%.