Highs and Lows of the Online Men’s Shows in Paris

Miles Socha and WWD Staff

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It turns out men’s fashion lends itself quite well to film.

There were several engaging entries in the first online edition of Men’s Fashion Week in Paris, and the clothes sometimes seemed more relatable, whether on the streets of Paris and Berlin, the cliffs of Normandy or some suburban living room.

Virgil Abloh set the bar high with his groovy animated short for Louis Vuitton featuring a cast of fantasy creatures with monogram emblems for eyes. (Vuitton’s spring men’s collection will be paraded in physical runway displays in Shanghai on Aug. 6 and in Tokyo at a later date.)

Similarly playful, Doublet told the story of his spring 2021 collection with a Santa Claus type in a macrame bear costume, while Mihara Yasuhiro peopled his video with Muppet-like characters. KidSuper Studios employed Barbie dolls as models, with Jay-Z and Quentin Tarantino among the first strutting the catwalk.

Yet, like couture which preceded it, the week lacked the electricity of live runway events, and the calendar was pockmarked with absentees, including Vetements and Comme des Garçons, who are showing later. Another clutch of notable brands, including Balmain, Dries Van Noten, Valentino and Thom Browne, are to present their spring 2021 men’s wear in coed displays this fall.

Van Noten contributed a teaser clip of a model awkwardly playing air drums, while Balmain compiled footage from its July 5 cruise down the Seine, a barge loaded with archival fashions and velvet-throated singer Yseult, into a slick and heart-tugging music video. Olivier Rousteing, a black man at the helm of a major Paris house for the past decade, wanted to show “progress is possible.”

There were disquieting entries from Sean Suen, Aldo Maria Camillo and Alled-Martinez, and poignant, politically tinged messages from Botter and GmbH.

Here, a roundup of highs and lows over five days of online programming:

HIGHLIGHTS:

Louis Vuitton‘s short film blends live action with animated characters — some resembling dragons — that Abloh called “Zoooom with friends,” as they crawl into shipping containers and set off from Paris on a barge.

Loewe delivered the most content-rich presentation of the week that straddled the tactile and the digital. Its show-in-a-box was chockablock with cardboard playthings, swatches to fondle and even a record to play, while its Instagram account bulged with hourly videos exalting craft and culture.

Dior began its short film with an engaging portrait of Ghanaian painter Amoako Boafo, who inspired artistic director Kim Jones this season. The second portion featured super-fast cuts from Boafo’s paintings to looks from the collection, making it hard to delve into the links between the two.

GmbH‘s “Guest on Earth” depicts dancer M.J. Harper walking through a Berlin neighborhood, listening to the thoughts of a varied cast of residents, including DJ Honey Dijon. It speaks about the yearning for human connection, but also politics and sexual identity in tender, moving ways.

Ernest W. Baker cofounder Reid Baker trained the spotlight on an unlikely fashion hero: his 92-year-old grandfather, blending grainy home movies with similarly retro images of a shaggy-haired model tinkering on a keyboard. Seventies suburbia never looked so appealing.

Spencer Phipps fulfilled a childhood dream by starring in his own Western titled “The Spirit of Freedom.” Armed with a clutch of official permits, the designer and a group of friends flew to Spain to film in the Tabernas desert, famous as the location of spaghetti Westerns in the Seventies.

Doublet’s offbeat video, in which his kitsch bear character spreads the gift of happiness — and clothes — could not fail to bring smiles to the faces of his recipients and anyone watching. It may seem like a simple recipe, but combining entertainment with actually showing a collection has been something of a rarity this past week.

Maison Mihara Yasuhiro mounted a “Muppet Show” version of a runway spectacle, with the puppets playing the selfie-snapping attendees watching humans march down the runway, their faces obscured by colorful cubes.

Wooyoungmi wisely didn’t ask her models to dance much for her film inspired by the Wim Wenders documentary of Pina Bausch. Yet using the right props and only a few movements, she brought the late German choreographer’s inimitable universe to life.

As an outsider and newcomer to the official Paris schedule, KidSuper’s Colm Dillane managed to create some of the excitement of a real-life runway show, complete with front-row VIPs. His stop-motion, made with Barbie dolls, their heads torn off and replaced with 3-D-printed incarnations of well-known personalities, welcomed guests including Queen Elizabeth II, the Obamas and Kim Kardashian (out to support hubby Kanye West on the runway).

LOWLIGHTS:

Imagine a pair of men’s shoes dragged slowly across a hardwood floor by their laces. Imagine brogues trudging slowly over wet sand — without the gorgeous Morrissey song about Sundays. Imagine them so you don’t have to watch the six inscrutable films J.M. Weston posted as “poetic asides.”

If gloom floats your boat, try Aldo Maria Camillo‘s flickering video collage showing tattooed hands, men in the fetal position, a grimy stovetop, a pair of swans and faint glimpses of clothing, or Sean Suen‘s dark tragedy in three acts, complete with frenetic dancing, references to drowning and “painful destruction.”

Amiri conscripted a fleet of marquee retailers, and several famous singers and sports stars, to wax poetic about his Los Angeles spin on luxury, and the video came off as self-reverential. His collection itself will be revealed in October, and was only hinted at in the video, which Mike Amiri saw as an opportunity to look back on his achievements thus far. 

A good number of brands, including Cmmn Swdn, Yohji Yamamoto and Yoshio Kubo, screened what were essentially runway shows, hardly the most creative use of the film medium.

Designers did a commendable job with diverse casting, except in the area of body size. Alled-Martinez and Palomo Spain were among brands featuring extremely thin men. “Is it tight on you?” one model is asked in the Palomo video. He shakes his head.

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