A hint of hard times hit the Paris catwalks as men’s fashion week opened Thursday with designers going for the dark side, opting for austerity over extravagance.
The exception among the first of 46 shows to run over four days was France’s Jean Paul Gaultier, the wild “bad boy of fashion, who wowed the crowd with a happy bouncing collection sported by men, women and even children, each sporting huge fuzzy Jimi Hendrix-style wigs.
With men in skirts, and women in pants, and the mostly androgynous tiny tots strutting in 1970s and 1980s London-inspired designs to music from the Bond films, Gaultier showed his knack for muddying dress and social codes.
And in a rare catwalk nod to racial tolerance, notable in the week that Barack Obama was sworn in as president, half of the models were black.
Gaultier stuck largely to blacks and greys and whites for his 2009/2010 autumn/winter line, but brightened up duffle-style coats with fine metal chains, plastered leather collars on coats, added harnesses and buckles as trim, and threw many of his manly-looking models into muscle-hugging pants.
Skirts for men, a longtime favorite with the designer, were thrown over pants.
In contrast, Hugo Boss designer Bruno Pieters from Belgium, who kicked off the four-day fashion frenzy, paraded pale men wearing slicked-down hair and tiny dark glasses.
His was an austere silhouette of thin black ties on white shirts, strict jackets with Mao collars, and large capes, all shown inside an ancient cloister.
German company Hugo Boss, which is to cut back five percent of its staff, was showing in Paris for the first time in the hopes of getting more international attention.
The rigid dress of priesthood served as inspiration to a second newcomer to Paris, Dutch designer Francisco Van Benthum, who in shades of Jean Paul Gaultier threw pleated aprons over pants and in churchlike mode went for high ruffled collars and high-collared jackets.
Blacks, whites and dark blues dominated his show with touch of slinky red silks. There were long dark coats, short pants worn over longer ones, lengthy belted tunics and cords instead of belts.
At luxury house Louis Vuitton, next season’s model man was less austere but nonetheless avoided in-the-face bling-bling.
Funky woolly caps and sneakers designed by Grammy award-winning Kanye West gave Vuitton’s finely crafted and highly-technical tailoring a downmarket streetwear side probably more appropriate to times of doom and gloom.
But the luxury luggage-maker did not skimp on its show of expensive bags, with models hauling bigger than ever bags, and even sometimes two at once.
Japan’s Yohji Yamamoto, always laid back and close to the street, played his catwalk show to jazz.
Choosing models of all ages and types, cropped, bearded, frumpy, carrying a stick of bread, Yamamoto went for big long coats thrown over pyjama-like pants and shirts in stripes or polka-dots.
He put long unfashionable-looking thick woolly cardigans over thick woolly sweaters, and again threw skirts or short-cropped shorts over pants.