After a long hop across the pond, and a 6 a.m. touchdown at Charles de Gaulle, this editor was ready to put on his beret, buy a baguette and light a colorful Gauloise. A self induced overdose of iconic French music -- think Aznavour, Piaf and Gainsbourg -- compliments of the masterfully curated Air France entertainment system was enough Kool-Aid to revive the Francophile within and make me, once again, an instant disciple of all things Parisian. A schedule, in equal parts daunting and invigorating, divided my days into a parade of fashion's best offerings: Gaultier, Dries, Galliano, Raf -- just to name-drop a few.
My hotel, Villa Marazin, a little boutique establishment in the heart of the Marais, was the perfect departure point considering that most of the shows I'd be attending were close by. After a potent espresso in the corner cafÃ© (the first of many), I headed Notre Dame. What else can a good Catholic boy do at eight in the morning? Not surprisingly, I was warned that the workers responsible for opening the towers to the public were en grÃ¨ve -- so much for my climb to Quasimodo's scenic hideout. So after a perfectly cooked croque madame and espresso number two, it was time to head to my first show: Louis Vuitton.
After a cab ride to the northeastern corner of Paris, I arrived at the gargantuan space. This season, LV designers Marc Jacobs and Paul Helbers found inspiration in the turn-of-the-century Viennese collective of architects, artists and designers known as the Wiener WerkstÃ¤tte. The pieces, sent down the runway to the thumps of techno music mixed with classic Viennese waltz, featured techno fabrics lined with tweed, three-quarter-length shearling coats and double-faced tailored wool jackets with waterproof leather inserts, paired with tapered shirts. With every other look, canvas and leather bags, from totes to steamers, were inspired by equestrian and military traditions. The utilitarian feel carried through to the heavy rubber soled boots. Not the most daring of collections but still a nod to expert tailoring and beautiful craftsmanship that left me craving a bigger closet.
It was then off to Jean Paul Gaultier. The
invitation to the show, a vintage-looking boxing poster featuring Rocky
Balboa, promised quite a production -- and JPG did not disappoint. The
bad boy of fashion certainly had an ace up his sleeve with this
theatrical collection inspired by the Ã¼ber macho sport, and I barely
blinked throughout the entire presentation. Gaultier's unparalleled
skill (as evidenced by the tailored strong-shouldered suits and cropped
motorcycle jackets) coupled with his playful vision (think anatomical
printed tees and layered skirts) complemented each other. A parade of
hoodies, boxing gloves and belted overcoats kept the theme of the
collection a constant. The music, a mix of melancholic Piaf and Rocky's
theme added an extra punch.
After such visual stimulation, I thought it best to sit down for a proper lunch. An entrecÃ´te and two glasses of Bordeaux later and it was time for one more dÃ©filÃ©. Paris' stock market was the palatial setting for Dries Van Noten's show. Last spring, his unorthodox pairings of bold fabrics proposed a whole new concept: clashing seemingly opposing patterns to create an unexpected match. For fall 2010, Van Noten brought back a pinch of English punk. The soundtrack, blasted through wireless radios held by each model, combined New Wave and hip-hop tunes to compliment the voluminous and slender fits of the designer's creations. Long johns were worn with tailored jackets; sleeveless navy outerwear were blocked with khakis; traditional club stripes of opposing colors were styled together; classic three-pleat trousers remained cropped but slightly wider and looser then in collections past. The big story here: Removable sleeves that attached to the linings of the outerwear. Like with Gaultier, we noticed the rise of a higher waistline and the belting of overcoats, from duffles to peas. Dries is clinical and inventive, always deconstructing and testing boundaries of the market, making him one of the most daring fashion visionaries out there.
My second day in Paris began with a promenade along the Seine towards the MusÃ©e d'Orsay. After an hour or so of taking in a bit of culture at the converted Beaux-Arts train station I headed to Rue Marbeuf, right off the Champs ÃlysÃ©es to swing by another of my favorite spots. Le Relais de l'EntrecÃ´te has been serving the same menu since it opened in 1986. The casual Parisian bistro offers a perfectly cut steak with a sauce made from a secret family recipe that is well worth the pilgrimage.
Soon after lunch, I headed towards the 16th arrondissement for Cerruti's show, held in the spare and ultra-modern second floor of the Palais de Tokyo. I was pleasantly surprised by Jesper BÃ¶rjesson's collection. Tailored, thin lapelled jackets paired with voluminous pleated pants with slightly dropped crotches highlighted the back-to-its-roots mentality of the fashion house. Knits worn under suits splashed hints of yellow and copper but the predominant monochromatic tone-on-tone styling set the mood for the Cerruti man. The soundtrack of Nirvana and Guns n' Roses ballads amplified the somber take on fall.
A stroll down Rue de Faubourg Saint-HonorÃ© for a bit of window shopping and an obligatory stop at Colette to pick-up a few gifts followed. After a detour at Rue Cambon to pay my respects to Madame Chanel it was off to Place VendÃ´me for Galliano, the mad scientist of the fashion world. The collection began as a stylized take on Britain's famed fictional detective Sherlock Holmes with the initial looks focused on Edwardian-period tailoring with belted double breasted jackets, dark capes and bowler hats paired with ultra voluminous outerwear and hyper-techno fabrics. The second half of the show seemed like a different presentation altogether; perhaps this was Galliano's interpretation of the Holmes's villain. Bare-chested models with Asian inspired headpieces and Kabuki colored undergarments took the catwalk in full-length robes -- an acid trip of Far East proportions!
To end the night, a drink at Hotel Costes with a good friend of my family was followed by a cozy Italian dinner in St. Germain and a night of bar hopping with fellow New Yorkers in the Marais, lasting until the wee hours of morning.
My day began at an indoor
sports stadium in the 12th arrondissement for the Dior Homme
show. The set-up resembled a Gattaca-like world with a round catwalk
surrounded by coal and lit by suspended fluorescent lights. Kris Van
Assche's latest collection showed off his knack for deconstructing
and reinventing the shapes of traditional silhouettes by repurposing
sections of garments in new and fresh ways. Trousers were pleated and
cropped, matching the hem length of the robe-like coats that were
layered into most looks. Slimane-era Dior Homme this was not. The days
of emo, skin-tight proportions and heavy doses of androgyny are gone.
Assche's Dior is masculine, layered and construction-conscious. One of
the highlights of the collection was a cream-colored origami jacket with
a built-in scarf. Karl Lagerfeld seemed to approve from his first row
I managed to hitch a ride with a friend to Maison Martin Margiela way out in the 11th arrondissement. The Margiela man is the ultimate cool cat, a man who perhaps doesn't shampoo his hair often but who likes to be noticed. The rock 'n' roll pulse of the Maison played out in an assortment of slouchy high-waisted trousers paired and heavy boots. High-waisted pants of the skinny variety, a graphic monochromatic toggle coat, and a parade of Nappa leather shirts reminded us of the brand's trademark '70s-era influences. A heavily studded biker jacket and a sequined pair of jeans served as amuse bouche leading up to the final look: an embroidered leather waistcoat styled over a tuxedo jacket.
It was then off to the Maison de l'Unesco, where the final preparations for the HermÃ¨s show were carefully being put into place. Under the command of talented VÃ©ronique Nichanian, the fall line-up was effortlessly elegant. Basic, everyday staples were enhanced with deep colors and luxurious fabrics: petrol blue cashmere cardigans paired with suede pants, croc-hooded cropped jackets styled with flat front trousers. The iconic silk scarf made a few cameos, worn with ease and mixed with corduroy-hooded sweatshirts. An array of belted overcoats and tailored-to-perfection suits made me long for deeper pockets.
I then took a taxi ride to Jeu de Paume at Place de la Concorde for the last show of the day: Raf Simons. Simons, also the creative director of Jil Sander, has a (well-deserved) cult following, as one of the most creative contemporary designers working today. Like Assche, his approach is analytical and his inspired sculptural studies of form through the deconstruction of key elements are always surprising. For fall, he reconfigured the trench and suit by using industrial materials like velcro and magnetic snaps. Jackets were cinched at the waist and fastened with metallic snaps. Proportions were redefined with knee-length tops styled with cropped jackets, buttoned skirts paired with ribbed knits and belted duffle bodices worn over suits. The crowning jewel were the trench coats that had been skillfully broken down and their insulation worn on the outside as separates.
On my agenda for the evening was a party at Hotel du Banke hosted by Francesco Sourigues and David Vivirido, the founders of Hercules magazine. The hotel lobby bar was filled with international editors, models and many familiar faces. Between potent caipirinhas and tasty hors d'oeuvres, we exchanged notes on the week's comings and goings. The hotel bathroom was a topic of conversation, especially since the toilets were covered in python -- deliciously over the top!
The last remaining show on my calendar was Lanvin at 11, which allowed me to make plans for a late brunch at CafÃ© Marly and a leisurely culture-filled afternoon at the Louvre. For fall, Lucas Ossendrijver and Alber Elbaz took their traditionally, perfectly refined bow-tied gentleman into rougher territory. The trademarks that have revived the brand were still present (their perfectly constructed coats and jackets) but infused with a masculine and severe edge. Drop-shoulder coats and rounded cut jackets belted with midriff corsets presented a new, military-esque silhouette to the Lanvin man. Slouchier pants were tucked into trooper-boots and patterns that resembled camouflage enhanced the alpha male imagery of the layered line-up. Voluminous knits added a bit of the Lanvin romanticism, but this collection was a bold and successful departure for Ossendrijver.
After four days of fashion, too many cigarettes, liters of scalding coffee, sleepless nights and a bit of culture, I packed my bags, checked-out and headed to a final lunch with my best friend at quiet little street across the river. Exhausted but completely inspired, it was time to come home and piece together all that I had witnessed.
Ã bientÃ´t Paris.