With spectacle, creativity, and the return of well-known designers to the runway as Paris Fashion Week came to an end on Sunday, menswear demonstrated that it had been revitalised.
The legendary French designer Hedi Slimane, once of Dior and Saint Laurent and now with Celine, unexpectedly made a comeback to round up the week. He had declared he was done with the official fashion calendar two years prior.
In the early 2000s, Slimane rose to prominence as a stylist and photographer for artists like David Bowie, Mick Jagger, The Libertines, and Daft Punk.
However, he hasn’t performed a live concert since February 2020 since he considers them to be ‘obsolete’ and would rather offer collections with videos that were filmed in opulent French locations.
He didn’t explain why he was back on the catwalk, but there is a sense that menswear is experiencing a revival at the moment. On Sunday, a crowd of fashionistas gathered outside the Palais de Tokyo in the heart of Paris.
The indie-rock influences that helped Slimane become famous were evident in his latest collection, which featured slim black trousers, even skinnier ties, golden suits and leather jackets, as well as an abundance of dark sunglasses.
The past few seasons have often seen men’s and women’s shows merging into one — with London Fashion Week doing away with the distinction altogether.
But this week in Paris seemed to reaffirm the divide, with houses wanting to boost their focus on menswear at a time when demand is rising.
US designer Matthew Williams presented his first-ever standalone menswear show for Givenchy this week.
‘It’s good to give space to men and women, to each and everyone their platform to tell a story,’ Williams told fashion site WWD. ‘There’s more room for more looks.’
His show was grounded in real-life styles from his native California, he said, with a lot of utilitarian knee-length shorts, cargo trousers and relaxed knitwear — much of it in monochrome with a few splashes of pastel colours.
According to Serge Carreira, a fashion expert at Sciences Po University, ‘commercially, menswear is a business that has evolved a lot with a particularly strong dynamic in Asia that has caused a boom for pret-a-porter men’s designers.’
Also marking her first menswear show was France’s Marine Serre, one of the biggest names to emerge in recent years.
The 30-year-old has made sustainability and inclusivity central to her brand, and that was evident at her sports-themed show in a stadium outside Paris on Saturday.
Many pieces were upcycled from old scarves and linen — that had been turned into everything from speedos to flags and leotards.
The models came in all shapes and sizes, from children to older people, alongside celebrities such as ex-footballer Djibril Cisse and Paralympic gold medallist Alexis Hanquinquant, as well as Madonna’s daughter Lourdes Leon in one of the house’s trademark moon-patterned bodysuits.
‘Thirty percent of our sales have been for menswear in the last collections — we’re not at 50/50 but we do quite a bit of men’s and we have no intention of doing less,’ Serre told AFP after the show.
Although it’s uncommon in the men’s department, she said, the locker room is a great place for upcycling.
These less complicated shapes make it simpler and possible to charge lower pricing, making it easier for everyone to wear recycled clothing.
In the meantime, well-known names also left their imprint this week.
With a flower-filled garden runway, straw hats, and stylish outdoor loungewear among the outfits, Dior drew inspiration from the founder’s childhood home in Normandy.
The designer of Hermes, Veronique Nichanian, told AFP that she was motivated by ‘lightness, ease, fun, and colours that pop’ for her casual, pastel-infused aesthetic.