From Jonathan Anderson’s sublime Loewe show to Wales Bonner’s culturally rich Paris debut; these are the standout shows from Paris Fashion Week Men’s Autumn/Winter 2023
With references to James Baldwin, the Maharaja and Maharani of Indore, and Josephine Baker, Grace Wales Bonner’s first physical Paris show was culturally rich, as has long been the thread of the designer’s practice – making clothes that not only visually delight but consciously intrigue. Held in the elegant rooms of the Hôtel d’Évreux and produced under the title Twilight Reverie, the designer looked elsewhere to the First Congress of Black Artists and Writers, with the phrase ‘Sorbonne 56’ emblazoned on sports jackets, while further highlights included a stunning baby pink silk coat and matching bonnet, and a collaboration with the British artist Lubaina Himid.
A moment please, to consider how good a spy on the big screen might look under Anthony Vaccarello’s direction. There were small nods to such uniforms present in the designer’s first dedicated men’s offering for Saint Laurent – black sunglasses, leather gloves, high-neck knits and fantastic trench coats – and many more pieces that, if you let the mind wander, could fulfil the brief with a beautiful twist. Here, Vaccarello borrowed from womenswear house codes that emerged under Yves Saint Laurent in the 1970s, with a series of exaggerated pussy-bow blouses and wide-leg trousers.
Taking to Instagram after her third Paris outing, Bianca Saunders thanked Oliver Samuels, the comedian and actor behind Oliver at Large – a Jamaican comedy series from the 1990s – whose audio clips accompanied her A/W23 catwalk show. “Being able to share stories around my Jamaican culture in an artistic context is an honour,” she wrote. The show also provided aesthetic cues for the production’s domestic backdrop, featuring armchairs, a record player and a bar. As for the clothes, Saunders largely stuck to a palette of blue, yellow and more neutral shades, with a stunning quasi-twin moment courtesy of looks 21 and 22, featuring full-on psychedelic stripes.
Matthew M Williams’ latest Givenchy show began as a two-parter before evolving, marrying multiple contrasting elements. First came a four-piece line-up of black suits, made in collaboration with the house’s couture atelier and styled with sleek black roll-necks and leather gloves, before the looks began referencing musical genres – plaid shirts courtesy of grunge and oversized furs via hip-hop. Eventually, the sharpness of the former moulded into the latter, and layering became the key story.
“It’s a Victorian silhouette. There’s a prudishness. We remember that era so much for suppressing sensuality, but doing it in such an elaborate way that you couldn’t help but think about it,” said Rick Owens of his latest show, in reference to the Victorian era from which A/W23 took its silhouette. This season Owens returned to a predominantly black palette, playing with volume and texture with cloaks, puffer jackets and simple, oversized coats that leaned into practicality. The 19th-century influence was most evident in the collection’s modest sensibility, which played out via layering and long (if not always lean) configurations.
Rosalía performing atop a vintage yellow car; models absorbed in a house designed by Michel and Olivier Gondry; KidSuper designer Colm Dillane’s handwriting – Louis Vuitton’s youthful A/W23 show packed a lot in. Dillane’s cheerful sensibility built on the playful spirit conceived during Virgil Abloh’s tenure at the house (most notably with S/S19’s Wizard of Oz-inspired collection), and the guest designer concluded the show with two bold looks that cemented this kaleidoscope-informed approach. The Gondry’s set design meanwhile, further encouraged this sentimentality, which was informed by their own memories of childhood.
Rave subcultures have long fed into the type of menswear that gets a formal outing on the Paris Fashion Week schedule, but rarely has a designer’s approach been so subtle as at Dries Van Noten, where even a pattern-heavy puffer and combat trouser combo felt calm. “The freedom and self-expression of rave culture from the 90s, combined with the quite surreal beauty of nature” was how the designer described his A/W23 collection, which best accessed the era through its experiments with proportion. But the rave theme was present in the soundtrack too, which came via the uber cool Belgian music duo Lander & Adriaan.
Kim Jones likes to invest in concrete themes, and this season it was the turn of TS Eliot’s seminal poem The Waste Land (the designer reportedly owns six copies of the work). As models strode past donning rain hats, heavy shorts that read as skirts and seemingly classic knit styles, Robert Pattinson and Gwendoline Christie – their faces blown up on mammoth screens swamping the catwalk – read passages from the text, which Jones cited as being about “renewal and change”.
Innovative footwear design has been a core component of Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh’s brand for several years, with previous collaborators including Nike and Adidas; for A/W23, Botter teamed up with Reebok to deliver a 3D-printed design. Inspired by the Venus comb murex shell – from which the wider collection took its name – the trainer had the appearance of a skeleton that might belong in the Natural History Museum. Elsewhere, the designers accented proceedings (their latest vision for Caribbean couture featured a strong palette of varying bright tones), with toy cars worn as rings and pendants, and bicycle seats reimagined as bags.
Described as “tailoring of the avant-garde”, Rei Kawakubo introduced her A/W23 show with a short series of jackets that proposed something extreme, redirecting the silhouette of the models’ shoulders in harsh black fabric. What followed, however, felt lighter: suiting in gender-reveal blues and pinks, glam rock metallics and quivering cutouts affixed with furry materials. There was a nod to S/S97’s iconic “lumps and bumps” collection too, with padding and tubing that forced fabric away from the torso.
There was a particular type of clarity on display at Loewe this season, with balloon-armed furs, clown-toed lace-ups and wing-backed smocks all appearing on a white catwalk, save for a pair of XXL-sized paintings by the LA-based artist Julien Nguyen. Depicting his muse Nikos, in an “intimate documentation of a moment on holiday” (as he told Jonathan Anderson in a conversation on Instagram), the images set the tone for the show, which while seemingly uncomplicated, unfolded with a rich glossary of textures.
Since its inception in 2016, Emily Adams Bode Aujla’s label has been informed by a brand of Americana that celebrates craft and champions repurposing. “For me, it’s not so much about being historical or contemporary as being timeless,” she once told AnOther Man. In Paris for the first time this side of the pandemic, the designer looked to her maternal family and her mother’s sisters, as she introduced her first womenswear collection from a Cape Cod-alike house on stage at the Théâtre du Châtelet. While that was the biggest story (women have been wearing her menswear for years at this point), the men’s pieces were particularly strong; favourites included a brilliant pair of green velvet trousers and a heavily embroidered patchwork coat.
A lot of nostalgia and a nod to the late, great Vivienne Westwood announced themselves in John Galliano’s latest offering for Maison Margiela, which self-referenced July’s Cinema Inferno collection and the imagined story of fugitives Count and Hen. Mickey Mouse, elsewhere, became one of the principle motifs running through the co-ed display, while there was a focus on texture and an erratic approach to styling that made bedfellows of rubber and plaid. The flyer-as-invite-as-accessory was also noted, while headwear, largely of net and bin bags, was adopted throughout.