PARIS – History, fashion, and star power came together at Givenchy’s latest menswear show at Les Invalides in Paris. Steeped in the martial aura of the former military hospital with its cast iron cannons, the show was the first of its kind across the monument's sprawling balcony. Film star and musician Jared Leto was among the luminaries who applauded the spectacle.
Here are some highlights of Thursday’s spring-summer 2024 menswear collections, including an interview with designer Matthew M. Williams:
GIVENCHY GETS CONFIDENT
In recent seasons, the creative heat at Givenchy under Williams had seemed somewhat tepid. However, this latest collection, presented against the backdrop of Les Invalides' pale stone arches, displayed a new-found creative confidence from him. The designer seems to be settling in to successfully steer the age-old LVMH-owned house into solid sartorial ground.
The show commenced with an array of finely tailored couture suits in striking black and white contrasts. These looks, loose yet opulent, seamlessly meshed with the historical backdrop, setting an indulgent tone and priming the audience for what was to come.
In a welcome and inclusive turn for the maison, models of diverse backgrounds graced the runway. This wasn’t just a show; it was a statement, a testament to Givenchy’s dedication to inclusivity and modernity.
As the show progressed, the couture tailoring gradually gave way to utilitarian and - at times - militaristic elements. These influences were likely borrowed from the show’s venue, the final resting place of Napoleon Bonaparte. With rucksacks, zippers, straps, and toggles, Williams cleverly infused a sense of practicality into high fashion. The disruptive silhouettes created by backpacks fastened at the back of the models echoed the venue’s military roots and lent an edgy vibe to the show.
It was a celebration of diversity, and most importantly, it was a beacon of creative growth for Williams at Givenchy.
MATTHEW M. WILLIAMS SPEAKS ON INSPIRATION
Williams draws his inspiration from unexpected quarters. In a candid interview with the AP, Williams revealed how his personal experiences — from being a father to living near Les Invalides — shape his fashion creations.
“My kids go to school in England,” he said, “so I’m looking at uniforms all the time, how kids wear it in different ways and throw other archetypes over it.” These casual observations of children’s sartorial ingenuity have deeply influenced Williams, inspiring a sense of playful fusion of contrasting garments in his latest collection.
Moreover, Williams’ proximity to the historical Les Invalides impacts his design philosophy. “This place did inspire the collection because I live overlooking this (building),” said. This daily backdrop of martial architecture has unmistakably imprinted itself onto his work, lending a stark, disciplined elegance to his recent menswear line.
Williams’ revelations underscore how deeply personal and seemingly ordinary experiences can shape the extraordinary world of high fashion. His latest collection at Givenchy is a testament to this intertwining, offering a unique blend of everyday charm and high-end sophistication. As Williams summed it up, “at the end of the day, I’m making clothes that I want people to wear.”
RICK OWENS - FASHION ARMOR
Paris’s Palais De Tokyo saw an exhilarating blend of past and future at Rick Owens’ Spring-Summer 2024 men’s show. The runway came alive with models resembling modern-day gladiators, adorned in Owens’ signature long pants and sloping, oversized shoulders. Addressing global threats, Owens proposes that perhaps “jubilance” is the most fitting moral response. His collection showcased this through a line of “grim, determined elegance,” offering fashionable armor against adversity.
Committing to ethical practices, Owens’ used materials such as wool, silk, and cotton faille. In addition, shorts and jackets in oily calf leather from a Tuscan family-owned tannery, and pure wool tailoring from an Italian heritage mill reflected his dedication to environmental sustainability and animal welfare.
The collection introduced strict structured trousers that skimmed and flared, silk and leather tees twisted and draped, and imposing yet light coats. The pieces breathed fresh life into the Paris menswear scene, with a constant sway of silk shirts, tunics, and robes paying homage to the ancient world.
The show was a celebration of life in adversity, undergirded by a strong moral compass. As Owens aptly put it, “how one handles adversity is what defines one’s character,” a statement exemplified by his resilient and vibrant collection. In a changing world, Rick Owens’ menswear 2024 serves as a reminder to keep joy and style alive.
ISSEY MIYAKE CUTS UP THE RUNWAY
The Issey Miyake show in the resplendent Musee des Arts Decoratifs began with a theatrical flourish. A vast roll of pleated crepe paper unfurled across the runway, unveiling not merely a prop, but actual pleated garments once snipped apart. This innovative reveal, embraced by bare-chested models, provoked a flurry of camera snaps from an astonished audience.
The collection, “Everyday, One of a Kind, Now and Hereafter,” while not revolutionary, proved to be a gentle evolution of Miyake’s iconic design philosophy. Loose silhouettes came to life in vivid hues and micro-pleated fabrics, encapsulating the brand’s commitment to everyday wearable artistry. Among the standout pieces was a thick, charcoal pleated coat that offered a nod to traditional Asian dress, its regality underscored by its robust structure and generous drape.
Miyake’s “Monthly Colors” offered a balanced palette of natural hues ranging from soft to vibrant, providing a fresh chromatic offering each month. Meanwhile, the “Rectangle” series once again demonstrated the designer’s penchant for transformative fashion, morphing from flat geometric forms to asymmetrical silhouettes upon being worn.
The new “Horizon Pleats” series introduced a change in pleating direction, the horizontal pleats adding a subtle bounce and lightness to the garments’ silhouette.
While the collection did not break new ground, it showcased the brand’s quiet refinement. Even within its familiar territory, Miyake’s collection found room to inspire with poetic moments and clear nods to the brand’s historical design influences.
FREE SKETCHES FOR THE CHIC
With paintbrush in hand, Maxime Smirnov is becoming a familiar sight outside Paris’s fashion show venues. The 19-year-old artist’s “Save Your Outfit” initiative involves him spontaneously sketching guests in their chic attire as part of a free artistic service.
His canvas is the fashion-forward crowd milling around events, their outfits becoming vibrant, yet blurry impressions under Smirnov’s brush. The final watercolor paintings serve as personalized keepsakes, snapshots of the ethereal nature of memory. “It’s like it works like a memory,” Smirnov said, describing his artistic technique.
Discovered outside Givenchy’s show at Les Invalides, Smirnov has only been in Paris for a week but has already painted approximately 50 sartorial portraits. The artist completes each impression in roughly two minutes, gifting it back to the subject as a unique and timeless memento of their fashion moment.
DRIES VAN NOTEN'S DISCREET ELEGANCE
Belgian master Dries Van Noten showcased impeccable craftsmanship in his latest menswear collection. Elongated silhouettes with lean proportions and a subtle shoulder ridge added a fresh twist to his menswear.
The collection embraced a dark palette, dominated by black with occasional dusty, golden hues for depth. Van Noten’s signature historic influences were evident, including a jacket flaring out like a 19th-century dandy.
Described as a study of masculinity, the collection blended strength and gentility with a focus on refinement. Narrow tailoring, high waists, and flared trousers defined the look, while pronounced or softly flowing shoulders and long, lean sleeves exuded elegance.
Lengthened trench coats, shirts as dresses, sculptural raglan sleeves on bomber jackets, and oversized parkas made a statement. Airy proportions and soft shapes created a sense of lightness, complemented by sheer fabrics and open shoes with scooping necklines hinting at nudity.