It's a difficult, awkward, and frustrating time right now. Brexit, attacks, political marches, the #MeToo movement, it’s all gone Pete Tong. The U.S President for example, who once was an icon to many; a sharply dressed wordsmith with a smile, the dream GQ cover story, is now an emblem of hate, a character who commands attention, tantrums and ill-fitting suits. There's a challenging sense of foreboding in the air and this lack of political certainty saturated the Paris Menswear shows.
The political undertone this season appeared on oversized and padded shapes as if a barrier against the difficulties of the outside world. Sportswear and outdoorsy silhouettes and structures seemed to prepare for a mass escape; innovative materials and textures nodded to a doomsday-like security. Soundtracks were eerie, sets were moody, styling was ad-hoc. Paris Menswear gave the impression of an emergency preparation, a raising awareness of the bad times to come - fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
The cross-terrain aesthetic was perhaps best seen at Sacai Man, whose knits were heavy and patterned, covered in adaptable zips and fringing. Shaggy textures, highland knits, puffas, furs and buckles all alluded to the idea that Sacai had created a hiking uniform for an unknown dystopia. Sacai Man also featured a statement t-shirt which read the New York Times' statement; 'Truth. It's more important now than ever,'- an explicit nod to Trump and an emblem that created a storm on Instagram. Less explicitly political but in keeping with the survivor motif prevalent at the Paris shows, Kim Jones' last show for Louis Vuitton was a much more joyful affair. One of the knockout offerings this season, this show displayed earthen tones, mottled marble effect textures, print that looked like terrain, thick chunky boots and hiking backpacks, which all insinuated a version of escapism. A long journey is to be had by the Louis Vuitton man. One could look at all these hiking silhouettes as a nod to sportswear but when seen alongside all other dystopically charged collections, arguably, Louis Vuitton is a wardrobe preparing for warfare.
Junya Watanabe’s A/W 18 characters are kitted for any ominous future. Those thick, fireman shaped jackets that morph into duffle bags are ideal for an apocalyptic escape, and reflective striping on trousers and shirts added a utilitarian strength. Watanabe's collection appeared to be a pre-meditative solution to Trump's world, all items are ready to grab and go in what often seems like an inevitable emergency. Some, such as Alexander McQueen and Hermés, looked inward, showcasing and re-evaluating their traditions with checks, tartans and heritage tailoring as if a regression to what they know, finding security in the familiar in such dire straits. The return of the slim-line suits at Dior felt like a rebuttal to the baggy-suited behemoth manning the U.S.A, and the slow-paced black presentation from Yohji Yamamoto, with shards of red across eyes and sleeve, felt sombre and melancholic. In contrast, Thom Browne’s snowy daydream of long-line puffer jackets and lederhosen shorts could be perceived as a utopian dream amongst the pessimism and morose.
Comme des Garçons was Jurassic in their defensive design, sending structural dino skull head-pieces overtop of thickly padded jackets and leather aprons. The padded jackets were podgy, as if full of fibreglass insulation, and bursting at the seams. The skull's bones appeared to mimic masks or barred helmets - protected, padded and secure. Even Margiela’s typical degradé stylings felt a subliminal nod to the breaking down of society. Clear rain hats and structural ski sneakers and sandals could assumingly be seen as defensive outerwear, but ultimately they were just brilliant pieces. His first menswear show under Margiela, Galliano had hybridised tropes of dressing in haste and the deconstruction of fabrics and shape to create an exceptional collection.
None were quite as outrageously bold as that of Rick Owens. His A/W 18 collection was powerful and angry, delicately violent. Pumping, angry techno terror music had the audience on edge as if to say ‘Wake up and pay attention!’ Thick, stomping protective boots, cocoon shapes, layers of buckled cross-body shapes and cut-out holes were aggressive. Owens told Wallpaper* at the time ‘It’s hard to suppress a howl of rage.’ Some models even had orange tufts of hair swooshing in the wind - could it be a Trump tell?
The sense at the menswear shows in Paris was one of urgent preparation. Yes, it’s A/W 18, and there will always be outerwear on offer for the winter months, but what normally would be a puffer or a thick woollen coat, was here identified as armour. One hopes that these pessimistic Parisian premonitions are a passing phase, but alas, the President certainly isn’t.