The shows are done. The editing starts now...
When a collection provokes polite indifference all you have is the proof that the synapses of all in question have stopped firing. The designer's neurons did not crackle. The audience did not crackle. The magazine editors will engage the collection precisely according to the ad buy, but they will not crackle. And the critics? When critics and their critical faculties become burnt out and defunct, what value does it have for an audience? To answer the rhetorical...none ...because in that case consensus moves out of the purvey of critics intro the hands of stylists and buyers.
I bring up all this in light of the recently concluded Paris Men's shows of which there was little critical consensus which to my mind is the act of fashion's critical ranks surrendering to confusion in the face of a radically changing world. Virtually every designer except for perhaps three, did exactly what was expected of them. There's nothing wrong with that. Rick Owens did a emphatically Rick Owens collection with a multi-ethnic switch up in his casting. But there is no need for Owens to "revolutionize" the taste-point or position of his offerings. Rick Owens repeats, refines and evolves. That is his design DNA and because it is only his second season showing a stand-alone men's collection, the coiled energy of his show suggested that his aesthetic is beautifully positioned for a mass market breakthrough. Which might be the very last thing Rick Owens would want.
Mass market breakthrough might be exactly what poor beleagured Kris van Assche was praying for backstage at his Dior Homme Spring 2010 presentation. Beset by incessant rumors of his imminent firing and replacement, constantly cross-compared to Hedi Slimane and pounded by an imperative to increase sales while managing lower production costs... even as he as he has to draw critical applause, this designer could have panicked. Instead he swerved as radically as he could from the razor sharp tailoring that was Slimane's signature to go for a super-soft, assuredly languid collection that set up a fantastic new template from which to define Dior Homme. The valid point is those pieces, while fully compatible with the earlier branding of Dior Homme also expanded the house's vocabulary. The Dior Homme consumer is unlikely to have those pieces already lilting in his all-black closet. He probably won't fit the sizing of Calvin Klein (who also explored that tangent of "transparency" ) and will find the ideas rendered in a less radical and more "buyable" way than at Prada.
When a collection provokes a strong reaction, in either direction, the immediate question you ask yourself is...what is the nerve being touched? Critical response to the Givenchy was respectful (and in one case- Cathy Horyn's -rather virulent) but I think that was because as is Ricardo Tischi's wont, there were three collections wheeling around that one runway. It resulted in a collection that you know was powerful...you could feel that crackle...if not completely controlled but I'll take Tischi's overspilling passion over the pointless, tasteless and anemic offerings that clutter the men's market. And to put Horyn's emotions in context (as I think it was worth noting the post was in the context of the personal musings of the On The Runway blog not the newspaper's official reportage) a pointed dis-invitation from that Givenchy show probably resulted in two or three of those extra-punitive sentences. I like the humanity of that and I love that it happens in Paris where ..as the kids say...they like to get down like that.
I invoke the kids because it brings home my initial point. If Givenchy reflected the truth of the what kids want from everyday menswear now, who gets to decide whether it is interesting or not? Fashion has always been a political game and in a world questioning the viability of the very existence of newspapers the truth of a fashion designer's chances of survival comes down to this: The primary filter of perception of a collection is no longer newspaper critics. It is magazine editors and stylists. Critics now engage a cross-dialogue with each other and and as a side-note with the backers behind a house who employ a given designer. There's power in that, but the make or break axis of PR and visibility is still operated by the Carine Roitfelds (see Balmain), the Anna Wintours (see Alexander Wang's anointment as the "Next One") on one flank... and on the other the "power " stylists like Katie Grand, Karl Templer and Nicola Formachetti . If those creative talent chose not to platform your pieces, you are in serious retail trouble.And if you render support..then the beat goes on regardless.
In our ADD, short-term memory society, the runway fades as quickly as the last note of the soundtrack settles. There was a collection in Paris that stood out emphatically as a beautiful shift outside of the accepted aesthetic of the day, into something prescient and advanced. It was the Miharayasuhiro show where that cavalcade of dusty, beautifully beat-up pieces showed that clothes could be presented as private and personal and pertinent to a creative person trying to manoeuvre his way through the minefield of menswear cliches. In the final passage as the offerings moved from layered deshabille to a kind of distressed tuxedo-chic, you thought, "Finally. Something from within its own world".
The irony is as a stylist you could position Miharayasuhiro alongside the Prada Spring 2010, or the Rick Owens or the tuxedo ideas from Givenchy and Dior and forge a story about how in Spring 2010 collections, the information started to move so fast that all of fashion started to decentralize and destabilize. All of a sudden we became aware that there were no more power centers. The mob has the vote now. We are not at the point of the models parading nude, profiling the 'emperor's new clothes" but the clothes seem to want to reveal that beneath it all there's nothing but glistening skin and the fragility of human vanity. I love that.