It wasn't easy to steal the thunder of the European designers this season: Dolce & Gabbana had Annie Lennox singing to the crowd at its 20th anniversary menswear show, Raf Simons staged a 15th anniversary show that revisited some of the themes in his collections over the last decade and a half, and Italian textile maker and clothing label Ermenegildo Zegna celebrated its centennial with an exhibition and gala shindig at Milan's Trienniale that traces the company's history.
But on Sunday, at the second to the last scheduled runway show on the final day -- and a posterior-numbing 47 minutes late -- American designer Thom Browne didn't just debut his eponymous menswear line here at Paris Fashion Week, he picked their pockets, cleaned their clocks, ate their collective lunches and ushered in the new era of the American designers' dominance.
The show was held in the Oscar Niemeyer-designed French Communist Party headquarters, a building that has hosted fashion shows by the likes of Prada and Dries van Noten, and no description can accurately do the scene justice.
When it was first announced, I thought Thom Browne's collaboration with Brooks Brothers was an odd pairing, but once I saw the clothes I thought it was sheer genius since it was the perfect combination of the best each had to offer.
When Browne's collaboration with Moncler (called Moncler Gamme Bleu) was announced, I didn't know much about the Italian brand besides the ubiquitous down-filled puffer jackets, and pairing Captain Short Pants with a brand known for its ski gear seemed an odd match. But after seeing the Spring/Summer 2011 collection wheeled out (literally) at a Milanese velodrome Sunday, I'm convinced that Browne's side projects away from his namesake line (which he will be showing during the upcoming Paris Fashion Week) are a win-win for everybody involved.
Saturday at an Annie Lennox performance, a fashion show broke out. At least that was the way it felt when the curtains opened on the Dolce & Gabbana Men's Spring/Summer runway collection to reveal the singer sitting at a grand piano.
Lennox sang and played the piano for the duration of the 17-minute show, often to the cheers of the crowd, ending with a tableaux of tuxedo-clad models gathered around her and clapping to the music.
I'll cover the specifics of the runway collection in a later post, but suffice to say, the inclusion of Procol Harum's 1967 song "A Whiter Shade of Pale" was no accident.
(And my apologies for the errant foot sticking into the right side of the video -- I had to place the Flip video camera on the floor so I could take notes, and wasn't aware of the well-shod interloper until it was all over.)
-- Adam Tschorn, reporting from Milan, Italy
Video: Annie Lennox performs during the Dolce & Gabbana Men's Spring/Summer 2011 runway show during Milan Fashion Week. Credit: Adam Tschorn / Los Angeles Times.
Reporting from Paris -- Last season it was New York City bike messengers, a year ago it was African royalty, and this time around, Louis Vuitton men's studio director Paul Helbers and artistic director Marc Jacobs found their inspiration in Vienna -- specifically the Vienna of the early 20th century, and a community of architects, artists and designers known as the Wiener Werkstätte (which counted Franz Kafka and Egon Schiele among its members).
"They had a kind of artist's wardrobe," Helbers told me backstage after the show. "That could be dressed up or dressed down, it was very versatile." Helbers said it was not just the artists of the movement that inspired the collection, but the architecture and even the street signs of the time -- the latter of which was the source of a pale shade of neon green that cropped up in a few pieces including a puffer jacket.
The versatility was apparent in equestrian-style boots that unzip into a shorter style, coats that unzip at the yoke to allow layering under other pieces, and emphasis on layering overall.
When it came to accessories, only one of the traditional all-over LV monogram style bags could be spotted; in its place was a single, stark capital V" (which had also appeared on the luggage-tag-shaped show invitations.) I asked Helbers about whether that was a conscious decision in a time of more stealth luxury.
"There is a time and place for that," he said. "But for something like this it needs to be discreet."
Instead, the designers chose to telegraph the luxury factor in a more subtle way: Three of the bags were hand painted with landscapes, forests and clouds by German artist Christian Schoeler, swirling, soft, watercolor-like light purples, moss greens and rust shades against white backgrounds, which provided the perfect counterpoint to the collection's predominant color palette of blacks and browns.
-- Adam Tschorn
Photos: At top, looks from Louis Vuitton's Fall/Winter 2010 men's runway collection, which was inspired by the the way the artists, architects and designers of the Wiener Werkstätte mixed business and leisure wear. At bottom left, one of the bags hand painted by Christian Schoeler, at right a bag with a simple "V" logo instead of the more traditional Louis Vuitton monogram. Photo credit: Jonas Gustavsson / For The Times. Below video of the Louis Vuitton runway show Thursday, by Adam Tschorn / Los Angeles Times
Actually, that's not exactly true. They wouldn't have an issue with the clothes, what would have sent the clown-averse screaming into the hills was the scenario that played out in a darkened art gallery in Paris' 3rd arrondissment Thursday night as Kimmel's way of presenting the collection: a dozen and a half creepy clown caricatures prowling a casino, playing baccarat, throwing dice and doubling down.
The presentation -- as well as the collection itself -- was inspired by George Condo, a New York City-based artist whom Kimmel has gotten to know personally, and the characters that inhibit his oeuevre.
"He was one of my heroes growing up," Kimmel said. "And as I got to know him, I found out what a character he really is. He's this incredible gambler who spends his summers in Monte Carlo and has been known to stop off at the Empire Casino in Yonkers and play the slots. I've been there with him."
The collection was not so much about how Condo actually dressed as how Kimmel liked to imagine he dresses -- velvet suits in gray, burgundy and green, velvet slippers, roulette, craps and baccarat prints on the backs of some pieces and on the lining of others (Kimmel said the idea was that any of them could actually be thrown on a table and actually used to play on).
Kimmel collaborated with Condo himself and Hollywood special effects prosthetic artist Gabe Bartalos (the "Cremaster" and "Leprechaun" movies among others) to spring them from their frames and bring them to life.
For pure jaw-dropping spectacle alone, Kimmel's under-the-radar, over-the-top Fall/Winter presentation ranked right up there with production of fashion week greats like Alexander McQueen and John Galliano. There's no way words can adequately describe the surreal feeling it was, but for a few minutes I did brandish my Flip video camera and the result is embedded below. (Even if you don't suffer clown spook, you might not want to watch before bedtime.)
That kind of set piece is always a crapshoot for designers, with the stagecraft threatening to overshadow the collection itself.
But in this case, Kimmel may have hit the jackpot, because, even if not a single soul who crossed the threshold of theYvon Lambert Gallery on Thursday remembers the details of the clothes, they won't soon forget his name.
Sounds like the perfect time to double down.
-- Adam Tschorn
Photos: Looks from Adam Kimmel's Fall/Winter 2010 "Casino Collection" presentation on Thursday. Both were inspired by the paintings of New York City-based artist George Condo. Photo credit: Jonas Gustavsson / For The Times
MILAN, Italy -- In the most colorful, upbeat men's runway show since her Spring/Summer 2008 collection's garden party romp, Miuccia Prada managed to mine the American preppy canon alongside bold streetwear style patterns that included colorful puzzle-piece camouflage and dizzying geometrics on what appeared to be ballistic nylon outerwear and bags.
As the first of the navy blue blazers, beige trousers and camel-colored trench coats hit the runway, it seemed like such a departure from the traditional Prada DNA that I literally checked my show invite to make sure I was at the right show.
Good news for any armchair fashion critics hankering for a taste of the upcoming men's fall/winter 2010 runway shows: The upcoming Emporio Armani men's runway show is slated to stream live from the company's Via Bergognone space in Milan this Saturday, starting at 7:30 a.m. PST (4:30 p.m. CET).
Although Emporio Armani streamed its spring/summer 2010 women's runway show back in September, a company representative told us that this marks the first time the menswear collection will be available.
The official Milan Fashion Week calendar has the show scheduled to start at 5 p.m. local time in Milan (8 a.m. in Los Angeles), so we have no idea what you'll be able to see before that. With any luck there will be crowd shots, so you can spend your Saturday morning playing a version of "Where's Waldo?" with your favorite cartoonish fashion journalist/blogger.
I'll be the one in the glasses and the Elmer Fudd hat ...
-- Adam Tschorn
Photo: The Emporio Armani spring/summer 2010 men's runway finale in Milan in June 2009. For the fall/winter 2010 season, for the first time, the runway show can be watched live over the Internet, beginning at 7:30 a.m. PST on Saturday, Jan. 16. Credit: Peter Stigter and Jonas Gustavsson / For The Times.
On Thursday, Belgian designer Dries Van Noten staged an impressive runway show on the steps of Palais Brongniart in the 2nd arrondissement. As the models queued up to hit the runway, an open-sided truck carrying a DJ, turntable and massive stacks of speakers, pulled into Place de la Bourse and began blaring a dance club beat. (I'm told it was the Black Eyed Peas' "Boom Boom Pow.")
That would have been just theatrical enough for the designer who usually lets the setting and the collection speak for themselves each season, but at the last minute I was lucky enough to find myself lodged in a spot directly in front of where the models were being staged (not so luckily I was lodged between two meathead security guys).
So I did my best at capturing some cool behind the scenes footage -- pardon the jerky bits and the cameo appearances by the above-mentioned têtes de viande -- of the collection, which was chock-full of prints (many that fit the tribal vibe we've been seeing since Milan), plaids, micro-checks and pinstripes. Pants were tapered and cropped (another pervasive trend we've noticed), and the emphasis, like many other designers this season, started with the shoulders, draping, wrapping or knotting at the waist.
The soft draping fabrics were clearly the focus this time around. There were voluminous printed pocket squares spilling from micro-check trench coats, contrasting -pattern button plackets and collars on pattern-covered shirts, and geometric weaving inspired ascots paired with subtle tone- on-tone argyle pattern knits. It was at least a four-pattern pileup (Van Noten apparently sourced the textiles from mills in six different countries).
At the end of the final runway walk, as the designer came offstage from his bow, a giant thunder clap boomed around us and the crowd whooped and applauded all the harder. Not a bad endorsement, if you can get it.
Thankfully you don't need to take my word for it, check out the video below. Dries Van Noten is in a white shirt and khaki-colored pants with a lanyard around his neck. Even if you're not interested in the whole video, watch from about 8:43.
The best thing about Miuccia Prada is that you know exactly what kind of genius you're dealing with when you step off the streets of Milan into her space on Via Fogazzaro. The worst thing is having to figure out what exactly the genius is trying to say when her shows begin to unfold.
This season proved no exception, but that didn't keep me from trying -- almost every waking moment from the time I received the show invitation until the show took place this evening. I Googled the chunks of black text on white background -- which turned out to be snippets of movie dialogue from films including "12 Angry Men," "Sweet Smell of Success," "Strangers on a Train" and "Breathless." (All made from 1950 to 1960, and if memory serves me correct, all black and white movies.)