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Returning to Reality

Tue 26 Jan

With this being the third show season during the pandemic it almost feels like we’ve forgotten what previous seasons were like. We’re so used to reviewing through a screen, buying from a line sheet, watching Prada in our pyjamas. It’s not until we get that camera roll reminder ‘1 year ago today’ that we remember packing into halls, museums and taxis. Do we remember the string of finale walk Instagram stories? The pre-show scrum?
For the latter half of Paris Fashion Week, it seemed designers had moved on from the pandemic bubble and were keen to remind us of the reality we are so missing. Stepping away from the loungewear fad, designers started to shake us up with garments that felt forward-thinking and future-proof.

Many brands, such as Wales Bonner and Namachecko, focused on elevated outerwear or fanciful tailoring, both long to be worn and shown off. In particular, Wales Bonner was one of this season’s highlights, her whip-sharp silhouettes - created in collaboration with Saville row tailor’s Anderson and Sheppard - oozed look-at-me energy, with adidas trainers and softer knits keeping the whole affair with the general mood. Similarly, Namacheko was ready for the outdoors again with statement buttoned coats. Their softer velveteen fabrics and fluffy fringed models felt more street-style attention-grabbing than a look for the sofa.

Loewe too, despite the homewares and touch-through-the-screen knits, felt as if JW Anderson was rinsing his hands of the pandemic. There was undoubtedly a feeling of approachability and every day, but those leather trouser with buckles and the vivaciously bright artwork of Joe Brainard were a revelatory push for the future. Even Anderson’s recent collaboration with Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbour Totoro ( A marvellous feat) screamed escapism and fantasy. White Mountaineering perhaps captured escapism best, with a video that showed exploration across snowy terrain. Group activities? Outdoor sports? A dream for some at present. Their outerwear was truly inviting us on an adventure.

While not necessarily their strongest collection, Casablanca was about grandeur, drama and the high life in Monaco. Liberation through opulence! Even GmbH had pushed their usual tailoring with a streetwear twist into off-the-shoulder regal furs and clutch-bag yielding club-goers. Lemaire continued with their sublimely rich and inviting tonal looks presented with models walking as if on the streets rather than lavishness. Except for a divine duvet -style coat, this was a move away from home-style casuals and was a welcome visual of characters, walking, acknowledging, and even oggling at each other - a future we hope to see soon.

Y/Project also mimicked characters walking in a crowd, but instead of the free-wheeling busy group of Lemaire, Glenn had marked floors with directions - a harsh reminder of our current ‘make space’ rules. Maartens’ first co-ed show, was larger than life, with the Y/Project whimsy better than ever and aching to be worn amongst our peers.

These were welcome bouts of optimism across menswear. It seems designers are succeeding most when they combine a comfort level - see angora knits, layered necklines or fleece-lined outerwear - with something that looks to the future - bold coats, luxury-detailing, statement tailoring and the like. Perhaps, we’ve gone so long in loungewear that a particularly striking coat is enough to make us heady and expectant for post-pandemic life. But, then again, isn’t that what great fashion does regardless?