As observed in NOWFASHION's look at independent designer brands, the Fall/Winter 2016 menswear shows in Paris have barely kicked off, but the quest for youth is already palpable on the runways – and even established fashion labels such as Lemaire, Valentino, Haider Ackermann, and Raf Simons got a fair share of the youth pie.
"I have so much time now," Raf Simons gushed backstage after his F/W 2016 menswear show. Everyone in the industry wondered what Raf's new menswear offering might look like, especially after the designer decided to leave his role at Christian Dior in late 2015 in order to focus on his own brand and creative process. And if one thing is certain it is that Simons' post-Dior era already feels like a rebirth, a rejuvenation of his own design inventory. And as such, the designer has tapped into the many cultural codes of his own generation for his latest menswear offering.
Simons is no stranger to conceptual surroundings and he therefore sent out his models through a maze resembling set-designs in whose corners you could find the designer's many culturally loaded memories – his "nightmares and dreams." "The impact of Twin Peaks on my generation is a considerable one," explained the designer who added that his collection is a tribute to David Lynch's dark fantasies, as well as to Angelo Badalamenti – the famed composer who is behind Twin Peaks' unique theme.
"If one thing is certain it is that Simons' post-Dior era already feels like a rebirth, a rejuvenation of his own design inventory."
Further outstanding personalities and generational mile stones mentioned on the designer's show notes, such as Martin Margiela, Cindy Sherman, Elm Street and Scream – an homage to the defunct Wes Craven – American and Belgian Youth as well as Boy Scout, School Boy, and Red Americana, among others, all made for coherent guiding threads throughout his youthful collection that made an impression with shredded XXL knitwear, sweaters, and coats – Freddy Krueger seemed to have sharpened his claws on it – aesthetic references to CBGB, also known as the birthplace of New York's punk scene, and an overall grunge and slacker infused styling that channeled the looks of Dawson's Creek and Craven's late 80s and 90s horror movie heroes. "All the things on this list where what was on my mind," Simons continued. "Not trying to think about the stories I could make," he added, emphasizing that he refused to pinpoint a common guiding, leaving his collection's interpretation largely to our own memories and perception of the above mentioned artists and cultural statements.
"Punk's Not Dead – and it comes with a sultry update."
Haider Ackermann, for his part, had a similar approach to youth, while the result of his creative process remained considerably different from Simons' take on the Fall 2016 menswear season. Ackermann decided to update his dandy-esque signature looks crafted from rich velvets, wools, and silks with a good dose of punk flavor and his usual rock infused elements – an offering that was so very much in the here and now and yet came with the distinct romantic feeling of a past century. Same, same but different, as Ackermann's menswear was infused with both an allure for understated sophistication and a new form of sex appeal.
"Is 'boyscout' the new 'preppy' ?"
Valentino's Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli took the quest for youth quite literally and sent out some fine looking Boy Scouts on their Parisian runway. As Raf Simons also referred to the Boy Scout aesthetics later that day, we wonder whether the designers in Paris just might have set the tone for this season's new, fashionable style element. The saying goes that "two is a coincidence, but three is a trend," so before going deeper into that subject we might rather want to wait for the Paris men's collections to unfurl a bit further. Chiuri and Piccioli did what they do best: mix-matching a range of cultural references, memories, and emblems for a métissage of style that calls for individuality – think Boy Scout vs punk and classic vs tribal and translating these inspirations into a highly wearable men's collection. Existentialist statements like "adventure as a self-examination" and "into the wild" were on the menu of Valentino's show and made for a desirable collection that questioned the process of youth as a constant exploration and discovery.
Earlier that day, Lemaire offered his very own celebration of youth at the Université Descartes in Paris. The location seemed like a natural fit, as Lemaire's menswear offering was his most youthful one so far. The French designer swapped his mature cuts and Far East-flavored shapes for a more urban and adolescent take on menswear. And as Lemaire and his muse and partner, Sarah-Linh Tran, never give in to industry trends and expectations, and this season, their flawless take on the youth and its eclectic pulsebeat came off quite effortless and sometimes even sensual, thus opening a new chapter to Lemaire's ever-growing inventory of menswear essentials. On the runway, this was expressed through a range of standout pieces in neutral colors, including appealing outerwear such as suit coats in shetland tweeds, duffle jackets in bouclette wool knit that were often paired with v-neck tops, large pants, shoulder bags and denim slip-ons that sublimated the models' nonchalant too-cool-for-school attitude.
OUR #PFW COVERAGE HERE.
All the menswear Fall/Winter 2016 collections here.