The atmosphere as Paris Fashion Week kicked off on Monday afternoon was a chill one. The fashion pack has come to appreciate this first day, in which only three young designer shows take place, allowing industry insiders to unwind for a minute after Milan and properly take in Parisian life before heading to the p.m. events.
rokh Fall/Winter 2019 show in Paris. Photo by Regis Colin Berthelier for NOWFASHION.
This season, Monday’s shows – Rokh, Ottolinger, and Jacquemus – were the perfect example of Parisian emerging design: daring and exciting enough yet not lacking the necessary maturity to be commercially viable in the long run. This was particularly clear at Rok Hwang’s debut show, which took place in a red bulb-lit concrete basement on rue Taitbout. The London-based South Korean designer’s unique interpretation of ladylike office wear won him the LVMH Special Prize last year, and his first catwalk outing made it easy to understand why. Titled “Teenage Nightmare,” it dwelled on the anxieties and insecurities we develop as adolescents and often carry with us into adulthood. Bernard Herrmann’s goose bump-inducing Psycho soundtrack was the perfect background score for a collection that looked like a mother’s dream wardrobe for her young adult daughter… if that wardrobe had been entirely ripped, slashed, and decomposed. Woolen skirt suits were unstructured to the point of looking like they were hanging by a thread, shirts and trench coats seemed to have been torn apart and re-sewn, and (super covetable) duffle coats had buttons holding together sleeves and midriffs. Some of the looks were aptly seasoned with elements stemming from Rok’s own teenage years – spent in Texas in the 90s – from multicoulored crocheted blankets to sun-faded paisley prints (that were literally left to fade under the London sun for this collection). But underneath the concept and the undeniably stylish styling, there was substance too: Rokh’s distinctive clothes are the kind that would look as perfect on a 100% unironic working woman as they would on a 70-year-old artist or a hipster girl in her early 20s. And isn’t that what we all want from a womenswear brand?
Ottolinger Fall/Winter 2019 show in Paris. Photos by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION.
Ottolinger’s audience is more of an underground, techno-influenced one, but Swiss-born, Berlin-based designers Christa Bösch and Cosima Gadient also played with concepts of maturity and youth in their second catwalk show. Staged inside the 19th century-built theatre of the Lycée Jacques Decour (an unexpected little jewel at the heart of Barbès), the collection was inspired by Cixin Liu’s science fiction novel “The Three Body Problem.” And while the bright flashing lights and the overpowering metallic soundtrack set a scene of techno dystopia, the collection had its share of realistic, utterly wearable elements. The duo toyed with the idea of conservative tweed suits (in fact trompe-l’œil knits, sometimes shredded) and grown-up midi dresses in printed silk and crepe, broken down by deconstructed denim pieces, draped technical fabric skirts, and vinyl ensembles in black and lime green. It was a balancing act – between youth and growing up, creativity and commerciality, thoughtfulness and a sense of urgency – that ultimately succeeded.
Jacquemus Fall/Winter 2019 show in Paris. Photo by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION.
Then it was off to Jacquemus: if the French designer had chosen to stage his show in a hangar in the outskirts of Paris, it was because that’s where he had erected his “Place Jacquemus,” a town square channeling both Murano and the fantasy world of Jacques Demy’s “Les Demoiselles de Rochefort,” complete with “primeur” grocery stores, flower shops, and clothes hanging from the highest windows to dry. It was an ambitious scene (the words “Chanel-like” were even thrown around) that brought Simon Porte back to his roots. The collection, however, was something new, and very far from his previous, all-out-sensuality incarnations. Perhaps rectifying his preceding outing, which failed to impress audiences, the designer swapped unsubstantial skimpy clothes for a fully grown-up wardrobe that is still sure to appeal to the Jacquemus core audience: oversized double face coats came in shocking pink, tangerine, and ivory; tailoring played with proportions (the baby blue pieces were particularly attractive); trousers came with utility pockets; and even the sexier dresses felt subtler. Complete with new accessories including cross-body bags so teeny tiny they would only fit a lipstick or a couple of coins (not that that makes them any less desirable), the collection felt truly structured. Growing pains have finally payed off for Simon Porte Jacquemus. Hopefully maturity will stick.