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The Best Men’s Shows from ‘Phygital’ Fashion Week


Paris Fashion Week, much like everything else connected to the fashion industry, was flipped on its head this year. Without the ease of travel, and a pervasive sense of fear and uncertainty, everyone from designers, creatives, buyers, and editors were treading new ground with equal parts trepidation and excitement for an industry in desperate need of a reboot.

Here’s a round-up of some of the most thought-provoking phygital fashion week releases (the good, and the “could do better”) from the likes of Louis Vuitton, Prada, Hermès, GmbH, Reese Cooper, Dries Van Noten, and UNDERCOVER which offer a glimpse into how we may be receiving our favorite brand’s new fashion collections in an indeterminable post-Covid future.

Reese Cooper

Reese Cooper’s latest show is built around a humble ethos: “If you do something, something will happen.” It’s a multi-layered slogan that speaks to Cooper’s enviable work ethic and the DIY attitude that continues to inform his eponymous label.

Staging a proper runway show at a brook in Thousand Oaks, California, the juxtaposition of a runway with people seated at picnic tables and beach towels adds a surreal layer to the show that somehow captures how weird the world is right now. But Cooper’s ability to let us escape from our reality and live in his fo 15 minutes also speaks to why the young designer is getting so much well-deserved traction.

Prada

Prada! Just! Don’t! Miss! The “Multiple Views” show celebrated the label’s past while hinting at its future, all the more reinforcing the codes and attitudes that have made its sleek silhouettes and modern fabrications synonymous with forward-thinking luxury.

The “views” in question came from Terence Nance, Joanna Piotrowska, Martine Syms, Juergen Teller and Willy Vanderperre — a frequent Raf Simons collaborator. But this isn’t the Raf Simons show just yet, but a proper swan song for Miuccia Prada, who referenced her own influential 1988 collection and delivered new takes on tailoring and sportswear that still feel covetable without being ostentatious. In a post Covid-19 world, perhaps luxury that’s its own quiet reward is a valuable proposition.

Undercover

Jun Takahashi is a master world-builder, with shows that toe the line between theater, performance art, and installation. Leave it to him to figure out a way to not only create a tremendously on-brand kooky way to present his latest collection, but also bring the focus back to something truly important: the clothes.

Each look is a self-contained universe, using 3-D models to allow viewers to zoom in on the details. In this way, all the bells and whistles that UNDERCOVER is known for really get to shine. It’s brilliant because it caters to jaded editors wanting more than a video, but also the Takahashi nerds who geek out over badges, buttons, and asymmetrical hemlines all the same.

GmbH

For SS21, GmbH released two short films — “Guest On Earth” above (premiered during Highsnobiety’s Not In Paris exhibition) and “Season of the Migration.”

Both films embrace a slower and more thoughtful consideration of luxury fashion (and its place in the real world), all while communicating GmbH’s unwavering brand values of community, introspection, and personal narratives.

In the case of the video below, the Lars Laumann film details the efforts of Eddie Esmail, an LGBTQ activist who staged a fashion show in Sudan in 2010, before being arrested by the police and needing to flee the country.

“Even though everything’s sort of digital now, I think that gives people a much stronger need for something human” says Benjamin Alexander Huseby, “and so we wanted to find a way of communicating these inter-human elements, and we thought that people in our neighborhood would be a good starting point.”

Hermès

For SS21, Hermès presented a short fashion film made in collaboration with Cyril Teste that was elegant enough to be mistaken as a trailer for the next Xavier Dolan movie. You can almost imagine the Cannes Film Official Selection wreaths sitting around the title.

The lightness, simplicity, and nonchalance elevated the fashion film medium into a desirable and digestible piece of media for an industry undergoing a serious and unpredictable shift.

Filmed as one continuous tracking shot through the Hermès atelier, the film successfully surfaced a new collection of sweater vests, cobalt blue jackets, oxford shirts, and sandals, in a slow, chic, and purposeful way that other brands could take note of while moving forward into the new digital realm.

Louis Vuitton

Virgil Abloh inaugurated the SS21 collection for Louis Vuitton menswear with an animated video, “The Adventures of Zoooom with Friends.”

The animation was fresh (albeit not dissimilar to the animation style made popular by Takashi Murakami), and the score from The SA-RA Creative Partners™ was a memorable musical accompaniment reminiscent of the feeling of needing to covertly open Shazam during an IRL fashion show.

However, the clothing wasn’t really as visible as we would have liked, excluding some electric blue jumpsuits in the opening scene. This is a shame, as Louis Vuitton has an exemplary history of electing animated characters as models in a way that still retains its luxury qualities, such as in the Nicolas Ghesquière era, which saw Lightning (the lead character of Final Fantasy XIII) as both a model and muse for the Spring/Summer 2016 campaign.

However, we can hopefully expect more in the coming Shanghai and Tokyo menswear shows from Louis Vuitton, scheduled for next month. If phygital fashion week taught us anything, it’s that we need to embrace a slower roll out of products and resist a culture of instant gratification that puts untenable pressure on designers, creatives, and supply chains.

Dries Van Noten

Well, this sure was a video that was filmed, edited, and subsequently uploaded to YouTube. For SS21, Dries Van Noten pledged a clip of a model air-drumming in what is presumed to be a trench and glittery tank from the forthcoming collection. Given Dries’s historic reputation for elegant and often tear-jerkingly beautiful fashion shows, this feels a little bit like when you forget that your science project is due tomorrow. At least the air drumming is convincing.



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