After almost a year of upheaval due to the coronavirus pandemic, fashion houses have become well accustomed to showcasing their latest designs digitally via pre-filmed videos and livestreamed virtual shows. But they also know that if they want to capture the attention of viewers at home (it’s been a long time since buyers and editors were the only ones watching), their presentations will require creativity.
Creating excitement around dressing up and shopping at a time when many of us have few reasons to do either is no easy task. But at last week’s entirely virtual Paris Fashion Week, designers proved they were more than up to the challenge. Here are the stand-out menswear moments that sparked conversation this season.
Virgil Abloh gets political(ish)
A model walks the runway during the Louis Vuitton menswear autumn-winter 2021 show. Credit: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images for ABA
With the pandemic slowing the global travel industry to a crawl, Virgil Abloh’s decision to set his pre-filmed video in a makeshift airport lounge was the ultimate throwback for viewers watching from their living rooms. Models wandered through a marble-accented space with coffee cups in hand and newspapers tucked under arms, or pulled chrome briefcases behind them.
The collection, styled by newly crowned Dazed editor-in-chief Ib Kamara, was a melting pot of influences and aesthetics, suggesting the worldliness of a well-traveled person: a Ghanaian kente cloth draped over a heather gray sweatsuit; regal furs worn atop burnt-orange tailoring; jumpers made of wearable cityscapes and bags shaped like airplanes.
Looks from Louis Vuitton’s latest menswear collection. Credit: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images for ABA
Abloh said in the show notes that the collection, titled “Ebonics,” was inspired by James Baldwin’s 1953 essay “Stranger in the Village,” in which he reflects on both his experience as a Black man visiting the Swiss Alps and the history of American racism. In head-to-toe Louis Vuitton looks, Saul Williams and Mos Def performed at different points, as did British activist and poet Kai-Isaiah Jamal, who, in voiceover, intoned: “I think as black people, and as trans people and as marginalized people, the world is here for our taking, for it takes so much from us.”
Jonathan Anderson puts it on paper at JW Anderson and Loewe
JW Anderson’s AW21 menswear collection is designed by Jonathan Anderson, styled by Benjamin Bruno and shot by Juergen Teller. Credit: Juergen Teller
If the photos don’t make you smile, the clothes will: shaggy knitted trousers and tops, vinyl trousers in extreme proportions and oversized sweaters in saturated colors are optimism distilled.
Artist Joe Brainard’s pansy motif is found throughout the latest Loewe collection. Credit: Loewe
For Loewe, following his earlier “show in a box,” Anderson gifted insiders a “show in a book” with cardboard packages containing a t-shirt printed with photos of the collection, as well as a coffee table book dedicated to the late queer artist and writer Joe Brainard, who died of AIDS-related illness in 1994.
Kim Jones teams up with artist Peter Doig at Dior
At Dior, Kim Jones collaborated with Scottish-born painted Peter Doig on his latest menswear collection. Credit: Yannis Vlamos
In keeping with that tradition, this season Jones chose to work with cottish artist Peter Doig, renowned for his atmospheric landscapes, tinged with magical realism. The autumn-winter 2021 styles were presented in a fairly straightforward runway video, with models stomping alongside faux giant wooden speakers to a soundtrack of 1980s dance music.
Doig’s touch was imprinted throughout the collection with varying degrees of subtlety, from the swirling prints found on bomber jackets and overcoats to the slightly warped creatures emblazoned on bright mohair jumpers. The collection’s mix of somber shades and pops of brights was also inspired by Doig’s practice, and the artist himself designed the featured wool hats with milliner Stephen Jones.
Wales Bonner completes her Caribbean triptych
A look from the most recent Wales Bonner collection, inspired by postcolonial intellectuals from Caribbean and Africa, as well as India, who immigrated to England in the 1980s. Credit: Sean and Sang
After taking inspiration from Lovers Rock scene of 1970 London for autumn-winter 2020, and the dance halls of 1980s Kingston, Jamaica, for spring-summer 2021, Grace Wales Bonner has traveled to the ivory towers of Cambridge and Oxford for her latest collection.
Presented in a short film titled “Black Sunlight,” a collaboration with photographer and filmmaker Jeano Edwards, the garments were inspired by postcolonial intellectuals from the Caribbean and Africa, as well as India, who immigrated to England in the 1980s. Nostalgia-tinged footage of tropical landscapes is cut with scenes of models wandering stone buildings in wide-legged trousers, slim-fit knits and immaculately tailored blazers.
Thom Browne thinks of the children
Designer Thom Browne debuted his new line of childrenswear. Credit: Cass Bird
But on Sunday, Browne made his most surprising reveal yet, launching a line of children’s wear for the precocious youngsters with a taste for tailoring (or, let’s be real, their fawning parents) instead of showing a menswear collection during his scheduled slot.
While unexpected, the move makes sense. Browne, who wears the same shrunken gray suit, skinny tie and crisp white shirt, has long expressed a love for uniform dressing — a hallmark of many a childhood.
In the black-and-white film debuting the collection, directed by photographer Cass Bird, cute and chic boys and girls in identical fitted suits rotely tap away at typewriters before work gives way to frenzied play.