Loewe’s minimalist Paris show explores Old Masters, boyhood

Jan 20, 2023, 5:30 PM | Updated: Jan 21, 2023, 3:16 pm

PARIS (AP) — Jonathan Anderson, it seems, can do no wrong. Loewe’s Northern Irish designer’s imaginative and boundary-pushing designs are often credited by front-row editors as among the best, if not the best, gracing the Paris runways today.

And Saturday’s fall collection, with its broken shards of plaster littering the set’s edges, only confirms this. It sent the Spanish heritage house — and its VIP guests — into an off-kilter, stripped away world of Old Masters, boyhood, vulnerability and dreams.

Here are some highlights of the fall-winter 2023-24 displays:

LOEWE’S SENSITIVE GENIUS

A baffling painting of a schoolboy — half-naked in underwear, tie strung around his neck, reclining in a classical pose — dominated the central portion of the runway theater in-the-round.

What followed made the art’s meaning more apparent — golden angel wings, oversize sunken medieval boots, silken historic tops unbuttoning at the back, in the colors of parchment, velvet, copper and steel.

Anderson had delved into the world of the Old Masters, recreating the vulnerability of the masterpiece oil paintings in a contemporary way — with sensitivity, flair, and restrained visual drama.

Looks were intentionally incomplete — bare torsos on shimmering loose gold shorts, pale legging undergarments with a sort of codpiece, big leather boots with no pants. This broken, raw, incompleteness on the young male models — much like the shards of plaster crunching under guests’ feet — gave the collection an emotional depth, evoking a sense of vulnerability and innocence.

Anderson infused the 48 looks with a surrealism, kept in check by his unwavering minimalist aesthetic and clean color blocking.

A silk lavender top, glistening regally, sported elements of draping, while its long-layered sleeves evoked the style of historic dress.

The pieces de resistance? Two exaggeratedly thick coats in cork and cerulean with an Elizabethan feel that were tucked at the hem like a parachute and worn over a naked body.

HERMES: ‘YOU HAD ME AT LEATHER TRENCH’

Models walked through an interlocking gray slate rock construction — created to mirror the austere floor inside UNESCO headquarters.

It was a good choice, reflecting the ever-so-slightly harder, utilitarian direction for Hermes this season at the U.N. cultural agency.

A sublime soft gray leather trench opened — selected likely because of its matching color — with classical loose proportions, nonchalantly tied belt and punk metallic clasp.

“You had me at leather trench” was the comment, uttered by one front-row editor, because the luxuriant garment seemed to sum the entire collection up.

Hermes has become a byword for saleable, unpretentious — and unadulterated — luxury.

Black leather pants were given a subtle twist with a small metal chain on the hip. While broad masculine torsos, round shoulders and sensitive tonal colors throughout — grays, whites, creams, beiges — belied a confidence by designer Veronique Nichanian.

She knows that she doesn’t need to add more than a slight twist to the tried-and-tested formula for the house she’s led since 1988.

Nichanian became Paris fashion’s longest-serving non-founding designer since the death of Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld in 2019.

She proved why once again.

KENZO’S PARTY

A 1,000-seat music hall with string quartet ensemble, an afterparty where the drinks flowed like Ancient Rome and celebrity musical performances that warbled well into Friday night.

This was Kenzo in a confident mood — signaling it felt the new designer was growing in his own spotlight.

It is one year since Nigo now made history as the first Japanese designer to be appointed at the house since Kenzo Takada, who died in 2020.

And this fall collection did see him hone his craft — slightly — shifting out of the house founder’s shadow.

The music scene was the heart of a display with styles centered on London’s underground subcultures in the 1960s and ’70s such as punk and the mods. It was a sort of counterappropriation of the West through a Japanese prism. (The string quartet was comprised of female Japanese performers dressed as the Beatles in pale suits.)

Nigo disrupted this wardrobe with Japanese traditional dress.

A take on British tailoring, a loose beige jacket, was envisioned with a crossover kimono style. Sartorial pants whose material might have looks fit for the City of London became a take on the traditional baggy hakama pants.

The preppy styles — ones that jarred in Nigo’s last two shows — were more thought out, like one boy scout scarf in multicolor knit, although it still felt a tad obvious.

Eye-popping color that gave a lift to American workwear and utilitarian detailing were a nice counterpoint.

MARINE SERRE: ACTIVIST ECO-FASHION

Three high towers at the runway’s center constructed of compressed abandoned clothing were meant to “echo our own absurd destruction of this planet,” the house of wunderkind Marine Serre said. It aimed at fast-fashion and eco-waste produced by the fashion industry, which is consistently listed as among the world’s most polluting.

Extolling inclusivity and openness to change mindsets, the house said it had thrown the show open to the public and given more than half the guests free admission — though it was not immediately clear how this would change eco habits.

Still, Marine Serre admirably lifted a mirror to the fashion industry — and to herself — in the thought-provoking fall collection set in La Villette on the outskirts of Paris.

Saying an earth-friendly, cotton tote needs to be used 20,000 times to offset its overall impact of production — or, roughly, 54 years of daily use — Marine Serre developed a series of high fashion totes for fall that were surely too expensive to be discarded quickly, in cream, white and beige.

Beyond the pure eco-activism, there was some trendy designs from the Paris Fashion Week star who has had a meteoric rise since winning the ANDAM fashion prize in 2020.

Moire, made from recycled fishing lines and nets, nestled on softer silhouettes that were softer than usual.

Elsewhere, surplus fabrics commonly seen inside posh French houses like tapestries and jacquards were used to produce sexy, skin tight looks with geometric lines, which teased out the body.

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Loewe’s minimalist Paris show explores Old Masters, boyhood