Luxury giant, LVMH, has been playing musical chairs with its menswear, recently. They’ve obviously been looking at Kering’s stable of brands – Gucci, Balenciaga, Saint Laurent – and seen how those risks are paying off and want a piece of the action.
Kim Jones has been moved to Dior Homme from Louis Vuitton, Kris Van Assche to Berluti from Dior Homme, Hedi Slimane given carte-blanche at Celine, and, the most hyped designer of recent times, Virgil Abloh, has been slotted into the top job at Louis Vuitton men’s.
(Only two of these designers, Jones and Abloh, were showing their debut collections at this Paris men’s fashion week.)
The big bosses at Louis Vuitton must be feeling a little uneasy of late. Once the largest luxury goods brand by a country mile, they can see a speeding Gucci in their rear view mirror quickly gaining ground. This month, Marco Bizzarri of Gucci said, “we’re in the same league … The question is not if, but when,”. He was referring to Gucci becoming the world’s biggest luxury brand, stealing Louis Vuitton’s crown, and, looking at the growth figures, it could happen and it won’t be long.
This will be a significant moment and one LVMH will not take lightly. It’ll be interesting to see what changes are made at Louis Vuitton, because the days of not making money from ready-to-wear to sell bags seems to be over and every part of the business needs to start paying its way. Could it be wholesaled for the first time?
Anyway, back to the new and most anticipated collections of Paris men’s fashion week.
Abloh looked like he was jumping on the Pride bandwagon with a rainbowed catwalk and 2,000 students doing their best united colours impression in matching coloured tees, all they needed was a Coca-Cola in hand. Louis Vuitton’s men’s needed something fresher and more fun. This was it.
There was an initial Margiela-type pure white emulsion section, but what followed was lots of primary colour. The theme was centred on Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz with plenty of luxe elements – mink, crocodile, rock crystal sunglasses, anyone?
I bet Abloh felt like he’d received the keys to the Emerald City when shown what they could do in the Louis Vuitton workshop.
Child-like plastic chains – supposed to deliberately look infantile and cheap? – were juxtaposed with, almost, military looking trunks and hardware. But, overall, it was low on gimmicks.
This was sporty menswear with lots of small bags crafted onto the menswear. The best looks were the final ones which looked like bleach had bloomed onto fabric, like bacteria, to give an almost floral looking effect. This was a strong start for Abloh, but he’s going to need plenty of more good ideas to keep this luxury beast satisfied.
Kim Jones’ move to Dior Homme was more of a side-step, or possibly a demotion? While still a big brand, Dior Homme, from the very beginning, was very detached from the Dior label. It was never side by side and had no relationship whatsoever with each other. They were like two siblings: one a skinny Parisian rocker boy and the other, in the Galliano days, a glamorous, experimental woman. You’d never see them together.
The new Dior Homme is very much back in the Dior fold. This is the man to the Galliano Dior woman; think mini saddle bags and Dior logo lace.
This was a feminised Dior Homme and we’re ready for it. Lots of double breasted tailoring and loose and luxe separates as light as a Parisian summer afternoon. Those fretwork bags in the classic Dior design are something to truly covet. Take away the obligatory artist collaboration and you have something grown-up here.
I think we’re going to see a return to people wanting beautiful things from these brands. It sounds obvious, but, all too often, you’d be hard pressed to find something classically beautiful from many of these brands, at the moment.
This was a designer feeling refreshed and enjoying looking at the tropes of a distinguished and historical brand. Dior has never really made much impact in menswear and this was an exciting start for a brand, which is one of the pillars of fashion. It will be interesting to see if they ditch the ‘Homme’?
What both these shows say is that menswear is starting to grown up. The novelty elements are become boring and these brands want to sell more than luxury charms. It’s also about not defining what a man should look like. This isn’t about masculinity. It’s about beautiful and sophisticated clothes that men can wear.