Fighting Back With Color – The New York Times


PARIS — “Fashion week is like the playoffs, like a championship,’’ the musician Quavo said as he made the rounds here this week.

“There are some designers that don’t do well,’’ added the rapper, flashing a grill made from emerald-cut diamonds covering top and bottom teeth. Others, however, come out on top.

Asked to name some, the Migos member (who was born Quavious Marshall) handily reeled off his list: “Prada, Off-White, Rick Owens, Undercover,’’ he said. “They all had good pieces, great pieces you want to own.’’

Like advance scouts, Quavo and his fellow musician, Takeoff (Kirshnik Khari Ball), had been enjoying their status as favored guests as they tracked a men’s wear circuit that has lately changed almost beyond recognition.

As recently as five years ago, men’s wear was fashion’s sleepy minor leagues. You barely had to wait in line to get into most shows, let alone battle your way past mobs of fans screaming for rappers, ballers or Robert Pattinson.

Now the scenes outside shows — like those in Paris for Louis Vuitton or Dior Men, held in temporary structures set up inside the Tuileries Garden or on the Place de la Concorde — could have been lifted straight from “The Day of the Locust.’’

What was notable was not merely the spectacle of screaming bystanders at V.I.P. drop-offs mobbing the limos depositing K-pop sensations or musicians like the Colombian reggaeton star J. Balvin but that the composition of the crowds tracked broader demographic shifts the industry has shown itself eager to exploit.

The days of #fashionsowhite, in other words, are numbered. You can see it the streets outside the shows but just as notably on the runways, where often the clothes themselves are less memorable than the fact that they are being displayed on models who in the past, if they were cast at all, were stereotyped as “exotics.’’

“That script has already been flipped,’’ the designer Telfar Clemens said before the show he staged earlier this month as part of the Pitti Uomo men’s wear fair in Florence. Mr. Clemens meant the breakdown of hegemonies that pigeonholed people by sexuality, race or gender.

At shows like the opulent one Mr. Clemens staged inside a palazzo on the banks of the Arno — a posse of his New York friends had been flown in at Pitti’s expense for a night of eating and dancing and celebrating, at the conclusion of which models stomped across a littered banquet table — the point seemed to be the erosion of arbitrary boundaries of all kinds.

An emailed statement from Rei Kawakubo, the Comme des Garçons Homme Plus designer, described her antic rush of a show on Friday as “color resistance — fighting back with color.’’ She meant the vibrant strident clashing animal prints, tartans, stripes and checks worn by models who were sent caroming around the space, mosh pit style. It was a joyful thought from a most serious designer and, like many of her gnomic statements, open to personal interpretation.


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