Dries Van Noten

Fears of Dries Van Noten’s sale to Puig affecting his work were (thankfully) completely unfounded when he showed what might have been his strongest women’s collection in recent years. Van Noten belongs to a peculiar strain of designers who seem completely impervious to trends and detached from the fickle whims of the larger fashion world. He neither cares to capture the elusive ‘millennial market’, nor pigeonhole his brand into particular categorical markets – which, ironically, is precisely what makes him successful. 

His Spring/Summer 2019 venture didn’t stray far from what he’s known for. All his signatures were still very much central to the collection: generous cuts, bold colour palettes and gorgeous prints. This collection did, however, see him take the season’s running couture sensibilities into his own spin. Asymmetric wrapped skirts were pinned with yellow fishnets, giving monochromatic ensembles an optimistic pop of colour. Embellishments and delicate embroideries hung casually from the shoulders, almost like an extension of precious jewelry. His famous prints appeared on cotton and silk coats, a temptingly timeless appeal across genders. His woman’s tailoring was powerful, flattering (to different body shapes, I might add), and dare I say one of the most overlooked in Paris. It was exquisite.

Dries Van Noten had a big year in 2017 when he celebrated his 100th collection, and the ardent wearer and collector in me doesn’t overlook the fact that he hasn't rested on his laurels. In a city where houses are constantly trying to one-up each other – extravagant venues, famous front rows, dancing theatrics – Van Noten’s shows quietly and consistently stand out by simply showing beautiful, digestible and wearable clothes for anyone who cares to look.

Haider Ackermann

Let me preface this by saying that Ackermann at Berluti was one of the most promising three seasons in menswear recently, barring John Galliano’s first men’s collection at Maison Margiela. (Funnily enough, Ackermann had been approached by Margiela for the job). His time at Berluti has certainly paid off, looking at his newfound manipulation of materials, refinement of colour palettes and immaculate fabrications in this eponymous collection.

The big idea of the season was a his and hers wardrobe, showing both men’s and women's for the first time. Models showed up in pairs or trios in complementary looks, often separates for both rendered in the same fabric. The opening look featured a houndstooth suit with an androgynous model clutching the jacket, which was then replicated unto a kimono blazer on a woman, then again on a relaxed suit on a man. It was a case for a wardrobe for both genders to borrow from, but veered reassuringly with a masculine edge.

The laser cut outs by Haider Ackermann had a dually lacey and tough attitude, featuring beautifully on his and hers tailoring.

What really stood out were the feminine elements that Ackermann employed. The lacey laser cutouts across different materials were a winner, and turned what could have been otherwise simple pieces into something striking. The leather blazer in the third look featured these cutouts running lengthwise from the shoulder down was an incredible touch that showed off his leather know-how gained, I’m sure, from Berluti. The same lace cutout patterns showed up on cotton camp collar over-shirts showed on both genders, as well as cotton blazers, leather trousers and belts. This motif has the potential to be a subtle visual Ackermann signature if he plays his cards right, not unlike the Bottega Veneta intrecciato.

With Celine being the talk of the fashion town now, one has to wonder if this collection was what the fashion press (and indeed, Céline fans) was expecting from Hedi Slimane: a bit of rock and roll, a bit of silky elegance, and a whole lot of what a woman might actually want to wear. A boy (and girl) can only dream.

Issey Miyake

Issey Miyake, both the men’s and women’s, has kind of always been an underdog in Paris. Save for a party of dedicated fans, the fashion press and consumers haven’t paid nearly enough attention to Yoshiyuki Miyamae’s work for the house.

A model on the Issey Miyake Spring/Summer 2019 catwalk wearing a Dough Dough hat.

Miyamae’s contribution this season was a novel idea: a pliable new fabric called Dough Dough. Think the malleability of aluminium foil with the holding strength of...well, aluminium foil. It allowed the wearer to quite literally mold it as close to or as loosely from the body as they wanted to. A new kind of freedom, and a very cheeky form of couture, maybe. This fabric showed up on everything from skirts, hats and bodices, and a live demonstration had a model mould the brim of her hat in slants. The idea was convincing, and had a real positive implication in an era of body size diversity. This new fabric gave back power to the wearer (to a limit, of course), and might be read exactly as Miyamae’s intention to dress a range of human bodies. Fashion really does need designers who can design for real woman, not just ideally-proportioned, sample-sized runway models. More power to him.

The show ended with cheery models, dressed in both Dough Dough and regular garments, having fun adjusting the necklines and hats on themselves and each other. It was a rare moment of truly enjoying clothes for what they were, and in an industry where looking fierce and intimidating is the de facto cool? A true breath of fresh air.