Buyers Weigh In on Paris Men’s Virtual Fashion Week

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PARIS — The biggest winner of the virtual fashion week, it seems, was the real-life fashion show. 

A handful of buyers weighed in on the virtual presentations, which were broadly appreciated — varied and lively as they were — but many opined that nothing beats being in the same room.

Loewe stood out as a favorite of buyers, both for the collection and presentation, bridging the physical-digital divide with an interactive box of goodies that included fabric swatches and pop-out glasses stamped in cardboard. Casablanca caught attention, too, for a snazzy video presentation that swept the viewer off to a tropical paradise, where men in silky white shirts grooved to jazzy music before taking off in a bright red vintage sports car.

Dior men’s figured high on the list of buyer favorites, too, with particular praise for the collaboration with artist Amoako Boafo.

Brands take note: buyers said they want to see clothing in videos rather than a teaser. They did appreciate peeks into the design process — as offered by Rick Owens — or catching a whiff of what it’s like backstage at a fashion show — as seen in the Hermès film. Issey Miyake was also singled out, for the collection and spirited dance presentation. 

As for trends, fluid and easy elegance reigned, and pastels dominated the color palettes.

Here, a roundup of the Paris highlights from retailers.

Damien Paul, head of men’s wear, Matchesfashion, London

Favorite collections: Loewe, Rick Owens, Issey Miyake Homme Plissé and Hermès.

Best presentation: I enjoyed a lot of the presentations and the digital content, but the concept for Rick Owens stood out. It felt like a very special behind-the-scenes moment with the designer and to watch him style his muse felt like you were backstage moments before the show. When would you ever get to see that?

I also felt that Y/Project’s approach worked: Glenn Marten’s work is multilayered and to see how he and the team styled garments that could be work in myriad ways was a very clever approach.

Trendspotting: There’s a sense of optimism. A lot of designers have stuck to their core brand DNA — there’s a sense that they want to be true to their house codes. There are flashes of color in unexpected places and it’s also interesting to see how the silhouette is becoming more relaxed and looser. That said, men’s wear has always been more about themes over big sweeping headline trends and this certainly chimes true this season.

Must-have item: I have to be honest and say this is something that I find far easier to identify having been at shows and showrooms in person.

Video format: One thing I would note is that some of the mood videos, whilst completely engaging, didn’t really show any of the product. As a buyer, I always want to see the clothes, how it works on the body, to see it in movement and I felt some content didn’t show this in the best light. It’s a small note on what was overall a really positive fashion week.

Bruce Pask, men’s fashion director, Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus

Favorite collections: Casablanca’s tropical getaway studio set was a great backdrop for the vivid, colorful collection of silky printed resort wear that is the brand’s signature.

I found the jubilant movement and dancing in the Homme Plissé Issey Miyake video so engaging; an inventive way to feature the collection that very much approximated their vibrant shows.

I appreciated that Yohji Yamamoto staged what seemed like an actual runway show, with lovely, intimate close-ups and on-screen descriptions of garments that were incredibly helpful and insightful. I also really enjoyed the behind-the-scenes video of Rick Owens shooting his collection’s look book, with his off-the-cuff commentary and conversation that was entertaining and interesting. [And I] enjoyed Mike Amiri’s very personal take on the creation of his collection, providing rare insight that was perfectly suited to the video format.

Jonathan Anderson’s show in a box for Loewe created with M|M Studio was truly inventive, providing tactile pieces, inspiration and presenting outfits in a way that really put focus on craftsmanship and the artisanal nature that is such a hallmark of the brand. The full day of curated video programming that accompanied the collection presentation was truly impressive: amazing, insightful videos that featured craftspeople and artists who helped to create or inspire the collection and interesting conversations with creators. It was ambitious and fascinating.

I also enjoyed Olivier Rousteing’s “Balmain Sur Seine,” a splashy, beautiful trip through the history of Balmain aboard a mirrored bateau mouche with models, dancers and Yseult singing as they moved along the Seine. It was joyous, transporting and made me wish I was there with them.

Best in show: The digital experience that most approximated the magic of an in-person runway show was Hermès’ intricately choreographed “live” peek behind the scenes at the staging of an actual runway show. Véronique Nichanian is a precise, elegant designer who used the digital platform to present a concise, chic, lovely collection in an inspiring, engaging way with clever tracking shots and intimate backstage moments that were magical and possessed the sense of immediacy that is a hallmark of an actual runway show. It was the online experience that made me most miss being there in person and certainly made the case for the importance of the in-person runway show.

I also found the Dior short documentary film capturing the special collaboration between Kim Jones and African artist Amoako Boafo mesmerizing. It was a beautiful portrait of a partnership, presenting the artist, his inspiration, and highlighting his fascinating finger-painting technique and how Jones translated this portraiture into a very beautiful men’s wear collection. A definite highlight of Paris Fashion Week.

Trendspotting: We have definitely seen a big focus on clothing that is more relaxed and casual during this global pause that we have experienced and those trends are sure to continue, with new options needed that will provide both comfort as well as polish. I do also think that we are yearning to dress up, to have a sense of occasion. I am optimistic that when we are all able to safely reengage with each other, we will want to dress for those special moments.

Video format: I absolutely support that a digital format was the only safe, prudent way to present the collections at this very significant moment in time. There were quite a few brands and designers that admirably presented collections in show or presentation-like formats that were innovative, engaging and inspiring. There were also many video entries that served as nice representations of brands, but that may have been a bit short on product focus. Supply-chain disruptions and sample-making challenges for this season have to be taken into account, for sure, but our focus at shows is on new product so that must be a primary focus. I do hope that next season we will be safely back at shows, being inspired and wowed by all of the designers’ creations in person. There is simply no substitute to being present, witnessing the often boundless creativity of the designers we have the great opportunity to see.

Chris Mcilroy, head of men’s wear, Harvey Nichols, London

Favorite collections: Dior, Loewe, Jil Sander and Amiri.

Best presentation: Loewe’s show in a box was a highlight, from the Adam Bainbridge medley of musical talents from around the world to the exploration of visionary artist Paul Cadmus and how his painting “The Inventor” inspired the jacquard, the key look from the collection, it was an engaging concept.

Trendspotting: I felt like brands were looking back into their archives for inspiration during such unprecedented times, focusing on quality and commerciality instead of on specific trends.

Must-have item: Anything from Amoako Boafo’s collaboration with Dior.

Video format: The video format was enjoyable and was a glimpse into what the future may hold, especially JW Anderson’s augmented reality technology whereby we got to experience the collection via live holograms brought into your own home. But for me, you still cannot beat seeing the collections in person and getting the excitement from holding the product in your hand.

 

Dean Cook, head of men’s wear buying, Browns, London

Favorite collections: Casablanca stole the show. They always find a unique way of immersing you within their world and this online presentation was no different — it was a genuinely happy moment. I also loved what Y/Project was able to do in terms of practically showing the impeccable design of their clothes all while showcasing incredible product.

Best presentation: I loved what Loewe did. The tangible element was a great way to be able to connect with the brand and create a personal experience alongside the digital.

Trendspotting: I can’t be certain on the trends as yet — we are still attending global digital appointments and working through orders. Having spent many months at home, I believe there will be a lure to classic pieces that will live in your wardrobe for a long time. I foresee an investment in timeless pieces with real longevity, whatever that may be in the eyes of the customer.

Must-have item: I’ve seen a lot of great product, but nothing stands out to me as my must-have…yet.

Budgets: We haven’t reduced any budgets, but have carefully considered how and where we spend them. As production was hit, we’ve reviewed and adjusted how much and what we can buy from some of the brands as well as ensuring we are servicing the customer with seasonal product across all categories.

Video format: I love how innovative brands have been digitally and it’s been amazing to stay connected. But digital has a long way to go before it is able to compete with IRL experience. For next season, we will have to see where we are in terms of what we are able to do physically, but we look forward to continuing to be agile in terms of how we work and how we collaborate with international fashion weeks, brands and partners on the season.

 

Federica Montelli, head of fashion at La Rinascente

Favorite collections: Dior, Loewe, Lanvin and Casablanca. I appreciated Jonathan Anderson’s show-in-a-box delivered directly to buyers and editors, as a different creative format. Also Y/Project’s multistyling video demonstration was quite effective, and I feel captured effectively the digital fashion week entertainment assumptions.

Best presentation: Loewe’s and JW Anderson’s show in a box. I also appreciated Casablanca’s video in its simplicity, as it displayed the collection quite effectively.

Top trends: A relaxed vibe and a genderless styling attitude, neutral “undyed” products and natural fibers or leathers. Floral patterns in shirts or knitwear. Artisanal fabrications in knitwear or accessories. There is a certain modularity to products, be they ready-to-wear or accessories, to be [adaptable] for different occasions of use and [to] extend their life. Simplicity means easy shapes and great focus on subtle details.

Must-have item: Invest in tops ­— fluid shirts, knitwear with intricate imagery in print or intarsia. A floral top or knit, as seen in Dior. Loose-cut pants in neutral colors. Shibori prints, as seen in Loewe. Modern sets in unexpected earthy colors, like brick red or green.

Budgets: Budgets will not match last spring-summer season’s, as we still don’t have visibility on when the worldwide economic situation and traveling by tourists will reprise in full force, even though we definitely hope for a strong spring 2021.

Suggestions for improvement: The many short videos felt too much like advertising and not enough like collection presentations. Does this imply that we are eagerly waiting to go back to the traditional catwalk next season?

Sam Lobban, vice president of designer ready-to-wear and new concepts, Nordstrom

Favorite collections: Dior Men, Loewe, Undercover, Issey Miyake Homme Plissé, Casablanca, Auralee, Rhude, Officine Générale.

Best presentation: I really enjoyed seeing both Hermès and Rick Owens’ take on a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the collection and/or runway process. Additionally, Thom Browne’s video with Moses Sumney was quite beautiful, and I also thought Kiko Kostadinov’s film by Robi Rodriguez was weird and subversive in a very strong and impactful way (as always with Kostadinov’s work, which is what makes it so interesting). Last but not least, Loewe’s show-in-a-box idea was super special as well.

Top trends: From what we’ve seen thus far, there are a lot of unstructured shapes, easy and comfortable fabrics with an overall cleaner but relaxed aesthetic. Color-wise, there have been a lot of pastels and neutrals along with pink and neon yellow as pops of color.

 

Tyler Franch, vice president, fashion director, Hudson’s Bay

Favorite collections: JW Anderson for its modern take on craftsmanship and deconstruction, and his dedication to design lead offerings.

Best presentations: Loewe’s show-in-a-box and JW Anderson show-box concepts. Both offered a 360[-degree] immersive view of the collection as well as the intentions behind the process, while conveying an incredibly deep layer of storytelling, which is almost impossible to do with a real runway show.

One of the great impacts that the situation has had in the fashion industry and more specifically on the traditional fashion weeks model is that designers have been forced to rethink the ways in which they communicate their vision to their audience. Jonathan Anderson being a perfect example — offering genuine and incredibly humble insight into his collection in a way we wouldn’t have had access to otherwise.

Top trends: Soft masculinity, romanticism; utility; ease of wear, such as in relaxed tailoring, away-from-the-body silhouettes; return to craftsmanship; emotional prints; travel-inspired prints .

Must-have items: The soft pant — relaxed chinos, drawstring pants; the utility short; the artisan knit sweater; the artistic print shirt.

Suggestions for improvement: With the uncertainty of the future and the “new normal” offering challenges to the fashion community every day, the industry has to be more thoughtful than ever. A more focused collection with fewer looks, as seen at Hermès, for example, is a great way to keep the offering meaningful and will keep the digital audience and buyers captivated throughout the whole presentation.

 

Daniel Todd, buying manager, Mr Porter

Favorite collections: Loewe, Rhude and Rick Owens impressed this season.

Best presentations: Amiri gave a great behind the scenes showcase.

Top trends: Bright color and volume.

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