Alessandro Michele’s last Gucci runway show was all of four months ago, but boy did it foretell how the next Fashion Week would play out.

The backstage, the behind-the-scenes — these have taken centre stage at Paris Fashion Week now that there is no stage, so to speak. Instead, July’s haute couture and menswear shows went digital this season. Was fashion the better for it?

It’s hard to say no, given the countless ways that designers have thought outside the box (or, in the case of Jonathan Anderson, inside the box) to present their new collections. Also, it doesn’t hurt to be rid of distractions like celebrities and influencers.

Of course, there were some no-shows this menswear season. Louis Vuitton, helmed by Virgil Abloh, simply released a kooky animated teaser of what’s to come at its Shanghai fashion show in August. Dries Van Noten, in the midst of advocating for a fashion industry reform, sat this season out. So did Saint Laurent.

Regardless, the ones who were left put up quite a show. Below, we list the highlights of Paris Men’s Fashion Week.

Hermes

If you’ve seen Birdman, it’ll be easy to wrap your head around the live performance Hermes showcased in lieu of a fashion show. That’s “performance” in the theatre sense of the word: Cyril Teste was the director, the setting was the backstage of a fashion show, and the cast comprised Hermes designer Véronique Nichanian, her team, and the models. Like Birdman, the result is a (seemingly) one-take film that puts Nichanian’s laid-back menswear collection in an unexpected context — and to stellar results.

Rick Owens

Like Hermes, Rick Owens also went meta for Paris Fashion Week. That applies to both his collection — several pieces were rehashed from past seasons — and the film he used to present it. The latter was shot surveillance-style in Owens’ Paris studio, as he styled and fitted his muse Tyrone Dylan Susman (a blonde Rick Owens, if you will) in his new collection. The whole intimate session revealed not only on the designer’s music taste (Alien Sex Fiend was the soundtrack) but also on his process towards realising his off-kilter vision.

Loewe

(Photo credit: Loewe)
(Photo credit: Loewe)

After doing wonders for his eponymous label, Jonathan Anderson ran with his “show-in-the-box” idea for his Loewe menswear presentation. It was riffed off Marcel Duchamp’s Boîte-en-valise, a box in which the Dadaist kept reproductions of his artworks.

Loewe’s take was packed with paraphernalia from an imaginary fashion show instead, including a pop-up show set, fabric swatches, paper models and a vinyl of the show soundtrack, to be played with the provided cardboard turntable. The whole approach is very hands-on, which makes sense given that Loewe is centred on craftsmanship. It also makes for the most interesting unboxing video you’ll ever see.

Walter Van Beirendonck

Like Loewe, Dior, and all those couturiers that conceived the Théâtre de la Mode, Walter Van Beirendonck showed us that a miniature collection can be just as fascinating as a full-sized one. Especially if you dress the Antwerp Six designer’s eccentric, mirror-embellished pieces onto the alien-like dolls made by artist Eli Effenberger. The collection is just the right amount of weird and wearable, the latter being a quality that isn’t often applied to Van Beirendonck’s work. “For me, this is a time to concentrate on the reality,” he shared. Good thing our ideas of reality are very different.

Yohji Yamamoto

Yohji Yamamoto isn’t here to surprise or shock. The man likes to be in the shadows, in the background, or even on the bluesy soundtrack of the short film presenting his S/S 2021 menswear collection. The designs themselves are classic Yohji — draped, dark and poetic — but they were given a cinematic quality under the lens of fashion photographer Takay. (We’d believe it if they were costumes for a Takeshi Kitano film, which Yamamoto had previously designed for.)

Like his voice, Yamamoto’s collection is heavy with mood. And as at Couture Week, there’s even a touch of surrealism, with some coats featuring eye-like buttons. “With my eyes turned to the past, I walk backwards into the future,” wrote the designer once, prophetically.

Header photo credit: Loewe

Pameyla Cambe
Senior Writer
Pameyla Cambe is a fashion and jewellery writer who believes that style and substance shouldn't be mutually exclusive. She makes sense of the world through Gothic novels, horror films and music. Lots of music.