Paris Fashion Week: Highlights from the latest menswear shows

 After almost a year of upheaval due to the coronavirus pandemic, fashion houses have become well accustomed to showcasing their latest designs digitally via pre-filmed videos and livestreamed virtual shows. But they also know that if they want to capture the attention of viewers at home (it's been a long time since buyers and editors were the only ones watching), their presentations will require creativity.

Creating excitement around dressing up and shopping at a time when many of us have few reasons to do either is no easy task. But at last week's entirely virtual Paris Fashion Week, designers proved they were more than up to the challenge. Here are the stand-out menswear moments that sparked conversation this season.

Virgil Abloh gets political(ish)

Paris Fashion Week: Highlights from the latest menswear shows

With the pandemic slowing the global travel industry to a crawl, Virgil Abloh's decision to set his pre-filmed video in a makeshift airport lounge was the ultimate throwback for viewers watching from their living rooms. Models wandered through a marble-accented space with coffee cups in hand and newspapers tucked under arms, or pulled chrome briefcases behind them.

The collection, styled by newly crowned Dazed editor-in-chief Ib Kamara, was a melting pot of influences and aesthetics, suggesting the worldliness of a well-traveled person: a Ghanaian kente cloth draped over a heather gray sweatsuit; regal furs worn atop burnt-orange tailoring; jumpers made of wearable cityscapes and bags shaped like airplanes.

Paris Fashion Week: Highlights from the latest menswear shows

Abloh said in the show notes that the collection, titled "Ebonics," was inspired by James Baldwin's 1953 essay "Stranger in the Village," in which he reflects on both his experience as a Black man visiting the Swiss Alps and the history of American racism. In head-to-toe Louis Vuitton looks, Saul Williams and Mos Def performed at different points, as did British activist and poet Kai-Isaiah Jamal, who, in voiceover, intoned: "I think as black people, and as trans people and as marginalized people, the world is here for our taking, for it takes so much from us."

The theme of the show was an uncharacteristic choice from the designer, who has been criticized in the past for his lack of engagement with issues that affect the Black community. Last summer, he received widespread backlash on social media for his comments about looting during protests that followed the killing of George Floyd.

Jonathan Anderson puts it on paper at JW Anderson and Loewe

Paris Fashion Week: Highlights from the latest menswear shows

After mailing out boxes of fabric cut-outs, photos and other ephemera to show his collections last year, Jonathan Anderson, creative director and founder of JW Anderson, and the creative director at Loewe, once again returned to the tactile. For his autumn-winter 2021 men's collection and women's pre-collections, he complemented his digital video offerings with physical swag.

At his own brand, Anderson collaborated with photographer Juergen Teller on a series of irreverent posters. Models -- including British actress Sophie Okonedo -- assume silly poses, grasping fruit, vegetables and houseplants. Nonsensical phrases, like "Two strings and a twisted ankle," are scrawled over top like inside jokes.

If the photos don't make you smile, the clothes will: shaggy knitted trousers and tops, vinyl trousers in extreme proportions and oversized sweaters in saturated colors are optimism distilled.

Paris Fashion Week: Highlights from the latest menswear shows

For Loewe, following his earlier "show in a box," Anderson gifted insiders a "show in a book" with cardboard packages containing a t-shirt printed with photos of the collection, as well as a coffee table book dedicated to the late queer artist and writer Joe Brainard, who died of AIDS-related illness in 1994.

In a prerecorded video explaining the collection, Anderson said the artist's collage aesthetic inspired this season's collections, and some of Brainard's graphic works and motifs feature on this season's garments and accessories. The book will be available for purchase once the collection goes on sale, with proceeds going to the Visual AIDS charity.

Kim Jones teams up with artist Peter Doig at Dior

Paris Fashion Week: Highlights from the latest menswear shows

Dior artistic director Kim Jones is no stranger to collaboration. Since taking the helm at Dior menswear in 2018, he's partnered with artists including KAWS, Raymond Pettibon and, this past summer, rising star Amoako Boafo on his collections.

In keeping with that tradition, this season Jones chose to work with cottish artist Peter Doig, renowned for his atmospheric landscapes, tinged with magical realism. The autumn-winter 2021 styles were presented in a fairly straightforward runway video, with models stomping alongside faux giant wooden speakers to a soundtrack of 1980s dance music.

Doig's touch was imprinted throughout the collection with varying degrees of subtlety, from the swirling prints found on bomber jackets and overcoats to the slightly warped creatures emblazoned on bright mohair jumpers. The collection's mix of somber shades and pops of brights was also inspired by Doig's practice, and the artist himself designed the featured wool hats with milliner Stephen Jones.

Wales Bonner completes her Caribbean triptych

Paris Fashion Week: Highlights from the latest menswear shows

After taking inspiration from Lovers Rock scene of 1970 London for autumn-winter 2020, and the dance halls of 1980s Kingston, Jamaica, for spring-summer 2021, Grace Wales Bonner has traveled to the ivory towers of Cambridge and Oxford for her latest collection.

Presented in a short film titled "Black Sunlight," a collaboration with photographer and filmmaker Jeano Edwards, the garments were inspired by postcolonial intellectuals from the Caribbean and Africa, as well as India, who immigrated to England in the 1980s. Nostalgia-tinged footage of tropical landscapes is cut with scenes of models wandering stone buildings in wide-legged trousers, slim-fit knits and immaculately tailored blazers.

The designer cites Bajan poet and scholar Kamau Brathwaite among her key references, along with Nobel Prize-winning Saint Lucian poet Derek Walcott, whose poems narrate the short film.

Thom Browne thinks of the children

Paris Fashion Week: Highlights from the latest menswear shows

Last week was a big one for designer Thom Browne. On Tuesday, the eve of US President Joe Biden's inauguration, Vice President Kamala Harris' stylish step-daughter Ella Emhoff wore one of his red-white-and-blue ensembles while posing in front of the Washington Monument. The very next day, Katy Perry wore a custom coat, corset and skirt from the designer to perform at the "Celebrating America" concert in the president's honor.

But on Sunday, Browne made his most surprising reveal yet, launching a line of children's wear for the precocious youngsters with a taste for tailoring (or, let's be real, their fawning parents) instead of showing a menswear collection during his scheduled slot.

While unexpected, the move makes sense. Browne, who wears the same shrunken gray suit, skinny tie and crisp white shirt, has long expressed a love for uniform dressing -- a hallmark of many a childhood.
In the black-and-white film debuting the collection, directed by photographer Cass Bird, cute and chic boys and girls in identical fitted suits rotely tap away at typewriters before work gives way to frenzied play.

"What they have on is very tailored, very strict, and you would think that they would have acted differently than they normally do as kids, but they were exactly the same," Browne told Vogue in an interview. "They were playing and running around just as much as they would've been in any other clothing. It was great to see."

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