23-Nov, 06:53

10:54, March 03 269 0

2017-03-03 10:54:06
Fashion Review: Rituals, Wild Animals and a Few Giggles

PARIS — The general tone of current public discourse — the name-calling, the taunts, the accusations — is bringing Rick Owens down. Know what he’s talking about?

So on the day Marine Le Pen, the far-right French presidential candidate, lost her immunity to prosecution for posting photographs on Twitter of violent ISIS killings, he offered up an antidote to his own malaise.

“Maybe embracing what makes us civilized can be our most positive act,” Mr. Owens wrote in a sort of statement of intent before his fall show. “Ceremonies are about groups agreeing on codes of behavior and collectively committing to them. I’ve always thought of shows as contemporary ceremonies.”

Certainly they have their own pomp and protocol. Though the codes of this particular form of shared behavior seem largely limited to filing in and out of assorted venues obediently and agreeing to be penned on crammed benches multiple times a day without food or water.

But go with the idea for the moment.

Because it casts the clothes, then, as reminders of our best selves; vestiges and expressions of that civilization. Or, as Mr. Owens designed them this time around, perhaps reminders of the selves we might be if we were part of a newfangled priesthood tending to the altars of the essential shared fabric(s) of life.

He crowned his women with miters made from sweatshirt sleeves draped over the face, like an elephant trunk, and wrapped them in coats united from wool and duvet covers; he whorled felted wool into rosettes at the waist and hip, and left sleeves flowing to the knees like a train.

He stretched T-shirts into cardinal’s hats and patched leather and canvas into processional robes, sometimes with giant flying buttresses jutting from the side. He took the materials of the street and elevated them.

The result looked weird (with Mr. Owens, it often does), but the Mr. Snuffleupagus headgear made everyone smile, and the point was compelling: Rise to the occasion, don’t sink to it. And at the very least, dress for it. Isn’t that what your grandmother always told you? It’s the fashion equivalent of cognitive studies that suggest smiling more makes you feel better; both posit that what you do, or don, on the outside, can help change your inside.

And Mr. Owens wasn’t the only one with the gentling power of ritual on his mind. In a lovely Ann Demeulemeester show, Sébastien Meunier used lacy wimples-cum-veils to frame a notably more romantic collection that built on the shipwrecked tailoring of the brand’s founder and brought it forward: into billowing silk dresses in dusky rose; slouchy crushed velvet; and sweeping leather greatcoats. Decoration came via fur and even feathers at the neck (there were still some dangling strings, but not too many). When leather leggings become a grace note, something interesting is going on.

There’s been a lot of battle dress on the women’s runways, for obvious reasons — perhaps too obvious. Also a lot of escapism (again: duh).

Now, halfway through Paris, there’s a third way: turning the other cheek. It looks pretty good. Depending on what direction you are facing, of course.

At Paco Rabanne, Julien Dossena fetishized dance, alongside the brand’s trademark futurism and his own tetchy sportswear, a tripartite approach that added a refined fluidity to his arsenal. Ribbed knits and silver chain mail were cut asymmetrically on the bias in tops and skirts, sometimes paired with leotard-like stretch jersey, all of it grounded by crisp white shirting and tailored trousers.

But at Loewe, Jonathan Anderson transformed the concrete interior of the Unesco headquarters into a series of pitch-black steamy caverns to create a “controlled environment,” the better to spotlight the exoticism of 60 different sorts of orchids. Also photographs from the 1930s by Lionel Wendt, mostly of young men in India. Then off he went on a sartorial journey that ranged — well, all over the map, from farmland to Sunset Boulevard. Imagine plowing the furrows of film noir and you’ll get the idea.

Airy peasant smocking and elongated shifts made from silk patchwork squares paraded next to fan-pleated silver lamé; Tartan was needle-punched into polka dots; logo Fair Isle-ish knits followed billowing Cossack trousers and elegant tailored overcoats in silk and leather. Some of it was good (those coats; a black silk dress with micro-pleating) and some of it was confused, but mostly it just made you wonder: Where is he going with all this? On too many trajectories at once.

Not, however, the one Olivier Rousteing chose at Balmain, which led straight to the wild kingdom by way of Caesars Palace and could be summed up, in an entirely literal way, as: “I am woman, hear me roar.” Despite the fact that the reference the designer name-checked in his show notes was Nirvana.

Mr. Rousteing was thinking of the music, not the clothes, presumably, because grunge wasn’t really in sight, save for some tie-dye in Serengeti shades. Instead we got — well, pretty much every animal in “The Lion King” and then some: tigers, zebras, wolves, eagles, mustangs and pythons. Plus thigh-high suede stiletto boots. Kendall Jenner looked as if she was wearing an entire alligator on her back, with another on her front.

And because that wasn’t enough, also fringe and crystal and studs all semaphored together to create a mythical Vegas-in-the-veld creature made of glitz and grrr. It was hard not to giggle, although that was probably not the intended reaction.

For vegans, there were some “queen of the jungle” shaggy knits.

That’s outreach, of a sort, even if the message was less about civil society than hashtag society and big-game hunting (we appear to have moved on from #Balmainia to #Balmenagerie). Though whether the trophies were supposed to be the pelts or the women who wore them was never entirely clear.