Menswear Report: The Best of Paris SS'14

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We pounded the Parisian pavement and hit the essential shows – our report on the best of SS'14.

Dries Van Noten
If the gold leaf invitation or the gigantic golden foil backdrop at Dries Van Noten had guests thinking they were in for a lamé shocker, the Belgian mastermind had them fooled. As Cindy Blackman, the wife of Carlos Santana, took to her gilded drum set, a parade of historical-inspired floral prints and bullion embroidery hit the catwalk on skinny tailoring in lightweight fabrics. “The flowers are taken from everything from Louis XVI to Cocteau to Jimi Hendrix. I wanted them to be really masculine,” Van Noten told Esquire. “It’s really about seeing how far you can push menswear without it becoming feminine.”

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Haider Ackermann
This season, menswear received one of its greatest gifts to date as womenswear designer Haider Ackermann graced Paris with his second ever men’s collection (he showed his first in Florence in 2010). Inspired by heavily tattooed models such as Jimmy Q and Daniel Bamdad, both of whom modelled in the presentation, Ackermann mixed layered, opium-den inspired smoking jackets, double breasted waistcoats and cigarette trousers in velvets and silks with sportswear and rock influences. Speaking of his unexpected choice of models, Ackermann told Esquire. “It was very interesting trying to understand the poetry of having everything written on your body. I wanted to have this aristocracy to come out a little bit, because there’s a sense of nobility in what they’re doing.”

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Louis Vuitton
The framework of a prairie church towered over the Louis Vuitton catwalk as R.E.M.’s 'Losing My Religion' set the mood for Kim Jones’ SS’14 show, which took its man on a road trip from the East to the West Coast of America. There was a ‘Sunday best’ feel to the collection, which paired 1950s’ workingman’s check suits with cowboy bandanas tied loosely around the neck, and sporty jackets covered in various insignia with boy scout shorts. And while the soundtrack may have suggested otherwise, there was a Bible belt virtuosity to the whole thing. When a succession of boyish formal looks with bowties were sent out towards the end, it could have been prom season in the Mid-West.

Berluti
Models were seen sitting in the windows of the palatial Hôtel de Sully as guests arrived at Berluti’s decadent Parisian barbecue. They eventually made their way down to the huge garden of pavilions, which had been erected inside the Louis XIII building’s courtyard, and posed casually in Alessandro Sartori’s laid-back SS‘14 collection. A crisp, white double-breasted suit worn with a panama hat bought to mind Venice in the '20s, while a double-breasted mustard blazer styled with white trousers and two-tone brogues wouldn’t look out of place in modern-day Bellagio on Lake Como. But there was also a hint of boyishness in the boldly checked suits and some sharp 1960s tailoring worn with tight, stripy polo necks.

Kenzo
Between the fold-out invitation which featured a panoramic vintage picture of an American suburb, the grand arena of the circus academy where the show took place, and the juice stands outside covered in fruit (literally), it was California dreaming at Kenzo’s Spring Summer 2014 show. Going back to their roots, designers Carol Lim and Humberto Leon drew on the surfer culture of The Sunshine State using Pacific blue in an altogether sporty collection, which also saw the introduction of wave motifs in prints as well as in Lim and Leon’s seasonal take on the Kenzo logo. The collection was as laid back as the production was grand and frenzied (Mike D of the Beastie Boys mixed the soundtrack), and for Kenzo it was a contrast that made perfect sense.

Dior Homme
When Kris Van Assche gets an idea into his head, he sees it through to the bitter end. For his SS’14 Dior Homme collection, it was the notion of wearing a tuxedo to the beach that captured the Belgian designer’s razor-sharp eye, and the collection wasn’t short on interpretations – some literal, like an ocean blue number with a black stripe along the front, others more tongue-in-cheek, like a formal satin-lapelled jacket worn with short shorts and an overcoat, all in burgundy. The Pet Shop Boys delivered one of Van Assche’s trademark awesome Euro electro soundtracks while the Dior Homme boys made their way through a giant maze of mirrors in the pristine venue.

Hermès
There was something easy and breezy about Hermès’ SS’14 collection – quite literally, in fact, as the evening wind swept through the cloisters of Le Cloître des Cordeliers, which doubled as catwalks for Véronique Nichanian’s show. She’s celebrating her 25th anniversary at Hermès this year, but the show was far from a best-of. Instead, Nichanian continued to subtly push the boundaries with a collection which effortlessly featured leather trousers and the house’s swirly scarf print on shirts next to more classic components such as casual, summery tailoring and light outerwear.

Lanvin
With a profusion of black and more than a few oversized overcoats (oh, and the mad soundtrack from Psycho to back it all up), Alber Elbaz and Lucas Ossendrijver took summer dressing to a whole new level with their SS’14 collection. Knowing, however, that Lanvin is all about the silhouette and unexpected fabrics, it wasn’t hard to see how it would work for summer, for instance in a boxy but skinny lightweight suit or a tiny, tiny miniscule short for a few brave souls. Towards the end however some more conventional summer elements did find their way into the line up, most notably in the shape of two or three satiny pyjamas combos.

Paul Smith
It was in the culture of the late 1960s and early '70s that British legend Paul Smith found inspiration for his SS’14 collection, which took his ubiquitous rock ‘n’ roll awesomeness to new heights. “This time there was a wide trouser, very long, in pink and in yellow – lovely trouser – which was really based on a trouser I did with Bowie, and the same with the long collar [on shirts],” Sir Paul told Esquire. “The mushroom [pattern] and the denim shirt were very much about that hippie era, and I like the idea of having that mixed with [pieces in] technical fabrics.”