Paris Fashion Week: Space travel and rock'n'roll

By Isaac Hindin Miller

On the fourth day of Fashion Week after all the shows, the heat, the parties, the appointments, the late nights and the work, a sort of painful fatigue begins to set in among the attendees.

But Lanvin is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Breakfast is served buffet style as you walk in, complete with tea, coffee and well-chilled juice. It's just what you need when the temperature is already an unforgiving 30 degrees at 11 o'clock in the morning, and works perfectly to soak up the folly of last night's excesses (in my case, far too much writing).

Summer can be a hard season in which to dress elegantly, but Lanvin's answer to the heat was suits and layers, coats and cardigans, all in soft couture cloths or high-tech athletic fabrics.

There's always that sense of subversion in a Lanvin collection - menswear made from traditionally feminine materials; formalwear slashed and re-sewn (or just plain unfinished); and sporty pieces in the richest brocades, tweeds and silks.

This collection was the most athletic to date, with rubber hiking sandals, asymetrical zip-up peacoats in unfinished goretex and stretchy knits that contoured to the body. But it was no athlete's wardrobe, closer in fact, to what a man of leisure might wear on a weekend jaunt about the park.

To sun the arms, a coat's sleeves were zipped off. To aid movement, another's back had elastic inserts pulling in the waist. On the off chance of a dip, jackets and pants were on offer in neoprene. But if that got too warm, there were always the full suits in rich green floaty silks.

Lanvin is the premium luxury outfitter for the man who has it all - money, elegance, style, and time on his hands to enjoy life. He's a chap who's not afraid to express himself through his wardrobe choices. To help emphasise that final point, a procession of suits cut from sumptuously textured floral silks closed the show.

Moments before the Paul Smith show started this afternoon, I sat in my seat flicking through street style photos taken around and about the Milan and Paris Fashion Weeks by the maestro of detail, Tommy Ton.

One pair of gentlemen looked oddly familiar. I looked to my left, then back at the photo, left again, then back down. I proffered my phone to the two guys sitting next to me to take a look. There they were, in the exact same positions, immortalised on the internet and in real life beside me. Every single day this digital world we live in gets smaller and smaller. But that doesn't rob it of its magical moments.

As the lights went up and the music began, a lone Japanese cameraman ran the full length of the catwalk - gear flying behind him - and burst onto the photographers' riser. His typically aggressive comrades patiently made space for him as he set up. Once he had, the first model walked out.

Paul Smith is music mad. Rock'n'roll is at the core of each one of his collections, chiefly British, always well styled. This time it was the psychedelic movement in the late 60s, early 70s. Gone were the crisply tailored suits of the Beatles days, replaced instead by Robert Plant and his untucked shirts, tight trousers and leather boots.

Old tattooed rockers walked the catwalk in zodiacal printed blazers and tie-dyed tees, while skinny young boys wore glittery stardust pants, their long hair tied back with thin strips of leather. The classic pieces were still there - suits, peacoats and cardigans, but there was something a bit off about each one, like an upside down lapel on a blazer. Led Zep's Immigrant Song closed the show, accompanied by Paul Smith and his dancing model troop. Why look to the future when there's so much rich imagery in the past?

Over at Dunhill, designer Kim Jones had also delved into the British house's archives for inspiration, discovering one of the label's most precious pieces - a cigarette lighter etched by the hand of Picasso. That got him onto the Bloomsbury Set, a group of forward-thinking English artists, poets and intellectuals who held regular discussion sessions throughout the 20th century.

The Dunhill collection fit the free lifestyle of a poet or artist, with easy unlined suits that swayed as the models walked, and coordinated but mismatched jackets and pants. No doubt scandalous in the 20s, but when you're known as a progressive, you can break those irrelevant rules.

None of the fabrics were particularly light, but they draped perfectly with a luxe, lived-in elegance - the type you could happily wear every day of the week.

Besides the lounge suits, the best bits were a beautiful blue suede jacket with rolled sleeves and a double breasted evening suit with large lapels in textured charcoal. Charming, English, and oh so wearable. All signs of a successful season.

Thom Browne takes his themes very literally. One season, an underwater inspiration brought full scaly fish suits to the catwalk. In Milan, his Moncler Gamme Bleu presentation took place at a velodrome, featuring models riding round and round in circles (he'd been watching the Tour de France).

Today in Paris - his first time showing in the French capital - he chose astronauts. The glory of space travel, the thrill of the unknown, the heroic men who went there first. Held inside a white concrete dome on the outskirts of the city, he threw everything at the audience but the spaceship itself.

It began with a voice-over - we were there for a press conference to celebrate the champion astronauts, questions should not be asked until advised. Out walked 30 men in moon suits and space helmets. They were led by an official looking Nasa-type in navy suit and aviators. The astronauts walked the length of the room and out the door, along a curved corridor and up to a series of coat hooks. There they stood, backs against the wall, until they were given the nod by their leader. At once, all turned and placed their helmets on a ledge, then unzipped their suits and hung them from the hooks provided. Once they were all undressed, they stood still for a moment, then - one by one - entered the dome once again.

Each model was dressed in a signature Thom Browne shorts suit - shrunken blazer with cropped arms, above knee shorts, long socks and clumpy American brogues. Their hair was glossed like a 50s cartoon character, with gold running down the side part. Their lips were bursting with gold flakes.

Every suit was a Thom Browne version of an American classic - charcoal, checked, striped, madras, gingham, houndstooth, black, blue, tuxedo, seersucker - if you can name it, it was probably there.

Thom Browne has typecast himself as something of a one-trick pony - that Little Grey Suit is still his major claim to fame. But this collection proved that the one suit can go a long, long way. To space and back. In every manifestation possible.

Gone were the over-the-top details of his past few shows, gone were the extraneous details, this was a concise collection of American suits, albeit the shorter version.

He's got a way to go before the silhouette he offers achieves ubiquity, but a whole raft of the editors in attendance were proudly wearing his designs. One only wonders where he'll go next.

The show ended with David Bowie's Ground Control to Major Tom. Literal, yes, but would you expect anything else?

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