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Valentino headlines first day of Paris Fashion Week menswear

Heat was in the air on the first day of Paris Fashion Week menswear collections that showcased next year’s spring-summer designs. With the French capital baking in high temperatures, Wednesday kicked off 52 catwalk shows that will run over five runway-stomping days. Here are some of the highlights.

Valentino’s ethnic sportwear
There were almost enough professional basketball stars to form a Valentino team at the house’s menswear spectacle. Serge Ibaka of the Toronto Raptors, the Chicago Bulls’ Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks and the Houston Rockets’ James Harden all were on hand. Perhaps the Rome-based house had sports in mind when compiling the guest list for the thoughtful collection by designer Pierpaolo Piccioli that put ethnic twists on sportswear.

Sneakers with thick North African-style threading were imagined in a multicolored palette below a silken green tracksuit with thick white Balkan-style seams. It was a study in contrasts. Voluminous sport coats that riffed on biker styles had subtly contradictory embroidery across the shoulders and, in a highly stylish touch, embroidered belts dangled from the waist. Layered white shirts were given a twist with round collars and khaki-style baggy pants were tapered in the Arab style. Valentino’s designs have become more focused since Piccioli started designing solo a few seasons ago. Wednesday’s collection was one of his best yet.

Battle of the invitations
Another Paris season, another unspoken contest to produce the most eye-catching, and perhaps wasteful, show invitation. Travel-minded Louis Vuitton evoked its signature monogram-laden travel case with its invite: a luggage label adorned with metal eyelets and decorated colored straps. US-born designer Rick Owens needed a special courier to deliver his huge catwalk ticket as it wouldn’t fit inside a standard mailbox. It was made of sheets of white rectangular foam glued together and featured a small figurative metal head of a warrior stuffed between the layers.
But the most inventive – and topical – invitation so far this scorching summer season was produced by British designer Paul Smith: a silvery pink plastic fish. The message was perhaps that as temperatures reached 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit), fashion-watchers could use a dip in the sea.

Lemaire’s elegant color blocking
There was a light crispness and elegance to the clothes of lauded French designer Christophe Lemaire. Never veering to the extremes, color blocking was handled with subtlety – bright red with gray, black with white or dark red and burnt orange. Loose, boxy blousons in cotton poplin sometimes sported interesting Russian-style high necks.
Sumptuous baggy pants in wool gabardine had a touch of masculine class with two pleats structuring the material, capped with stylish sandals in calf leather. The designs exuded a quiet confidence. And there’s good reason for the 52-year-old designer to feel confident. Since leaving the design helm of Hermes after a highly successful four-year stint, he has concentrated on his eponymous label, Lemaire, and gone from strength to strength. Revenues are reported to have tripled in just a few years.

Facetasm seeks and finds
In a collection entitled “Seek and Find,” Tokyo-founded house Facetasm presented a visual and written manifesto for how fashion can transcend social and cultural barriers. Highly quirky – and often contrasting – styles were thrown together in a celebration of non-conformity on models of different genders, ages and ethnic backgrounds. The program notes declared that fashion can unite people who speak different languages and come from different cultures and tribes.

“Fashion… can connect people who share the same aesthetic and value, transcending those traditional classifications,” the program read. Thus, brightly colored school rugby socks, red velvet pajamas, blue punk hair, a pale plastic raincoat, a loose black tuxedo, and voluminous layers of printed cotton shirts tied at the midriff all filed past. Facetasm has won plaudits for its conceptual styles and Wednesday’s show was quite the fashion statement.

Houses continue to show men in women wear week
Saint Laurent dominated day one of Paris menswear shows in the past, but is now noticeably absent from the calendar. The reason is that the storied Paris maison is opting to show its men’s designs in September along with its women wear collection. Another major house, Givenchy, is doing the same. Although this choice has been criticized by many, some believe it makes sense to group the seasons together as the Paris calendar is out of synch chronologically.

This June’s menswear week kicks off the 2018 spring-summer season, only to be followed next week by Couture – which goes back to the season before and showcases designs for fall-winter 2017. Women wear in the fall showcases designs for spring-summer 2018. Confused? You’re not the only one.-AP


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