Paris Menswear: Louis Vuitton, Meet Franz-------
Test any season’s dark waters and you’ll inevitably find a few curious subcurrents. There have been, for example, vague hints of rebellion in the air during the men’s shows for Fall 2010. They’re hard to take too seriously, of course, when they’re attached to some of the most expensive clothing in the world, but nevertheless, you had Armani murmuring about revolution in his signature presentation, Bottega Veneta’s Tomas Maier channeling teddy boys, and on the first day of the Paris shows, Paul Helbers at Louis Vuitton taking a cue from the Vienna Secession, the early-twentieth-century design movement that rejected the artistic status quo of the time in favor of a freer, modern alternative.
Helbers had Kafka on his mind, too (even though Franz K. only visited Vienna once, for four days), and Frederic Sanchez’s soundtrack featured a voice reading from the author’s work in its original German. But I was more taken with the mix of a Viennese waltz and pulsating, heavy electronics. That duality was taken up by the clothes, which worked striking contrasts: a coat that combined a leather yoke and a nylon body, a shirt featuring striped and solid sleeves, tailored wool jackets with a leather midriff, a chunky tan leather coat worn over a chic mohair tux. All that, plus a general, slightly jarring mash-up of formal and casual (shirts untucked under jackets, peasant-y clog boots paired with a suit, smart pants tucked into socks). Helbers called it “bleisure,” after the Secession artists’ way of mixing clothes for work and play. But that doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. I think Sigmund Freud, another of Vienna’s favorite sons, had a better name for it. One of his pet theories was “the divided self.” Beats bleisure.
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