Night And Day: Fall Menswear Vs. Spring Couture In The City Of Light

by MAGGIE HUNTER · January 27, 2009

The eyes of the fashion world are all on Paris at the moment, as the Men's Fall 2009 runway shows hit the city at the same time as the three-day whirlwind of sartorial confection that is Spring Couture. While viewing the men's collections in Milan last week, we all wondered if the morose spirit would continue to France and beyond. We heard the arguments defending the tame, glum choices in color and fabric: times are hard, clothes aren't selling, playing it safe is better than risking it all.

Menswear this season is choosing to privilege utility over fantasy, and pragmatism above romance; we couldn't help but be a little disappointed.

Though the Parisian runways sparkled a bit more than those in Milan, the belt-tightening sentiments were evidenced in show after show, perhaps none more blatantly than at the Dries Van Noten show, held inside the headquarters of the French Communist Party.  Paris menswear's real standouts were of course the designers who chose to in some way buck the prevailing trend: Gareth Pugh, whose dramatic, severe collection of patent leather, chain mail, and quilted nylon was met with near-universal praise, and Lanvin, who dressed their models in elegant, elongated suits in the darling, dandy tailoring of a brighter yesteryear. Despite these few exceptions, however, the clothes in Paris were nearly as subdued, in both color and cut, as those Milan.

[Photos from NYTimes]

Imagine our relief when, galloping on the heels of this restraint, we saw the unbridled fantasy of the Spring Couture shows. Our friends over at NY Mag's The Cut summed this season's sentiment up the best: "We're glad couture designers aren't toning anything down, because these few days show just how amazing clothes can be. And just like there's no point in drinking low-calorie champagne, there's no point toning down couture." We couldn't agree more.

John Galliano used Flemish painters, most notably Vermeer, as his inspiration at Dior, while Giorgio Armani tapped into his orientalist side through his luscious, "China-inspired" collection, and Karl Lagerfield based his delicate, modern statement for Chanel around, simply, "paper." When asked to comment on the stark contrast between the dreary economic climate and the glittering opulence displayed at his show, Galliano told the Associated Press " job is to make women dream. Of course I'm aware of the credit crunch, but it is not a creative crunch." Let's hope that sentiment carries over to the next two days of couture runways, not to mention the slighty more wearable pret-a-porter shows next month.