Jacquemus S/S16
Jacquemus S/S16

Paris fashion shows have a reputation, somewhat deserved, for displaying the bizarre, artistic, and conceptual side of fashion. In reality, we see that to some degree in all four cities, but those shows rarely get the attention that they do in Paris. These are the shows that leave casual bystanders scratching their heads and thinking that we’re all crazy for making such a big deal about something no one in their right mind would actually wear. While many of those shows might not be worth mentioning, the labels short-lived and ultimately ill-conceived, Jacquemus is the exception. Underlying all the artistry and conceptualism is a strong understanding not only of clothing, but social gender stereotypes and how our fashion choices reinforce those ideas.

Still, this was not the typical runway presentation. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen a young girl representing the mythical Sisyphus pushing a giant red ball of cloth across a giant, open, empty space. Neither can I say I’ve seen anyone come out leading a white horse before today. Jacquemus has said before that he doesn’t design clothes, he designs stories, and this entire presentation is a very conceptual story full of fashion’s own mythology, a sense of futility in the struggle to progress, and the sometimes flatness of the digital age. Very heady stuff if all one is wanting is a good pair of trousers or a sharp looking jacket.

I have to say that this season’s collection is certainly a lot more commercial feeling than last season. He didn’t cover models’ faces this time, and there were no cutouts of hands covering strategic body parts. In some ways, from an artistic standpoint, that is a bit disappointing. Still, there are plenty of times when he makes his point, such as with the red dress that has no sleeves. Not that the dress is sleeveless as we’ve seen so often this season. Rather, there are no openings for the arms at all; the model’s arms are trapped inside the dress with her hands only visible at the hem. Then, there’s the dark navy dress with the silhouette of a man’s suit outlined in white, delivering a very two-dimensional effect where one might have expected more.

Looks are generally deconstructed and then reconstructed in ways that force one, willingly or not, to consider why we wear the pieces we do, which garments are appropriate for which gender, and which age. There is definitely a focus on youth in this collection, but then that’s probably appropriate for the overall style. There’s a sense of sportiness in some of the pieces, as well as a touch of daring that is rather inherent to this style of presentation. We know we’re not really getting a good look at the clothes that will be on the shelves next spring, but more a sense of the over-arching style and aesthetic the designer wants to achieve.

So, while we don’t really expect to see anything in the stores next spring that leaves one looking as though they’re wearing half a suit or a giant ball of cloth, we can expect styles that challenge the norm, that force us to re-think what is appropriate and how what we wear tells our own stories. It is from these ideological wells that genius springs. Keep watching.

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