PARIS — When it came to theatrics, the Paris leg of the recent menswear shows was as full as the generously cut trousers that filled the runways.
And, though the designers in Milan and Paris don't always mine the same trends, for fall/winter 2011 the collections in both cities were in lock step, focusing on outerwear (especially blanket coats and toggle-button closures), and, almost to the one, including a pop or two of vivid blaze orange. Among the highlights of the Paris shows:
The stage — and the table — had already been set by the time guests arrived at Thom Browne's runway show on the last night of men's fashion week here.
On one side of a banquet table that ran the length of the ballroom at the Westin Paris Hotel sat 20 behatted, bewigged and bespectacled Johnny Depp lookalikes (let's call them "Depplicates"). On the other side of a table loaded with a bounty of real food and a menagerie of once real but currently taxidermied animals were 20 men wearing white ponytailed cable-knit hats that resembled powdered wigs. An additional pair of stern-looking Mad Hatters sat at opposite ends of the table.
One by one, to the strains of chamber music, each model stood up and did a double, slow-timed lap around the table before sitting back down. The pace was glacial, but it was the perfect way to display a runway collection that was crammed with details such as convertible trousers with lower pant legs that unbutton (instead of unzip), short coattails that fold over and button to create a bow-like effect and longer coattails designed to button at the jacket cuff to create a batwing look.
There were a lot of new options in the trouser department, including argyle plus-fours and a pair of maroon-and-white horizontal stripe trousers that bloused at mid-calf.
Some of the Depplicates were accessorized with chunky argyle or cable-knit headbands, and others wore a variety of more formal hats — top hats and porkpies among them — also from the Thom Browne label.
Which kind of makes him the mad hatter of menswear, doesn't it?
The big question on everybody's mind going into the Thierry Mugler menswear show was whether Lady Gaga would be present, because it was the debut collection for the new creative director, Nicola Formichetti, who has helped shape some of the entertainer's more distinctive looks.
She wasn't in attendance, but the possibility was enough to pack the house with a standing-room-only crowd, which witnessed the rebirth of the label.
Rebirth because in addition to new creative blood at the helm, there's been a name change. From now on, the clothing collections will be known simply as "Mugler" and be accompanied by a new logo, both signifying, according to the notes, "a new chapter in the history of the brand." (Formichetti collaborated on the collection with new menswear design director Romain Kremer.)
That "new chapter" notion was also reflected in a short black-and-white film that accompanied the show, which began with a man peeling a black skin-like layer from his face and head to reveal a full-skull tattoo complete with the wrinkled folds of the human brain. The skeletal skin ink is real, and the man beneath it is Rick "Rico" Genest, who serves as the muse for the inaugural "Anatomy of Change" collection.
Formichetti, then, was letting us know exactly what he's done: He's peeled away the old skin, looked at the bones of the label and rebuilt from there.
So it's not surprising that the first collection would hit all the extremes. Some trousers were nearly skintight in the seat and voluminous in the leg, and others were padded at the ankles, like protective motorcycle gear. Jackets ranged from cropped cutaway length to mid-calf, some belted or nipped in at the waist, others unbelted. Some looks included free-flowing apron- or nightshirt-like tops, while one included a mirrored breastplate.
The color palette also ran the gamut from bright oranges to dark navy blues intended to hearken back to the Mugler of old, as well as black and white and some neutral tones of gray, tan and brown.
At first glance, the show notes for the Louis Vuitton collection seemed like a "Brüno"-level fashion prank: an exploration of Amish style with a hint of David Lynch strangeness.