Paris Fashion Week: Penises and androgyny

IN PICTURES: The five days of Paris men's fashion are over. Here's a wrap up of what we can expect for this coming autumn and winter.

Paris Fashion Week: Penises and androgyny
A new look from US designer Thom Browne during the men's Fall/Winter 2015 fashion show in Paris. Photo: AFP
– Full frontal –
US designer Rick Owens created a category all by himself by sending out three male models with their penises exposed by cutaway robes.
The taboo-busting garments are unlikely go mainstream, and many veteran fashionistas thought them too blatantly calculated for controversy.
But they did succeed in giving Owens more international media coverage than all the other designers combined. Indeed, many took to social media to share the images, with one Twitter user (below) choosing a tongue in cheek caption to go with the Rick Owens collections. 
– Androgyny –
Other designers went the opposite of putting manhood on the catwalk by seeking to redefine what "menswear" means through gender-bending designs.
Andrea Crews, Rynshu and some others put a few women on the catwalk for their men's collections.
But the more defining trend was a feminisation of the garments themselves. 
Skirts, robes and shawls all put in appearances on male models, and quite a few — in Issey Miyake's show for instance — had hairpins keeping glistening hair flat.
Many of the models themselves were selected for their androgyny.
"I found it (the trend) interpreted with a lot of finesse," Jean-Jacques Picart, a consultant for the fashion and luxury goods sectors, told AFP.
Items by the Spanish fashion Loewe, for example, "were borderline with a feminine seduction, a sensuality," he said.
– Sporty chic –
This trend has been growing for a while, and these collections established it as a look that will probably endure for years.
Dior epitomised the design, with suits flashed through with denim and carried along on classy shoe-sneakers boasting high-energy colours on their soles.
Cifonelli's suits were beautifully cut if much more traditional numbers, but tailored to give good freedom of movement to modern men.
And Louis Vuitton offered easy-to-wear with jean-style jackets, sweatshirts and a close-up rope motif inspired by Christopher Nemeth, an influential British fashion designer and artist passed away four years ago.
– Frontline fashion –
The suit is the businessman's uniform, but some of the designers decided that military-style uniforms are now the new suit.
Korean designer Juun.J was at the forefront of that, with a khaki collection that would not look out of place in combat zones were it not for the addition of images of children's faces and doves painted on them in anti-war irony.
Other designers, Berluti and Dries Van Noten among them, also paraded military men on the catwalks, adorning sleeves with embroidery and trench coats ready for dress inspection.
Lanvin's Dutch designer Lucas Ossendrijver, who put grey and black uniforms to his collection, noted the military tone in Paris with the deployment of soldiers to ensure security following the Charlie Hebdo attack by Islamist gunmen three weeks ago.
"If you look in Paris, there are so many military people around. At every station there's soldiers, it's kind of surreal."


Paris exhibition celebrates 100 years of French Vogue

A new exhibition in Paris will tell the story of 100 years of French Vogue - from the post-war 'New Look' of Christian Dior through the sexual liberation of the 1960s to the dangling-cigarette waifs of the 2000s.

French Vogue celebrates 100 years
French Vogue celebrates 100 years. Photo: Thomas Olva/AFP

But as well as celebrating the magazine’s storied history, the exhibit comes at a time of turbulence for the publication.

Just last month, it was confirmed that its editor of 10 years, Emmanuelle Alt, was out and wouldn’t be replaced.

She was not alone.

Looking to cut costs, owner Conde Nast International has axed editors across Europe over the past year, and put international Vogue editions under the direct control of global editorial director, Anna Wintour, in New York.

New York-based Anna Wintour now has overall control of French Vogue. Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

Like much of the media industry, Vogue is struggling with tumbling sales and ad revenue in the digital era.

But the latest twist is also part of the endless push and pull between New York and Paris going back to its early days.

“The whole history of French Vogue is one of back-and-forth with Conde Nast in New York – growing more independent for a while, then being reined back in,” said Sylvie Lecallier, curator of the new exhibition, “Vogue Paris 1920-2020″, which opened this weekend after a year’s delay due to the pandemic.

The Paris edition was often the loftier, more bohemian sibling to its more hard-nosed New York version.

But it was also the hotbed in which much of 20th century style and womenhood came to be defined.

“Paris was the place to hunt out talent and content and bring it to New York,” said Lecallier.

The exhibition charts the evolution from art deco drawings of the 1920s through the erotic image-making of photographers like Helmut Newton in the 1960s and 1970s.

Its last peak was under editor Carine Roitfeld in the 2000s, who brought back a provocative Gallic identity by ridding the newsroom of foreign staff and becoming a fashion icon in her own right.

Her successor, Alt, was a quieter presence, though she still oversaw key moments including its first transgender cover star, Brazilian Valentina Sampaio, in 2017.

But internet culture has created “a perfect storm” for Vogue, says media expert Douglas McCabe of Enders Analysis.

“The first 80 years of Vogue’s life, it had the market to itself, it was the bible for fashion,” McCabe told AFP.

“But online today, there are so many other ways to get your information. Influencers, Instagram, YouTube — everyone’s a threat.”

In a world where new fashion trends can blow up around the world in seconds, it has become much harder for a monthly magazine to set the pace.

“It’s not that they can’t survive for another 100 years — but they will be differently sized,” McCabe said.

Vogue has tried to branch out into different areas, including events.

“I used to work for a magazine, and today I work for a brand,” Alt said on the eve of French Vogue’s 1,000th issue in 2019.

But the big money was always in print, and Vogue Paris sales are dropping steadily from 98,345 in 2017 to 81,962 to 2020, according to data site ACPM.

It is perhaps unsurprising that the new top job in Paris, redefined as “head of editorial content”, went to Eugenie Trochu, who was key to building the magazine’s online presence.

She declared herself “thrilled to be part of Vogue’s international transformation”.

For the curator of the exhibition, it is ironic timing.

“We had no idea it would end like this when we started work on the exhibition,” said Lecallier.

“Who knows where it will go from here.”

The exhibition Vogue Paris 1920-2020 is at the Palais Galliera in Paris’ 16th arrondissement. The gallery is open 10am to 6pm Tuesday to Sunday and is closed on Mondays. Tickets for the exhibition are €14 (€12 for concessions and under 18s go free) and must be reserved online in advance.