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Suzy Menkes

Vogue International Editor Suzy Menkes is the best-known fashion journalist in the world. After 25 years commenting on fashion for the International Herald Tribune (rebranded recently as The International New York Times), Suzy Menkes now writes exclusively for Vogue online, covering fashion worldwide.

Wearable concepts

Jonathan Anderson, Hussein Chalayan and Rick Owens show they can be practical

17 Марта 2016

Loewe, fall 2016 ready-to-wear
Loewe, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Conceptualists are not necessarily those who push fashion forward — rather they are the designers who extend the boundaries, allowing clothing to enter the realm of art. I looked at three designers at the Paris collections — Jonathan Anderson for Loewe, Hussein Chalayan and Rick Owens — to see how far they can stretch their imaginations to create original, yet wearable, clothes.

Jonathan Anderson: Wit and wisdom – at a fashion show?

Perhaps only Jonathan Anderson could have pulled off such an ironic approach to a fashion show, as the hypnotic voice of a meditation therapist worked very slowly towards the fact that he was trying to help a smoker quit (cue wry laughs from the cigarette-addicted fashion folk). Then there were the clothes to fit nicely with these accessories. They included not only the Loewe bags that are at the soul of the Spanish company, but also all sorts of bits and pieces, from leather bra cups to a necklace with a primitive face.

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Loewe, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Loewe, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Loewe, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Loewe, fall 2016 ready-to-wear


“Articulate the woman around the bag — a curated space, creating the physical look,” said the designer, describing a process that I have never before heard from a creative mind aiming to give an accessories company viable clothes. But the effect was powerful, helping to create the best show the Irish designer has yet achieved for the Spanish brand. Let's start with the bags. They were strong, and sometimes grand, as in a gilded version bold enough to face-off a print of a grand mansion on the bodice of a dress and a golden bracelet at the wrist. The skirt — one of many that were bias-cut with a pointed edge – did not seem so compelling. But the designer also offered a simpler dress with leather strips, which competed for attention with a plain bag and a cat image on a necklace. Anderson’s strength lies in his geometric approach to clothes and accessories.

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Loewe, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Loewe, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Loewe, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Loewe, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Loewe, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Loewe, fall 2016 ready-to-wear


Everything seems sharp and well planned and even if some of the dipping hemlines and a hessian weave skirt seemed too much, at least they made themselves known. I discussed the accessories-into-clothes fashion situation when I was in Milan. But unlike so many houses, Loewe does not look like a shadow of a heritage house. Andersen sent out plenty of bold coats appropriate to the brand in woven textiles, leather and fur. Accessories probably outsell clothes by ten to one. But that’s not the point. He set out to create a vision of the woman around, or dare I say “behind”, the bag. And he did it boldly and with panache.

Chalayan: A German Inspiration

The Chalayan spirit always leans towards the technical, even when it’s low-tech, such as the pastel lights that shone from clunky floor lamps to cast colourful shadows on the wall. But as the clothes became less evocative of car mechanics and more fanciful, with a spidery theme, it was clear that the single word ‘Teutonic’ printed on the programme was a message from the designer. “The whole thing was supposed to be about Germans — the entire region,” Said Chalayan, who defined the drawings as taken from a space-ship dashboard, embroidered “to give them charm”. Following the magpie mind of the designer is a challenge, but the complexity of his backstage statements do not apply to his clothes.

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Chalayan, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Chalayan, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Chalayan, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Chalayan, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Chalayan, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Chalayan, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Chalayan, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Chalayan, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Chalayan, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Chalayan, fall 2016 ready-to-wear


The designer’s workwear — simple, sporty clothes — occasionally moved towards workman’s dungarees. Chalayan pointed out that the entire Germanic area included not only mechanics but also the origin of fairy tales — hence his take on the winking lights of the Autobahn as a fairytale setting and the use red Swarowski crystals to glitter like road lights. I welcome Chalayan’s opening up of his thoughts and inspirations. Especially when he can turn his mind’s eye into such appealing clothes.

Rick Owens: Full-On Conceptual

Women with their heads cocooned in a fuzz of filaments and bodies wrapped in puffer coats represented a new stage in Rick Owens’ relationship with man (or woman) and nature. The models walked down the iron stairway to the depths of the Palais de Tokyo, which Owens has been using to give a dungeon-like effect in his recent collections. In this particular primeval area, Owens’ drapes, which dominated the show, seemed gentler and sweeter, particularly with his use of colours, where soft green or warm orange as well as muddy brown faced off the more familiar black and white. I saw this collection as an ode to nature. But in the show notes, his vision seemed darker and even apocalyptic.

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Rick Owens, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Rick Owens, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Rick Owens, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Rick Owens, fall 2016 ready-to-wear


The designer quoted Swans Reflecting Elephants, a painting by Salvador Dali, as part of his complex inspiration. Following through from his men’s collection, Rick had softened his approach, using abstract shapes folding around the body. Other complex thoughts described “floating flannels and mohair clouds”. The concepts seemed to get the better of the show — but there were some graceful drapes, gently cut coats and an overall elegance, give or take the odd fuzz of head-coverings.

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Rick Owens, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Rick Owens, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Rick Owens, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Rick Owens, fall 2016 ready-to-wear


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