PARIS — The fashion fetish for young people is the Gordian knot at its center: often the very generation most obsessed with it is the one who can least afford it.
The fixation has been attributed, in various ways, to the need for new ideas and/or to seduce future buyers, but on the penultimate day of the autumn season, in the vaulted entrance hall of the museum of Orsay, filled with 19th century marbles hosting their first fashion show, Nicolas Ghesquière of Louis Vuitton offered a different explanation.
Adolescence is, he writes in his show notes, a time of “inspiring idealism, hope for the future, for a better world”. A time when the tendency is to believe that you can actually fix what the generation before you screwed up (at least if you’re not overwhelmed by the gravity of the situation, which is the least romantic interpretation and perhaps be the most realistic). Still, it’s not a bad fantasy to recall right now.
Since taking over the management of Louis Vuitton’s women’s collections in 2013, Mr. Ghesquière has traveled through time: through centuries, eras and movements. Why not through the ages of man (and woman)? When things look really bleak, maybe the answer really is to seek out the teenager. Or the adolescent self.
Mr. Ghesquière therefore dipped into his memory box, remixing snippets of the recent past, changing the proportions, clashing with the motifs and playing with history in a complex game of dressing and allusion.
There were oversized suit jackets paired with lurex and brocade trousers and floral ties. Some shirts had heavy velvet sashes tied to their hems to create a peplum, fringed ends skimming the floor. Graphic embroidered tweed pinafores featured large square side pockets like saddlebags, or chiffon, layered over chunky floral jacquard sweatshirts with David Sims photos of young weeds and disused 90s, right in place of a cameo brooch. The photos were also sprinkled on giant dresses and polo shirts, like posters of an old bedroom gone rogue.
In the end, flowing embroidered dresses appeared under oversized striped rugby shirts or chunky knits. It was as if a child had dug a tunnel in the cupboards of its elders, thrown everything in the air and seen where it had landed. The combinations were sometimes clunky and often odd, but there was nothing vintage about them.
“Freedom is everything”, wrote Mr. Ghesquière, “without directive or impediment”.
Even if the results didn’t look so great, it would be hard to argue with that. You find your freedom where you can.
Or try. Giambattista Valli did so by navigating between the earthquake of 1960s and 1970s French youth and classical decorative arts, though his abbreviated mini-dresses in Aubusson prints, wide-angle flares and chiffon dresses seemed for most trapped – not in amber but in her favorite rose. tinted lens.
Sacai’s Chitose Abe did it via her signature hybrids, reinventing pieces normally associated with utilitarianism and protective coverage in couture shapes, so that tank tops and parachute skirts became graceful low-rise dresses. ; bubble balloons were fused with a trench yoke; bra tops woven in sheepskin to create an empire line; and bustiers born from overcoats. Less chaotic and more considered than they have sometimes been in the past, they still force you to check your assumptions.
And Stella McCartney did it in collaboration with 85-year-old artist Frank Stella. (Stella by Stella being, apparently, a bit of levity, none could resist.)
His work inspired his collection, displayed on the top floor of the Center Pompidou with all of Paris spread out below and a recording of President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 speech “A Strategy for Peace” at the American University in Washington playing as a prelude .
Designers have been borrowing from the art world since seeking the vote of young people, and while the obvious reference can often seem lazy or reductive, like the fashion version of a souvenir t-shirt, here it has proved inspiring and challenging for Ms. McCartney. to extend his own reflection on design.
Sometimes the relationship was literal – knitwear stitched together on Mr. Stella’s “V-series” of lithographs, his bright “Spectralia” blend reproduced on a pantsuit and jersey dress, the graphic diagonal stripes on chunky faux furs and pants suit a direct nod to his work. Sometimes it was more abstract, like in the structured lines of the shoulders, the puffy sleeves on the sliced silk blouses to (ahem) frame the arms, and the cool cotton denim jumpsuits, the kind worn by artists in the studios , treated to look like crushed velvet. But it always seemed easy.
The wisdom of age, and all that.