Paris menswear exhibitions end on highbrow note with avant-garde styles

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By Joelle Diderich

PARIS – The Paris menswear shows ended on a highbrow note Sunday with displays by Dior Homme, Lanvin and Paul Smith that showcased avant-garde fabrics and cuts.

Luxury conglomerate LVMH staged its Dior Homme show in a tent on the grounds of Les Invalides, a closely guarded complex that is the burial site of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Belgian designer Kris Van Assche, in his second season at the house, showed Renaissance-inspired outfits to the strains of a live string band.

Fellow designer John Galliano, who sat in the front row, had chosen a similar theme for his collection earlier this week. But Van Assche opted for sober minimalism, in stark contrast to Galliano’s gory excess.

A quilted biker blouson in changing red taffeta and skintight black pants were a modern take on the Renaissance uniform of doublet and tights. A black polo-neck sweater pieced together from vertical strips was fit for a prince.

Black butterflies were dusted on an evening jacket or pinned to white shirts like bow ties. Skinny jackets stayed true to the aesthetic pioneered by influential designer Hedi Slimane, who left the label last year.

Dior chairman and CEO Sidney Toledano declined to comment on media reports that LVMH was in talks with Slimane about launching his own brand. He praised Van Assche and said his first collection, now in stores, was doing well.

“We registered exceptional Christmas sales for menswear, and January has taken off extremely well,” Toledano told reporters.

French label Lanvin bucked this season’s trend for deep textures, compressing natural fibers and synthetics into paper-thin hybrids.

Crisp raincoats and shiny blazers came in smooth cotton-polyester blends or neoprene-like sponge, in stark contrast to the fuzzy mohair and nubby wool seen elsewhere.

The outfits stayed true to Lanvin’s reputation for understated elegance, but moved away from the distressed fabrics of previous seasons toward a more boxy silhouette.

Most of the suits at Paul Smith looked like they had just dropped from a battered trunk, but that just added to their raffish charm.

Models paraded in crinkled gray morning coats, creased jackets in hunting check tweeds and military greatcoats in lightweight blanket wool. The British designer said the outfits were a tribute to the freewheeling ’60s.