2. One of the first things you see upon arriving at the Dries van Noten menswear show in Paris is a long buffet table covered in glasses of complimentary wine.
And this is guaranteed to improve the mood of even the tiredest showgoers. I’m not saying you need to be tipsy to enjoy fashion shows — many can make you feel like you’re drunk/tripping sans alcohol or hallucinogens. But I am saying a little swig can help on occasion, especially if said occasion comes after getting quite lost on the Parisian Metro and then having to power walk to an obtuse venue (a process which leaves you with a not-at-all-chic sweaty browline). At this very conscientious Dries show, there was also a team of model-worthy waiters — wearing those zip-up navy overalls you most associate with mechanics — tasked with bringing small plastic cups filled with vin blanc or rouge to the audience, even those sat back in the third row. (That’s me, knocking back three.)
Taking place inside a cavernous, post-industrial warehouse space within the Halle Freyssinet, the show ran a little late — this is Europe, after all — but that’s fine, because it allowed for a more leisurely wine-tasting experience. It also allowed time for those breezy, nonsensical networking opportunities fashion people yearn for. Here’s a snippet overheard from some people standing behind me:
Person No. 1, who is wearing a mohair frock coat despite the Parisian heat: “I just wanted to say hi, because I’m a good friend of Marcello.”
Person No. 2, who has neck tattoos: “Oh, hi.”
(conversation continues aimlessly for a few minutes or so, full of after-party-themed humblebragging.)
Person No. 1: “So do you know Marcello?
Person No. 2: “No, not really.”
I wanted to hear more, because, gosh, things were just getting awkward, but then the show started and an appropriately reverential hush fell throughout the warehouse.
3. Jazz musician Cindy Blackman walked (and she has a good runway strut) to a drum kit positioned in the middle of the runway. It was quite the entrance.
If you’re guessing the number of showgoers who’d posed with it preshow and pretended to bang the cymbals, your number is (almost certainly) too low.
Blackman started to drum out a beat — a very slow one to begin with, one that gave the first few male models walking a handy rhythm to pace themselves with. Her drumming pace increased as the show continued, though, because she’s tricky like that.
4. To Blackman’s beat, the show featured silky loose separates with crisp, digital floral prints.
5. They looked like illustrations from only the finest old botany textbooks.
Textbooks far far older than the models wearing their pages.
6. Muted Oriental prints popped up frequently, paired with plainer pieces for a sense of slouchy, understated refinement.
7. Although sometimes the prints played off each other just as well.
8. Short shorts are in next spring, says Dries.
9. Definitely in — even if this model is cheating a little bit and yanking the hems up a bit with his hands in the pockets like that.
10. Skinny sweatpant-esque pants with a drawstring waist are also now fair game.
11. And, of course, there were more strange mandals.
12. After the models finished their long runway walk up and back down along the audience’s tiered benches, they walked over to a long, shiny screen made of Mylar (or something similar) and posed there like statues.
13. This was fun — the line grew as the show continued.
14. Grew and grew and grew.
15. Although one poor model missed his mark and stood too far from the guy next to him.
This meant the last few models all had to squish up a bit to fit in front of the backdrop, and ruined the otherwise perfect symmetry. The male model responsible for this was probably killed backstage — or at least had his skateboard taken away.
16. And even when all the models had walked, Blackman was still banging away on her drum kit. The show wasn’t over.
A few of the label’s PR folk began motioning showgoers over toward the models, rather than just shooing them out of the venue as is custom at most shows. Everyone in attendance was allowed to get up close and reasonably personal with the models.
17. This was a great opportunity to appreciate… the clothes.
18. Like this: Here’s more appreciation of… the clothes.
19. And a little bit more still. The prints are just that good.
20. Despite bouts of touchy-feely fawning masked as “Oh, I’m just examining the fabric,” the brave models’ expressions rarely broke from their stoic blankess.
21. Dark sunglasses probably help a lot with that, though.
22. Because this model is wishing he’d just stayed in Estonia/rural Brazil/Kansas and never bothered with the whole modeling business* period.
*I do not know if this is true, or not. But I can recognize a nervy, defensive stance when I see one.
23. It didn’t take long for the photo opportunity to get kind of wild.
24. Phones, cameras, even just hungry eyes — crowds swarmed for the best view (and the best details shot for their style blog, in most instances).
25. It became difficult to take a photo without another would-be photog popping up in frame.
26. And while everyone jostled away, bumping their man bags into each other for the money shot, their flashes flashing, that billowing Mylar backdrop flared and glared aggressively.
Like it was finding the experience as stressful as the models, basically.
27. Reflected in it: shadowy, distorted visions of crowd staring back at us all.
Suddenly, the whole scene is a bit meta, and a little bit menacing.
28. It’s a sharp commentary on the culture of snapping everything for posterity/Instagram’s sake without really seeing it.
Fashion designers do like to have a biting subtext like that in their collections, you see.
29. Or maybe it’s just a pretty drape and that’s all there is to it.
30. There wasn’t enough time to ponder either theory properly though.
Because the second — the very second — Cindy Blackman’s drum session finished, the models were done. And off they strutted, back somewhere where they didn’t have to look at the regular folks looking through them. They had definitely had enough, even if most attendees weren’t finished with them.