(L—R: Kenzo, Dior Homme, Kenzo, Dior Homme.)
2. Though probably a very confusing experience for its models, the spring/summer 2014 Kenzo menswear show was a fantastic spectacle. (Great clothes, too.)
Its location: L’Académie Fratellini, a famed circus school just north of Paris’s city center. After enjoying complimentary fresh fruit and vegetable juices — I picked a broccoli-flavored one, I think, because I have the worst luck — showgoers filed into an arena of sorts, with blocks of seating surrounding a central, circular runway space.
There was a special Kenzo-branded SIGG water bottle on each seat. (The aluminum ones outdoorsy people take on long walks and camping trips, not that fashion people do that sort of thing because hiking boots are ugly.) I know it’s considered gauche to take the freebies with you, but, goshdarnit, you can never have too many water bottles.
3. Like all the best theatrical productions, the show opened with curtains rising.
4. Four sets of wooden risers appeared behind heavy red velvet drapes, each featuring a tableau of ten male models.
It’s like a game of musical statues, but everyone wins!
5. Models then walked down two flights of wooden stairs to reach the stage — kind of like a Top Model runway challenge.
Except if this were Tyra’s world, the stairs would be greased with lard and Vaseline just for the lulz that come with model stumbles. (At Kenzo, no models fell.)
6. The forty looks showcased what Kenzo designers Carol Lim and Humberto Leon described as “a collision of city life with beach nonchalance.”
The show notes explain its a representation of their urban lifestyles juxtaposed with their Californian hometowns — a key starting point, design-wise, being “the subcultures and underground movements [of] the beach towns on the Pacific.”
7. Many of the strongest looks featured hand-drawn prints of waves and tidal strokes.
This is one of my favorites. I want it all.
8. However, things often got a bit frantic on the runway.
Models approached the circular catwalk space from all angles, walking around its edge before and/or after taking their walk down the center for the photographers. As you can see in the gif above, sometimes that meant models whizzing by infront of them while they walked. (It could have used a few traffic lights, really.)
9. Here’s models walking left, right and through the middle all at once.
For the audience, it’s exciting. But for the models, it could mean COLLISIONS or, you know, just getting confused and walking around in circles for a while until you catch one of the label’s PR team gesturing frantically at you to walk off nonchalantly. (This definitely seemed to happen a few times.)
Also, one poor model made the mistake of walking on the circular carpet, rather than around its edge like everyone else.
10. It also meant the spacing between models didn’t always stay consistent.
Good luck getting great shots of this second model here, pit photographers.
11. The show’s finale was a lot more tightly choreographed, though.
12. It’s a simple “walk around the edge, down the center and back around the edge” job.
Just the sort of barked instructions a nervous 17 year-old Estonian* wants to hear before his big finale moment, right?
*feel free to insert the Eastern European nationality of your choice here.
13. Here’s a closeup, so we can examine the panicked models’ expressions and fantastic brush-stroke printed pieces up close.
14. And with all their runway walking complete, the models stood around in an outward-facing circle for showgoers to take more up-close photos.
This happened at the Dries van Noten show earlier in the week also. It must be awkward for the models, but it’s a fantastic opportunity to further appreciate the clothes.
15. As before, their expressions ranged from “yeah, I get my photo taken a lot” nonchalance.
16. To slight “I’d much rather be sitting down backstage” discomfort.
17. And also, just maybe, to eerie, dark-shadowed “your card is marked, shutterbug” rage.
I still love those prints of the big waves though.
18. The set-up also allows ostentatious guests the opportunity to take selfies with the collection in the background.
But I think the less said about this madness the better.
19. Another challenging runway set-up came later that day courtesy of the Dior Homme show.
20. Models first walked a pristine white rectangular runway before navigating a hodge-podge maze of half-height mirrored walls.
A particularly cruel and unusual task, because seeing that many chiseled cheekbones reflected over and over is a distraction for even the most seasoned runway walker.
21. Amid the mirrors, one model becomes seven!
(There are also a lot of “severed” limbs floating about, which is less appealing.)
22. A fun bonus: the mirrors reflected the front row from the knees down.
And the guy on the left here is now most certainly wishing he’d saved the veritable capri pant/striped socks combination for another day. (And by another day, I mean NEVER.)
23. Also, Karl Lagerfeld sat front row but the staging probably meant nothing to him because he doesn’t have a reflection.
This would explain why he spent most of the show in conversation with the lady sat next to him.
25. Having stumbled through the runway’s central maze, each model stopped and posed amid the mirrors.
Geometric panels — slightly reminiscent of Mondrian’s work, just in pastel colors — reflected particularly well. As each new model added his look to the fractured mix, the overall collage improved further.
26. Of course, as each new model (and his reflections) entered the mix, it became more confusing for the next in line.
In model-speak: “dude, is that you or, like, not you?”
27. This poor model has had enough. He just wants to be able to walk in a straight line.
Instead he’s stuck in a kitschy hall of mirrors straight out of his Midwestern hometown’s county fair.
28. And if all that confusion wasn’t enough, some poor models also seemed to be getting lost underground on the Parisian Metro system.
Here’s a group of them, post-Dior, holding up a line of irritable French folk while trying to work the Metro ticket machines. To be fair, it’s not an easy job. (In fact, there’s probably more than a few models still riding the M7 line from one end to the other, crying quietly into the sleeve of a designer jacket they got in lieu of payment for shows worked.)
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