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Mise en Scène

Fashion News
For his Spring 2016 collection, Tom Ford eschewed the runway in favor of an online video starring Lady Gaga.

By: Lynn Yaeger

Late one evening during the Fall 2015 collections, when every sensible editor and retailer had high-tailed it back to his or her Paris hotel room and ordered room service, the wilder and crazier members of the fashion flock headed straight to Le Dépot, a bar in the Marais, for the much buzzed-about, off-the-official-calendar Vetements show. The clothes were transgender, transgressive takes on classic bikers and trenches. The models, men and women, slim and not-so, were cast from a hipster café, not an agency. And the head designer, Demna Gvasalia, wouldn’t even take full credit, saying the collection was the work of his entire posse.

But lest you think this Gvasalia is some kind of renegade beatnik, thumbing his nose at the fashion establishment—that is only part of the story. Shortly after his next Vetements show—in Le Président, a glitzy, over-the-top Chinese restaurant in Belleville—Gvasalia was announced as the new creative director for Balenciaga.

Gay bars and Chinese restaurants might seem like nutty places for high-end fashion shows, but they are merely two examples of a great wave that is crashing over the industry—a compulsion to respond to the crazy pace of information by showing clothes in new and unorthodox ways. But maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. This is an era when livestreams of major fashion events abound, when every show can be viewed instantly by any one who has the merest interest in the subject, when you can start your own blog and appoint yourself critic, or open an Instagram account and show your style to the world. Can you blame fashion houses for trying to capture our attention in ever more ambitious ways?

Some younger designers seem to be questioning whether they need to stage a runway show at all. Thomas Tait, the 28-year-old who won the prestigious LVMH Prize in 2014 (and once presented a show in almost total darkness), decided to dump his London catwalk for Fall ‘16 in favor of showroom appointments. The New York designer Misha Nonoo has offered what she called an “Insta-Show” via Instagram. To celebrate his collaboration with H&M, Balmain bad-boy Olivier Rousteing, an Instagram star in his own right, created an insane extravaganza in an empty bank building on Wall Street, a mob scene that included a shopping event so you could buy the stuff five minutes after you saw it on the runway (not to mention a concert from the Backstreet Boys).

But it isn’t only the kids who are having fun with this. The venerable Tom Ford eschewed a show for Spring 2016 in favor of an online video shot by Nick Knight and starring Lady Gaga. Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy took over a Hudson River pier for his Spring 2016 collection, working with Marina Abramović, who supplied tableaus that included a woman getting soaking wet—and even invited members of the public to view the proceedings, which were conceived as an homage to 9/11. And in Paris, Rick Owens presented a strange show in which some models carried other models on their backs, a sort of human-as-rucksack conceit whose message was meant to illustrate how women support each other. (Many in the audience found this moving, though I couldn’t help but feel for the ladies whose heads were swinging upside down for the length of the runway.)

And then there are those designers for whom a fashion show is merely an excuse to ferry their fans to far-flung locales. Louis Vuitton took over Bob Hope’s estate in Palm Springs; Dior invited the gang to the Principality of Monaco. And Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, perhaps the granddad of the kooky runway experience, has, in his long history with the house, mounted spectaculars in the Austrian Alps and the Scottish Highlands, and once schlepped an iceberg from Sweden all the way to the Grand Palais in Paris. This May, Karl will bring his chic camp to Havana, which makes you wonder: When Fidel said, “Sorry, I’m still a dialectical materialist,” could he have ever envisioned a collarless jacket made of tweedy material and emblazoned with shiny double C’s parading around in his beloved city?

 

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