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Spirit of Virgil Abloh lives on

Models wear creations as part of Issey Miyake Homme Plisse men's Spring Summer 2023 collection presented in Paris, France, Thursday, June 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

PARIS (AP) — He may have died last November, but Virgil Abloh lived on at Paris Fashion Week Thursday in a high-energy runway spectacular for Louis Vuitton menswear. A Black marching band gave a rousing performance on a surreal yellow brick road installation inside the Louvre, while rapper Kendrick Lamar performed a live ode to the American fashion star who was Vuitton’s menswear designer from 2018 until his death.

Here are some highlights of the spring-summer 2023 shows in Paris:

The Abloh marching band

“Long live Virgil … How many miles away?” went the live rap by Lamar at the stiflingly hot Vuitton show. The yellow road set that snaked around the Louvre’s oldest courtyard recalled the spirit of the “Wizard of Oz” and the childhood obsessions common in Abloh’s designs — as did a colorfully-dressed marching band and dancing troupe, including several Florida A&M University band members, that appeared noisily at the show’s beginning and end.

This spring-summer show was the first presented since Abloh’s death that he had not designed (a previous posthumous one was based on his own creations). It was instead a collection conceived entirely by the Vuitton studio in his spirit. This rare continuation at Vuitton of a former designer’s aesthetic is a strong sign of the level of influence the man drew.

Stars such as Omar Sy, Jessica Biel, Justin Timberlake, Joel Edgerton and Naomi Campbell further attested to the pull of his legacy.

Vuitton’s studio show

It’s a remarkable feat for a studio to emulate a former designer’s styles — with originality.

This was the case at the display: From shirt hems quirkily cut in zigzag patterns, to 3-D paper plane appliques on suits and otherworldly, elongated silhouettes.

A finely tailored jacket with trompe l’oeil prints provided one of the many touches of old-school luxury. Such moments in this collection seemed even to surpass Abloh’s own runway designs.

They toed a careful line between the playful styles associated with the house since 2018 and the fine luxury tailoring seen during the tenure of predecessor Kim Jones.

The display’s strength was owed to its many feats of design. One case in point was the waist on a black double-breasted jacket that had been pulled in to resemble a V on its side. Its very silhouette evoked the house monogram.

Louis Vuitton’s design studio just bucked the trend of too many cooks spoiling the broth.

Dior’s flower power

For spring, designer Kim Jones recreated the painter’s universe by not just evoking his masterpieces, but by creating the actual garments he wore while working — such as his straw gardening hat reimagined as a pergola fused on baseball cap, fashioned by Stephen Jones the milliner. Grant’s signature suits were also a key theme, yet reinvented in Jones’ style with clever fashion forward twists.

Myriad references riffed on the 1930s — the artist’s heyday. Two sleeves were used in the place of a retro sash on a loose vanilla double-breasted suit. They hung down in the middle abstractly, poking out underneath the jacket. Elsewhere tailored shorts sported turned-down waistbands in the slightly clunkier styles of that time between the two wars.

Wooly socks and gardening shoes were a fun nod to the painter, who spent much of his time outdoors, yet also a nod to Jones himself, a designer for whom humor is never far away. The palette of the collection was, fittingly, garden and pond inspired with greens and blues as well as pastels.

Givenchy makes

a shallow splash

For the first major collection of Paris Fashion Week’s menswear season, Givenchy’s models walked on water.

A giant font filled with milky-white water and frothing mist in the courtyard of the Ecole Militaire served as a fluid runway where models, often bare-chested and in waterproof footwear, stomped and splashed toward a blinding set light.

Matthew M. Williams clearly wanted to make a splash in his first standalone menswear show since being appointed in 2020. But did the American designer dive deep enough?

This was the high-fashion Givenchy of Audrey Hepburn in name only. Williams’ vision is urban, sports-infused and pared down.

The American designer, the former collaborator of Lady Gaga and Kanye West, brought his streetwear vibe again to the haute Paris runway. The muse this season was the style of Jamaican Reggae singer Alkaline, who worked on the show soundtrack.

These looks were defined by long and loose silhouettes, frayed hems, thick chains and fearsome facemasks.

Observations from Williams’ past produced many of the looks. The bomber jackets with laser-cut house logos that opened the show were inspired by those the designer used to admire in Harlem, New York. Elsewhere, the street styles of California mixed with preppy styles, such as torn tailored pants.

Williams said of his collection backstage that “everything is grounded in reality. I could see the guy in each look existing on the street — for me that’s a really modern approach.”

But at times this everyday vibe let the collection down. For instance, one simple pink sweat suit, worn open on a bare chest with gold chain, did not quite feel developed enough an idea for the high fashion runway.

Still, the tailoring was strong throughout — as expected for the house — for instance in one broad, ’80s black tailored coat that cut a fine shape.

Dior’s cruise spa

Marking haute couture week, Dior is reviving a floating 19th century spa that existed on an elegant barge at the Pont-Neuf bridge.

The spa, which was called Bains de la Samaritaine, was reputed to be Western Europe’s most luxurious at the time and the mother of modern luxury spas.

This season, Dior is teaming up with Cheval Blanc Paris to create its own vision of the cruising spa, with a capacity for five passengers in four suites for a two-hour journey across the Seine River. It will run between June 29 and July 13.

The boat’s decor comprises rattan furniture and parasols in blue toile de jouy, an Dior pattern reinterpreted by current designer Maria Grazia Chiuri.

Kenzo’s back

in the groove

Set in a college hall and with a pervading 70s, preppy vibe, Nigo channeled the dazzling colors and mix-and-match cultural fusion that became synonymous with the house’s origins.

Hanging from the roof were flags reading “Kenzo 1970.” For students of fashion, a reference not lost: This date was not only the year Takada presented his first fashion show in the Galerie Vivienne in Paris in front of his new shop, Jungle Jap, but it was also the year of Nigo’s birth.

Funky scarves, a take on Boy Scout styles, morphed into colored lapels on suits that riffed on uniform.

A bright yellow patch-loaded waistcoat had an African vibrancy and mixed with Breton striped scarves, nautical themes and Asian cross-over styles in jackets. It created a dynamic cultural melting pot.

But it was the quirkiness and humor that defined spring-summer in this strong show — thick woolen socks on canary yellow flip flops, crimson flower appliques and multicolored bowler hats.

Nigo, 51, is only the second Asian designer at the head of a European high fashion label, alongside Bally’s Filipino-American Rhuigi Villaseñor. His appointment continues to represent a milestone as the luxury industry wrestles more broadly with questions over racism and diversity.

Celine’s razzmatazz

Screaming and crying fans thronged both sides of Paris’ Palais de Tokyo noisily ahead of Celine’s show. Yet they had not turned out for designer Hedi Slimane’s fashions, but for glimpse of one the world’s most adulated popstars: Kim Taehyung, aka V from BTS, the multimillion disc selling South Korean boy band.

Inside the venue, proceedings around the spring-summer collection staging were marginally calmer. Guests swigged on “CELINE” branded mini champagne bottles, as large abstract mirrors descended on cords from the ceiling reflecting light in all directions to funky rock music.

Adolescent models with shaggy hair stomped grumpily past, in the designer’s signature style, showcasing his early 70s styles that were on high the shimmer and riffed on LA rock.

Winklepickers and blue drainpipe jeans were capped with fringed black leather coats and shades — in the Franco-Tunisian’s designer’s tried-and-tested styles. Black, gently flared pants were used as a backdrop for statement fringed coats and jackets. One came in dazzling gold sequins.

Yet despite the razzmatazz, there was little new here in the designer’s repertoire. For Slimane, who shopped a similar aesthetic at Saint Laurent with panache, it is a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Thom Browne’s

infinite variations

It was a performative runway occasion for suit-loving Thom Browne, as VIPs including Farida Khelfa — dressed head to toe in the designer’s garb — arrived theatrically to take their seats after the show had apparently begun. Guests were in stitches laughing at what seemed to be intentional choreography.

A strange retro voiceover then signaled the “real” show would commence — as a male model with giant, spiky punk hair strutted out in an ecru tailored jacket, tie and shorts.

Pastel gray tweeds in contrasting patterns – and with multitudinous layers that were completely unfit for the spring-summer season – followed. They were worn by a model with a decorative anchor covering his face holding a hound-shaped bag, and a “35” sign in the tradition of old-school couture, which featured numbered looks.

Stripy socks, tailored shorts, tweed skirts, black briefcases and patterned pastel suits in checks and stripes created what seemed like infinite variations on the same theme.

AMI

French designer Alexandre Mattiussi continued his penchant for using A-list French actresses as model-muses in his co-ed show, which riffed on the ’80s.

This spring season, the burst of celebrity pizazz came from “Amelie” and “Da Vinci Code” star Audrey Tautou, who opened proceedings in a fresh oversize ecru trench and hot cropped white jeans.

The rest of the show was defined by the usual AMI fare of saleable looks, like in oversize ’80s suit jackets and knee high stripper boots.

Checks — argyle, gingham tartan styles — mixed with stripes — Breton, pin and sporty — to produce a mild twist on Mattiussi’s bread-and butter styles.

While, plus size models were a welcome addition on the Paris runway, and added a sense of inclusivity.

Bianca Saunders puts on second Paris show

One of only a handful of women designers in menswear, Andam Prize-winning British designer Bianca Saunders was in a confident mood in a deft sophomore show that channeled her native London.

Saunders, who has Caribbean roots, quickly came to fame after graduating from Central Saint Martin’s a few years ago. Minimalism was at the heart of this display.

Oversize quirky details such as collars and pockets morphed creatively into artistic form, sometimes on looks that verged on the space-age. One silver glam rock suit with sanitized elasticated pumps evoked the pandemic.

Elsewhere, medieval peasant-like woolen undergarments, that felt quite Vivienne Westwood, was typical of her seemingly effortless trendy touch.

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