After a Fashion

Guest reporter (and Blackmail owner) Gail Chovan brings news of the bountiful Mens Fashion Week in Paris.

REPORTER ON THE RUN International fashion icon and owner of Blackmail (2040 S. Lamar), Gail Chovan, gives us this report on Mens Fashion Week in Paris:

50 FASHION SHOWS in three and a half days? I knew I must be in a fashion galaxy far, far away from Austin -- and these were only the menswear shows! Seeing all of them was impossible (some scheduled at the same time as others across town), so my able-bodied assistant (aka, husband, Evan) and I chose carefully. Yohji Yamamoto is a fashion god in my book and his show showed it. Surrounded by the likes of Azzedine Alaia, Suzy Menkes, Tom Ford, and Philippe Starck, we entered his concrete showroom and waited for almost an hour for the show to begin. The austerity of the environment coupled with Yohji's deliberate lack of musical accompaniment made for a dramatic show. The fragile young men with hair brushing their collars walked only to the sounds of clicking cameras. Yohji revisited the gangster look with large double-breasted jackets in gray herringbone … think Jimmy Cagney with an exaggerated newsboy cap. The mandarin orange frock coats with rows of silver buttons were a great surprise. My favorite pieces were suits cut from Irish cable-knit sweaters. But alas, the beautiful clothes are a moot point living here in temperate Austin!

Jose Levy of Paris has, up until this season, been applying his skills to the equestrian-like styling from the house of Holland & Holland. Red posters emblazoned with anchors directed us to a large tent. We waited a good 45 minutes in the gray, damp Parisian winter. Levy's show, titled The Russian Red Navy, began with the sounds of a creaking ship and water splashing up against the sides of a boat, a lone Michael Nyman-esque accordion heaved a distant sea chantey. Out of all the shows we saw, this one had the most desirable sportswear look for the Austin men's market: Ankle-high pants with rope belts paired with sweater pullovers in ecru, black, and varying shades of reds and orange.

My favorite all-around show was that of Dirk Schonberger, a Belgian designer from Antwerp. I am a huge fan of Belgian design, so my expectations were high. An elegant gallery on the Place des Vosges was the setting and the hipster crowd was filled with Japanese buyers, English-speaking journalists, and men in skirts. The models entered through a courtyard with their arrival projected on a large screen suspended on the runway in the L-shaped room. Black, blacker, and blackest -- my kind of show -- was not only on the color palette, but also in the innovation of cut and construction. Imagine well-tailored suit jackets worn over the shoulders like a cape and held on with a large band, buttoned across the chest. Notable details: 1940s wide-legged, pleated pants in pajama-striped fabric, leather turtlenecks, and high-collared coats accompanied by the must-have accessory, the Man Purse! I was in heaven; Evan was dubious.

We slept late and missed a lot, but finished our French fashion foray with a show by Sebastien Meunier. The show was postponed from its original slot two days earlier; Meunier probably hadn't finished sewing his collection. And unfinished it seemed! I don't know about the other fashionistas, but pubescent barefoot boys in appliqued tuxedo shirts paired with nylon athletic shorts or Star Trek-inspired leotards and jockstraps were not exactly what I want to see men wearing next winter … I have seen some amazingly creative work by Meunier in the past, but this collection seemed weak and confusing at best. The strong point was definitely the music. Frederic Sanchez is the premier DJ for the Paris shows, and his background compilation of squeaking athletic shoes and sounds from a basketball practice leading into an electronic mix of the Smiths was definitely worth the hour wait for the 15-minute fashion show.

So, what will the well-dressed Austin man be wearing next winter? One can only hope and pray that they'll lose the Dockers and running shoes -- we have to start somewhere, don't we fellas? But, this is Austin, and until then, spring is in the air, so, it's back to tacky khaki and those sandals that begin with the letter B … I can't even utter the name...

-- "After a Fashion" field correspondent, Gail Chovan

SALE AWAY The Designers' Guild of Austin is presenting its Fabric & Sample Sale, Sunday, Feb. 25, at IDoL Gallery, 2026 S. Lamar, 12-5pm. Fab buys galore!

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Blackmail, Gail Chovan, Mens Fashion Week in Paris, Yohji Yamamoto, Azzedine Alaia, Suzy Menkes, Tom Ford, Philippe Starck, Jimmy Cagney, Jose Levy, Holland & Holland, The Russian Red Navy, Michael Nyman, Dirk Schonberger, Man Purse, Sebastien Meunier, Frederic Sanchez, D

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