If the world around you changed suddenly and drastically — the result of, say, an environmental catastrophe, a zombie apocalypse or an itchy finger on the nuclear button — and it was every man and woman for themselves, what would you need from the clothes on your back? And what would your wardrobe look like?
Three days into Paris Fashion Week, with the coronavirus spreading worldwide, a spooked U.S. stock market on a roller-coaster ride and supersize bottles of hand sanitizer popping up at runway venues around town, asking those questions felt less like an academic exercise and more like smart planning. (We’re waiting for the inevitable Instagram influencer front-row surgical-mask selfie to become a thing, and we’re pretty sure it’ll happen before the week is out.)
The good news is — you were ready for some good news, weren’t you? — there have already been a couple of collections to cross the catwalks here with fashionable and functional options for all your fall and winter 2020 dystopian dressing needs. Those would be Marine Serre and Kenzo.
For starters, it’s important to stress the fact that neither label’s offerings explicitly or implicitly referenced the panic-inducing global events of the last several weeks. (Further, if designed on a traditional timetable, both collections would have been all but completed by the time the current global crisis was on the horizon.)
The fall and winter 2020 Marine Serre “Mind Melange Motor” collection, which used Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi novel “Dune” as an inspirational starting point, tackled the subject most directly. (The post-show notes are peppered with quotes from the “Dune” trilogy, including the ominous-sounding, “Survival is the ability to swim in strange water,” and, “The moons will be your friends, the sun your enemy.”)
There were jackets, dresses, skirts and face-obscuring balaclavas that appeared to be patchworked from odds and ends of Fair Isle sweaters, striped woven blankets and cast-off carpet remnants (some trimmed with fringe — a leftover trendlet from New York Fashion Week that appears to be out in full force here).
Voluminous quilted or knit hoods provided insulation from inclement weather, while lighter caps with sun flaps trailing out behind added a desert vibe to the mix, which was heightened further by a range of faded, sanded yellow denim pieces. Future-retro accessories included water-bottle holders, utility-belt bags and orb-like purses.
Standout looks included a black quilted ball-skirt paired with a gray, form-fitting turtleneck, a handful of sharp-looking houndstooth-check pattern-blocked pieces (referred to in the notes as “business armor,” which perfectly sums up how impenetrable the suits, skirts and dresses looked) and a few cornea-blasting all-fuchsia looks.
Kenzo’s debut collection with designer Felipe Oliveira Baptista, formerly of Lacoste, at the creative helm arrived in the same dystopian stretch of the wardrobe by heading off in a much different direction — or directions, to be more precise.
Inspired by his own childhood in the Azores, his newlywed parents’ skydiving adventures in Mozambique as well as house founder Kenzo Takada’s career-starting travels from Japan to France, the “Going Places” collection was chock-full of double-duty pieces for the stylish nomad.
In Baptista’s hands, down jackets transformed into sleeping bags. Cocoon-like dresses were crisscrossed with armor-like zippers. Belts bristled with utility pockets, and voluminous trousers sported cargo pockets. Heavy jackets buckled and strapped at the neck as if to ward off cold weather, while caps trailed extra-long flaps behind them to shield the wearer from the rays of the beating sun.
Although grounded in muted shades of gray, brown and black, pops of color found their way into the mix by way of tiger-head “painting-dresses” (the work of Portuguese neorealist painter Júlio Pomar, according to the show notes) and a floral camouflage that upon closer examination turned out to be a trompe l’oeil rose print. Perfect for military maneuvers in the neighbor’s English garden, no?
Even the transparent tubular structure that housed the show (if you can imagine a Habitrail but filled with fashion-show folk instead of hamsters, you’re halfway there) keyed into the nomadic theme. It was designed to be taken down, transported and reused again and again in a variety of configurations and locations.
Which means there’s a pretty good chance that, even if the bleak dystopian future does come to pass, there will be at least one Paris Fashion Week runway venue that can be pulled out of cold storage.