PARIS – The historic courtyards of the Ecole Militaire served as the grand stage for Dior’s men’s show on Friday, a spectacle that played out under the watchful eye of the Eiffel Tower.
A sweltering Parisian heatwave had guests like Game of Thrones star Gwendoline Christie using their metallic invitations as makeshift fans, and a futuristic, square plate-themed runway hinted at the show’s transformative intent.
As celebrities found their seats, the show began with an unusual flourish that stirred the audience. Square tops on the runway receded, with male models rising from the remaining square holes, a costly theatrical demonstration that even had the stoic Bernard Arnault, CEO of Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, reaching for his phone to film.
The event marked a milestone for British designer Kim Jones, celebrating his fifth year at the helm of Dior menswear. The collection displayed was decidedly bold, marrying traditionally feminine elements of Dior’s past with a modern men’s aesthetic, effectively capturing the gender-fluid ethos of Generation Z.
Here are highlights of Friday’s spring-summer collections:
DIOR’S SOFT SIDE
“Dior is a haute couture house,” Jones remarked. “It’s a culture we have inherited from womenswear past and applied to menswear present.” The show exhibited styles that championed a softer approach to masculinity. Dior handbags swung from male arms, leopard print skirt-shorts were presented unapologetically, and pink pastel tweed shorts offered a fresh interpretation of manhood.
The collection showcased an intricate blend of masculine and feminine, transmuting the high-end tailoring traditions of British menswear with haute couture fabrications, harking back to Dior’s womenswear roots. Notable elements included neon accents on loafers and tennis shirts, geometric Balkan motifs, and an array of bags in diverse shapes, colors and textures.
Jones’ collection also paid homage to his predecessors, with a “collage of influences” visible in the textural techniques and silhouettes. Drawing from Yves Saint Laurent to Gianfranco Ferré, Marc Bohan to Monsieur Dior himself, Jones created a mix of pop iconography and tradition, transforming the house's iconic flower women designs into “hommes fleurs” or “flower men.”
Stephen Jones, famed for his millinery, contributed with reinterpretations of new wave beanies that bore “ronghua,” exquisite velvet flowers of Chinese origin dating back to the Tang dynasty.
Dior's men’s show was a bold statement by Jones, highlighting the fluidity and interconnectedness of gender in fashion. His fifth-anniversary collection tackled society’s shifting perceptions of manhood head-on, but also served to push the boundaries, even as he mirrored them. For Jones, fashion should be a dialogue, seamlessly bridging the past, present and future. With his collections he has tried to steer the conversation toward a more expansive view of gender roles.
JUNYA WATANABE’S PUNK: A BOLD FUSION
At the center of Paris' high fashion orbit, acclaimed designer Junya Watanabe unveiled a fresh collection, paying a visceral homage to the anarchic ethos of punk culture. A disciple of Rei Kawakubo, Watanabe’s artistry has often drawn from the concept of “Monozukuri” - a Japanese philosophy of creating and innovating.
On Friday’s runway, punk aesthetics took center stage, marking a celebration of fashion deconstruction — and reconstruction. Distinct elements from disparate garments were meticulously cut up and restitched, yielding an audacious patchwork that pushed the envelope.
The show’s punk inspiration manifested in the form of gravity-defying hairstyles reminiscent of Edward Scissorhands, pairing flawlessly with the models’ imposing black boots, evoking the rebellious spirit of the punk rock era. Watanabe masterfully encapsulated the raw energy and DIY ethos of punk, crafting a narrative that boldly deconstructed sartorial norms and reassembled them with a new, rebellious syntax.
The highlight of the show, an awe-inspiring array of restitched suit panels, boldly refashioned into resembling armor, exemplified Watanabe’s punk-inspired vision. These fierce creations, suggestive of an aggressive critique of the capitalist executive, bridged the gap between streetwear rebellion and corporate veneer.
With this dramatic, punk-focused exploration of Monozukuri, Watanabe confirms his status as a trailblazer, seamlessly blending tradition with a robust, disruptive ethos.
CELEBRITY ALLURE MEETS ’90s NOSTALGIA AT AMI
Paris Fashion Week was set ablaze as Alexandre Mattiussi of AMI deftly underscored the entwined narratives of fashion and celebrity. Presenting a simplified, co-ed collection, Mattiussi reverted to fashion fundamentals, merging sophisticated tailoring with unexpected splashes of sequins.
Opening with Vincent Cassel’s nonchalant stride, the show paid homage to a more restrained era of fashion. The collection breathed ’90s nostalgia with tailoring in hues of warm gray, chic dusty green, and smudged beige. While the relaxed silhouette of menswear and sophistication of womenswear struck a nostalgic chord, Mattiussi laced the collection with sequined button-downs and slip skirts, an audacious nod to contemporary glamour.
Despite some design missteps, like overly high slits on apron skirts, the collection resonated with a relaxed confidence, striking a balance between luxury, contemporaneity, and French elegance. AMI’s essence — a return to the basics — was convincingly reflected in the minimalist yet luxurious showcase.
However, simplicity in design didn’t equate to a lack of star power. Celebrities including Manu Rios and Halle Bailey graced the front row, testament to the symbiotic relationship between fashion and celebrity culture. The show echoed the enduring truth: Paris Fashion Week is as much about the fashion as it is about the stars that wear it.
NIGO’S KENZO COLLECTION SHINES ON SEINE BRIDGE
On Friday night, the Kenzo show blossomed under the golden hour sun on a bridge overlooking the Seine. Adding to the pre-show glamour, Pharrell Williams arrived fashionably late, still aglow from his triumphant Louis Vuitton debut earlier in the week.
Designer Nigo, who took the reins at Kenzo in September 2021, continued his youthful revitalization of the brand — moving it away from the preppy styles that defined his previous showings. Renowned for merging American workwear with street style, Nigo infused the collection with his signatures while honoring Kenzo’s print-heavy legacy.
The unisex collection still saw subtle flashes of the preppy styles — in school-inspired pieces like large spectacles, hemmed suit lapels, and knee-high socks. But it was fused with audacious total look prints in bold reds and blues. Boxy men’s silhouettes made a statement with wide cropped pants and a wealth of denim, while playful touches such as oversized berets and gardening hats balanced the urban grit.
Suits, deliberately baggy, were paired with sneakers, ensuring the collection didn’t take itself too seriously. A palette of soft beiges and pastels brought a calming touch to the linen suits, subtly contrasting with the sunlit Parisian backdrop. Nigo also introduced a pop of color with bright red knee-high socks, provocatively juxtaposed with an unstructured charcoal dress emblazoned with the Kenzo logo.
Despite its sales potential, the collection remained slightly elusive, indicating Nigo’s continued effort to strike a balance between his unique vision and Kenzo’s long-standing reputation. His latest collection, however, reflected a more confident stride, adding another exciting chapter to Kenzo’s sartorial journey.
VIP guests later sipped champagne and drank Alain Ducasse cocktails on a rooftop at the nearby Musee du Quai Branly to celebrate Nigo's display.