Balenciaga went to Springfield, Valentino went to town literally and Raf Simons went back to doing what he does best. Yet all three spent Paris Fashion Week interpreting the same variation of a theme: what constitutes ready-to-wear?

Valentino, Paris Fashion Week
Valentino’s direction for ready to wear. Image: Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

No average Joe would ever describe the clothes seen during a Paris runway show as off the rack, but by definition that’s what ready-to-wear stands for. What makes fashion so entertaining is, depending on which designer you speak to, exactly how people dress to leave the house can veer wildly.

Valentino’s vision for men is one that remains curiously close to their couture offering. In fact,  Pierpaolo Piccioli’s collection has already been described as casual couture, an accurate summation of Piccioli’s use of tailoring to reshape casual silhouettes. Jackets were given more volume in the body, but kept the narrowed lapels to create a juxtaposition of a relaxed fit and formal accent. 

Valentino, Paris Fashion Week
No more chaffing thank you Valentino. Image: Valentino.

In exciting news, shorts had inserts a la your favourite running kit bringing. No more chafing indeed, Mr Piccioli. Thanks for thinking about those of us with actual leg mass. 

Emerald green, chocolate and purple with a splash of neon made for a collection that definitely didn’t give in to standard casual tropes. Even with the introduction of Valentino denim, there’s nothing basic about the collection. Simple, yes. But even in simplicity we find the greatest luxury.

One item that is always a challenge to make interesting for menswear, however, has been the shirt. It’s such a core staple of the wardrobe that like a T-shirt, there’s only so many ways it can be touched on without losing its purity. One of the benefits of a combined show is that details usually assigned to womenswear – more volume, looser fits that inform softer wearability and colour – are easier applied to the men’s universe. Thus the shirt at Valentino became an item of its own accord around which other garments orbit. Deliberately large, exaggerated in fit and worn layered, it’s a fun break from our usual cut and paste offerings.

Raf Simons, Paris Fashion Week
Raf Simons revisits Gordon Gekko’s wardrobe. Image: Peter White/Getty

It’s also a signature motif of Raf Simons, who made use of this in his own collection. The striped shirt of Wall Street traders has been transformed into a more decorative adornment. 

Simons has always veered towards the androgynous but the Belgian’s recent collection has removed nearly all distinctions whatsoever. But will we be seeing more men wear skirts? We already have to be honest, but it’s far from being mainstream.

Aside from that, Simons still has a sense of streetwear that’s both practical and accessible. The nearly all-black line-up of shorts and coats were emblazoned with graphic detail that looked suspiciously close to the old rave posters I collected back in the early ‘00s.

Raf Simons, Paris Fashion Week
Anyone else feeling 1999? Image: Peter White/Getty.

As to whether loose threads on the hems of shirts and shorts were deliberate can be debated at another time but the frayed edges and worn-in vibe also made its way to Balenciaga.

Balenciaga. Demna Gvasalia clearly knows how to make clothes and make a memorable show at the same time. Collaborating with The Simpsons to create a 10 minute mini episode, both the choice of animation and direction of the collection brought back the late ‘90s with a vengeance.

Balenciaga, Paris Fashion Week
Ready wear ready to go at Balenciaga Image: Balenciaga.

Of all the shows, Gvasalia’s Balenciaga was the one that took ready-to-wear to its most guttural. It was also the most removed with its abstract silhouette so similar to the recently revealed couture line you could line ‘em up and few would tell them apart.

Balenciaga, Paris Fashion Week
Got them good shoulders. Image: Balenciaga

If you pumped a suit with steroids to emphasise those details that make it a suit you can imagine what Gvasalia’s doing with Balenciaga. If it was a relaxed fit, it went monstrous. If it was fitted, it was skin tight and figure revealing. No in-between and no room for the “usual”. 

Fashion for the Georgian remains a tongue in cheek exercise that pokes fun at convention – the perfect match for The Simpsons’ reign of irreverence.

thoughts?