Models on Ozempic, dazzling guys in sequins, superstars everywhere you turned: Look, it’s King James! Sheesh, there goes Rihanna! OMG, Beyoncé! Those screams you’re hearing? Fangirls losing their minds for Cha Eun-woo, the pretty singer from the K-pop boy group Astro.
The week just past was emphatically one of fashion as an S.E.O. experiment, test field for an ever-evolving global ecology, increasingly monocultural, of luxury goods. Yes, there were talented indies. There were great masters from outside the mainstream, most notably Rei Kawakubo. There were some seasoned and celebrated, although not sufficiently recognized, talents like Grace Wales Bonner. There were survivors like Kim Jones at Dior Homme and lots of gifted comers showing men’s and women’s wear and, well, everything in between.
Take, for example, Marine Serre, who served up her most commercial riff to date on upcycled yarn waste and deadstock, here rendered as armor for warriors of the urban night (as well as molls in trash drag.) Let’s hear a round of applause for an evening dress made from a granny afghan. Try rocking that one at the Met Gala, Lil Nas X.
Consider Rick Owens, showing in full doom-mode outdoors on the river-facing plaza of the Palais de Tokyo as if he had not seen a weather report. The predicted thunderstorms never arrived, and yet Mr. Owens showered guests anyway with drifts of gunpowder and wreaths of sulfurous fog from fireworks mounted on scaffolds and blasted into the Parisian sky.
The show was titled “Lido,” after Mr. Owens’s seaside getaway in Venice, yet it had more than a whiff of Burning Man. An observer would be hard-pressed to find clear connections between the soft littoral landscape of the Venetian lagoon and Mr. Owens’s sternly constricting offerings: peaked shoulders like the budding wings of dark angels; high-waisted trousers with long hems trailing like the uncoiled wraps of a mummy’s shroud; high-top versions of therapeutic leg braces and Brutalist “concrete sandals” — perhaps the thing for one terminal dip into the Adriatic.
There were also studies in cool elegance, as at Dries Van Noten. Like the celebrated geyser, this designer can be counted on to deliver, sometimes with bursts from the creative core, occasionally with desultory puffs. This occasion registered as something in between.
That is, he provided uncontroversial gabardine trousers worn under trench coat skirts, twin sets for men, knit velvets, mousseline shirts teasing flashes of nipple and, most notably, sequined shorts. We have seen versions of this before from other designers. Yet such is the fickleness of fashion that suddenly they seemed eminently wearable.
Part of that is the Paris effect. Next to Tokyo among great world capitals, this city has the greatest capacity to frame the outlandish. Against its backdrop the clusters of Rei Kawakubo devotees strolling along the fashion rialto that is the Rue St.-Honoré — in trousers with hoop-belled hems or deconstructed frock coats or other outlandish garb — seem like welcome legations from distant galaxies.
Janet Flanner, the brilliant Paris correspondent for The New Yorker, once remarked that Picasso, even as a genius, had more gifts than he could deploy. Possibly the same could be said of Ms. Kawakubo who, like Picasso in his 80s, shows little sign of slackening pace.
“In order to find a new world, we have to go beyond reality,” Ms. Kawakubo said in a gnomic note accompanying her Comme des Garçons collections. Of course, you could argue that the opposite is equally the case.