Maximalism Gets Its Revenge at Paris Fashion Week

It was, perhaps, inevitable. “Succession,” the compulsively watchable, moment-defining HBO series about a venal family of billionaires duking it out in the C-suite, came to an end. Rupert Murdoch, the real-life media billionaire who provided some of the inspiration for the show, has officially retired and handed his crown to his son Lachlan. The Loro Piana baseball hat that became a de facto symbol of the fortunes that exist in the shadows gave way, in Milan, to Loro Piana bucket hats. Even sun hats!

And in Paris, it seems, a whole group of designers have had quite enough of the stealth wealth movement. Maximalism is staging its revolt.

Well, this is the city that made a home for Netflix’s Emily, with all her over-the-top absurdity. Where else would it happen?

“I know that everybody right now is about quiet luxury, which is obviously an important topic,” Olivier Rousteing of Balmain said backstage before a show that was effectively an explosion of roses in polka dots, patent leather, latex and jewels.

“But I think what people should be about today is the strength of identity. I don’t want to try to play a minimalism designer, because I’m not. I’m French. And you know, you can love Pompidou. But you can love Versailles.”

The point being: There is room for both fans of the inside-outside modern museum and of the ornate palace. That life is richer for having both. Hence the exaggerated clichés of feminine wiles built into the padded hips and corsetry of his collection, the blooms.

“There is that thing in fashion where happiness is not the right word, because everybody feels like you’re so superficial,” Mr. Rousteing said, tossing his new long braids (maximal hair). “But what is wrong about being happy? What is wrong with wanting to spread joy?” Fair question.

“Joy” is suddenly a popular word, like a clarion call of rebellion against settling for the basics. That’s not so unexpected coming from Mr. Rousteing, who has often seen himself as an underdog thanks to his age when he was appointed creative director of Balmain (he was in his 20s), race, birthright and pre-trend penchant for the 1980s.

But there was Francesco Risso, too, bringing his traveling Marni show to Paris after stops in New York and Tokyo — and not just to Paris, but to the most Parisian fashion site of all: Karl Lagerfeld’s former mansion, an 18th-century hôtel particulier in the Seventh Arrondissement in all its baroque, gilded glory, with its own private garden — the better to showcase Mr. Risso’s own gleefully bizarro version of the baroque. Because, he said, “I kept thinking about this idea of joy.” Work is hard, he went on. It takes commitment. Why not make clothes that can be “a celebration, like an act of rebellion toward that feeling?” Too much restraint can be as draining as too little.

So basic crop tops and hipster jeans in muddy colors soon gave way to riots of mishmash stripes and plaids (the kind that look vintage, but then turn out to have been painstakingly pieced together, strip by strip), which in turn gave way to Marie Antoinette volumes covered in a floral storm of botanical decoupage. Some pieces even sprouted three-dimensional metal flowers made from upcycled cans, en tremblant.

In one of those weird but pointed designer mind-melds that sometimes happen, Mr. Rousteing also made some of the iridescent faux corsages at Balmain out of recycled plastic. Fun. Maximalism is often associated with heaviness (overload and all that), but this version feels light.

The fabrication of the flowers is not, as it happens, a minor detail in explaining part of the appeal of the alternate muchness, or the return to muchness, or whatever you want to call it.

They represented, said Mr. Risso, “the most intricate celebration of the hand, the ecstasy of the hand” (each cotton flower in his decoupage work had to be cut out and waxed and then applied to a dress; when asked how many they had made, all he could come up with was “an insane number”).

In a time of anxiety over artificial intelligence, that craftiness is key; it emphasizes the humanity and kookiness of creation. The weird, intuitive leaps and dreams that currently distinguish, or at least we hope distinguish, the man-made from the machine.

That’s what Julien Dossena was talking about, anyway, before his Rabanne show, which took as its inspiration Jean Clemmer’s 1960s photographs for the house of nude women draped in jeweled loin cloths — like Spartan warriors (if Spartan warriors were women), Mr. Dossena said. Or in this case, not-so-Spartan warriors, since the contemporary versions were dripping in chain mail, peacock feathers and an abundant desert-goddess fringe. “It’s good to remember there are people behind the clothes,” Mr. Dossena said.

There’s a fine balance to, as Daniel Roseberry said before his Schiaparelli show, “dressing with abandon, but still control.”

To imagine, in his case, that what a slithery little black dress really needs for that final bit of oomph is a very large gold-painted ceramic lobster at the neck, or that the way to undercut the stuffiness of a tailored jacket is to spill a handbag’s worth of faux stuff — cigarettes (this is France), lipsticks, change — permanently down one side, just to remind everyone of the glory that can be found in mess.

Or, for that matter, that the best way to finish off a pair of white high-tops is with some gilded trompe l’oeil toes on the toe cap. Which, it turns out, really is the best way.

Though there is also another way that isn’t just a rejection of minimalism or full-throated return maximalism. Call it monumentalism, or minimalism taken to maximum volume — simple lines, mega effects — and then consider Rick Owens. Even he was spouting off about the value of positivity this season.

“I was just thinking that is such a good thing,” Mr. Owens said backstage (talking about how he had been to a Björk concert and how impressed he was by her optimism). “I’m conscious that maybe I need to contribute more than doom,” he went on, referring to his own reputation as the prince of fashion darkness. “Romancing doom is a classic thing, but maybe that’s not the most responsible thing I could do.”

To that end, instead of belching cloud of gray fog, his mist machines belched … pink and yellow (“positivity” being a relative thing). Diana Ross’s “I still believe in love” played on the soundtrack, over and over. And rose petals rained down from the sky to blanket the runway on which minced Mr. Owens’ trademark otherworldly creatures, their silhouettes attenuated to an extreme degree by fluted leather and denim skirts intricately seamed around the body, and high-waist trousers that brushed the floor over towering platforms and were paired with cropped motorcycle jackets, peaked shoulders reaching for the heavens.

Leather dresses were crushed around the body like little mountains of meringue (Mr. Owens can drape leather like Madame Grès draped jersey); oversize jumpsuits came complete with silk capes, like deflated parachutes trailing behind. And Mr. Owens’s “donuts” — gigantic circular tubes that resemble a multipurpose stole, or a boa constrictor swallowing the body, depending on your point of view — were crafted from stacks of silk organza.

“Or orgasm-o, as they call it in the studio,” Mr. Owens giggled. The idea being to make the big tubes look like “candy confections, like spun-sugar doughnuts, in the most satisfying crushable way. No one’s gonna be able to buy them because they’re so labor intensive,” he said. “They’re wonderful, and they’re expensive.”

You might even say excessively delicious. Even if they are an acquired taste.

source: nytimes.com