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PARIS — It was 9:30 p.m. on a Friday and the crowd in the Fourth Arrondissement was a pulsating mass of bodies, crushed together and shoving forward, on the edge of out of control. Security guards were yelling and trying to shut a pair of ornate iron gates to limit entry, and guests desperate to get in were yelling right back.
Not for a rock concert, or a club. For a fashion show.
But then, for many, Marine Serre is a lot more. One of the first designers to take on climate change and elevate upcycling to a wearable art, she is a sort of evangelist prophet, sitting in the glowing center where value systems, clothes and identity meet. And she has spawned her own obsessive, fashion-centric group of acolytes.
For them her work isn’t just nice stuff to wear. It’s an expression of who they are (or want to be); a passport to a society of the like-minded. Increasingly, more and more people want in. As the scrum at the door demonstrated.
It’s just too bad the moment outside was so ugly. Because inside the gallery where her show was held, audience glued willy-nilly against the walls, the clothes themselves were terrific.
Ms. Serre has, in the past, been given to a sort of dystopian doom (understandable, given her subject matter), but this time around she had lightened up, in a way that made the social and ecological underpinnings of her work even more compelling.
Increasingly sophisticated amalgamations of old tartan scarves and houndstooth, of cheerful fair isle and argyle knits, were given post-punk life as chic pencil skirt suits and sweater dresses, as if former punks had cocked an amused eyebrow in the mirror and decided to go to the ball. One trailing gown was made from a pastiche of grunge-era T-shirts. There were camo-damask corsets mixed up with household linens, and anoraks quilted out of regenerated toile de Jouy.
They were awfully pretty. But it’s the fact that they are mostly made from the detritus of the wasted world — that they tell a story of reinvention, and possibility — that gives them their gravitational pull. That has created a dedicated band of followers.
It happens, in fashion, every once in awhile, when a designer succeeds in rewriting the status quo. Even now, when corporate demands and quarterly results have become part of the culture, and market research has penetrated deep into the design mind.
It’s the sort of passionate infatuation that not so long ago attached itself to Vetements, the anti-fashion fashion brand started by Demna and Guram Gvasalia that disrupted the big brands of Paris back around 2015, drawing its own bands of dedicated fans to grunge venues in far-flung parts of the city and launching Demna into the style stratosphere as designer of Balenciaga.
Now under the sole direction of Guram Gvasalia, Vetements has spawned a sibling brand, VTMNTS. Slightly more grown-up, rooted in men’s tailoring but entirely nonbinary, and with a slicker, knowing edge, it featured double-breasted jackets and double-layer overcoats; trousers unzipped on the side to the knee so they swished around the calves; and a bar code logo attached to the front of turtlenecks (that came with matching gloves) like a faux priest’s collar. The effect was “Fight Club,” but the professional version. If Tyler Durden wore suits, this is what he would wear.
And it’s an infatuation that once surrounded Yohji Yamamoto, back when he was part of the Japanese new wave of the 1980s, challenging received conventions around beauty, construction and aspiration, offering up gorgeously dense layers of deconstructed history.
He has been doing it with grace and facility ever since, so reliably he has lulled his audience into complacency (the slow-stepping models don’t help). This season he offered a wake-up call of sorts by adding denim — denim!— to his mille-feuilles of black and lace, exaggerated Edwardian suiting, and finale of bouncing knit jellyfish dresses, hoiking them all into the moment. Mr. Yamamoto is overdue for a reconsideration: His clothes are both funnier and sharper than he’s often given credit for.
They have the muscular allure of content, unlike, say, the techno deco of Lanvin, where Bruno Sialelli has been struggling to distill any particular point of view, or Rochas, where Charles de Vilmorin zigzagged among dangling New Romantic sleeves, austere tuxedos and disco lamé with enthusiasm but no obvious logic.
Or even Hermès, where Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski seemed to lose a bit of faith in her own deep-pile understatement, and went off course with a riff on leather shorts and zip-up rompers paired with thigh-high socks and boots perfect for … a very rich kinky equestrian?
Apparently so. Though it was her subtle way with black leather — coats, pinafores, pleated skirts — and the ruffled celadon silks that lingered.
As did Jonathan Anderson’s increasingly surreal Loewe, planted amid a peat-brown field sprinkled with giant collapsed orange pumpkins courtesy of the artist Anthea Hamilton.
Little leather T-shirt dresses were molded in a windblown state, their skirts forever fluttering to the side. Shiny, strapless frocks came with built-in mini motorcars at the hem; other longer sheaths had high heels caught in their torsos, and jutting from one hip. Pursed lips formed the bodice of a slithery sheath. Shiny latex balloons popped out from swathes of gauze like little pervy appendages, or were attached to trompe l’oeil silk screens of female bodies. Even the neatest gray flannel shift had a hunk of hairy shearling flapping down one leg.
There was a lot to look at and a lot of it was absurd (absurd-on-purpose), though it was grounded in the final simplicity of two shrunken cardigans paired with loose trousers. Afterward, Mr. Anderson talked about the Industrial Revolution and feminist art and primitive man, all of it stewed together in an irrational expression of how we got to an irrational time in an irrationally humorous, yet logical, kind of way.
There’s nothing like a shared laugh to draw a crowd.