The Hardy Perennials of Paris Fashion Week

Posted June 26, 2018 5:41 p.m. EDT

The arc of fashion week is long, to paraphrase an old paraphrase, but it bends toward novelty. How could it not? The fashion industry is built on a relentless cycle of renewal, the (largely false) premise that to stay stylish, a fashion-forward man must shop. Even that phrase, with its precise vector: Ahead!

Twice a year at least, the professionals who stock the stores and make the magazines meet in Paris to see what is coming next. The newest (the next-est) tend to absorb the most attention.

The talk of Paris this week has been Virgil Abloh’s first show for Louis Vuitton, followed by Kim Jones’, for Dior. Rihanna and Kanye West parachuted in to see Abloh’s; Lenny Kravitz and Victoria Beckham, Jones’.

In the hours and days that followed, the designers swanned around like conquering heroes. Abloh got a standing ovation at the Hôtel Costes; Jones was toasted with Champagne and caviar by Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss. (After party at Lenny’s, the rumor ran.)

Lost a bit in the shuffle are those designers who do what they do, often very well, but have done it for some time. The steady drumbeat can quickly become humdrum.

That’s a familiar charge against Yohji Yamamoto, a master designer 46 years in business. American attendance at his shows, at least among the press, has dwindled in recent years; I was, as far as I could see, one of few on Thursday night.

Yamamoto’s style is one of slow, careful evolution: theme and variation. He has created his own world and his own design language so skillfully and so completely that he seems doomed to be left to it. You would never know, to go by chatter alone, that he had put on one of the loveliest shows of the week.

Dries Van Noten, one of fashions’ stalwart independents, was in the news earlier this month for selling a majority stake in his label to the Spanish fashion and fragrance company Puig, after 32 years of going it alone.

But besides a few noticeable new Spaniards sitting front row, the collection was as Dries as Dries can be. Van Noten is reliable. His cuts and shapes are his, and season after season a fan can find them renewed — good for steady customers, if not always the thing to set a heat-seeking critic’s heart to thump.

His new collection was inspired by Danish furniture designer Verner Panton, whose plastic furniture helped define the look of the 1960s, and who applied color as fearlessly as most designers use black or white.

Van Noten got permission to photograph fabrics Panton had created for upholstery, in sine wave squiggles of orange, pink, teal, yellow and blue. The color was electric (for the faint of heart, Van Noten was allowed to make brown and navy versions of Panton’s saturated brights), but the clothes themselves — the chore coats, the anoraks, the big shorts, the crushed, elegant suits — they are as we have come to know and love.

“It’s all the things that we always do, obviously,” Van Noten said backstage.

Lucas Ossendrijver, at Lanvin, is staying his own course. The rest of the house is in roil. Management has turned over; the ill-starred women’s designer Olivier Lapidus left in March after eight months. Who is next is not yet known. But Ossendrijver has quietly endured for 13 years, working as the men’s counterpart first to Alber Elbaz, then Bouchra Jarrar, then Lapidus.

Has weathering those changes darkened his mood? Maybe. His Lanvin was on display Sunday morning in the dark concrete basement of the Palais de Tokyo museum, in a show with shades of disaster-prep readiness, along with smoke and little light.

The designer has settled into a comfortable vocabulary that mixes bits from a hardier wardrobe (utility pockets, rubberized sneakers) with elegant, fluid tailoring. One might, at this point, hope for a bit of a refresh. But Ossendrijver, battened down against a constantly changing scene, carries on.