Paris Fashion Week, June. Everything was going pretty smoothly—and then the horses started shitting. At the Casablanca show, four shiny equines were corralled in the center of the carpeted runway, looking handsome and a little uneasy as guests filtered to their seats. As influencers edged close to the pen to snap horse selfies—and the horses snapped selfies of their own—the scene struck me as a potent symbol of the heady atmosphere that had pervaded the entire high fashion ecosystem that summer, the first since the onset of covid where the runway calendar was packed with in-person shows, presentations, and parties. The prevailing wisdom seemed to be that beautiful clothing was no longer captivating enough—or maybe not even the point of runway shows anymore. You needed cool clothes, but you also needed horses.
“Fashion week” (an imprecise term, but the best we have for now) hasn’t been the insider-y trade affair it once was ever since the rise of the supermodel in the ’90s. And these days, with thousands upon thousands of people watching dozens of shows in person and on their phones, brands have to devise increasingly elaborate ways of entertaining them. The audience expects more than a bunch of models stalking down a catwalk: they expect a performance. This year, brands delivered in extravagant fashion. Louis Vuitton, for one, erected a colossal dreamworld in a courtyard of the Louvre to pay a final tribute to Virgil Abloh, complete with a marching band imported from Tallahassee and a Kendrick Lamar concert. Other flexes were more subtle. Gucci, in what would be Alessandro Michele’s final show for the Milanese powerhouse, cast 68 sets of painstakingly sourced identical twins. Emerging designers got in on the fun in their own ways, too, as when Mowalola returned from a three-year hiatus with a body-baring collection of X-rated ecclesiastical-wear. The message was clear: as long as fashion sits at the center of popular culture, and money floods through the ecosystem, the brands are going to act accordingly.
On the other hand, 2022 might be remembered as the year when the whole endeavor got a little too ambitious—when things started going haywire. Like when the music kicked on at Casablanca and the startled horses started pooping all over the floor, which most guests gamely tried to ignore. (The stench, however, was hard not to notice.) It was a reminder, important as ever, that often the best rewards are found by peeling back the layers of spectacle and remembering why these shows exist in the first place. Beneath all the ’grammable moments and VVIP front rows and at the center of the constellation of events and activations that now circle the traditional schedule is, hopefully, some beautiful and compelling clothing that will inform how you and I dress.
As the menswear shows whip around the corner—things kick off at Pitti Uomo in Florence on January 10!—we’re looking back, with a clear bias toward events this GQ writer was present for, at the moments from the men’s shows this year that we won’t soon forget.
When it comes to the scale and ambition of his work, the only person Kim Jones can outdo is himself. This year, Jones unveiled a buzzy Dior collaboration with ERL in LA, and ended the year with a celebration of not one but two blockbuster collections in Cairo, including one presented to 800 guests in front of the freakin’ Pyramids of Giza. The second was a collab with the buzzy and brilliant Tremaine Emory of Denim Tears. (Supreme x Dior Men’s when?) But Jones set the tone for a year defined by a quieter form of hype with his first Dior outing in February, where the models marched out in gray and beige wool-and-leather Birkenstocks, which would go on to scream off retail shelves for $1,100+ a pop, selling out many times over. There were plenty of exasperating trends in menswear this year, but you have to tip your Steven Jones Millinery beret to Jones for ensuring that the most covetable shoes of the entire year were gardening mules inspired by a couturier’s green thumb
Maryam Nassir Zadeh
February, New York