Paris showcases creative richness with Burk Akyol, Valette Studio, Etudes Studio
Paris Fashion Week Men got off to a great start on Tuesday. Besides Louis Vuitton, which brought the event's first day to a close with its eagerly awaited show, a few other labels presented their Spring/Summer 2024 collections. Notably, French designer Burc Akyol, showing for the first time on the official calendar, Valette Studio and Etudes Studio. Three labels with different styles, evidence of the strong creativity that flows in the French capital.
Burc Akyol transported its audience to a desert, complete with golden palms and sand-coloured carpets. Although guests were in fact gathered under a dark sky, in a courtyard of Akyol's building, halfway between the Saint-Lazare station and place de Clichy. But once the models were ushered in, the illusion was complete. For his baptism of fire on the Parisian runways, Akyol, 34, immersed the audience into his very own world, straddling East and West with a couture-inspired collection.
The slender silhouettes of the mostly black looks, with their airy, flowing fabrics, seemed to come right out of a tale from the Thousand and One Nights, albeit a contemporary version of it. The models’ bodies were tightly wrapped in slinky draped dresses in silk and satin. Jumpsuits and tunics in sheer black lace gave a glimpse of the body underneath them. Layers of muslin floated as they fell like a veil on the models’ shoulders, or they delicately sheathed their legs, fastened above the ankles like breeches, while other trousers had a slit running down the front of the leg.
Men and women perched on high heels, lengthening their silhouette, and often swapped garments. This statue-like verticality was deliberate, as Akyol explained. He drew his inspiration from the ‘East-West/West-East’ sculptures by Richard Serra, four vertiginous steel plates soaring out of the Qatari desert. Akyol, a winner of the Fashion Trust Arabia prize in 2022, discovered them during a trip to Qatar.
“These conversations between East and West are what my fashion is about. This collection is very focused, very desirable, with items I'd like to wear myself, or see others wear. It has both sensuality and seriousness, the roots of my personal history. My parents are Turkish. I was born in France and grew up in Dreux, in a Maghrebi community,” said Akyol, who learned garment-making from his tailor father.
A finalist of the 2023 LVMH Prize, Akyol studied at the French Fashion Institute before working in various labels’ studios. After stints at Dior, Balenciaga and Esteban Cortázar, he set up his demi-couture men’s and women's label in 2019. Above all, with his impeccable cuts and draped volumes, Akyol expresses his own vision, breaking free from Oriental stereotypes. For example, his show featured a woman wearing a veil, but a transparent tulle one.
Valette Studio, another emerging, genderless label, showed at the Palais de Tokyo, unveiling its seventh collection. One that was infused with great freshness and lightness, notably featuring lightweight poplin shirt dresses. The Parisian label, founded by Pierre-François Valette when the pandemic was in full swing in 2020, joined the Paris menswear week in 2021. This season, it is showing at the Sphère showroom, run by the French fashion and haute couture federation with the backing of public body DEFI.
Valette, 31, drew his inspiration for next summer’s collection from the 1930s, which he has explored in great depth in terms of materials, fluidity, and patterns, as with his Dada-esque prints. The idea of the thick rows of pearls ranged across the back of 1930s women has been reinterpreted, for example, in the jewel-like chain mail tank tops and t-shirts, each of them built with 4,000 rings and as many pearls.
Patchwork played an important part in the collection, as many of the garments were made by stitching together multiple fabrics. Notably, the elegant reversible denim evening jacket, or the blue and white-striped cotton fabrics which Valette used to make a series of summery pyjama suits. “This season, I wanted something more spontaneous and fluid. For example, the big dinner jacket has a very casual feel,” he said.
The patchwork theme surfaced again in sleeveless pea jackets assembled from swathes of tone-on-tone beige, like hand-knitted pieces of abstract art - each of them needed 55 hours of manual work - while head scarves from a previous collection were used to manufacture various multi-coloured shirts.
After studying law, and an early career in music, Valette ended up going down the fashion road. In 2018, after graduating from the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne’s fashion school, and landing an internship at Isabel Marant, Valette apprenticed at Saint Laurent, where he attended the label's training programme, the Saint Laurent Couture Institute, whose annual competition he won in 2019.
On the back of this experience, he went solo and founded Valette Studio, which he set up as “an old-fashioned couture house, very often selling directly to customers,” with a dozen people working alongside him. “Everything is made in Paris,” underlined Valette, a couture enthusiast with a keen eye for details and finishings, who likes to reinterpret classic styles, shining a spotlight on traditional techniques and the artisans he works with.
The atmosphere was different at Etudes Studio, which chose the roof level of a big city car park to showcase its gang of bad boys. Bare-chested, mean-faced models strode across the lot, long chains clanking and swinging around their necks, wearing suits, 1980s jumpsuits and distressed washed jeans. Head cached in a hood, hands in pockets and shoulders set, they played their tough-guy act, clad in strapped gilets that looked like a gun holster.
An attitude emphasised by the way some of the garments were constructed, their detachable sleeves seemingly falling off, accentuating the models’ loose, almost slouching posture. Yet, despite this streetwear vibe, the label designed by Aurélien Arbet, Jérémie Égry and José Lamali was able to turn out a cleverly balanced collection. A pair of distressed jeans was matched with a cashmere overcoat, a sleeveless double-breasted jacket with a pair of cargo trousers.
The season’s top look was a superb jumpsuit with a central zip, pilot or astronaut-style, in either ivory or black nylon, which was also featured as a two-piece item in dazzling orange.
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