PARIS — Brandon Maxwell is famous for being Lady Gaga’s stylist, the man who oversaw her transformation from meat-wearing novelty into a sophisticated chanteuse. Y/Project is designed by Glenn Martens, a Belgian designer who creates men’s and women’s wear rooted in street culture. And Christelle Kocher is a French designer who beautifully blends street style with high style and a dash of multiculturalism in her label Koché.
In this city, street is also chic.
All of them are on the short list for the 2016 LVMH Prize.
Each of the fashion capitals has a big competition for nurturing fresh talent. In France’s global style hub, the LVMH Prize, created in 2013, awards 300,000 euros and a year of technical support from the luxury conglomerate to a designer under 40.
In this year’s search for a winner, a group of industry experts narrowed the applicants to 23 brands. And at a cocktail party on Avenue Montaigne during fashion week, those on the short list each manned a small, white-walled booth filled with their wares as they were poked and prodded by a horde of Veuve Clicquot-sipping editors and retailers. While the designers were being gently interrogated, they were intermittently sent into spasms of feverish glee when they spotted fashion heroes such as Karl Lagerfeld prowling the premises.
The mix of designers in the running for the prize ranged from those like Maxwell who are focused on precision and a rarefied aesthetic to those who seem more enamored with textile manipulation than with proportion and cut.
But there were also those designers with a strong connection to popular aesthetics. In Paris, however, street style represents cool sophistication more so than athletics or no-holds-barred comfort.
On Tuesday night, Kocher, who launched her brand in 2014, presented her street-inspired collection on a runway of sorts at the Passage du Cheval Blanc, a winding labyrinth lined with barbershops, beauty shops and curiosity stores. As guests waited, business owners and workers — of all ethnicities — strolled the alleyway pulling granny carts and toting plaid nylon shopping bags.
When the show began, the diverse group of street-cast models exuded confidence and bravado as they stomped down the corridors lined with guests who stood instead of sitting in formally assigned seats.
The choice of location was well considered. “For me, it was important to have a location that was an open, public space — a place in Paris that is a symbol of a multicultural population,” Kocher said at the LVMH cocktail party. “It was also a place with a lot of history. It’s existed since the 17th century. It was an open door between the past and present. . . between the city and fashion.
“It was a moment to share a new way of seeing my city.”
The collection is a pastiche of prints and fabrics, of richly textured coats and and bedazzled tops. The mix of components looks serendipitous, but each piece is precisely and beautifully constructed. It feels international but also familiar.
The search for fresh talent highlights technique and imagination. But in Koché it also underscored fashion as an outgrowth of one’s environment, as well as a celebration of it.