Jun 23, 2016
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Little England takes over Paris catwalks as Britain votes

Jun 23, 2016

It may already be too late...

But as Britain prepares to vote on whether to leave the EU, the Little England look has suddenly become fashionable.

Cricket jumpers, brogues, boating blazers and even neo-Morris men popped up on the Paris catwalk Wednesday.

Nor is fashion's new-found anglophilia confined to the upper classes.

Walter Van Beirendonck - Spring-Summer2017 - Menswear - Paris - © PixelFormula

Sweatpants, parkas, tartan and charity shop suits were everywhere as next year's spring-summer menswear shows hit the runways.

In what could be interpreted as a last desperate sop to Nigel Farage, the most outspoken of the British Leave campaigners, double-breasted suits and blazers are also back.

It may be some time however before we see the UK Independence Party leader sporting a Balenciaga shoulder padded suit with high-heeled leather boots.

Or indeed one of the Dutch designer Walter Van Beirendonck's ribbon-trailing blazers inspired by English folk dancers.

Van Beirendonck told AFP that the pony club and Morris men motifs throughout his new collection came from a damascene moment in a London flea market.

- Morris men -

"I found a pile of vintage ribbons in a market in London. It triggered this whole thing with the rosettes and Morris men for me to create this mixture of folklore and the future," he added.

He denied his show was directly about fears of a Brexit, or a poetic European lament at the prospect of losing England.

But the designer admitted, however, that "I have never put so much black into a collection".

And he chose a riddle from the most English of books, "Alice in Wonderland" -- "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" -- as the title of his show.

"I was questioning why this was all happening," said Beirendonck.

"We don't have answers to our questions. I feel the world today is a riddle without an answer."

Japanese designer Hiromichi Hochiai's homage to English pastoral was more literal, taking a scissors to cricket sweaters and remaking them all mixed up.

He then matched them with shorts and most eye-catchingly with tartan sweatpants.

- Papal groove -

With his influence everywhere to be seen on other catwalks, all eyes were on what designer Demna Gvasalia would come up with to mark Balenciaga's first ever men's show.

And the iconoclastic Georgian -- whose own street-influenced Vetements brand has become the Paris trendsetter -- did not lack daring.

He cheekily mixed oversized, shoulder-padded daywear suits that had more than a hint of cartoon Mafiosa about them with much more tight-fitting evening wear "inspired by the ecclesiastical high ceremony" of the Vatican.

He even borrowed the "liturgical palette of papal purple, cardinal red" and cherry red for bishops, using the Holy See's own suppliers of woven silk.

One black coated clerical combination, matched with knee-length blue suede boots, was set off by a Vatican yellow scarf worn like a liturgical vestment.

His blue shirts pulled tight at the waist like blouson jackets also drew admiring comment.

Ninety-nine years after Cristobal Balenciaga founded the label famous for the sharpness of its cut, Gvasalia's show was a tour de force of exaggerated tailoring according to the critics, or "transformation through tailoring" as he termed it.

The collection was all about "manipulation of the fabric... (and) a wardrobe and a body, altering how both are perceived," he said in a statement. "Clothes making the man."

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