Dispatch From PFW: Sometimes You Have to Lose Yourself to Find Yourself Again

I broke my cardinal rule and, perhaps in the spirit of the gigantic handbag revival that is in motion, I traveled to Paris with a checked bag on Thursday. One hour and 16 minutes after I landed, I regretted it hard. There I stood with a small tote boasting nothing I could wear, waiting desperately like a patient at a doctor’s office for a suitcase to emerge from the other side of a row of rubber panels above a soulless conveyer belt. What the hell did I really need to pack anyway? Last season, in my carryon full of one pair of jeans and leggings, two jackets and some T-shirts, I thought I finally nailed it, having emerged on the victorious end of a uniform enfin and yet, here I am.

There I was, here I am.

Ultimately, the suitcase made it out but it is Sunday now and I’ve cycled through exactly two pairs of jeans, a turtleneck and a jacket. All garments, I should tell you, that I had with me last season.

I think it happens that every time I pack a bag, I forget that I am who I am, that being away won’t magically change me, or allow for a moment of reinvention — turn me into one of the destination’s kind: a person from where I am traveling to. But that Jon Kabat-Zinn book is right. Wherever you go, there you are.

It is surprisingly difficult to remember this when you’re at fashion show after show in a foreign city, trying to secure your own footing in the language you know among denizens of a different tongue, so to speak. (Pun intended!) When designers make clothes, what they’re doing, really, is allowing you to view what happens after they crack open their own guts. That’s a lot of onus on the viewer to get in the ~groove.~ To learn a new language. To buy into the vision. So sometimes you lose yourself, or I lose myself.

Haider Ackerman

On Saturday morning, for example, Haider Ackerman expressed precision that, whether on or off personal brand, is hard not to admire. He’d never need a big suitcase to travel lest he was to take multiples of the same, shoulder-padded suit jacket. For fall 2019 there are plenty of roomy trousers and skinny, printed leather pants as paired with bigger, top-half proportions, mostly as caping coats or bomber jackets, but there were some good T-shirts, too.


At Altuzarra, I saw a hint of the inside of my suitcase, telling of a reinvented me but only in the sense that it seems Joseph Altuzarra is trying to learn the language of a woman who is different from his archetype, for next fall. The cropped aviator jackets were distinctly his, but the buckled, slouchy boots made from suede and the pleated skirts and argyle knits as paired with mini skirts, or rendered as sleeves on coats (talk about a fashion portmanteau!) espoused the virtues of a far more Bohemian woman.

Comme des Garçons

I attended my first Comme des Garcons show as a member of the standing section yesterday and can confirm that Rei Kawakubo truly does put on a performance — not because of the venue, which is as bare as a banquet hall could be, but because the clothes and the music create a pairing that for this season, sounded like and looked like Fantasia if Wednesdays Addams were conductor. And per the clothes — you want to talk about packing? I challenge anyone to take a Comme runway look away. I’ve never really thought about a wardrobe that physically cannot travel, that is just too great, holds too much weight and ties its owner to a physical place. Doesn’t it infer a distinctly heightened sense of certitude? The understanding that, if you want to live in these clothes and many people do!, you can’t go anywhere? I’m being too literal, and honestly, there were some bike shorts and leggings that would pack up quite neatly.


Have I lost you? One more show! Hermes closed out the evening with a distinctly tasteful selection of silk and leather, some of the latter fashioned into micro shorts paired with sheer tights, a thrilling confirmation that 2010 style is coming back. There were roomier but still mini cargo shorts as well, some pencil skirts and lots of great, soft shoulders. Three puffer coats made their entrance and they were all so extravagant for the simple reason that they’re Hermès. I loved this collection — I don’t know if that’s a function of the fact that, lately, I have been so attracted to any garment that could be considered classic by the standards of an Upper East Side manual and rolling them together with those aforementioned 2010 cues, or simply because a brand like Hermès is relieving in much the same way as a satisfactorily packed suitcase. Wherever you go, there you are, and you’re wearing your best clothes.

Feature photo by Peter White/Getty Images;Runway photos via Vogue Runway.

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