Kiko Kostadinov Spring 2023 Menswear

The bookshelves on the top floor in the Lycée Henry VI in Paris’s Latin Quarter are kept locked behind metal grates. From my seat at Kiko Kostadinov’s spring 2023 menswear show I could make out some musty encyclopedias and history volumes with yellowing pages collecting dust. The past is always present, but mostly out of reach.

On the runway, Kostadinov was looking to rewrite his own history books. Bulgaria’s fraught past with the Ottoman Empire was his sartorial starting point; he found inspiration in Ottoman Janissary military garb and the work of traditional Bulgarian painter Zlatyu Boyadzhiev. Janissary draping and textures informed the single-breasted coats with their hems folded up and tucked into belts. Bulgarian shearlings and layered trousers were reimagined as alpaca and chenille. The Vietnamese artist Dahn Vo’s reappropriations of Vietnamese and American history, in particular We the People, in which Vo attempted to rebuild the Statue of Liberty from copper pieces, informed the hexagonal decals on the closing looks, each shape coming together…but not there yet.

If you didn’t have the press release you would probably never be able to work backwards to these references from these excellent clothes. That’s fine. At the end of the show a fellow journalist slapped his thighs and exclaimed, “Wow! That was great!”

What made it great? It was the iridescent cargo pants and braided hem bag worn with the brand’s new clunky sneaker. It was the trio of minimal suits that opened the show, a beige worn regularly, the next with pants inside out, and the third entirely reversed. It was the spiffy pragmatism and lightness of cropped jackets with contrast yokes and a single pocket at the back and the ethereal prettiness of winged adornments that envelope the shoulders and arms, almost like a chrysalis. It absolutely was the leather jacket worn over a ragged Bulgarian-made sweater that had a darted cocoon back. “Fucking gorgeous,” another friend said of the jacket after the show—it’s a disservice to everyone looking at this collection online that you cannot see the gentle swoop of its lower back.

The history that will be written for Kostadinov this season has far less to do with his thoughtful inspiration and more to do with his place in the fashion industry at large. For a long time fashion has slotted Kiko into a conceptual space when he is, underneath all the imagination and fascination, one of the most competent, surefooted, and clever designers of wearable and luxurious menswear in the game. “We don’t need to prove we can work with color or we can make crazy things,” he said at a preview. “We can do suiting, tailoring, workwear.”

Hours after the show Kostadinov was presiding over a techno party (fog, lasers, and bass thump thump thumping) in the hinterlands of Paris. Steve Lacy, Kozaburo Akasaka, and other menswear icons mingled. Outside, guests paid their host no mind, despite the fact that admittance required getting his logo stamped on one’s arm. “Nobody knows who I am,” he smirked. Kostadinov likes to be under the radar, but with clothes this good, it’s only a matter of time until everyone is paying attention.

Read More, Vogue

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