Officine Générale Spring 2023 Menswear

We were in the courtyard of the Hotel de Soubise—a big budget location—and the looks came out languidly, arranged in color stories that shifted slowly across the cobbles in the waning evening sunshine. This was Officine Générale’s 10th anniversary show and yet this reviewer’s first encounter with the brand (there are a whole lot of brands in the world). To my eyes it recalled some J Crew presentations seen at New York Fashion Week during the gilded period a decade ago when Mickey Drexler, Jenna Lyons, and Frank Muytjens achieved that rare trick of alchemizing a mid-mass apparel brand with luxury-level qualities of desirability and discernment.

And thanks to a combination of gently tapering pant shape, leather sandals, and leather bijoux it also faintly echoed the aesthetic— if not the fabrication levels, bien sûr—of Veronique Nichanian’s nonpareil menswear at Hermès.

It was also one of those shows where you end up playing fantasy personal shopping, because this was less an impactful fashion pop song than carefully conducted piece of apparel mood music. I walked away with look 24’s denim work jacket, a likely looking long-term wardrobe prospect, and look 35’s attractively patched olive pant, which despite a slightly brassy shine in the sunlight seemed well worth a buy-curious wishlist fling. After this gentle show had come to its end, founder Pierre Mahéo emerged to deserved applause.

As the latter day decline of J Crew’s aura illustrates, while it’s hard enough to create that alchemy of mid-mass sizzle, it’s even harder to ensure the spell remains unbroken. As Mahéo implied in his notes, this demands a mind that is as much entrepreneur as designer. Backstage he pointed out that around 80% of sales are currently outside France, and was refreshingly pragmatic about the formula he’s found. He said: “I think there is an evolution in what we show today in terms of styling, and in terms of putting things together, but the base is the fit, the cut, and the fabrics… The formula is being fair by offering good material at a very decent price, manufactured in Portugal and Italy.” You can’t argue with that.

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