The lineup at Xuly Bët felt like a cross-section of a busy Paris street in better times, full of vibrant characters going about their day dressed in whatever struck their fancy, or met their professional needs. But these days aren’t like any others and designer Lamine Badian Kouyaté was thinking about confidence and shifting power dynamics, opening his show with a text written by social activist and author Michaela Angela Davis.
His starting point was the white shirt, a symbol of corporations and power, he said. But his coed show made it clear that while it was a garment for the upper body with a collar, sleeves and buttons down the front, it could be whatever one made of it. There was the basic, the demure, the sassy; the power shirt worn untucked and unbothered with a suit; slightly oversized white button down slipped into miniskirts and smart slacks; the ones that vanished under other outfits; the ones that were actually overalls for a variety of occasions, and even one that was a pristine lab coat worn by a baklava clad type. To go with those, he combined some favorites such as body-con outfits with his signature red stitching, denim or boxy tailored shapes.
“I don’t see clothes as an adornment [but as] an action from within to give you confidence. It’s essential to face life. That’s what minorities are missing, given that we’ve been dealing with for centuries,” he said backstage before the show, quoting Jimi Hendrix as a parting message: “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”