for the past year margiela has been focusing on new silhouettes, particularly a stronger shoulder. here he continues that exploration but he has toned down with the exaggeration and let his brilliant tailoring do all the talking. he paired these jackets with slim trousers that recalled claude montana or even thiery mugler in the 80s. this collection was also filled with margiela's intellectual trademarks, the print on print, a touch of humour (as apparent to the lapel of a jacket turning into a scarf), and his love for a vintage feel. althought less confrontational or intellectual that his artisanal couture line, there was still a sense of a higher level of thinking here. he just doesn't design clothes simply for the sake of design for function, he is looking for a new idea, a modern idea, a new interpretation of what clothes should be and challenge what our interpretation of clothes are. he manages to achieve this without confusing his customers, but then again, you cant be a dumbass and wear margiela, it just wouldn't work.
filling hedi slimane's shoes is one gargatuan task, even if you were his right hand man for five years. that is the burden kris van assche was bestowed upon. there were moment's in his debut collection that showed promise. the sharply tailored jackets with satin lapels and inserts, the slim white shirt with the peter pan collar, and the voluminous trousers were all within the spirit of dior homme, but it somehow fell flat. there was no sense of dynamic action in the clothes. and having a stagnant presentation didn't do much to creat any sense of roaring movement. which was unfortunate because those baggy trousers with the cascading pleats would've been a sight to watch moving down a runway. slimane himself played with formality with his fall collection for dior a few seasons ago and he too toyed with the idea of volume, but here it lacked a certain type of edge. the dior of slimane had the energy and rebellion of youth and music, van assche's vision were too proper, it lacked that rakishness that had become a dior homme signature. this was van assche's first collection and it is exciting how he would take the reaction of the critics and the sales figure and see how he adapts the next season. for that we just have to stay tuned and hope that the brilliance of van assche finally crystalizes.
there were suprisingly few designers who ventured into the futuristic/tribalism vibe that has been ubiquitous for the last few seasons. all the well because it let the miharayasuhiro collection stand alone as one of the few brands who neglected the nostalgic trend of this season and sent his collection brazenly foward. this was in no sense an uber futuristic pierre cardin/robotic kind of way. it was not as much futuristic, but more about looking foward by transforming the staple men's garments by tweaking it, making the silhouette narrower, putting elastic waistbands on button down dress shirts, or layering tights under shorts. intrinsically there are a lot of options here for that would greet the consumer once he enters the store. and it has just the right amount of foward thinking that these clothes can be easily personalized by the men who bought them.
the first exits were like well dressed and colourful harry potters with those thick round frame glasses strolling about a sunny day in london town. fellow brit david hockney was apparently an influence for this collection which were apparent with those famous hockney summer candy colours. it seemed like a perfect match since paul smith himself is one of the great colourist in menswear. asides from the smith's classic colour combinations, the show was also abundant with his other trademarks, the quirky mix of prints, the british schoolboy uniform, and a very young point of view. which doesn't necessarily mean that these are clothes that are only viable to the under 35 crowd. there were a generous amounts of separates that a teenage son can steal from his father's closet. this might not have been one of those super charged shows filled with new direction or ideas, but consumers don't come to paul smith for that. his niche is to give men clothes that integrate easily into their wardrobe and brings a little colour into their lives. something that any closet, including mine, can fully appreciate.
perhaps the most charming collection to show during fashion week, lanvin took the pajama trend to its most luxurious. designer albert elbaz and his co-designer lucas ossendrijver presented a sumptuous summer collection rich with silk trousers, silk shirts, silk jackets...you get the picture. the charm came from its almost naive proportions and presentation. shirts were loosely tucked in little boy shorts with slouchy socks in patent leather shoes. the play between short and long was apparent in tunic lenght tops inside short and boxy jackets paired with those loungy pants with the silhouette usually being slim at the top and generous in the bottom. there was a sense of innocence and a sense of playfullness that is not always visible during the menswear shows. although there was that level of fun, there was definately a lux factor in effect. the fabrication first of all was obviously expensive. when it hits the stores it will have the same retail price as the womenswear collection but what differs is in its subtleties that seperates men's luxury goods, to the mass market. only a few seasons in designing for men, lanvin is slowly proving itself to be just as influential as it is for the opposite sex.
with hedi slimane's departure in the world of menswear, there is a need for a new torch bearer to represent the idealism and fowardness of youth. there is no other candidate for that position but raf simons. since his appointment as head designer for jill sander, raf simons' profile has received its much deserved exposure that was severely absent before he acquired the sander gig. simons' has already proven his master hand with minimalism for sander, and with his signature collection, he showcases his brilliant innovation. with his signature collection, deprived of any boundaries from another label's history, raf is able to create his own legacy. there are already some raf simons' trademark being established, the lean silhouette, the feeling of teengage angst in the clothes, plays with volume and proportion, and fabric technology. the latter a skill he better honed since his work with sander and its fabric suppliers. in past collections music has always been one of his main source of inspiration, this season, an unlikely character has stirred his imagination; the backpacker. although the clothes here are by no means a uniform that highschool graduates would wear while schlepping around off the beaten tracks in exotic countries, there is a sense of activeness in the clothes. from its durable high-performance fabrications, the omnipresent backpack that accessorized the looks, drawstrings on trousers to anoraks, and hiking boot inspired footwear, it's a marvel that these clothes don't appear to be genuine mountain gear, but a collection with enormous offering for daily urban life. although i found some vague similarities with last years prada men's collection with the colours and shiny synthetic fabrics, there was no doubt that this was a more rebellious and youthful collection. a collection that could not have been excetuted better by anyone else but raf simons.
YVES SAINT LAURENT
as one of the last true gentleman in the fashion world, it is no wonder why stefano pilati was assigned to be the creative directior at yves saint laurent. pilati and the grand maestro who's name he now designs for have the same level of refinement, and a sincere appreciation for history, and in the case of this season, that would be art history. saint laurent famously referenced the great artists, from mondrian in the sixties, to van gogh during the eighties. this season, pilati referenced the abstract expressionist of the fifties with artists like hans hofman and jackson pollock. although his drip, paint splashed garments might be a far cry from the august couture creations of saint laurent, the similarity is in its fluidity and ease. something monsieur saint laurent was so adamant in his designs. there were also references to classic couture cuts here, particularly balenciaga's drop, rounded shoulders. its a new way for pilati to use proportion and volume, an experimentation he's been toying with since first designing for the house. one has the sense that out of all of his collection for saint laurent, this was the one that was the most closely linked to his own personal aesthetic. it felt more bohemian, but not in that ghastly california, rachel zoe type, but the bohemian in the fifties and sixties. the men who would go to marakesh and the south of france to vacation and explore. someone who knew languages and music and art and history. someone like saint laurent. someone like stefano pilati.
COMME DES GARCONS
one rei kawakubo has enough seismic activity to send shockwaves across the fashion world, now imagine three. that was the idea she offered for her men's show. jackets, shirts, trencoats, prints, and proportions were layered three times at the top half of the body, while the bottom consisted of knee lenght shorts and trousers with an indian inspired dhoti crotch that was everywhere this season. although a comme des garcon show is sometimes almost too intellectual for a mere fashion show, it never seems didactic. kawakubo never seems to impose her ideas, rather to propose them. layering three jackets one top of each other with the first layer considerably more cropped and graded till it became regular size in the innermost might be a bit too stiffling for such warm weathers, but individually, these jackets in itself not only instigates new proportions but are quite commercial. layering has been such an important trend for the past decade that its becoming difficult to show it in a new, less generic way. kawakubo's presentation might not have been accesible in real life situations, but to look at rei's creation and only look at its commercial point of view is missing out on her artistic point of view. something that is more sublime but just as important as sales figures.
ann demeulemeester's vision of men has always been that of a romantic one. imagine a british dandy who buys beautifully made clothes by accident and nonchanlantly layers each pieces on. that is the sense i get from ann's presentation. her men are always consistent, not predictable, but suprisingly obvious every season. her trademark layering and deconstruction are still apparent. so are the asymetric cuts that has also began to envelope her prints. the familiar blacks, whites, and greys are still there but what was new this season was a little sense of humour, maybe courtesy from the dadaist movement she vaguely referenced for this collection. the dada movement could've done well with ann as their resident designer. after all they both share an underground sensibility that manages to be both avant garde and commercial. ann's clothes might appear to be quite difficult when its presented, but dissect each look and there are pieces that is so covetable its enough to make you salivate (well it certainly did that for me when i was in montreal a few months ago and i saw this ann demeulemeester asymetric striped sweater that i instantly fell in love with but unfortunately my wallet unrequited that love). i've always been a staunch supporter of ann and i think the time that more people finally recognize her for the brilliant designer that she is is too long overdue.
when a designer shows a religious ornament as an accesory to his/her collection it is usally critically panned by critics (eg: gaultier's hassidic collection, dolce and gabanna's printed virgin mary shirts), takahiro miyashita's collection with crosses slung across the body, however, was not offensive. it actually rather accentuated the apocalyptic and monastic feel of the clothes. despite all the dark, sombre colours that is unusual for a spring collection, the clothes were fluid and light that gave it a sense of optimism. there were a lot of references to the grunge movement here, not only in the nirvana filled soundtrack of the show, but also its use of layering. something the fashion world fully embraced since marc jacobs designed his notoriously famous grunge collection for perry ellis in the 90s. in miyashita's hands however, one can see the deep and authentic affection he has for cobain. the clothes were layered in a sense that it was there to protect, the cross near to him to be closer to something divine. takahiro might not have been thinking too much or at all about being close to the higher powers, but his shows definately feels like a religious experience.
its fascinatingly ironic that no one can dig deep into western costumes much more than the japanese. i guess it takes someone that can step out of the box to fully look at western clothes in all its perspectives and reinterpret them in a totally different way, yet similar at the same time. and few can match watanabe's talent when it comes to that. from transforming athletic track suits to saville row worthy jackets, to robert deniro's taxi driver meets british teddy boys, watanabe's cross cultural references can only be rivalved by fashion's other great alchemist, galliano. for spring/summer there was a sense of romantic colonial england in the air. there were visions of english schoolboy in boarding schools in kenya during the turn of the 20th century. it was rugged and charming at the same time, achieved by processing his fabrics to give them an aged look. there were also madras, argyles and liberty prints in candy colours that complimented the neutral khakis that were so abundant in this collection. sometimes it takes an outsider to make us realize the good things we have forgotten in ourselves. thank god the japanese are in paris to keep on reminding us that.
KRIS VAN ASSCHE
there is no denying that van assche is a gifted young designer. his years as assistant to hedi slimane at dior homme and his ultimate succesion of him, would of course create great expectations to build up. at first he started out extremely promising with his debut collection and the subsequent ones that followed immediately after. for the past couple of seasons however it seems that one of menswears new brightest stars had been losing some of his shine. the problem is that it feels like he's trying to step out too much of slimane's shadow. trying to prove himself to quickly and not letting himself evolve as a designer organically. from slimane, van assche developed an affair to present a modern man, a different, romantic take of masculinity. there are good ideas that have been coming out from him, like his take on volume, of release and tension, its just his execution that sometimes falls flat. his oversized shirts underneath narrow two button jackets doesn't compliment each garment, nor do the ones with sleeves verging on poetic proportions tucked into perfectly cut trousers that eclipses the brilliance of the latter. when he does get it right though, he gets it right all the way. he produces some of the most well constructed jackets and waistcoats that are becoming his tradmark. he has all the tools to build one of menswear most influential brands, he just needs to find the right blueprint.
if there is one thing to not describe john galliano is inocuous. one of fashions great provocateurs has always managed to work up our emotions through his shows. but he normally does this with his mad cap mix of cultural references and never really politics. so it was kind of suprising that out of all the designers influenced by the global climate of wars that it would be galliano to be the one to not just use it as a reference, but show it unapologetically for what it has become, part of popular culture that is joked about on late night talk shows or parodied into cartoons like south park. maybe fidel castro, huey p. newton, mad max, or osama bin laden might not be the first choice as fashion maverics, however they're personas are iconic. these men has such distinct aesthetics that a raised fist instantly reminds us of the black panther movement, or a green army hat a symbol of the cuban revolution. however controversial these ideas are, galliano is now at a point in his career where he is no longer looked at as a social pariah, but rather a cultural messiah. one has to reminds itself of how galliano shows his collection, the set and accesories are just visual supplement to provide an atmosphere to the clothes. because really, would middle eastern terrorists really fight in the desert in luxuriously tailored suits with sheen or bejeweled trousers? cut out all the distracting appendages and there are clothes here made for any men. and to wear galliano, that might even take bigger balls than carrying an ak-47.
yohji yamamoto's shows has always been almost bi-polar each season. one season he could be eruptiously joyful and the next, despairingly bleak, but they are always dressed like gentlemen. the theme of war has had strong affects on the collections, both in men and in women. but in menswear, which is heavily influenced with the preciseness and decorum of the military uniform, its easy to walk the thin line of being too literal. one of the great achievements of the japanese designers is their acute ability to fragment western archetypes and build it back together not as a historical object, but as a part of the modern verbatim. it does not become costume, but rather something contemporary and useable. the inspiration for this collection is a soldier's return home from his tour of duty. the beginning was obviously black and blatantly severe and confrontational with strictly cut jackets and trousers in stiffer fabrics slashed with graphic red. as the show progresses the mood changes into new volumes, lighter fabrics and the colours turn from black to navy to beiges to whites. if there is one thing about yohji it is his ability to design beautiful clothes and his optimistic resolve despite the dire situations he gets his ideas from.
to really see the commercial viability of the intellectual stew miucca presents is to see her menswear collections. she is one of the few designers out there who actually uses the same vocabulary for the men and women she designs for. there is a sense of continuity in the ideas, references and the execution. for this season, she showed an abundance of exquisitely tailored pieces. jackets were one button and cut rackishly slim and paired with trousers that were narrow through the leg with a little flair at the hem. while the collective consciousness outside of the fashion spectrum usually affiliates prada with avant garde tendencies, here she showed her prowess for extremely covetable pieces that, although a little off center with their whimsy (knitted leggings anyone?), has a commercial sensibility that can be personalized by any consumer to fit into their existing wardrobe. however she does deliver her endearing sense of humour, especially in the middle of the program when she reinterpreted her lauded "geek chic" aesthetic with the printed fabrics that seemed to be textured but were actually woven. and she mixed these fabrics up with plaids, stripes, and vintage 70s graphics to provide a visual to the opposite end of the same idea. there was a sense of purpose to the clothes she sent out. it seemed like it was a longing for new ideas, but also to be inspired with the old ones. and who better provide us with new ideas but ms. prada herself. after all, her old ideas have influenced how the world puts on clothes today.
the winds of change has been creating a welcoming breeze at the house of versace lately. perhaps realizing the genius of hiring christopher kane as a design consultant for the women's collection, donatella decided that a new vision was also needed for the men's line. and who better help steer the house into a new direction but none other than alexadre plokhov from the sorely lamented new york based brand cloak. right from the first exit one had a sense that this is a new vision for the house. in the past, the versace man was always depicted as a highly sensual, baroque man with expensive taste that wasn't afraid to show it off. now with plokhov's influence, the versace man appears to have picked up dostoyevsky and are looking at military uniforms as opposed to 18th century rococo tapestries, and has muted down with obviously opulent taste with something a little more sophisticated. the clothes were stricter, more angular, as opposed to the usual fluid spring/summer versace silhouette. to better visualize this idea, versace showed some extremely well tailored jackets, with many of them one buttoned (which seems to be a big trend in milan this season) and asymetric coats and jackets, some cut in the most supple leathers. also the colours were muted, a lot of greys, sand and soft blues punched in with some vivid red to bring life to the clothes. its very intriguing to see how the men's line for the house will evolve with plokhov on board and how the traditional versace clientelle would react to it. but in my opinion, those clientelle would probably need a bigger closet now because there are a lot more versace clothes to fill it with.
there are only a few designers who have had a colossus impact on the house that they design for. even fewer still are designers who's vision fully takes control of a brand started by its original namesake. raf simons belongs to the latter. as influential and loved as jill sander was, it seems that it took someone like raf simons to fully bring the brand to the destination started by sander. the fluidity of raf's evolution in the house has delivered collections that only four seasons in, has already garnered unanimous applause from the fashion world and became one of the most influential designers working today. this show was a text book example of the perfect spring/summer wardrobe. it was light, easy and kept with the brand's tradition of minimalism. the fabric was light and translucent which lent itself to ingenious use of layering and airy-ness. there were also a generous selection of relaxed trousers that even though provided a contrast to raf's usual slim silhouette, was perfectly cohesive through the collection. with a muted palette of grays, beiges, off whites accented with sudden explotions of brick reds, hunter greens, and rusty oranges the clothes are guaranteed commercial success. it was only a few years ago that raf simons was on the verge of closing down shop, but with his resilience and uncompromising vision, he is now one of the new shining stars who's body of work continues to inspire and evolve.
christopher bailey has always been intensely loyal to the history of the brand he designs for. his ingenious take on modernizing the burberry archives has always been his winning ticket. his most recent collection however was the most "un-burberry" he has ever done. the reason for this is because for once he derived an inspiration from a world that is so far removed from the burberrian tradition, surfing. although many of the inspiration derived from the sport like the scuba, and neoprene pieces were more obvious, it was the spirit of the surfer counter culture idea that created the most intriguing part of the collection. the burberry trench was still there, but this time in fluoro colours like fire engine reds and turquoise blues from surfer wetsuits. tshirts with paillettes to resemble diving gear which shone as if just coming out of the water. because of the relaxed vibe of surf culture, there wasn't that much of that strict burberry dandyism image that has been so prevailent with bailey's collection in the past. the clothes had a slouchy elegance about them, as if the men who would wear this clothes are so pre-occupied with enjoying life that it breathes life to everything they do and wear. but with these clothes on your back, how can you not enjoy life a little bit better?
apparently its surf's up in milan this season as alexander mcqueen, alongside christopher bailey at burberry, showed a collection inspired by the sport of surfing. while as bailey's interpretation of surfing was derived from the surfers in whitby in north england, mcqueen's surfers were from the birthplace of surf culture itself, california, to be more precise, california in the 80s. if john hughes ever made a movie of californian surf culture during the 80s at the height of molly ringwald's fame, mcqueen would've been the costume designer and this would've been the clothes. alexander mcqueen is not only of the great showmans in fashion, he is also one of its most intellectually subversive. he is one of the great proposers of ideas and direction. this is perhaps one of the most exhuberant collection i have ever seen from him. there were colours, happy polka dot and flower prints, a relaxed silhouette and impecably tailored jackets. new wave-ish coats were cut boxier and fuller at the back to lend some movement and ease, and paired with trousers and shorts that were fuller at the leg and pleated to create motion. but to add contrast to this mcqueen added elements of 50's rockabilly with dark raw slim jeans, lumberjack plaids, and bad boy stride from the models which created an interesting tention. this collection was probably one of mcqueen's most commercial collection to date, and he did this without having to sacrifice his ideas and still continued to provoke.
some of the most enduring and iconic images of american youth has been captured by bruce webber. this season italo zucchelli used those images and showed one of the most masculine and virile collection of the season. there were no gangly, waifishly thin models here. the models were reminiscent of the male models of the 80s and even the current ones webber himself photographs for his ads for abercrombie and fitch, and even the ones he photographed for the infamous calvin klein ads he shot in miami during the 80s, athletic and were a picture of health and beauty. inspired by weber's photographs of the u.s. olympic team in '84, the clothes had an athletic spirit infused to them. there were fine knits and woven tops that clung close to the body like high performance tops of gymnasts. even the most luxurious of leather pants had ribbed cuffs at the hem similar to those of sweat pants. business wear was also injected with a light hearted athleticism, not by design or fabrication, but by colour. there were light sorbet colours paired with browns, beiges and greys. although i don't really see anyone running to the store to grab a pair of thos white bicycle shorts, this was still one of the most focused and direct collections from milan.
its refreshing to see someone like consuelo castiglioni inject some charm and wit to menswear. her clothes, although simple at first glance, posseses the same quality of whimsy that has garnered her devout following in womenswear. what i love about marni is that her clothes have this boyish, uniform quality that is so endearing. and when you pair that with immaculate tailoring and stand out accesories, there is no way to go wrong. the collection was a sort of english schoolboy meets russian serf meets meets duran duran. although that may sound incongruous, it works in castiglioni's hands because there is a sense of sincerity in her design. she appropriates those influences by taking its most basic similarities and layers them together and to tie if off, she adds little quirky touches like hood necklaces, or a new elbow lenght sleeve that felt new and modern. the success of this house is consuelo's own unique vision, a vision that is starting to spread wider than her periphery and into a wider audience.
i'll be first to admit that i am not the biggest fan of the trademark missoni zig-zagging knits, but i absolutely adored this collection. what i found so amusing with this presentation is the delicious sense of colour combinations. it was as if every colour from fruits were knitted into cardigans, sweaters, vests and woven into tshirts with charming graphics of ocean wildlife like octopusses and whales. there was something so naively youthful and wonderful about the clothes. it took us to places of being near the ocean and just having fun and enjoying and living the summer. to fully do that we have to be comfortable, so missoni offered shorts of varying lenghts from ones that came as high as the thigh, to bermuda lenghts. their trademark knits were light and perfect for summer nights while trousers had a fuller leg to add on to the relaxed feel of the clothes, just the perfect thing to wear rolled up and feeling the sand between our toes.
Sunday, July 1, 2007
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