at first glance, walter van beirendonck's most recent collection seem to be surprisingly tame for someone who is notorious for marching to the beat of his own drum. to see suiting (in traditional check patterns at that!) and shearling lined parkas worn with something as timid as a pique polo, that even when topped off with giant plastic earmuffs courtesy of milliner genius stephen jones, it was almost disappointing in its apparent lack of the mind boggling visual assault of his previous collection. no penis shaped masks, or tubular exoskeletons, nor big bird wings. not even big furry men as models. but as one of the infamous antwerp six who challenged the popular opinions of fashion in the eighties with their avant garde and belgian sensibilities, one has to realize that despite of its modest and cartoonish appearance, this collection was packed with van beirendonck's subversive take on the violent state of the world. amidst the colourful sweatshirts with keith harring-like illustrations were guns and tanks, a scarf that was shaped as a missile in flight and "w"s that signified war printed on sweaters in big, bold captial letters. when asked what it was that prompted him towards this direction the designer replied by saying that nowadays he always feels like someone is holding a gun to his head and that world feels like its always ready to explode. given the seriousness of the issue it shouldn't be taken as the designer taking a lighthearted approach to such a weighty topic. as one of the most underrated genius in the business, it takes someone with an intellect like van beirendonck with a deft hand with communicating austere issues that makes him one of the most provocative designers in world.
entitled "hidden", korean designer juun j presented a collection that implied everything the title suggested. swathes of fabrics cocooned the body. a trend that has become one of the biggest themes that has come out of paris in the past few seasons and continues its momentum for 2010. voluminous coats were worn over drapey light weight jersey or fine gauge sweaters, a staple in every juun j collection realized in his familiar colour palette of greys and blacks in oversized proportions paired with drop crotch trousers that limited its volume to the upper half of the leg. he also displayed his ingenious way of using zippers not just as a decorative touch, but an added element that heightened the dramatic volume of the clothes that when unzipped revealed another layer in contrasting fabrics or colour. every part of the body was covered from the snood that acted as hood to protect the head to the gladiator style boots and sandals, no flesh was exposed. in summary it had all the trademarks of the young designer. surprisingly, after all the interpretations of military influence we've seen first in milan and then in paris, with special attention given to the trench coat, it was notably absent from the korean designer's runway. the same designer who has built his reputation partly because of his never exhausting ability to find new ways to tweak the iconoclast since his debuted his collection a few years ago. still, even without it, this was still a collection that displayed the growing confidence of a talented young designer.
for moncler gamme bleu to succeed in such a narrow field such hi-performance luxury sportswear, it needed someone with thome brown's sense of humour to add an interesting dimension to what could otherwise be another bland hi-end performance line. his new take on the sartorial codes that has defined masculine dressing has influenced and provoked as much as it has been criticized for entertaining too much of his own personal fancies. since collaborating with the prestigious italian company he has proven that he is a much more capable and flexible designer that can take into consideration the needs of the moncler customer and its heritage, and at the same time be able to offer that man his own distinct aesthetic. which is his highly individual take on formal dressing that he has managed to adapt into moncler's repertoire. with his sense of theatrics, browne staged the collection with models asleep in the barracks in a uniform position in the same sleeping attire and suddenly awaken from the sound of a bugle horn. with the discipline of soldiers, all simultaneously arose and began to put on their parkas, anoraks, ski jackets, cable knit sweater and quilted suiting. ready for a trek on the italian alps the house originated from. for such an irreverent designer, it was surprisingly commercial without losing browne's trademark whimsy that his critics crucified him for before. browne has always been a very focused designer and it shows in the cohesiveness of his signature line, but here it was grounded in reality, give or take, because let's face facts, even the most adventurous of us won't step out of the house in a satin/fleece shirt nightgown. if he can find that focus again for his eponymous collection next month in new york, then maybe he can have the pleasure of for once silencing his critics.
consuelo castiglioni has always had the penchant to toy with ideas that recollect our childhood memories. with her every presentation it always feels as if we are watching a young boy playing dress-up in old man's clothes. the proportions are always a bit askew, the colours a bit odd, yet there is a formality about them. so there is always this playful naivete that makes her clothes so delightfully endearing. and it is that charm and youthful spirit that has made the house such a resounding success. but whatever childlike nonchalance the collections exudes, it is anchored with that milanese craftsmanship and some of the most developed textiles in the industry that gives the clothes a timelessness that makes it attractive to consumers of a broad age range. what we see during the presentation is castiglioni's vision. what consumers see on the sales floor are well tailored coats, luxurious fabrics and some of the most coveted accessories around, but all injected with that quirky marni signature so they never become mundane.
the versace man has always been a portrait of virile masculinity. while gianni versace's take was more about high gestures that verged on camp, this new versace man owes its character to its warrior instinct. this man is defiantly younger and more aggressive than his eighties and nineties predecessor, but at the same time its masculinity is on par with the versace of old who measured his manliness with his ability to enjoy the luxurious lifestyle he could afford and unapologetically flashed it with every opportunity. and the common thread that these two distinct male version of the same house share is their understanding and appreciation of the craftsmanship the house is synonymous with. displayed at this collection were some of the most impeccably tailored coats and suiting with some of the most complex pattern cutting shown in milan. solidifying the house's reputation with producing some of the most intricate cuts and fabrication in the industry. courtesy without a doubt by ex cloak designer alexandre plokhov's creative influence. since he was hired as a creative consultant for the menswear branch of the house, he has helped steer the brand out of its, for lack of a better word, gaudy reputation into one that is more congruent with the times. after all he was one of the designers who's work influenced today's definition of modern masculinity. and to further validate the point that this is still a classic versace collection, there was the reappearance of the iconic versace chain-mail mesh worked to appear as armour underneath those precision cut jackets.
such is the potency of miuccia prada's vision that she is able to drastically shift direction from one season to next and never lose that inimitable factor that stamps her signature into everything she produces. abandoning the uber-urban aggressiveness of the past few seasons, her combined presentation for her men's fall 2010 and women's pre-fall collections saw prada revisiting some of the references that helped form the hallmarks of the brand during the nineties. this collection echoed much of england in the early seventies in the colour palette and geometric prints which ranged anywhere from abstract camouflage to three dimensional diamond shapes, to smart jackets worn over shrunken knits that gave it a sense of boyish naivete that gave a lot of her early menswear collection its inherent charm. it still retained the same youthfulness of her previous efforts, but after two consecutive seasons where all we saw was black, grey, and white on a predominantly narrow silhouette, to see this collection maneuvered around a serpentine runway with a soundtrack that was as erratic as the numerous video presentations on the wall with models coming out in groups reminiscent of helmut lang's old runway presentations, it was somewhat hard to dilute the clothes from the environment it was shown in. it didn't make sense. but then again when does prada ever make sense at that moment? its all the paradoxes, the little peculiar quirks such as the double collars on coats and shoes with a flapping tongue and her obsession with challenging herself by using fabrics she has no affinity for, which this season was moleskin, that she somehow manages to amalgamate together that eventually will form into a clear picture a little while after for everyone else. and then suddenly it's influence is omnipresent.
military inspired looks always surface with every menswear collections. it has become one of the most dominant sartorial influence in the western world where epaulets, brass buttons and pea coats have become iconic pieces in every man's wardrobe. masataka matsumura also chose to go with the military vein, but it was his homeland's historical soldiers the samurai where the designer drew inspiration from. such a powerful figure could have been overwhelming, but matsumura's work is always about a fluidity and serenity that it was the samurai's sense of honour, restrain and discipline that eclipsed the warrior persona. and it was that sense of restrain that gave the collection its focus that even with all the layering with different levels of volume which was directly inspired by the samurai uniform, it all worked cohesively as one picture. as the models paraded down the dimly lit runway they played the part of matsumura's young army in billowing pleated pants that was so full in volume it appeared to be a skirt, with most looks worn with an apron like appendage and to give it an urban edge, the designer injected the collection with plaids, leather and hi top trainers. presenting a modern take on an ancient idea. while the character looked like he was ready for battle in the urban jungle, he also gave the clothes a spiritual dimension. the same zen like spirit that permeates with all his collections where a fluid line works so harmoniously with a stricter, more defined cut. let's not forget, as brutal as the samurais were in the field of battle, they also considered the meditation of floral arrangements to be as equal a form of martial arts as sword fighting.
ever wondered what princess leah and mad max's child would look like? designers tom notte and bart vandebosch certainly did for they claimed to have been inspired by the movies star wars and thunderdome for their most recent collection. as disparate as those two reference points could be, somehow the designer were able to find a common thread to fuse the two together into a collection that didn't suffer from good showmanship with little real life substance. the duo actually managed to accomplish to send out a collection that had real commercial viability. yes its for a more adventurous man with the ingenious way they turned biker jackets into interesting blazers with knitted lapels or arms with zip closures and one's with padded shoulders to give it the appearance of an armour. pants came in a variety of silhouettes from slim to cropped above the ankle with pleats to provide a dynamic contrast with the usually narrow fitted jackets. at one end it had the peaceful countenance of a yoda, and on the other end that barbaric ways auntie trinity. it displayed the duo's highly original approach when it comes to re-interpreting classics and applying their own point of view to frame a clear picture. even with their strong inclination for schizophrenic references. and that sense of courage and humour is bound to attract more attention to these two highly talented designers.
"protect, explore, inspire". those were the three words designer christopher bailey used as a the backbone for one of his strongest colletion for the house that he famously rescued from duty free obscurity over a decade ago. the heritage of the one hundred fifty three year old house has always been the lifeblood of bailey's work, and for autumn/winter 2010 bailey revisited all the hallmarks that helped forge the spirit of the brand. the military and aviation history of burberry was the pulse that gave this collection its virility. the trench coat of course being the most famous which was so named after it became part of a british soldier's uniform during the trench warfare of world war one done this season with a sloping shoulder cinched on the waist that agitated its volume and one in leather with the same deep petrol blue. aviation flight jackets with an exaggerated shearling collar which will undoubtedly be a blockbuster success once it hits the sales floor came in various lengths and fabrication. and about every other incarnation of the military regimental uniform was sent down the catwalk adjusted slightly for the man who faces not battlefronts but the daily trials of the modern, urban way of life. though this collection is an homage to burberry's military endeavors, it also displayed the technological advances in fabric innovation that the house greatly contributed to which gave the clothes the functionalism to perform for some of the most reknowned explorers of the twentieth century. and bailey clearly didn't seem to neglect infusing this collection with the same spirit of masculine adventure.
raf simon's take on the evolution of the jil sander man since he first took control of the house three years ago is reaching the point where his sensibilities is becoming the dominant persona over jil's. that doesn't mean however that the spirit of the house and its values are about to be deleted. the genius of raf simons is his sensitivity to history and the meaning of the house that over the years have acquired some of the most devout followers in the industry. to compare his first collection for the brand and all his subsequent collections that followed that lead up to this, his most recent one, one gets a clearer picture that he's not supplanting sander's legacy, he's merely adapting his own vocabulary with the house and in turn it has produced some of the most well executed collections in recent memory. his ability to fully develop an idea with such precision and focus is extremely well suited with a new definition of minimalism. at sander where tailoring is paramount, simons' directional approach with the craft and his subtle way of playing with proportions and adding surprising elements, which this season was exemplified with the way he added geometrical shapes on jackets and coats as closures or flaps to cover pockets that were cut with a more arabesque line, he has managed to find the perfect symmetry with his own aesthetic and sander's practicality. while the looks that will have the most editorial exposure in a few months are the more experimental ones, there were also plenty to satisfy consumers who values the brand for its craftsmanship, fabric innovation, and timeless appeal. there were suits in traditional wool checks, oil slick puffa jackets, classic over coats and a growing focus on accessories guarantees that for the new decade will ensure the success of the brand and help it navigate the current economic climate. a testament to the power of raf simons' unyielding vision.
maybe i have fashion attention deficit disorder and i'm just too zealous to see new things from designers, but why do i like the pre-fall collection from the five houses above loads more than the main collection shown three months ago? i mean pre-fall and resort collections aren't exactly laboratories of ideas. they're meant to be straightforward whose main objective is to be commercial. there aren't complex reference points that would put these clothes in a trajectory that some will describe as "directional" (those balenciaga harem/track pant hybrid is of course an exception). yet it could be because it isn't weighed down by such things as narratives or themes that allows the designers a certain sense of freedom that it gives them liberty to make simple, beautiful garments that in many ways gives them a certain of longevity because it isn't likely to be as overexposed as some items from the main seasonal collections. and in this economic downturn, shopping pre-fall and resort seems like the most sensible option.
at first i initially made a list of the collections that had the most impact and the ones that really shaped the decade, but as i was forming that list i felt that a lot of the collections that i myself personally loved was going to have to make room for the ones i really didn't have as much affinity for. so i thought to myself the hell with it. its not like i'm suzy menkes anyways. my opinions about fashion are just that, mine. it has no value or influence in the real world only to me. so here are the fifteen collections that really pulled at my heart strings and the ones that have directly formed my opinion on what fashion is and the one whose influence are reflected in my closet that i am staring at right now. mind you my closet is a very very very cheap imitation of the clothes shown above. i don't have jay-z money and my magazine collection probably costs three times more than my entire wardrobe. ok i'm exaggerating but i'm pretty sure that rochas dress from fall/winter 2003 is worth more than every single thing in my bedroom combined.
p.s. i tried to be somewhat diplomatic and not have one designer on the list twice or three times, otherwise a third of the list would've been taken up by prada, balenciaga or dior couture. the ones above are my favorite collections of the decade by said designers. peace out!