The fall 2015 couture shows are trekking along in Paris, but the past few weeks were all about menswear. In London, Milan, and Paris, we got a taste of what’s to come for spring and summer 2016, and designers were giving yet another new twist to typical men’s fashion.
London’s always been the hub of rapidly developing labels, and the rising stars didn’t disappoint this time around. At Nasir Mazhar, the designer revamped his trademark bully caps and backpacks with somewhat militant, verging on aggressive looks. The predominantly monochrome collection placed a strong emphasis on the male physique, accentuating the masculine form via padded trousers and open tops reminiscent of gun holsters. Agi & Sam proposed a somewhat softer selection, with loose-fitting corduroys and denim hoodies. The duo revisited childhood yet again this season, focusing on nightmares and ghosts, thus translating into an array of relaxed silhouettes that appeared as luxe pajamas. We can’t deny that Craig Green is having quite a moment these days, too. And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it; Green’s go-to combination of utilitarian details with martial arts-inspired garments was elevated to a new spectrum of lush primary colors. The designer’s upcoming collaboration with photographer Nick Knight presents a major stepping stone in the brand’s image, which we could argue adds another dimension to the spirit of the clothes. Finally, the cutouts, the casting, and the total avoidance of anything exclusively male or female implied a sense of gender erasure, something that’s been more commonly explored in today’s fashion than ever before.
Despite London’s status as the city of growth and expansion, every fashion capital has its old favorites. Sarah Burton told the story of Victorian sailors at Alexander McQueen, with similar pajama-like details to those shown at Agi & Sam. Perhaps these sailors were lost at sea, trying to create an identity through the nautical tattoo motifs that garnished the tailored garments; mermaids, sea monsters, anchors, and more, the injection of prints into the otherwise sterile collection added a necessary sense of character. And what would London be without Burberry? Designer Christopher Bailey jumped on the bandwagon with dismantling gender binaries, featuring a lace-heavy menswear outing that questioned why we’ve ever considered certain fabrics more “feminine” or “masculine.” Hand-woven cotton lace softened sharply tailored suits, while adding an interesting update to the classic Burberry trench. But it was the details of each look that really tied it together; from tiny insect pins to abstract prints on gauze tops to even strings of beads, Christopher Bailey is proving that menswear doesn’t always have to be so straitlaced.
Perhaps Christopher Bailey’s been taking notes from Alessandro Michele, the arguable king of Milan’s fashion scene whose reinvention of Gucci has grown into a force to be reckoned with. This season, Michele’s obsession with youth translated into a somewhat problematic casting of all-white teens. However, the clothes themselves suggested something more positive: a radical reversal of dress codes with a 70s twist. Ironically, there was less of a sense of young guys as there was of old women in the collection, exemplified with pussy-bow blouses, green silk robes with fur cuffs, gold silk pants, or nude lace with embroidered roses. But that’s the best part about what Alessandro Michele’s doing at Gucci: his subversion of what we’d typically expect to see in menswear is implemented subtly, with an artistic inclination and luxury composition. It may not be for everyone, but the new Gucci is certainly worth watching. Another Milanese classic worth talking about was Prada, where Miuccia showed her men’s line alongside her women’s resort collection, presenting a context for discussion. The women ruled over the men, perhaps nodding to Prada’s feminist approach to fashion. In this case, 1960s badass styles like pleated and pencil skirts and mini shift dresses were shown in luxe leather variations. In contrast, the men looked like boys, with zipped mock-turtlenecks, topstitched shorts, and shirts half tucked in. There were even racecar and rocket ship motifs on some of the sweaters, an element of innocence that was downplayed with leather bottoms. Prada’s latest showed the boys in relation to the women, a reversal of the implicitly misogynist trope we’re used to seeing. Even the men have got to cheer for Prada’s powerful – albeit subtle – feminist moment. Aside from the Italian icons, there were some newcomers to Milan this season who added an international edge to the scene. One of those was Damir Doma, who decided not to show in Paris this time around, and whose collection was arguably one of the best of the season. Minimalist yet intuitive, the crisp cotton and slightly worn linen garments appeared clinical yet natural. There was a sense of elemental wear and tear, shown through flecked details and softened colors. Overall, Damir Doma proved that his show would be missed in Paris, though it definitely added another exciting act to Milan.
The European menswear shows culminated in Paris, where old Parisian maisons were further modernized, while foreign labels also shined. After several seasons of launching Balmain into a new stratosphere, designer Olivier Rousteing presented his first men’s show, of course featuring a handful of womenswear looks on an all-star cast. Rousteing went on safari for spring 2016, with desert boots transformed into sandals, baggy, military-inspired trousers, and braided tops galore. Over at Givenchy, Riccardo Tisci also synchronized his menswear with womenswear, earning attention through turns by Mariacarla Boscono, Kendall Jenner, and even Naomi Campbell. As for the men’s looks, Tisci mixed jail-inspired details with religious iconography. Although Jesus Christ and prison might not seem to be a likely pairing, Givenchy’s latest menswear somehow managed to combine the two elements with unwavering finesse. These and other Parisian marques certainly impressed, but it was the outsiders who really made waves.
Rick Owens’ show might have been overshadowed by one model’s protest of German chancellor Angela Merkel, but the collection itself would have otherwise stolen the spotlight. A lighter, more frivolous approach, Owens added more color, as well as transparency and glazes to his leather garments. Yohji Yamamoto tried slim-fit tailoring for the first time this season, where his 007-inspired collection played with the idea of caution tape as garnish to clothing. But of course, the collection wouldn’t be the same without the necessary voluminous silhouettes or the luxe linen and silk blends in other garments. Easily one of the most remarkable outings of the season was by Shayne Oliver at Hood By Air. The New York-based label found a new home in Paris, where Oliver added a new dynamic to his standard codes. Sure, there was still a heavy streetwear influence, as well Oliver’s masterful blurring of gender lines. But there was a stronger sense of luxury, even glamor this time around. Still, the idea of children’s play clothes added an eerie element to the mix, while the dissection and deconstruction of garments kept things grounded.
But wait, it’s not over yet! Once the couture shows wrap up, there’s more menswear to come. For the first time ever, New York will be getting its own men’s fashion week, scheduled for July 13-16.
Stay tuned for more updates from New York Fashion Week: Men’s, but until then, click through the gallery below to see some of the top looks from the European SS16 menswear shows!
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