A note to the uninitiated: New fashion collections are presented to the press six months before the clothes hit stores. The recent men’s shows in New York are a preview of what will be on shelves in the Fall of 2010. Also, this post is loaded with links. Click on the bold underlined words and phrases for additional visuals.
Men’s Fashion is another one of those kooky oxymorons you hear bandied about from time to time. Well, in case you missed it, Men’s Fashion Week just finished in New York City and MAJOR changes are in store for every man’s closet. Just kidding. I am a firm believer that when it comes to men’s clothes, there is rarely anything new under the sun (surprised?). Now this isn’t to say I haven’t experimented with a few fads that came my way. I admit that I have, on occasion, forsaken the classics but always find my way home and this is where I plan to stay. So when we say nothing is new, then what are all these designers up to spending millions of dollars to dress models up and send them down a runway? Well, press coverage and brand recognition, of course. But it is true that every man needs new clothes once in while and many will buy these, even the kooky crazies. But I digress.
If all these designers put on shows twice a year, there must be something new to crow about so what exactly is new in men’s clothing? The answer? Fabric, color, cut, patterns, shape, and most evidently as seen here below, styling. But before we get into this, I have a pet peeve (surprise again) when it comes to men’s fashion shows. Why don’t menswear designers come out dressed in the clothes they just sent down the runway? If they want us to believe that these clothes fit into modern man’s life, why would they send outlandish outfits down the runway and then step out to take a final bow in t-shirt and jeans? It’s reeks of trying to pull a fast one. Have some conviction. Practice what you preach. Case in point? Michael Bastian showed a fantastic collection for the eccentric dandy full of classic shapes, classic patterns put together in offbeat ways — which warms SP’s heart – and of course, styled to beat the band. Then he steps out for his post-show bow in a button-down under a pullover and fatigues. Come on, Mr. Bastian. I realize that you haven’t slept in three weeks and you were pulling a needle through a hem seven seconds before the model hit the runway, but throw on one of those fantastic single-button blazers. They’re right there on the rack beside you.
Since no discussion of fashion would be complete without a trend forecast, here we go. There are always trends that hum around the design rooms taken from street style, the culture and whatever new fabric the mills are pushing this season. It is great to see the classic/prep revival/New England trend still going strong and the unabated influence of that seminal fount of inspiration Take Ivy . And bow ties, of course. Here are some of the other trends spotted from the recent presentations. SP does not encourage or endorse:
– Layered sleeves, layered shirts. Short sleeves, mid length sleeves, and long sleeves all piled one upon the other OR blazer and suit jacket sleeves pushed way up over the elbow Miami-Vice Style. It’s just crazy.
– Deep country boots for the city. The Red Wing boot (knocked off ad nauseam), LL Bean Duck boots, Sorels and Band of Outsiders for Sperry Top-sider boots are all the rage it seems, even worn with suits. Oy.
– Rich textures and Eccentric Plaids – This trend we like, with caution.
– Fingerless gloves up the wazoo.
– Cropped jackets and Lettermen’s jackets are running rampant.
– Fancified sweatpants with cuffs and leggings. No. No. No.
And evidently shorts. Um, since this is a review of the FALL/WINTER collections let’s throw away any mention of shorts, shall we? Good grief.
- and ditto to all the shiny, metallic fabrics. As my friend Anabel says, Yo no peudo.
Now that all that is out of the way, let’s get down to some real clothes a man can sink his teeth into. Here are the ten best looks by (for the most part) Americans shown last week in New York (in alphabetical order).
Billy Reid – The sweaters are incredible, the coats, oh so classic and the trousers fit like a man’s pant ought. Texture upon texture looked like a rough-hewn classic throwback. The styling got a little loud once or twice, but that’s the name of the game in “Men’s Fashion”. Overall, excellent excellent clothes can be seen here.
Brooks Brothers - If you want to talk about triumph of styling, this is never more evident than in the presentation Brooks gave in the Madison Avenue store. Classic fabrics, shapes and colors come together in interesting and modern ways to make the definitive American men’s clothing house relevant and traditional at the same time. Love these combinations, and that tweed is killing me it’s so right. Don’t even get me started on embroidered pants, always a good look in my opinion. Some of the collection can be seen here at ivy-style.com. For seriously sharp suits Brooks also has the Black Fleece Collection designed by Thom Browne and the Mad Men collaboration with Janie Bryant.
Gant by Michael Bastian - Again, styling is key here. There is absolutely nothing new at Gant, in fact the brand trumpets its old school bona fides. And that is fine with me. Sharp. More images can be seen here.
John Bartlett - Mr. Bartlett is back in a big way. He usually shows clothes meant for the, shall we say, “beefy” man and since SP is about four plates of ribs away from beefy, I don’t wear a lot of Bartlett. But this wool cashmere exploded Prince of Wales plaid in the trouser and the coat is whistling my name. Now this collection seems to me like the opposite of tricky styling. Good clothes standing alone, well done. See full presentation here.
Michael Bastian - Of all the men showing collections in New York this time around, Mr. Bastian is definitely “having a moment” as they say. Here the sought after balance of styling, cut, color, shape and pattern have come together in a surprisingly fresh take on classic. See full presentation here.
Simon Spurr and Tommy Hilfiger – Mr. Spurr is British but he chose to have his first show in New York which says a lot about what he wants to say and who he wants to reach. This is a brand new collection and it is remarkably mature for a first effort. I am not advocating leather gloves with suits, unless you are careening your Ferrari out of Milan on your way to St. Moritz for the weekend. But this suit is sharp. See the full collection here. As for Hilfiger, I will admit that I am not a fan of the logos, the stripes, the trying-too-hard Americana that has been the brand’s signature of seasons past and spewed all over suburban malls. But this look is dead-on fresh. And TH is usually affordable. Bravo, Mr. Hilfiger. See full collection here.
Honorable Mention: There were over 40 collections shown in New York this past season and many were definitely Not Our Kind. Although these last two collections below were crazy on the styling there were some great pieces to be found beneath the hype and hoopla. This cardigan from Gilded Age (full collection here) and this shawl collar Alpine sweater from Rag & Bone (full collection here) are definitely on the list.
Finally, while I am concentrating on American designers here, there were two from across the pond that I had to mention. This camel coat from Burberry Prorsum (below left) is just about the greatest thing I have ever seen. Unfortunately the military fetish of the rest of the collection tilts toward costume. See here. And here’s the tough one. Prada. I choose to ignore the Prada fixation as well as the whole slick Milan vibe, but this collection could have been worn by Ryan O’Neil in Love Story. The camel jackets (below right) and coats and the colorful sweater vests are terrific, but please ignore the mod-art patterned pieces and cinched, high-waisted cardigans. But the trousers, yes! Mrs. Prada can also keep all that black and grey in Milano. The jury is still out on all those double-collar tricky tricks on the coats. See full collection here.
A word about American business. If you find yourself in solid financial territory and you have set aside funds for clothing, by all means support American designers and put some of these looks in your shopping bag. Unfortunately, many of us are living on the table scraps called recession dollars and expensive designer clothes are not in the budget. But do not despair. Use this post as inspiration and guide, if you care to, and see what you can find at the flea markets and thrift stores (or your father’s or grandfather’s closet). To be honest, that is where many design ideas and inspiration begin, so why shouldn’t you go straight to the source? Just be sure you visit a good tailor who knows how to tweak, shape and alter out-dated silhouettes. Perhaps that’s the next post.