Tom Ford Fall 2014 Menswear

Tom Ford is a great example of fashion’s action/reaction dialectic. After a Spring collection saturated with intense, thrilling color, he went black for Fall. And, following seasons of hyperattenuated tailoring, he showed only two suits this time round, throwing the emphasis solidly on sportswear, “to capture the other side of my customer’s life,” as he sagely put it during today’s presentation. And such solid sportswear! Voluminous topcoats swirled around a stovepipe silhouette; a coyote-lined parka wrapped a bouclé-like sweater (yarn hand-spun in Peru, hand-knitted in Italy); gray shearling over a gray cashmere hoodie…you get the picture. And no prizes for guessing why this “other side” should suddenly have become important. Ford himself now needs such clothes (brown shoes, for Pete’s sake) when he’s walking his toddler, Jack, in Hyde Park.

Things got even better when Ford dialed down the volume, as in a down-filled taupe blazer and a bone-toned mac (aestheticized, he claimed, with a process that removes the characteristic rubbery aroma). But the most telling addition to Ford’s newly casual Fall repertoire may well have been trainers. He called them “tennis shoes.” Said he’d been resisting them forever, or at least “until I could figure out how to make them distinctive.” The secret? They are produced using the hand-polishing technique that is applied to Ford’s dress shoes: three days per pair, to yield a lustrous aged-in-wood effect.

Such obsessive attention to detail has always been Ford’s calling card. When the item merits the attention, the result can be stunning. And so it was with Fall’s eveningwear. Anyone needing their color fix could find it in lustrous silk jacquard jackets, in exotic ikats, or in textures so lush they could almost have been dévoré. And there was still color elsewhere in the collection: a zing of chartreuse slipped into a pile of cashmere sweaters, a tasty selection of spice tones in amid the urban charcoal.

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Pringle Of Scotland Fall 2014 Menswear – London Collections Men

For Fall, Pringle of Scotland’s Massimo Nicosia was thinking back. “It’s a small-towner moving to the big city,” he said. The smooth-faced boys lined up in his presentation today seemed to be fledglings making their first forays into the wild. Fashion is here to help them. “It’s about building a wardrobe,” Nicosia said. Sophistication is introduced piece by piece.

The charm of the collection was the way Nicosia hit at the juncture of innocence and experience. The guys were dressed in blue-chip cashmeres and trim scuba-jersey trousers, but still they wore their stubby, lug-soled shoes with what looked like little white gym socks. One had on a velvet evening jacket, but on top he tossed over an oversize bomber—one made, it appeared on closer inspection, of knit, and fully reversible to boot. A styling tactic it may be, but it gave the collection a dose of the street-friendly vibe that is the stock-in-trade of most London menswear shows. That it was delivered at a presentation by one of the U.K.’s historic brands gave Pringle a boost that, at the very least, made it seem more sociable with its neighbors in London’s jam-packed schedule. For any Pringle fans possessed of stiffer upper lips, the racks nearby were hung with plenty of lovely, often technically savvy sweaters, like a hand-knit fisherman’s sweater with embroidered rope overlay, and a laser-cut mesh whose holes were woven together with gossamer cellophane yarn.

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Burberry Prorsum Fall 2014 – London Collections Men

As the music played at Burberry Prorsum’s show today, the suspicion formed that we were listening to female voices interpreting Jeff Buckley songs. The mix of feminine and masculine was appropriate to the parade of boys passing on the catwalk, shoulders draped in ladylike souvenir silk scarves, torsos sheathed in string vests—the Brit equivalent of Stanley Kowalski’s working-class white tee. You could imagine a bohemian sort—maybe even one of the four artists whom Christopher Bailey claimed as inspiration for his collection—sporting the combination to épater le bourgeois at some point in uptight early-twentieth-century British society. One of those artists, Duncan Grant, has become something of an obsession for Bailey. After the show, he was exulting in the recent purchase of a huge Grant canvas.

A Painterly Journey was the title Bailey gave his collection, and an overt aestheticism shaped the spirit of the clothes: autumnal Arts and Crafts-y prints, hand-painted leathers, bags cut from the kind of carpets that would have lined the Bloomsbury Group’s studies and studios. But Bailey also seemed to be tipping his cap to a traditional notion of the artist as a virile creator who won’t bow to society’s conventional mores. Grant, for instance, was blissfully bisexual his entire life, and Lucian Freud, another of Bailey’s male muses, was a swordsman of legendary renown. Though there wasn’t one hair on one chest on the Burberry catwalk
(Bailey joked that he’d shaved them all—at least, we hope it was a joke), the show nevertheless felt staged to communicate a message of masculinity so confident, sexually charged even, that it could survive the imposition of those silk scarves. Hence, the chest-baring string vests. The fringed suede jackets and the horse blankets casually thrown over shoulders were also part of the butch subtext. They may have been part of the styling story, but they were entirely compatible with the manly meat of the collection itself, which went deep on coats, flannel, and tweed, all grounded on terra firma by solid shoes.

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Anna Sui Spring 2014 RTW

The Pre-Raphaelites were Victorian England’s rock stars: poets, painters, and lotus-eating romantics who exalted beauty in the face of the gray uniformity of the Industrial Revolution. Unsurprisingly, the rock stars of another century were drawn to them. In game-changing boutiques like Granny Takes a Trip, London’s gilded youth bought into the languor and luxury of the Pre-Raphaelite legend. Jimmy Page did more than that—he acquired the tapestries created by Pre-Raph top gun Edward Burne-Jones. When Anna Sui saw them in the Tate’s Pre-Raphaelite retrospective at the beginning of this year, she knew she’d found her inspiration for Spring 2014.

That’s the way Anna rolls, layering epiphanies from her own life in her collections, such as falling in love with the way Masai men draped fabric round their bodies when she took her nieces and nephews on safari at the start of the summer. And a few months later, when she was in Indonesia, finding herself mesmerized by the crowns worn by Balinese dancers. Those elements were stirred together with the Pre-Raphaelite inspiration and a Victoriana-meets-Venice Beach Boardwalk vibe to create a typical Sui stew of upbeat, irresistible idiosyncrasy.

Knowing none of that, you might have assumed you were seeing a parade of the haute-est hippie chic. Alia Penner’s backdrop was inspired by the artwork of The Fool, the psychedelic design collective in the sixties who painted Eric Clapton’s guitar, John Lennon’s piano, and George Harrison’s Mini. True, that acid-spiked sensibility infected the collection’s window dressing: Butterfly sunglasses and Erickson Beamon’s butterfly jewelry, hair wreathed in flowers, and even the sunburst design on a linen hoodie felt mighty appropriate for a sun-drenched free concert in Hyde Park circa ’69. But Anna is a much cannier magpie than that. Her attention to detail is inspiring—minutely researched but never so literal as to weigh her down. Today, it was clearest in her prints and fabric treatments, like the metallic jacquarded chiffons that she’d created to duplicate the mysterious iridescence of Burne-Jones’ paintings. The lightness of her touch was also obvious in the way that the men on her catwalk—rare but welcome visitors
to the world of Sui—sported tees with giant silver stars, more Mr. Freedom than Granny Takes a Trip. Meanwhile, the womenfloated by in crochets and chiffons as airy as a dream. Beauty exalted, indeed.

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Valentino Fall 2013

The pursuit of perfection is Valentino’s current M.O. The show the label staged at the Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild was gorgeous, full of exquisite clothes worn by boys with not a hair out of place. It snapped into focus ever more forcefully the emphasis Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli put on the idea of couture, for menswear as much as for women’s. Men’s couture has its own long history and tradition: It’s bespoke, and its hometown is London. That city was the inspiration for their new collection, though its young-gun avatars were more Carnaby Street than Savile Row. There was a wash of Italian suaveness over the whole, too “We’re from Italy!” protested Piccioli—but the designers’ mood boards made the cultural mash-up clear: Antonioni here, Mick Jagger in his early, snarling years there. Elsewhere were his fellow Angry Young standard-bearers of London’s swinging sixties.

The sixties is a familiar well for designers to return to, but shock and awe, the designers said, wasn’t the point. At least not shock. “We believe it’s very important to give something that a man desires,” Chiuri said, but that’s only part of the story. Piccioli finished the thought. “You desire,” he said, “what you already know. So we want to show what you already know in a different way, with different eyes. Our fashion is to make extraordinary what is ordinary.” Thus their mission. There have been any number of collections with trim suits, trenches, and even Michael Caine glasses, but Valentino unsettles the settled notions. Take
its Black Watch plaid. The designers start with blue wool, stitch in green, and then overprint black to give shadows and depth. Repeat with houndstooth and check. Old made new, awe delivered. (And for the multi-pocket flat clutches, safe to say no one in the sixties had those.)

The collective gasp of the audience confirmed a hit. That felt right, though the London inspiration might just as easily have invited a yelp. The threat of danger and spleen attended the Angry Young Men, who never worried about mussing their menswear.

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Burberry Prorsum Spring 2014 Menswear

The relocation of the Burberry Prorsum men’s show from Milan to London this season has been hailed as one of the biggest vindications to date of the city’s soaring fashion status. After the show, staged in typically grand Burberry style in a massive tent in one of the boskiest corners of Hyde Park, Christopher Bailey wasn’t sure whether the switch would become a permanent thing, but on the evidence of today’s presentation, the decision to stay ought to be a no-brainer. So much about Burberry and Bailey’s menswear homecoming whispered, “He’s back.” In every way.

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