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.
There’s not a waistband in any of the looks,” Michael Kors said by way of preface to his Fall lineup. Those waited outside, in the sales showroom. When the collection came from the factories, the pieces Kors gravitated to were the sweats and track pants, all in luxurious fabrications—double-faced cashmere, suede, suiting flannel—and all with drawstring waists. That gives you an idea of the bet he’s making on ease. (“And we had so many fabulous belts…” he said wistfully afterward.)
He was reacting, he said, to the twin nightmares of business-formal overdressing and casual Fridays. He combined both into what he called “Big Sur meets Big City.” Baja sweaters and beanies abounded. There were suit fabrics and tailored jackets, but softened into something more like pajamas than power suits. A representative look paired crinkled flannel track pants with a longer, three-button jacket, untucked shirt, mohair pullover, and sandals. “It’s the crushing of Wall Street,” Kors said gleefully.
That’s an odd way for a man behind the most blockbuster fashion IPO in memory to repay Wall Street, but his bankers may be the only people able to afford ten-ply cashmere long johns. If the collection doesn’t portend the demise of the suit, it does suggest Kors has shrugged off some of the self-consciousness of his last collection for a glamorous ease that seems closer to his heart. Piece after piece was desirable, even when faintly ridiculous: cashmere sweats, suede joggers. “I have a feeling someone in Dubai will actually work out in these,” Kors said. Workout-ready or no, one major retailer exiting the presentation confirmed that luxury
loungewear is a salable and growing category.
Trussardi and Umit Benan, its designer of two years, parted ways after last season; Milan Vukmirovic, its previous steward, managed only a few more. It was hard to escape the sense that the ruling family wanted to keep its decisions made in the family. Maybe that’s hindsight speaking, now that Gaia Trussardi has been named creative director. She was noncommittal on the advantages of the bloodline. “It’s been 34 years that I’ve been breathing it,” she said simply—it being Trussardism, whose dominant characteristics include a belief in the universal applicability of leather. Trussardi has been, for a century-plus, a stalwart of accessories and leather goods. Its Spring collection—warm-weather season notwithstanding—was almost entirely skin as well: thin, supple leather dyed dusty colors, cut into dusters and anoraks, T-shirts and jeans.
Backstage, Gaia was spinning a traveling yarn: A “desert atmosphere,” with “open space, freedom, bright light, a sense of movement,” she said. Her leather pants were loose, pajama-style, not the rock ‘n’ roll sausage casings of yore. “Effortless elegance,” she decreed. That’s a phrase that seems to be applied everywhere these days, but the collection did in fact smack of it. It had less of the distinctive point of view that characterized her predecessors’. Whether that comes with the seasons, time will tell. The desert is wide; the trek’s just beginning.
Brioni co-founder Gaetano Savini traveled to Japan in 1963. The historical record exists—it’s a small, age-stained diary with Arigato=Grazie scrawled across the cover. When Brioni’s current steward, Brendan Mullane, turned up the journal in the house archives, it was like he’d received a sign from above. Mullane has made a habit of retracing the Brioni founders’ steps (last season, he replicated their trip to London), and he packed his crew up and took them all to Japan. The result is perhaps the most Japanese collection of ultra-luxury Italian suits ever attempted.
The entire enterprise is premised on bringing together the two traditions. It started on the micro level: Mullane spoke of borrowing colors from Caravaggio (rich cherry red, deep green, navy) and weaving them into Japanese suiting wools, then garment-dyeing Italian cashmere coats in a pink the color of Japanese cherry blossoms. From there, it grew to macro: There were traditional Western suits in single- and double-breasted iterations, but the apex of the mix was a suit silhouette inspired by a kimono, with inset lapels and a belted waist. It drew the largest crowd of goggling Italians.
On the trip, between visits to Tadao Ando’s building and the Naoshima Biennial, Mullane met with a 450-year-old firm of kimono artisans, from whom he commissioned a custom print featuring cranes, bamboo, and plum and cherry blossoms. It showed up printed onto silk shirts and woven into suits, but its wildest and most luxurious expression was on a bomber jacket hand-painted with the crane motif. It will be a limited edition and, as the euphemism has it, priced on request. Which in the end makes it different less in degree than in kind from Brioni’s usual wildly luxe fare. (This is a collection that includes a full-length mink with
a Prince of Wales pattern hand-cut into it with a razor.)
Skeptics may wonder at the wisdom of a departure as marked as this one, but wonder is at least as worthy a response as skepticism. “To me, it’s quintessentially Brioni,” Mullane said of the collection. “Everything has that nod to Italian sartorialism, but taken to the next level.” Besides, Savini isn’t the only traveler with an understanding that arigato=grazie. Cross-cultural appreciation goes both ways. “Most of the customers of the kimono company,” Mullane confided, “are also Brioni customers.”
As is often the case with fashion shows, the invitation to Y-3’s debut Paris show provided the first clue. “Stay here!” it blared in comic-book caps. “I will get help!”
Evidently Yohji Yamamoto had superheroes in mind, and, none too subtly, he put himself forward as their tailor. But the shoe fit (this being the baby of Adidas, more often than not it was a sneaker). Menswear designers are forever discussing the fusion of performance and style, of sportswear and tailored clothing: Y-3 more or less wrote the book. It flew into Paris to remind the world of that fact. It didn’t have to get help: It is help.
Of course the landscape has changed since Y-3 came to be a decade ago. (The ubiquity of Raf Simons’ multicolored Adidas trainers in the audience alone reminded you that fashion/sport collaborations are now considered a given, not a novelty.) Still, Yamamoto and Y-3 acquitted themselves ably. In the thick of a long and product-heavy collection, play with proportion—a nod, according to the label, to sixties couturiers—set the showpieces apart. Striped hoodies were stretched into tunics, gym shorts into sarouel pants, and a track jacket into a wrapped blanket-cum-poncho, debonair enough for a corsair. If clothes make the man, capes makes the hero.
Christophe Lemaire is internationalism incarnate. He’s always had an eye on fashion—maybe it’s more appropriate to say “dress”—from a global perspective. He is the rare designer who will say with a straight face, pointing to a flannel T-shirt and matching triple-pleat pants, his so-called daily pajama, “I wouldn’t mind if people see a reference to eighties Japan.” A walk-through with Lemaire inevitably invokes references to Chinese workwear from the Mao era, Middle Eastern nomads, and Western New Wave musicians.
It’s a quality that made him a smart choice for Hermès, which makes its super-luxury pitch to the perennial traveler. But it’s also a quality that can make his namesake line, where he indulges it fully, a bit obscure to shoppers weaned on jeans and T-shirts. (After several years in business, Lemaire finally introduced his own jeans a season or two ago.) For Fall, by his own admission, he moved his collection in a more urban direction. He introduced leather jackets and shetland sweaters to complement his usual yak-wool knits. He didn’t compromise on any of his fixations (large, carrot-shaped trousers; loose, draping coats), but by offering more of a foothold to casual observers, he situated his collection in a wider context.
While there were still padded coats inspired by Chinese uniforms, collarless workshirts, and multipleat pants, there was also a great gabardine trenchcoat with a removable wool/cashmere collar a smart, elongated peacoat; and plenty of denim. If it was urbane, that’s because it was inspired by an urban mecca: Lemaire’s native Paris. But, he said, “It’s another Paris. It’s not the bourgeois Paris everyone has in mind.” What made his Fall collection rise to new heights was the way the designer found a way to work his favored multicultural references into a more focused perspective on city dressing. Which only fits, given that his other Paris is as international as his imagination. To realize that, you had only to hear him enthusing about the inspiration he took from old Algerian men in Barbès for a leather vest worn over a longer tailored jacket.
Jim Morrison, who died in Paris at the age of 27, would have turned 70 last month. But contemplating the rock icon as a septuagenarian could potentially lead to dark places. So with The Doors pumping through the domed atrium of the Bourse de Commerce and quarter notes woven into jacquards, the ever-ebullient Sir Paul Smith conjured up one of his music idols in a way that favored imagination over representation. Backstage after the show, Smith cited the importance of relaxing the silhouette this season; coats like dressing gowns, trousers as roomy as pajama bottoms, and jackets that neglected to nip the waist were the strongest examples.
Smith was equally adamant that his vaguely ethnic rug patterns had been custom-designed to include the music motifs, all while underscoring hand-craftsmanship as a necessary constituent of the collection’s soul. Not that the look struggled to express personality; a leather hooded sweatshirt and tie-dyed jogging pants proposed yet another spin on men’s loungewear. Smith also wasn’t wrong to think that men welcome sequined sneakers (although the similarly shimmery Western shirt skewed more Mick than Jim). Smocks with tearaway side snaps seemed radically proportioned by Smith’s standards. But then he reminded us that he put David Bowie in a dramatic pair of trousers 30 years ago, which makes you realize he doesn’t exercise his feisty side enough. Or when he does, it usually plays out as pop—i.e. sweaters fronted with a large Lurex flamingo or a pair of palm trees (symbolizing the neon road signs of Morrison’s California years). Picturing Morrison in a cashmere robe coat and papery leather pants seemed
just about right.
Rei Kawakubo has said that if she could have invented one garment, it would have been the white shirt. “It’s a fundamental part of a man’s wardrobe,” her husband, translator, and company CEO, Adrian Joffe, said on her behalf. “Shirt, jacket, and pants are the fundamental basis.”
Conveniently enough that’s what Comme des Garçons Shirt makes, with an emphasis on the titular shirts. The line, the only Comme des Garçons collection made entirely in France, represents a third of the label’s menswear: There’s Homme Plus, the “engine,” which is given pride of place among the three on the Paris runway; Homme Deux, the more office-friendly line of
slightly twisted classic styles; and Shirt, which functions as the baby of the house and often as an entry point to its esoteric sensibility. (At 23 years old, though, the baby has outlasted plenty of its competitors and is now in a comfortable adolescence.)
Shirt’s small show, held the day after Homme Plus, offered its seasonal variations on its fundamental theme. For Fall, pants were uniformly cropped or rolled, shirts shown entire; the sense pervades that tucking one in would amount to a violation. (CDG is nothing if not strict in its preferences.) They are detailed with patchworking, ruffles, double plackets, and bubble-shaped appliqués that called to mind some of the details of the Homme Plus collection. The two lines are entirely distinct, Joffe said, but they do often connect with one another. “She’s the same person,” he said with a shrug.
She is only one, but Shirt takes in many. It is the line where Comme des Garçons does the majority of its collaborating with artists, brands, and companies. It currently makes shoes with The Generic Man and a line of apparel with Disney, featuring archival drawings of Mickey and friends; a recent collection was made in tandem with George Lucas’ Star Wars franchise, and before that, there were three years with Fred Perry. This season, Kawakubo invited Nicolas Buffe, a French designer living in Tokyo, into the fold. Among other pursuits, Buffe designs sets and costumes for Paris operas, and his drawings of stage sets and costumed
performers were printed (and then polka dotted, colored in, or otherwise Comme-ified) on shirts, shorts, and trousers.
Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, American ambassadors to France, are translating their native land for the French one region at a time. Having offered their version of California casual last season, the Kenzo creative directors moved to the Pacific Northwest for Fall. “When we used to live in Berkeley, we used to always go north, and we spent a lot of time in those different ,” Leon said. “There’s a specific way of dressing in them, a really cinematic way. When you think of Americana, that area is always played with.”
They erected their own monument to the region—literally, given that the show set consisted of the raw frames of houses, and the decorative motif on clothes and shoes was metal appliqués of “tool monsters.” They didn’t have the immediate appeal of the Kenzo tigers or evil eyes that have been the totems of previous seasons, but they did lend a menace that helped situate this cinematic production in the spectrum of PNW creepiness somewhere between Gus Van Sant and David Lynch.
The clothes that costumed their cinematic spectacle were darker and choppier than usual: four-button jackets squared at the waist, cropped knitwear, and high straight pants in forest-floor colors of mud and leaf. The designers said they’d obsessed over the functionality of every piece, from the warmth of a down puffer to the grip of a massive-soled boot. Was it this new emphasis that gave the proceedings a more self-consciously serious air than in some seasons past? You can’t spell “function” without “fun,” but this downplayed the Kenzo pop been a signature of its revival under Leon and Lim. Without it, the results weren’t as distinctively their own as usual; here and there a whiff of Prada crept in.
Still, the duo has a powerful talent for reframing even the narratives we thought we knew. (Through their collaboration at Opening Ceremony, they helped to spearhead the rebranding of Pendleton, the pride of the Pacific Northwest, as a hipster favorite.) Could they sell Paris on Portland? The Oregon Tourist Board would kill for their reach.
Since Raf Simons arrived at Dior, Christian Dior himself has been resuscitated, restored as the wellspring of the house’s mythology. Today, Kris Van Assche made his own contribution by elevating him as the original homme Dior, using elements from the magic Christian’s work and wardrobe to create one of his strongest collections yet for Dior Homme.
The strength was in the finely honed detail. The pinstripes of Dior’s own Savile Row suits were reproduced in myriad versions: narrow, wide, irregular, embroidered, rendered in leather strips. The polka dots of his silk ties were embroidered all over jackets, pants, shirts, bags,and shoes. The lily of the valley that Dior believed was his good-luck charm appeared as a trompe l’oeil embroidery peeking from a pocket, covering a shirt, or as a jacquard knit.
In studying the life of Dior the man, Van Assche was fascinated by how superstitious he was. Guided by a quotation from Goethe, “Superstition is the poetry of life,” Van Assche drew on not only the flower but also the star, heart, and coin motifs that Dior treasured for the subtle, delicate detailing of tiepins and brooches. A rose embroidery found in Dior’s couture archive was blown up as a visual on huge, swingy coats (they’re shaping up as Fall’s must-have in Paris).
The formality of the collection—often three-piece, sometimes four-button—was new. Van Assche has usually, by his own admission, stuck to a clone-like proposition of “utilitywear, jeans, and sneakers.” What was clever here was the incorporation of streetwear into the tailoring. Macro: a parka cut from a substantial Japanese nylon in khaki, or a utility jacket in that
same nylon, both layered over pinstripe suits. Micro: a nylon cargo pocket on pinstripe pants, a single zippered pocket on one sleeve of a blazer. Van Assche said he was “imposing more variety” on himself. And that means, come fall, there’ll be more choice for l’homme Dior.
Kim Jones nearly died for Louis Vuitton. His research trip to the Atacama Desert in Chile—the oldest and highest desert on earth—coincided with the windy season. The tiny plane he flew in on was so savagely buffeted by updrafts, downdrafts, and everything in between that he’d have said prayers if he thought they would have helped. But he landed safely, absorbed the Mars-like lack of atmosphere, and returned to Paris with a new collection germinating in his mind.
Jones, the son of a geologist, has been mesmerized all his life by the intricate miracles of the natural world. Now, as style director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear, he has the resources at his fingertips to alchemize his passion into physical objects. As challenging as Atacama was—and Cuzco and Nazca and Machu Picchu and the other places he visited on his research trip—Jones found a wealth of inspiration in the colors of the landscape and the crafts and the cloths of the indigenous population. They helped shape the Vuitton collection he showed today. The venue, for instance, was transformed top to bottom, hand-painted with an aerial image of Atacama. And the Andes loomed from the first look, a double-face cashmere coat striped like a traditional Chilean dress, with buttons of stone resembling the stones on the plains of Nazca. Draped over one shoulder was a long scarf woven from wool and alpaca.
Alpaca, native to Chile and Peru, was a cornerstone of the collection, fuzzing up the front of a sweater and a cashmere coat, woven into blanket stripes for a blouson. But Jones rolled out the really big guns with a handful of pieces made from the wool of another Andean native, the vicuña, rarest of the rare, ludicrously luxurious. So much so, in fact, that the vicuña coat, blouson, and lounging suits will be available only as part of Vuitton’s made-to-order service.
If there was paradox in ultimate luxury being extracted from some of the poorest regions of the world, there was also affirmation of the questing spirit that drives the true traveler to such extremes. That’s the spirit Jones has brought to Vuitton. And it doesn’t stop with souvenirs of his physical trips. This collection had not just the obvious luxury of the Andean fibers, but also the surprise of a parka in silk, not nylon; of track pants in super-light shearling rather than some high-performance synthetic; and of a trenchcoat reversing from gray cashmere to camel silk. Jones also transformed Vuitton’s signature Damier check, reconfiguring it in a deep cobalt blue. A travel bag and wallet in the cobalt Damier are available online now.