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.
Were the digital images of gridded boxes coded with hard-to-decipher label a clue to Rag & Bone’s Fall collection? They were projected wall-sized on the West Chelsea venue where the brand hosted its Fall ’14 menswear show, during a few days in New York that is starting to look, thanks to presentations from Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren, as well as from R&B, like a fledgling New York menswear week of sorts. The screens served in a way as a self-diagnostic test for the spectators. The PR people saw seating charts; this reviewer saw a bingo card (analyze that, doctors). But it was hard to connect any hypothesis to the show once it began.
The collection for Fall took R&B a distance from the military-inflected one they showed for Spring and closer to their heritage of English tailoring and workwear. “I’m getting a little nostalgic at the moment,” Marcus Wainwright said. “If you look at our first-ever two shows, they were a lot like this.” He and David Neville showed a mix of tailored pieces with hardy staples: suits with tees or knits rather than collared shirts, accessorized hooded anoraks worn over pleated pants, and plenty of rugged work boots. There was a fifties flavor to the proportion, with it shorter shorts and higher-waist trousers, but the cut was modern: drop-crotched, carrot-shaped for the pants, with articulated seams borrowed from performance wear.
There were pieces that seemed lifted wholesale from an earlier era, like a few great bowling shirts—but they were stitched not with the wearers’ names, but instead with the words (and then, on the back, the numerals) Three or Five. One more riddle to solve, until Wainwright dispelled it: Rag does a strong business in number-printed T-shirts but didn’t feel like sending them out on a runway.
That may in fact be the key to Rag & Bone: Given the duo’s success, they can now do more or less whatever they want. Asked after the show about the numbered projections, Wainwright revealed that they were the projection company’s test cards; they just looked cool, so he asked them to keep them up for the preshow cocktail. (During the show itself, the projections switched to photographs by four photographers—Jeff Henrikson, Billy Kidd, Adam Whitehead, and Brian Ziegler—commissioned to shoot the models during their fittings. It was an effective conceit.) “That kind of is the key to the collection,” Wainwright said. “There wasn’t a theme, there wasn’t a big secret inspiration. It’s about the purity of menswear, and what we believe fashion should actually be. In my opinion, there’s a lot of fashion that really means nothing to a guy.”
Though the cut of those trousers seemed potentially challenging to a fashion-averse guy—”The two hardest things in menswear to sell are high waists and pleats, hands down,” Wainwright acknowledged—there was plenty that was appealing and salable to choose from, whether the mack-fabric trenches or the shearlings or those numbered bowling shirts. (R&B’s men’s collections have proven so appealing and salable, in fact, that women apparently buy a lot of them, hence the girls-in-menswear on the runway.)
It’s something of a riddle that a show premised on purity and real clothing was as styled as this one was. But that, too, was seemingly easy to explain. “I think there’s a lot of backlash sometimes against things that are heritage these days,” Wainwright said. “People think that’s been done. Every menswear piece really comes from that in some way. But people should be focused on how clothes are put together.” The duo seem to have done some self-diagnosis of their own lately and settled on confining the tricks to the packaging while giving the clothes the cool but mostly unpretentious vibe of their early collections. The
appeal of that isn’t hard to decipher.
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.”
The tide has turned. Once upon a time, Sacai’s menswear hung on rails in a showroom without much company in the way of visitors. From there, it was a presentation on mannequins to a few early adopters in a nearly silent gallery. Those were the days. Today’s live presentation didn’t just seem packed because each of the twenty-six models stood facing a mirror, essentially doubling the body count as well as cleverly offering 360-degree views of a collection that often looks different from every angle. It seemed packed because clustered around every model were a handful of editors chanting I want that, I want that, I want that.
The vox pop is not the last word in fashion criticism, of course. But the voice of the crowd registered all the louder because Sacai’s Chitose Abe doesn’t come to town to explain her menswear. (Based in Tokyo, she reserves her visits to Paris for her women’s shows.) She simply builds it, and they come. The guiding principles of a Sacai collection are fairly regular: Custom-developed fabrics, unusual combinations and collisions, and a yen for deconstruction. Here, all the parts were in play, in a collection based on the idea of bringing the inside out. Some reversible pieces were simply styled inside out to display their interior workings. Others were designed to be inside out, like the varsity jackets from which the wool had been cut away to reveal the nylon lining. Some pieces flirted with inside and outside at once, such as the knit biker jacket whose lining dangled down beneath its hem. Others offered different options outside and in, like the Chesterfield whose double-face wool was houndstooth on the outside, striped within.
A skeptic might argue that it’s a small slice of the fashion-buying public that’s truly interested in anatomizing the finer points of their clothing’s innards versus skins. But though the clothes were piled into looks like layer cakes—Abe doesn’t just give fashion, she gives product, and a lot of it—to pick it apart was to find pieces in beautiful materials that wore their inspired weirdness lightly. If anything, this collection included fewer of the mash-ups that Sacai specializes in (wool sweatpants with nylon waistbands, cotton polos ending in drawstring hems, and so on), and more wardrobe staples of a more digestible variety: duffel coats, Chesterfields, suits, and great knitwear in Navajo and Nordic patterns.
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.
More art installation than fashion show backdrop, the set for Thom Browne’s show today was a Disney woodland populated with dozens of cute critters. A bear posed on a rock, ducks and fish swam in a pinstripe river, rabbits and squirrels scurried, an eagle soared above. The kicker? Three months in the making, the entire tableau, flora and fauna included, was stitched from classic menswear fabrics.
The show itself was a performance in two acts: the hunted and the hunters. For the first, Stephen Jones created a stunning set of headgear to represent the animal kingdom—from a helmet with frog’s eyes and a cap whose peak came to the hardened point of an eagle’s beak, to a bear head holding a fish in its mouth, to a huge elephant mask. The clothes that went with them were as accessible as anything Browne has ever offered, deliberately so. He was so excited to be working with Jones he wanted to showcase the hats, so the tweed, herringbone, glen plaid, houndstooth, windowpane check, and gray flannel tailoring was designed to steal no thunder
(though perhaps the raw seams were an acknowledgement of the wild animal within). This first section offered a shred of insight into how Browne posted a 61 percent increase in menswear sales last year. Somewhere there is a semi-real world in which you could imagine these clothes moving.
The second act, however, was a very different story. Welcome back to Thomlandia, a sur-real world where logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead. Browne’s hunters moved like demented Pierrots, exposing just how encumbered they were by their capelets of intarsia-ed mink, their dense honeycomb brocades woven with neoprene and digital pixels, strewn with sequins and giant oak leaves. Physical bulk aside, there was a perverse flatness to these outfits, like Browne had borrowed a leaf from Rei Kawakubo’s bible of two-dimensionality. They were so stiff that there was at least one instance—the huge plastic waders—where the model had to be lowered into his look. There was something so willfully bravura about such ridiculous excess that one was
left fishing—as usual—for analogies outside the world of conventions as banal as usefulness, ease of movement, sex appeal…Didn’t Nijinsky once do something so two-dimensional that he was practically stoned out of the theater?
Back to earth with a bump…the faces of Browne’s boys were stenciled with oak leaves to blend in with their outfits. Blend? Yes, that was the point of it all. Browne’s career has been built on a fascination with the classic, and here he was celebrating the primacy of camouflage in the male fashion lexicon. Or so he said. A more poignant subtext was the one suggested by the finale, where the “hunter” models stood in front of the “hunted” models, obscuring them. Then the “hunted” models moved up front. “The animals prevail,” said Browne. Showman, optimist, and conservationist? See for yourself when Browne’s entire Fall 2014 shebang goes
on show at a gallery near you. Because that is the likeliest destination for this epic spectacle.
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.
Hedi Slimane walks into a bar…it sounds like the start of a joke. But it’s not a joke for a band like Froth, who went from being an Echo Park combo with 1,528 Facebook likes to the makers of the soundtrack for the Saint Laurent show tonight. God only knows how Slimane found them, but the notion of the designer walking into a bar, hearing a band and bookin’ ’em for the Saint Laurent gig has an irresistible Kid-I’m-Gonna-Make-You-a-Star twist.
Froth’s Joo-Joo Ashworth graduated from El Segundo High School in 2012. Jeff Fribourg graduated from the same school in 2008. He was designing cover art for local bands, which creates a connection with Raymond Pettibon, the artist whose work Slimane portfolio-ed in his invitation (these invitations, btw, are already fashion collectibles of the highest order). Pettibon used to design the sleeves for his brother’s band, the Californian hardcore legends Black Flag.
There is no one who can touch Slimane for this kind of fanboy completism in fashion. He can gloss the garage band-iness of it all with a sophisticated son-et-lumière presentation, but his spirit is with the kids who sat on the floor at tonight’s show.
He’s their Pied Piper. His clothes speak to them. Whose legs will ever be that stovepipe-y again? Still, Slimane is a businessman as well as a designer. Tonight, he broadened his constituency with a collection that sized the tailoring up a notch, Teddy Boy rather than speed-riven punk, drape jackets rather than shrunken bumfreezers. Plus a selection of coats so gorgeous they came from outerwear heaven: digital tweed, micro-leopard print, maxi-houndstooth mohair, a stripey thing, and best of all, a herringbone that sparkled like it had been paved with sequins.
It was a moment to reflect on how Slimane throws you a drape in green Lurex, a jacket in gold lamé leopard, a black leather blazer alive with silver studs, and all of it just fits into his steamroller design ethos. A Froth lyric intoned, “Anything you read is so easy to
believe.” But critics carp. Clothes speak.
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.