At this time of year, Stockholm is not a fashion-friendly place. The winds are frigid, the temperatures are freezing, and a thin layer of snow and ice makes it treacherous for heels. Not to mention, achieving just the right balance between cozily layered and overbundled is mighty tricky. While the locals were more or less prepared for the unfortunate conditions, the international press and buyers who descended upon the seventeenth Mercedes-Benz Stockholm Fashion Week struggled to dress the part. However, local designers offered a host of fashionable-yet-practical solutions for Stockholm’s chilly weather in their Fall ’14 collections.
J.Lindeberg, designed by Jessy Heuvelink, presented a high-octane lineup inspired by the medusa, a large jellyfish that swims in cold, dark waters. Cleverly layering blue furs, black leather, and burgundy wool in his outerwear-focused offering, the designer presented a sexy, not-too-serious take on winter dressing.
Celebrating the brand’s fifteenth anniversary, Whyred womenswear designer Roland Hjort expertly layered trousers, dresses, and coats, which he presented in a palette of grays. The outing was topped off by fur jackets and silver Dr. Martens boots. The looks were elegant but stable.
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.
Deconsecrated churches always made memorable venues for Alexander McQueen shows, so the choice of Welsh Chapel to host the label’s latest menswear offering already felt like a trip down memory lane, even before the clothes emerged with a tailored, kilted flair that had distinct echoes of Lee McQueen’s own men’s collections from ages past. Indeed, Sarah Burton was talking about “a nostalgic look back,” not just at McQueen’s history but also at the history of the chapel and the Soho neighborhood that surrounds it.
Welsh Chapel spent the eighties as the London outpost of New York’s legendary, badly behaved Limelight nightclub. This afternoon, it had the spectral, hushed air of a place that has slipped back into shadow, almost forgotten, after absorbing more than a century of human energy, good and bad. Once the ominous throb of “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” kicked in, it was clear that this particular reawakening would be about the darkness.
The monochrome starkness of the clothing was a deliberate effort by Burton to “cleanse the palette.” She was inspired by the work of John Deakin, who photographed the Soho art scene in the fifties. Why? “Honesty, beauty, melancholy,” she said. Deakin’s image of a young Lucian Freud was printed on a trenchcoat. It was a simple, striking effect, in keeping with the spirit of a collection that had been shorn of embellishment, other than the dull gleam of gold lamé in the evening looks and the rivulets of zips that ran down coats and kilts. One coat also featured the embroidered scribble of a war poem by Oliver Bernard, another Deakin subject.
The models wore crow feathers in their hair, and with the kilts, the boots, and the military precision of the elongated double-breasted tailoring, it wasn’t hard to see them as warriors of the urban wasteland. This is turf that McQueen has well and truly mined before, so perhaps it was the familiarity that made what was once fierce now feel almost like an exhibit in a mythical McQueen museum. Still, a punk three-piece (jacket, kilt, and pants) in pink tartan never loses its allure.
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.
Here’s a quick look at Topman Design At London Collections.
Here’s a look at Lou Dalton Fall. Winter 2013 collection at London Collections Men.
It’s not exactly the “heroic human needs for life in extreme conditions” that the notes for her show exalted, but Silvia has been feeling Scandinavia lately. Or, to be more specific, Iceland, even if its place under the Scandinavian umbrella is not exactly secure. No matter, it’s the relationship between the people and nature that Silvia loves, as well as the scorn for materialism and the discerning taste that evolves when you learn to value the little you’ve got. Educated palates might have discerned that the drinks and canapés served during the presentation tasted well and truly foraged in the wild. Everyone else was merely flummoxed.
Fortunately, the Icelandic subtext didn’t impose itself on the clothes quite so divisively. In a season of oversize coats, a fisherman’s cape was an exotic option, especially when rendered in a patchworked astrakhan, or yeti shagginess. The wildness of those pieces was tempered in the heavy knits, the raw felts, the coarse nubbles of a topcoat, the way a sweater was patched into an argyle pattern, or oiled leather was fused with wool in a hoodie. Hoods were actually a leitmotif, inspired, said Silvia, by Icelandic fishermen’s coats. The translucent soles on the shoes were intended to evoke slivers of ice. The fur boots were clearly closer to the collection’s cold heart.
As is often the case with Fendi, the concept pieces were surrounded by a collection of artfully normal items such as slimly tailored suits and some splendid topcoats. Scarcely the kind of things that would appeal to a man who scorned materialism. But he might like the context: the foraged food, and the live soundtrack by electronic musician (and Björk collaborator) Matthew Herbert, who mixed rhythms very economically out of the sound of the models as they marched, like a surreal step class, up, down, and sideways through the stairway-ed set. And our man might also find a curiously kindred spirit in Silvia herself.
The walkways of the Fendi show space reminded her of the bridge on a fishing trawler, but she also fancied those walkways crowded with doctors and scientists. “Science is the next big thing for me,” said she. “Scientists are going to be the next rock stars.”
The runway’s love affair with Russia continues. Its latest paramour is Canali. But as Elisabetta Canali explained backstage after the show, that made a kind of meet-me-in-Saint Petersburg sense. “It’s the most Italian city in Eastern Europe,” she said. “It was designed
by Italian architects.” Russian style, Canali style—they’ve got at least a love of luxe in common.
For years, Canali has been bolder than some of the other lines in its Italian-suiting age bracket, parading deep colors and pastels, but Fall added texture and skin to the mix. You could curtain a decadent’s villa with the collection’s total velvet order, cut into suits and a show-closing series of jewel-toned trenches lined in silk. Astrakhan was only one level down: It came in tucked scarves or coat collars, the most lavish on a full-length shaved black mink. Wretched excess may have been occasionally skirted, but the colors—jewel tones of petrol blue, plum, and brick; Rothko colors, Canali explained—were lovely, and the suits, under all those coats, sharp. The more-is-more crowd may well eat up the rest. Canali does a brisk business in Russia, Elisabetta revealed. All signs point to it getting even better now.
If it wasn’t exactly a manifesto—the show last October for his first women’s collection had already fulfilled that function—Hedi Slimane’s menswear debut consolidated his OCD approach to his gig at Saint Laurent. His manipulation of every minuscule detail leading up to and surrounding the show practically guaranteed anticlimax. The invitation? A visual journal by L.A. polymath aesthete Brian Roettinger. The model casting? Unheard-of indie band members from England, France, and the U.S. The music? Something by SF muso Ty Segall, which managed to combine the garage racket of the Stooges with the primitive electronic howl of Hawkwind. The set? A whirling industrial construct, Conrad Shawcross meets Close Encounters. All of that added up to shoulda-been-fabulous. But we’re forgetting about the clothes. And maybe Slimane did, too.
The kindest thing to be said about Slimane’s first official men’s collection was that he made a guy to go with his girl. If Kate Moss was the ideal woman for the satanic L.A. gypsy he presented for Spring, her husband, Jamie Hince, would surely do full justice to the rock avatar Slimane marched down his men’s catwalk for Fall. You don’t even want to go there with the skinny; that is already such a cliché in the lexicon of Slimanery. “Slim man,” geddit? This was just as much about the plaid shirts, distressed jeans, drainpipe leathers, trailing leopard-print scarves, girlfriend’s bits and pieces (cue Julia Nobis and company on the runway to underscore the androgyny), vintage coats and cavalry jackets…a rock prototype that can be traced from its origins with the Strolling Bones back in the Dark Ages of geetar bands all the way through its elucidation by an endless number of bastard spawn up to the jangly here and now, although Nirvana are a particularly pointy way station. All of it is thrilling in theory and practice, but it was a surreal incongruity to see it spotlit in a very expensive fashion presentation. Slimane’s passion for the music he loves, the bands that make that music, and the lifestyle that surrounds it is entirely understandable, laudable, and well served with integrity by his photographic tributes. When he spun his ardor into high fashion today, it made a lot less sense, especially as the kids who are the prime components of his vision can already shop this look for zilch down the funky end of any L.A. boulevard.