Monday, January 26, 2015

In the Market Report: Menswear Shows the Essence of Cool


Man, Oh, Man! 

Balmain Fall/Winter 2015
(All photos Style.com & Vogue.com)

Smart modern women know that elements of a man’s uniform (which represent the essence of timelessness and authenticity), simply cannot be improved upon. I, like many others, routinely borrow from the boys and in fact, some of the most storied fashion icons past and present (Coco Chanel, Katherine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, Jane Birkin, Alexa Chung, Lauren Hutton, Ines de la Fressange, Caroline de Magret, Charlotte Rampling, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Angelica Huston) routinely tap (or tapped) into their tomboyish sides. (FYI, while menswear for women is something that cuts through the generations and works for all ages, I think it’s an especially effective sartorial option for those of a certain age, as it’s far better than trying to look like a sexy young chick LOL).

Angelica Huston and Jack Nicholson in their tuxedo  jackets

Coincidentally, the 63 year old Angelica Huston was profiled in The Wall Street Journal’s Off Duty section this weekend, (“A Tux That Isn’t Textbook”, by Alexa Brazilian). There was a marvelous picture of her, wearing an Yves Saint Laurent black velvet smoking jacket, accompanied by her similarly tuxedo clad boyfriend at the time, Jack Nicholson, attending the Directors Guild of America Awards back in 1986. (YSL, who will be celebrated along with Halston, in an upcoming exhibit at FIT, was one designer who was responsible for putting women in menswear, specifically, ‘le smoking’). The author, actress, and former runway model, was known to stick to a uniform (“Levi’s, pearls, and a mink coat in the early 80’s”), and she has always had a strong, specific ‘look’, even on the red carpet. It was chic, smart, elegant, tailored, and a bit more covered up than her counterparts, and as she noted, “I loved when Oscar night wasn’t all about skin”. Touche! No kidding!

Emma Stone in Dior Couture at the SAG Awards

A woman in black tie never gets old, it’s appeal is often underrated, and in my opinion, it never fails to stand out, particularly in a sea of prom and wedding like gowns on the red carpet, which was exemplified last evening during the course of the 21st Screen Actors Guild Awards. Upon seeing Jennifer Aniston’s droopy boobs, I could understand why the show is called the SAG Awards, and while too many women looked like bridesmaids (no, not Julianne Moore or Octavia Spencer, or Lupita Lyong’o, who looked sensational on stage with Jared Leto), both Julia Roberts and Emma went the black tie route (Julia chose a fitted jumpsuit and Emma’s ensemble consisted of a black jacket on top, and a long black sheer skirt on the bottom so the result was very leggy).


Street style in Milan
Photo: Tommy Ton

And speaking of similarly dressed couples… these days, its commonplace to see similarly dressed couples in their matching pea jackets, parkas, trenches, moto jackets, camel reefers, toggle coats, shearling jackets, bombers, button down oxford shirts, jeans, and hoodies. Indeed, unisex dressing has become the uniform on the streets, and there is so much androgyny it’s sometimes hard to tell who the boy is and who the girl is. Sometimes, he’s the one in leopard and she’s in pinstripes. Or maybe the guy is the one with the long hair, chic crocodile satchel, and fur collared coat, and the girl has her hair cropped short, is wearing a parka, and carrying a backpack. Or perhaps he is wearing mink lined Birkenstocks and she is wearing lace up flat oxfords or trainers.

Street style in Milan
Photo Tommy Ton

Regardless, there’s a whole sex role reversal thing going on. Just as women are increasingly embracing menswear, and I don’t just mean elements here and there, but in many cases, they are going full hog (and losing none of their femininity I might add), some men are becoming more flamboyant, and tapping into their inner peacocks. This reminds me of the song made famous by Rex Harrison in “My Fair Lady”, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” Well, she can certainly dress more like one if she wants to. Conversely, a man can dress more like a woman should he chose. It’s simply another option. You can be who you want to be when you want to be.

Pharrell Williams with Al Gore at Davos

Through the ages, it was the men who were traditionally the dandies and peacocks, and many men are now luxuriating in the ability to break free from sexual stereotypes and express themselves through their clothing (channeling their inner Mick Jaggers and David Bowies). The spotlight is truly on the guys right now and they are more than ready for their close ups. “Fashion Forward Lads” (“pushing the style envelope with felt hats, winged sneaker and fur collared coats”) just happened to be the subject of Bill Cunningham’s “On the Street” column in the Sunday Styles section of The New York Times. Style Director Vanessa Friedman wrote a column about the current trend of men wearing thin silk or cashmere scarves, as seen at the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland. There was a picture of Pharrell Williams (with Al Gore) looking very natty in a double breasted gold buttoned navy blazer and jeans, with a scarf tied around his neck just ‘so’ (I mean really, is there anyone cooler or hipper than Pharrell? Or Lenny Kravitz for that matter?)

Junya Watanabe Fall/Winter 2015

Luckily for them, menswear designers are not only offering traditional, conservative styles, but they are continually experimenting, gender bending and challenging notions of sexual stereotypes; thereby enabling men to tap into their creative, if not effeminate sides. It’s a great time for personal expression on all fronts. This was exemplified during the course of the menswear collections for fall winter 2015 which ended on Sunday, and mirrored in the meticulously dressed show attendees (both male and female), as captured by street photographer Tommy Ton.

Saint Laurent Fall/Winter 2015

While this season has been especially interesting and intriguing to say the least, I’ve always followed menswear. Fashion is fashion after all, and it’s become increasingly important and directional. In addition, more and more influential labels and designers (Miuccia Prada, Alexander Wang, Dries Van Noten, Phillip Lim, Giorgio Armani, Tom Ford, Christopher Bailey for Burberry, Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy, Hedi Slimane for Saint Laurent, Missoni, Thom Brown, Junya Watanabe, Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garcons, Alber Elbaz for Lanvin, J.W. Anderson, Alessandro Michele for Gucci, Olivier Rousteng for Balmain) are doing both men’s and women’s collections. As Miuccia put it, "Anytime I do a men's show, I'm thinking this would be fantastic for women—or at least for me. And more and more, it feels instinctively right to translate the same idea for both genders”.

Prada endorses a uniform that is severe and elegant
for Fall/Winter 2015

There is an obvious thread between the two, and I assume I will get an idea of what will eventually unfold on the women’s runways by seeing what is happening on the men’s. For the record, Miuccia, who showed a smattering of womenswear, went back to her roots (you know the black nylon bags that started it all?) and endorsed a “shared aesthetic: uniform, severe, elegant”. For his eponymous label, Alexander Wang was once again inspired by active wear and sports (duh!) but this time it had a Southern California surfer vibe. But as creative director for Balenciaga, it was all about a spare, monastic luxury that was pure of form if not severe. Junya Watanabe was apparently moved by the sharp tailoring of the nattily dressed Congolese Sapeurs (whose lives are not “defined by occupation of wealth, but by respect, a moral code, and an inspirational display of flair and creativity.”)

Dries Van Noten Fall/Winter 2015

Missoni’s trademark knitwear was richly hued, exotic, and decorative. Dries Van Noten, whose signature look is one that is always exotic, nomadic and cross cultural, looked to the Miao people of Southern China (perfectly timed with “China: Through the Looking Glass”, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s upcoming exhibition at the Costume Institute. At Comme des Garcons, it was all about taking the traditional suit and twisting and deconstructing it.  At Alexander McQueen, Sarah Burton was inspired by the formal correctness, honesty and authenticity of uniforms. Burberry’s Christopher Bailey tapped into “Classic Bohemia”, with unexpected pattern mixes (leopard and flowers anyone?). Rick Owens gave new meaning to the phrase, Full Frontal Fashion, with his admittedly “depraved” Sphinx collection. But as always, it was his stellar knitwear, and especially, his outerwear (perfectly fitted, amazingly shaped pea coats and quilted jackets that were the essence of ‘urban armor’), that stole the show.

Lanvin Fall/Winter 2015

Olivier Rousteing’s vision for Balmain was unapologetically over the top and extravagantly in your face (Style.com’s Luke Leitch aptly described it as “louche skateboarding sea captain”. At Lanvin, Alber Elbaz approached the idea of easy, relaxed luxury (translated in more than 50 shades of gray) with superb texture and fabric mixes, touches of fur, and massive fringed trimmed scarves. Saint Laurent’s Hedi Slimane is sticking to his guns and his vision, revisiting familiar territory. He was one of the many designers who used both androgynous male and female models and they were dressed in almost interchangeable, chic Parisian classic wardrobe staples that are the essence of cool (you know the drill: black leather, skinny pants, shrunken jackets, tuxedos, pointy toed ankle boots, leopard, polka dots, graphic black and white stripes).

Elliot Sailors
Vivienne Westwood  Fall/Winter 2015

Nowadays, the menswear runways (like those of womenswear) are marked by enormous variety and this time was no exception. There was truly something for everyone; from the most classic, sober, and impeccably tailored pieces (which look better than ever I might add), to the most outrageously flamboyant. But naturally, it was the latter, the more sensational moments that had everyone talking. Specifically, the flat out androgyny that had been on display. When Style.com’s Tim Blanks reviewed the 70’s inspired Jil Sander show, he hailed it as “a new kind of menswear for a new kind of man”. He could easily have been referring to the entire season. Not only were there many elements of design that are traditionally feminine (lace, ruffles, pussycat bow ties, sleeveless tops, sheer insets, leopard, floral prints, artistic abstracts, miles of fringe, cut outs, fur, etc.), but in many cases, the models resembled women (with their long hair and facial features). So much so, I was often a bit confused. At Vivienne Westwood, an androgynous model started the show. Elliot Sailors, who had stints posing in bikinis for the likes of Bruce Weber and Ellen von Unwerth, admitted that she always loved androgyny in fashion. Though she was dissuaded from seeking a career in the men’s modeling industry, she followed her heart. After taking part in The Landmark Forum a few years ago, (a personal training and development program), she cut off her long blond hair, found her truth, and the rest is ‘his’ tory.





- Marilyn Kirschner

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