Wednesday, March 4, 2009

New men's day in fashion

While London designers have often shown a few men’s looks as part of their women’s lineup, this season the British Fashion Council decided to give men’s designers their own dedicated day to shine. And rugged British fabrics and retro silhouettes — from skinny Fifties suits and Nineties ravers to looks that recalled medieval armor —ruled the men’s runways Wednesday.

Perhaps a sign of these recessionary times, heavy, cocooning wool knits seemed to be everywhere. J.W. Anderson, who showed as part of the Man lineup, a Topman-sponsored showcase for emerging designers, sent out chunky, oversize fishermen’s sweaters covered with a layer of sheer brown netting, along with nubby black-and-white tweed trousers and knitted jodhpurs. The designer said he was inspired by “early 20th-century England and the aristocracy’s fascination with fantastical expeditions.”

James Long, another of Man’s designers, worked snug sheepskin into tough, armorlike gilets with high necks decorated with leather buckles and hoods. He also sent out woolen jumpers with high cowl-necks that were threaded with small silver coins to resemble chain mail.

Topman Design, meanwhile, mined the streets of London’s Soho, circa 1950, for inspiration, working natural fabrics — herringbone, wool and tweed — into fitted, cropped-sleeve jackets and skinny, turned-up trousers, all in a muted palette of moss green, gray and brown. The functional, low-key fabrics meant the Teddy Boy silhouettes still felt modern.

Carolyn Massey, one of London’s men’s wear standouts, also took her suits in a strict, slightly retro direction. Inspired by Britain’s National Army Museum archives, Massey sent out slim navy suits with sharp shoulders, their jackets glinting with silver buttons. And she gave some of her sharp silhouettes a jolt with unexpected fabrics as well, showing a hooded military cape and trenchcoat, both in shiny black patent leather. Similarly, Patrick Grant, the designer behind the revived E Tautz line, part of the Savile Row tailors Norton & Sons, said “the military and the old-world glamour of Sandringham, the ultimate sporting estate,” was a starting point for his designs. The collection, presented at Norton & Sons’ showroom, offered tailored wool jackets in green shot with flecks of gold, and thick wool sweaters in mustard and cream, stitched with fun, quirky animal motifs in place of a logo at the breast.

Meanwhile, Christopher Shannon, the third designer to show as part of the Man lineup, played with sporty looks of a less patrician nature. His punchy show — in collaboration with Reebok — featured PVC and jersey sweat suits in blocks of gray, orange and pink, and short-sleeve gray sweatshirts emblazoned with “Shannon” logos printed one over the other, a cheeky nod at brand-obsessed activewear. With models sporting hair slicked down with gel and high-top sneakers, the looks seemed to nod to England’s throngs of sportswear-clad youths.

B Store, the private label clothing line designed by Matthew Murphy and Kirk Beattie, who own the eponymous Savile Row boutique, also looked to rebellious youth culture. Their salable collection of simple, cropped-leg cotton suits and chunky wool sweaters in cornflower blue and gray was inspired by “teenage students’ protest marches.

New York Men's Fashion Week Report: Fall 2009 Collections
New York Men's Fashion Week Report: Fall 2009 Collections
New York Fashion Week, now a reluctant harbinger for what may be the great purge of ailing American labels.
Thom Browne’s hometown productions have been exported to Milan this season, fashion magazines continue to hemorrhage jobs, labels like Obedient Sons and Daughters have hung "Be Back in Two Years" signs on their design office doors, and an industry crowd awaits the revelatory but exits many men’s shows looking, well, Xanaxed. The accompanying music did little to quell the paranoia, what with pianists banging through Brahms cadenzas on out-of-tune uprights and shrill recordings of minimalist string quartets piped over collections destined for the Barneys New York Barker Hangar sale in Santa Monica. That’s if they make it to production.

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