What We Learnt At Fashion Week

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What We Learnt At Fashion Week

Words by Mr Anders Christian Madsen

9 February 2017

The 10 upcoming trends to take away from the recent AW17 shows.

For the uninitiated, the fashion cycle, as the insiders call the jam-packed seasonal show schedule, is undergoing an evolution. Designers are merging men’s and women’s shows to modernise their brands and, well, save a little on production costs. And yet, in a season interrupted by dresses and gowns, it was the standout menswear designers who ended up stealing the show. From Mr Haider Ackermann’s electric tailoring at Berluti to Louis Vuitton’s grown-up take on streetwear (in collaboration with Supreme), designers proved there’s still more than enough to talk about – and wear – in the menswear corner of fashion. Just take the return of the mullet, or the omnipresence of corduroy, or references to the 1980s – or any of the grand political statements made by designers in a season that raised its activist voice. The AW17 collections were bigger and better – in shape, size and certainly effect. Here’s what we took home from the AW17 shows.

“It was my heyday. I was finding myself. It was a wonderful period,” Mr Neil Barrett reminisced after a decidedly nostalgic show that set the tone for the season’s romance with the 1980s. Mr Barrett’s show – much like Dior Homme where Mr Kris Van Assche recalled his 1980s and early 1990s upbringing – wasn’t a comeback call for feathered hair and pastel-coloured knitwear. Rather, it evoked the dark glamour of London during the New Romantics era, where sweeping drop-shouldered overcoats and chunky military boots were the building blocks of a young man’s wardrobe. Dries Van Noten echoed that look, mining its own collections from the early 1990s, while at Balenciaga the 1980s New York yuppie got the subversive treatment Mr Demna Gvasalia has made his signature.

Since the rise of the dressy tracksuit a few seasons ago, which was championed by Burberry among others, there’s been no stopping the casual-formal menswear revolution. This season it reached its zenith in Louis Vuitton’s collaboration with Supreme – a collection that had fashion millennials dribbling on the back rows of the Palais-Royal venue. It was the best of both worlds: the globe-trotting elegance of the Parisian house in holy union with the urban cool of the esoteric American streetwear label. Designer Mr Kim Jones plastered the equally coveted logos of both brands on top of one another in tailoring, sportswear and sunglasses, generating an immaculate collection made for a social media age of fashion where you’re only as good as your latest limited edition. It’s not called Supreme for nothing.

Ten years younger in about 10 minutes, corduroy was the star of the Prada show where the perceptive designer – with typical worldly Ms Miuccia Prada wisdom – attributed the evergreen fabric’s return on her runway to a new “need for normality”. Jazzed up newsreaders and geography teachers might want to hold their horses, however. While Prada’s corduroy did get the classic tan treatment, leather pockets in tow, her broad-lapelled skinny jackets and perfectly relaxed 1970s trousers were a far cry from the fusty cords of yesteryear. Sure, they had all the nature boy charm this fabric will never escape, but these cords were louche and luxe, as exemplified by Hermès, where Ms Véronique Nichanian literally magnified the strands of cords themselves, taking an old faithful to new proportions.

It’s been said the designers of fashion are rather red. Certainly, the free flow of political statements on the runways this season would back that up. Socialist or not, the AW17 shows proved that red definitely ain’t dead – and from Milan to Paris, designers tackled this most challenging of colours in stride. Dior Homme and Neil Barrett both revisited the new wave movement’s love of a red punch among the black, layering the colour under black tailoring in the form of red shirts, rollnecks and T-shirts. Around the shows, red’s devilish fling with black persisted, from Versace’s gingham to Dries Van Noten’s plaid, and a red-hot jacquard suit courtesy of Dolce & Gabbana. As the master of glamour Mr Bill Blass once noted, “When in doubt, wear red.”

Reclaim your heritage. Beauty is a birthright,” read a ransom note-style slogan plastered across the back of a coat at Valentino, a collaboration with artist Mr Jamie Reid, who did the Sex Pistols’ original artwork. Between fashion capitals, designers used their platforms to join the reactionary winds currently blowing through the world, covering their collections in social and political messages. Mr Gvasalia nailed his colours to his models’ chests with a new logo for Balenciaga using Mr Bernie Sanders’ campaign graphics, while Mr Matthew Miller showed combat vests and scarves similar to revolutionary flags and called his collection “Fear Itself”. Moving his show to New York, Mr Raf Simons got the perfect opportunity to stick it to the new president, punkishly cinching in the waists of coats with scotch tape printed with slogans such as “Walk With Me” and “Youth Project”.

In a season that saw Mr Alessandro Sartori’s debut for Ermenegildo Zegna and Mr Ackermann’s first Berluti collection, the biggest change in menswear was marked by Mr Raf Simons relocating his hot ticket of a show to New York, where he moved last year after becoming creative director of Calvin Klein. It was his chance to pay homage to New York, in deconstructed knits inspired by “I love NY” T-shirts, and to encourage his forever-young fan base to get political. “If you say youth should stand up against what’s happening in this country, I would say yes,” Mr Simons said. “And if people like me and other people could be an inspiration in what we say and think and show, I would be really proud.”

Gone are the days when male models were simply clothes hangers, preened and polished to fit a designer’s vision. In the social media age of fashion, it’s all about individuality. And so, one Mr Henry Kitcher turned up with an authentic mullet for the AW17 shows, strutting his retro coiffure down the runways of Vivienne Westwood, Berluti (above) and Dries Van Noten. The latter’s affinity for the British model – who moonlights as a graphic design student – influenced the hair styling of the Belgian designer’s entire show, where every other boy suddenly materialised with a mod ’do of his own – even if the neck kinks weren’t quite as impactful as Mr Kitcher’s real deal. Any man can have a mullet – It-model swagger, sadly, isn’t always included.

Apparently you can tell a lot about a season from the stars on its front row. Current Dior Homme campaign star Boy George cemented the 1980s vibe sieving through some of the AW17 collections (see above) by making an appearance at the show, somewhat challenging the polite society photographers of Paris on how to address him. They decided to go with “Monsieur George”. His campaign partner-in-crime, A$AP Rocky, didn’t make it any easier for them, but backstage eavesdroppers would have it that Dior Homme designer Mr Kris Van Assche simply called him “Rocky”. Royal show attendance is rare these days, but this season delivered the most unlikely kind: Ms Paris Jackson, daughter of the King of Pop, who paid a visit to her namesake city, gracing the front rows of Dior Homme and Givenchy. When she shook the Boy’s hand, he almost bowed a little bit.

If some found the Herman Munster shoulders of Balenciaga’s SS17 tailoring too much of a wardrobe commitment, or simply grew tired of getting stuck in doorways, this season Mr Gvasalia had a new approach up his extra-long sleeve. “The first collection I did was about really putting tailoring on a pedestal. This time, we worked around formal attire and business clothing,” he said. More the hoodie-wearing type, Mr Gvasalia wanted to connect with the business attire he felt estranged from by removing the rigidity of the corporate uniform, padding it and making it comfortable for a broader Balenciaga clientele. “It’s warm and cosy, actually – something that’s not really a characteristic of the corporate,” he noted.

Call it the Vetements effect. After the luxury streetwear brand’s supersized outerwear collaboration with Canada Goose for SS17, there was no turning back – no limit to the dimensions a coat or a jacket could take. For AW17, Sacai took it to the next level in puffy, fluffy teddy bear coats and dramatic ponchos, while Junya Watanabe and Lanvin’s Mr Lucas Ossendrijver zoned in on the real-world performance pieces that sparked it all in the first place, refining functional outdoor giants to high-fashion highs. “The whole collection for me is about what design is about: construction and proportion,” Mr Ossendrijver said. “These are things every guy wears. The question is, how do you elevate that? How does it become fashion?” In his enormous, blown-up interpretations of parkas and duffle coats, he found that answer.