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Bum Bags, Blankets And Our Other Take-Homes From The AW18 Shows

The 10 things we learnt at the January men’s previews

It always feels somewhat surreal stumbling off to fashion shows just a few days after New Year, the ghost of hangovers only recently past still clinging to your coattails. But still, the MR PORTER team, alongside the great and good of the fashion industry, all brave the cold weather do it. Why is this, exactly? Because there are, thank goodness, still certain subtleties in the business of style that can’t be completely understood via PDF, iMessage and Instagram. Because sometimes, currents in fashion are more easily observed among the attendees, or via the front-row conversations, than the shows themselves. And, yes, because there are one or two parties, and it’s not totally horrible eating Italian and French food each night.

What’s the upshot of it all? We stagger back into the office at the end of the month completely overstimulated, overexcited and overindulged and spend a few weeks trying to get a handle on everything we have seen and heard. Much of that wisdom will be channelled into our winter trends, which – apologies, we imagine the anticipation is killing you – will not be properly issued until a little later this year. In the meantime, we’d like to offer the following hot (well, still warm, at least) take on it all. Scroll down to discover what we made of the sights, sounds, catering and on-seat accessories. Oh, and the clothes.

01. The Nineties sneaker is here to stay

  • Left: Valentino. Photograph by IMAXTREE. Centre: Alexander McQueen. Photograph by firstVIEW.com. Right: Prada. Photograph by firstVIEW.com

If you thought shoes such as Vetements X Reebok’s InstaPump Fury and Balenciaga’s Triple S were a passing fad, you’ll be pleased (or horrified) to learn that this is not the case. For the AW18 season, large, ugly-beautiful, 1990s-inspired sneakers were to be seen on many a runway, from Valentino (metallic, glittery, a little Air Max 95-y), to Alexander McQueen (more like a fashion take on the original Air Max 1), to Prada (where the brand riffed on some of its iconic Prada Sport styles). There were more styles on offer from Mr Demna Gvasalia, both at Vetements (via a collaboration with London brand Swear) and Balenciaga (where the Triple S block was updated with lacing details that nodded to Nike designs from the 2000s). In short, if your feet don’t look like they’ve been submerged in plastic concrete by next winter, you’ll have very much missed the boat on this one.

In the meantime…

  • Gucci Rhyton Printed Leather Sneakers

  • Prada Cloudbust Mesh and Rubber Sneakers

02. The belt bag is a thing

  • Paris, 19 January. Photograph by firstVIEW.com

Whoever is responsible for the PR for bum bags has done a truly fantastic job, because everyone seemed to be wearing them at the shows. Sorry, did we say bum bags? What we mean is belt bags or cross-body bags. They are completely different, of course, because you sling them over your shoulders rather than clip them round your waist. Isn’t it obvious? Yes, the recontextualisation of this maligned 1990s piece – so sayeth whatever august presence decrees such things – has transformed the accessory from horribly touristy to wonderfully urban, if not urbane as well. And you don’t need to take our word for it. Just look at all the street-style pics.

In the meantime…

  • Gucci Webbing-Trimmed Printed Full-Grain Leather Belt Bag

  • Givenchy Creased Leather-Trimmed Canvas Belt Bag

03. Fashion owes Undercover a lot

  • Undercover runway, Florence, 12 January. Photographs by firstVIEW.com

Pitti Uomo is perhaps better known for the clothes worn on the street beyond the trade show itself. But this biannual fashion fixture in Florence is always worth checking out for the guest designers alone, with at least one always invited to mount a runway show. This time, it was a joint effort from Japanese brands Undercover Jun Takahashi and TAKAHIROMIYASHITA TheSoloist. Both brands, as anyone familiar with their past oeuvre might expect, showed some truly spectacular clothes. Mr Miyashita’s collection was, as usual, a technical marvel, featuring a series of ingenious, reversible pieces. But there was something particularly resonant about Mr Takahashi’s Undercover presentation, which took Mr Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey as its theme, the looks emerging from behind a recreation of that film’s enigmatic black monolith. Beyond the immediate appeal of the clothing – from fuzzy fleece tracksuits to astronaut jackets, to pieces splashed with prints and slogans from the film – there was a bit of an “aha” moment here. Fashion may be obsessed with the merging of luxury and streetwear right now, but Mr Takahashi has been doing it ever since he co-founded legendary Tokyo streetwear boutique NOWHERE (the first place to sell Undercover) in 1993. In this autumn/winter show, the synergy between the two ideas was effortless, ingenious and a whole lot of fun (Computer Malfunction hoodie? Yes please.) It was also, refreshingly, non-ironic. Mr Takahashi is unreserved in his pop cultural passions, and his collections are all the stronger for it. Kudos is deserved here. This was one of the shows of the season, but also a reminder that intelligent streetwear is far from a new concept.

In the meantime…

  • Off-White Printed Embroidered Checked Cotton-Blend Hoodie

  • The Elder Statesman + NBA New York Knicks Intarsia Bobble Hat

04. Blankets make people happy

  • Thom Browne, Paris, 20 January. Photograph by WWD/REX/Shutterstock

Nothing makes a fashion editor happier than a freebie. Nothing makes a cold person happier than a blanket. Imagine the general delight, then, at Thom Browne’s AW18 show, which took place in the chilly environs of a glass conservatory, when seated guests were presented with a down-stuffed blanket to drape over their thighs as they waited for the whole thing to kick off. Immediately afterwards, Instagram was filled with pictures of various fashion worthies snuggling up in their cars with the grey striped items in question wrapped around them. Then, at the Hermès show later that evening, attendees were presented with another blanket. The post-show drinks afterwards were like a slumber party, honestly.

In the meantime…

  • Thom Browne Fun Mix Slim-Fit Colour-Block Striped Cashmere Cardigan

  • Thom Browne Checked Wool Shorts

05. The Etro family has lots of nice things

  • Etro, Milan, 13 January. Photograph by Mr Andrea Delbò/WWD/REX/Shutterstock

To celebrate its 50th anniversary this year, Etro, Milan’s foremost purveyor of Paisley prints since 1968, mounted its menswear presentation in a huge hangar, in which various items from the family art and antique collection were dotted alongside some particularly flamboyant embroidered outfits. The juxtaposition was both a bit of fun and highly complementary. Etro’s collections always have bundles of character, but it was particularly easy to imagine the sort of wild, freewheeling aesthete these clothes are designed for when encountering them next to a scroll-armed sofa, or a patterned carpet, or a set of vintage pinball machines. Our top picks were the giant collection of luggage (not sure when you would use a 6ft-high suitcase, but we’re sure it’s an occasion worth pursuing), the striped Italian cinema chairs and the various pieces of marble architectural decorations. And we wouldn’t say no to the smart chess table or the Chinoiserie screens or… Oh, let’s face it. We’d happily give a home to it all.

In the meantime…

  • Etro Blue Checked Cotton and Linen-Blend Blazer

  • Etro Fringed Paisley-Print Modal and Linen-Blend Scarf

06. Macs and anoraks are big news

  • Left: Berluti. Photograph by IMAXTREE. Centre: Valentino. Photograph by firstVIEW.com. Right: Dries. Photograph by firstVIEW.com

Outerwear is always going to be a big deal in winter, and one of the key trends in this department was the waterproof mac. Yes, it sounds completely banal, but lots of the new offerings in this department were wonderfully creative. Foremost among them had to be those on offer from Dries Van Noten. Its AW18 show finished with an eye-popping range of macs splashed with bold colours and psychedelic marble prints. Prada nodded to its 1990s heyday with thin nylon parkas and cagoules embellished with the red Linea Rossa logo. Valentino showed various long coats that riffed on the mac silhouette, variously featuring the brand’s logo and camo-patterned quilting. Even Berluti showed a mac – ultra refined in grey with a bright yellow lining. The anorak was also present in several shows, including CMMN SWDNMaison Margiela and Lanvin. It was enough to give Dry January a whole new meaning.

In the meantime…

  • Balenciaga Printed Faille Hooded Jacket

  • Burberry Reversible Black Watch Checked Wool-Twill Trench Coat

07. Things were largely shaggy

  • Left: Undercover. Photograph by firstVIEW.com. Centre: Sacai. Photograph by firstVIEW.com. Right: CMMN SWDN. Photograph by IMAXTREE

Another theme that kept cropping up across collections, cities and sartorial disciplines was the idea of fluffiness or shagginess. That is, coats and other garments rendered in exotic wools such as alpaca and mohair, whose long fibre lengths gave them an appealing fuzzy texture. This really was everywhere, from skate brands such as Pop Trading Company all the way up to the highest of the high end. Brioni showed a particularly tactile wool shirt-jacket that we pretty much had to be dragged away from. Shows-wise, the key brands here were Sacai, which proffered a range of shaggy check jackets and tailoring, Undercover, which we’ve enthused enough about already, and CMMN SWDN, which proposed a particularly lurid shaggy jacket in acid green with an adventurous marbled print.

In the meantime…

  • Kingsman Tequila's Statesman Leather-Trimmed Shearling Bomber Jacket

  • Prada Burnished-Shearling Hooded Coat

08. The hands-free umbrella is the style innovation we’ve been waiting for 

  • Left: Fendi. Photograph by Photoshot. Centre: Fendi. Photograph by Photoshot. Right: Fendi. Photograph by IMAXTREE

There were lots of things to like about Fendi’s AW18 show. First of all, there was the mise en scène – a fully operational baggage carousel, replete with flickering departures board, upon which various pieces of vintage Fendi luggage sailed out as the show progressed. Then there were the clothes themselves: a continuation of the brand’s current winning streak, featuring a panoply of knowingly drab checks, bright yellow sweaters and playful iterations of the house’s double-F monogram print. But perhaps our favourite thing had to be the little umbrellas sprouting from some of the models’ heads. Ever been walking along on a wet day, trying to eat a banana and play Candy Crush, while holding an umbrella at the same time? And no doubt frustrated that it’s not possible. Then this little gizmo is the thing for you. It’s the kind of thing that may only have been previously available from a Japanese mail-order catalogue, but now it’s been given the designer endorsement. So go for it. No one can judge you.

In the meantime…

  • Fendi Appliquéd Twill Blouson Jacket

  • Fendi Intarsia Cashmere and Silk-Blend Sweater

09. Primary colours are for grown-ups, too

  • Left: Junya Watanabe. Photograph by firstVIEW.com. Centre: Prada. Photograph by IMAXTREE. Right: Fendi. Photograph by Mr Riccardo Giordano/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock

Your typical winter palette follows nature. As the world’s flora turn varying shades of orange, red, burgundy and brown, so does our clothing. But this winter’s colour palette had a more upbeat and artificial feel. Many of the most eye-catching looks boasted a substantial Toy Towny flash of a primary colour. This was particularly true of Junya Watanabe’s collection, in which the Japanese designer collaborated with a range of outerwear brands, including Canada Goose and Karrimor, to produce stylish new versions of some outdoor classics. These bright shades were in play across the board. Prada’s quilted jackets were bright blue, Undercover’s down coats were yellow and red, Off-White showed red macs and Dries Van Noten contrasted prints with bold swatches of primaries. We’re hoping this means we’ll all be less likely to get lost during those misty autumn afternoons that, in the UK at least, are inevitable.

In the meantime…

  • Givenchy Embroidered Velcro-Trimmed Padded Shell Down Hooded Jacket

  • Aspesi Contrast-Trimmed Shell Field Jacket

10. You could probably just share the starters at Chez Georges

  • Interior of Chez Georges restaurant, Paris. Photograph courtesy of Chez Georges

The MR PORTER team are a convivial bunch, and during the shows, we like to have at least one or two dinners together. Sweet, eh? Business and pleasure, all mixed together. The highlight this season was a get-together at popular Parisian restaurant Chez Georges, where we confidently sat ourselves down and proceeded to order everything that sounded nice off the menu. Scrambled eggs to start? OK, why not? Wild goose rillettes? Yes please. A salad? Absolutely. Only when it all arrived did we realise we’d perhaps underestimate the largesse of this particular eatery. The scrambled eggs came topped with truffles. The rillettes came in a giant bowl (not the customary pair of measly quenelles you get in the UK). The salad was seasoned with large chunks of bacon, a thick mustard vinaigrette and a medium-done poached egg. In short, these appetisers, though utterly delicious, are not for the faint-hearted and – if you’re not in the habit of dining upon classic French cuisine – are probably best divided between two, or three. When it came to it, we managed to force down the main courses, too, but let us tell you, it wasn’t easy. Some people really have it tough, eh?

In the meantime…

  • Saint Laurent Checked Cotton and Hemp-Blend Flannel Shirt

  • Dries Van Noten Pebble-Grain Leather Derby Shoes