10 Things We Learned At The AW16 Shows
The trends, the music, the people, the baffling celebrity appearances. Here’s everything you need to know
The Missoni runway, Paris. Photograph by Mr Riccardo Giordano/Press Association Images
January has been a hectic month for the MR PORTER team. As well as catching up with grime artist Stormzy, launching a series of exclusive new Japanese Brands and trying as hard as possible to explain the key to Understanding Millennials, we’ve been hotfooting it around Europe to see new collections from the very best menswear brands of London, Paris and Milan. It all passed in a whirlwind, ending with a few blurry glasses of wine at Café Métropole (this is now what they call the kiosk outside the toilet on the Eurostar), but now we’ve had a few days to relax, reflect and contemplate, it’s time to share a few of our key take-homes. Here goes.
01. Street-style photographers are better dressed than their subjects
Street-style photographer Mr Robert Spangle in London. Photograph by Ms Melodie Jeng
Anyone worried about the survival of the micro-industry that is known as Street-style Photography, don’t be. The menswear shows this January were heaving with camera-toting hopefuls, who swarmed across the pavements to capture the best of the editors’ outfits, inadvertently lending truth to a rather worn-out style cliche that a good look can stop traffic. (As it turns out, even a bad look can stop traffic, just as long as there are 30 people flinging themselves into the middle of a road trying to photograph it.) All this is business as usual now – street style is as much part of the fashion show experience these days as entitled people complaining about inconsequential things – but there was an air of novelty at the AW16 shows in that many of the street-style photographers seemed to have espoused a sartorial aesthetic that we at MR PORTER rather liked. Coach jackets were on point. Sneakers were bright white. Shades of grey, navy and black presumably intended to blend into the background, actually seemed refined and rather cool against the general backdrop of jazzy prints and statement outerwear. So we photographed the photographers. How postmodern.
02. Bigger is better
The Raf Simons runway, Paris. Photograph by firstVIEW.com
OK, this is not exactly going to make anyone fall off their seat in shock and disbelief, but there were a lot of coats at the AW16 shows. Perhaps more surprising, and more interesting, is how enormous they all were, with many examples (modelled on the military greatcoat) extending all the way down to the ankles, and the liberal use of raglan sleeves and kimono shoulders, both of which lend the wearer a rather hulking shape. This tendency towards the oversized became particularly impactful when it came to down jackets, the largest of which was at Raf Simons, functioning as a sort of giant cherry on the cake of a giant show that was also stuffed full of gargantuan sweaters, cardigans and trench coats. The take-home – think big.
03. The Italians have a new way of saying goodbye
The all-important Instagram follow – will he or won’t he? Models after the Dolce & Gabbana show, Milan. Photograph by Ms Marie-Paola Bertrand-Hillion/Press Association Images
The MR PORTER team have made enough trips to Milan in recent years to have picked up a few key phrases of Italian, such as come stai? (how are you?) and prendo un espresso (I’ll have a coffee), that have helped us struggle through show season. This time round, though, we realised we were woefully under-equipped to deal with the quick-fire demands of stylish Italian conversation in the digital era. As we learned from much careful overhearing (some might call it eavesdropping) at Linate Airport, it’s now mandatory for style insiders to follow up an informal greeting with a recruitment drive for their own Instagram account. When faced with such badgering, a new farewell phrase is necessary. Say it with us. Ciao! Ti seguo (bye then – I’ll follow you).
04. The Gucci invite was quite something
The Gucci AW16 show invitation
Presumably, in the Stone Age, if you wanted someone to come to your next event, you’d just grab them by the hair and drag them there. A little later on, we suppose, it became customary to write the details on a piece of card and slot it through someone’s letterbox. But now it’s 2016, and look how far we’ve come. The invite, as proposed by Gucci’s Mr Alessandro Michele, has become an object so rarefied, sophisticated and oblique that it’s barely recognisable as an invite at all. This objet d’art, comprising a small, antique-looking box filled with a glittery snake envelope, tiger sticker, pink tissue paper and a series of glass slides, was hardly the kind of thing you felt like handing over to a doorperson. It was more like an heirloom that you instantly formed an intention to keep for years and years, and perhaps pass on to your children and grandchildren, who are guaranteed, like you, to have no idea what it’s all about, but nonetheless marvel at its beauty. The above example belongs to MR PORTER’s style director Mr Olie Arnold, and we had to prise it from his hands with quite some force in order to photograph it.
05. The zip-up tracksuit top is making a comeback
The Burberry runway, London. Photograph by firstVIEW.com
Perhaps it’s the influence of Stormzy’s excellent video for “Shut Up”, or maybe it’s just a continuation of last winter’s 1970s trend (Mr Alessandro Michele of Gucci showed no signs of leaving that decade behind in his AW16 men’s show), but the zip-up tracksuit top (as worn by Mr Ben Stiller as Chas Tenenbaum in The Royal Tenenbaums) is the latest piece of sportswear to be given the runway treatment. It came in bright primary colours and even a bespangled variety at Burberry. It had a more scuba-esque, technical feel at Neil Barrett. There were many bright-hued examples at Paul Smith, too. So it’s time to get on board. Just don’t make the same mistake as Chas Tenenbaum and get matching versions for your kids. In AW16, that will still be creepy.
06. Mr Cameron Dallas is really famous
Mr Cameron Dallas in Milan. Photograph by Mr Kevin Tachman/Trunk Archive
At several points during MR PORTER’s time in Milan this January, our car would turn a corner and we’d hear a terrifying sound – the Gaussian screech of teenage girls, en masse. We assumed, so down-with-the-kids are we, that it was Mr Justin Bieber, here for the Calvin Klein show (he’s in the adverts, after all), and continued to assume that right up until the moment we took our seats at said event, which was almost impenetrably blocked by bawling adolescents. “Wow, this is incredible,” we said to the PR people, chuckling knowingly. “Justin Bieber, eh? Haha!” Except it wasn’t Mr Bieber. It was a young man by the name of Mr Cameron Dallas, a Vine star, actor and famous person, who has more than nine million Instagram followers, four million YouTube subscribers, as well as, apparently, some sort of hormonal, catnip-like excretion that can be smelled by young ladies from miles off, and which makes them go beserk. We know all that now, but at the time? The style crowd seemed to be a bit confused. US Esquire’s Mr Nick Sullivan took to Instagram, posting a video of the ravenous crowd. “The person on the balcony is someone called Cameron Dallas,” he said. “He does something very important on the internet.” It’s a strange feeling to be simultaneously at the vanguard of style and yet somehow so utterly out of the loop. But there we were, #analogueinadigitalworld.
07. Nothing beats the cold like a (complimentary) blanket
The Missoni runway, Milan. Photograph by Venturelli/Getty Images
For its AW16 men’s collection in Milan (a city that was pleasantly simmering around 0ºC during MR PORTER’s visit), Missoni decided to mount its decidedly outdoorsy show… outdoors. Conceptually, perfect. In terms of personal comfort and wellbeing? Tricky. Luckily, the brand had though about the consequences of putting a bunch of magazine editors (who are generally chilly enough to start with) on ice, and supplied attendees with hot drinks and – wonderfully – an individual fleece blanket, finished around the edges in the house’s trademark multi-coloured yarns. Both combined (along with the excellent clothes) to provide all concerned with a warm, fuzzy feeling, which was much appreciated.
08. A DJ is no longer enough. You need a full chamber orchestra
The Wooyoungmi runway, Paris. Photograph by firstVIEW.com
By their very nature, runway shows are bombastic, extravagant affairs – what other 15-minute event demands so much manpower, money and hype? Yet their purveyors are always looking for ways to make them more so. This January, live classical musicians seemed to be the thing to do. It began at the Wooyoungmi show, where some sort of knob-twiddling electronic musician was joined by a string quartet and keyboard player, resulting in a haunting, melancholic soundscape. But this was then completely blown out of the water by Balmain, at which, in addition to the usual DJ, designer Mr Olivier Rousteing requisitioned the services of an entire chamber orchestra. War And Peace-y military ensembles on the runway, often bedecked with iridescent sequins, were accompanied by thumping tracks from Mr Kanye West and others, which were themselves accompanied by trumpets, violins, flutes and a Duracell-worthy electronic percussionist, whose arms were a blur for the duration of the show. Need we say this was rather impactful? The bar has been raised. Next season, we want pyrotechnics, animatronics, and at least half the cast of Les Misérables, please.
09. The days of blurry catwalk pictures may soon be over
The Thom Browne runway, Paris. Photograph by Camera Press
A major problem with the runway is that, even if you’re sitting in the front row, it’s rather difficult to take photographs. The lights are optimised for photographers sitting at the end of the catwalk, not for the iPhone-wielding masses packed on either side. Which means a lot of blurry, overexposed or otherwise unhelpfully distorted images are plastered all over Instagram and Twitter. Not ideal. This January, however, it seemed some of the designers had become sensitive to this fact. At Officine Generale, Paul Smith and Thom Browne, among others, the models stood on the runway after the show instead of retreating backstage, which meant guests could swarm round and actually get some decent pictures, as well as see the details of the clothes (all-important in menswear). Thom Browne’s approach was particularly novel. His set was bedecked with golden frames, behind which the models stood to create a perfectly Instagrammable tableau. The more of this, the better, in our opinion.
10. Shearling is here to stay
Mr Isaac Hindin-Miller and Ms Jenny Albright, Milan. Photograph by firstVIEW.com
Last winter, one of the big outerwear stories was shearling. This winter, it continues. And it’s not just a postscript, more like the second chapter of a novel. Yes, there was more shearling on the runway, from Bottega Veneta’s plaid-embellished examples to the shaggy varieties proposed by Dolce & Gabbana. But when you got outside, there was shearling all over the place, too. Shearling, shearling, everywhere! Never have we at MR PORTER felt more like part of the herd, bustling around the streets of Milan and Paris with so many woolly friends. Check out the his and hers look on Mr Isaac Hindin-Miller (whom you may recognise from our How To Dress For Your Body Type piece) and his girlfriend Ms Jenny Albright, above.