Couture is well underway, making it easy to forget all the fantastic menswear shows that hit the Paris runways over the weekend. Luckily we had Flaunt's fashion director and Fashionista contributor Long Nguyen there to report back. Here, his take on Givenchy's homage to Africa and the boom box; Dior's elegant yet sporty, more laid-back vibe; and Thom Browne's wild take on military.
Set designer Etienne Russo’s mirror-floor labyrinth, installed in the vast Tennis Club de Paris, foreshadowed a complicated Dior Homme collection from designer Kris Van Assche. But instead, the opposite was true, as the first model emerged wearing a simple three-button cropped jacket in light wool. The suit was paired with a matching t-shirt that infused the look with a casual elegance.
The mirrors served to multiply the reflection of Van Assche’s simpler methods, where he blended elements of patchwork fabrics, art deco patterns, and graphic proportions. The result was an elegant, but more urban style, for the Dior man. The lighter use of the Dior atelier craftsmanship was evident in the six-button, double-breasted jackets worn loose with above-the-knee shorts. In fact, the shorts and the sleeveless silhouettes were the biggest fashion statement. The outstanding look? A burgundy tuxedo jacket with a t-shirt, shorts and a knee-length overcoat, combining formal and sporty in one outfit.
Here and there were technical add-ons of reflective rectangular stripes that highlighted the color-blocking effect of the jackets and slim pants. Some of the color-blocked outfits looked slightly overdesigned, including the black and light-grey coat and the short, single-breasted jacket with a blue silk stripe. The classic Dior Homme gray manifested this time as a sleeveless, three-button jacket with a t-shirt and pleated shorts. The greater emphasis on elegant sportswear was consistent with the evolution of Dior Homme, and surely steered the collection forward this season. Perhaps this will capture more customers who are less prone to more rigid codes and formal modes of dressing.
Loud techno beats heralded the start of Riccardo Tisci’s 2014 spring menswear collection for Givenchy. The electrically charged smash of digital prints that came down the runway echoed the soundtrack. The inspiration was Africa by way of the Los Angeles surf scene--with a focus on boom box street culture (like the kind with double D batteries you used to carry on your shoulder).
The layered silhouettes--hooded parkas over dress shirts, loose shorts or skirts over leggings--reminded me of Tisci’s first menswear show back in July 2008: It was couture meets street wear.
Changes in menswear are very slow and are often dictated by very technical alterations of proportions--a higher armhole, for example. Over the past six years, Tisci has defined a “look” that will continue to be a part of every collection going forward: the shorts with skirt panels worn with leggings, the printed sweatshirts. Tisci understands how the younger generation wants to dress. For them, fashion isn’t about breakthrough design innovations. It’s about clothes they can relate to in their everyday lives, clothes they can relate to emotionally. “I could see people wearing it for sure,” rapper Dominic Lord told me after the show. “They could gravitate towards the pieces that most excites them and use them to make a statement.” Often at so many fashion shows, I get a sense that designers live a world apart. And yes, many are required to work within their respective house’s heritage. But none of the pieces on the Givenchy runway would look odd when worn out on the street.
This weekend at Paris's École Militaire, Thom Browne sent an army of painted-up toy soldiers marching down the runway for his military-inspired spring 2014 menswear collection. Not since 2006--when Browne had his models skating around an ice rink--has the designer presented a collection in a more appropriate setting. From the opening look of a red, white, and blue guard double breasted jacket paired with black and white jodhpur pants, to the grand finale of a flag bearer wearing a long black embroidered tail coat (and two aids carrying the long train), this was Mr. Browne’s couture version of the military uniform. Over the top, yes--but perfectly executed. The show demonstrated the superb craftsmanship the designer brings to men’s fashion. One outstanding look featured a sleeveless, double-breasted gold button jacket with epaulettes, worn with white cotton piqué shorts. Despite the wacky styling (red lipstick, anyone?), Browne offered up plenty of new ideas that could be filtered down to the commercial level. An A-line, large-shoulder-and-nipped-waist frame, often with pintuck seams for a sharpness, was the show's standout silhouette. Some of the jackets were sliced into two pieces: A cropped top matched with a bottom half worn like a waist belt, or even separately with a coat. Other jackets had corset grosgrain lacing in the back--a red sleeveless jacket had a double-breasted shape on top which evolved into a single-breasted shape on the bottom. Above all, the show was a joyful experience: It's a rare feat at any men’s fashion show (or women's, for that matter) for a designer to inspire the audience to smile. It happened at Thom Browne--particularly in response to one model, who passed by in a navy blue wool cropped jacket and white shorts--the laurel leaf Marines insignia embroidered onto his crotch. It would not be a Thom Browne show without wit and humor. But the show had a solemn side, as well. A model walked the runway carrying leather heeled boots on a silver plate--the traditional honor for a fallen comrade in war. It's hard to imagine that such a dignified moment could exist in a fashion show, but Thom Browne defies the odds.