Today marked the end of the very first New York Fashion Week Men’s show, and practicality remained king on the runway. Sounds like good news to investors of the various brands, but perhaps not that pleasing to the show’s backers and organisers. The jury’s still out on its impact on the menswear industry, but at least to people who traipse across Europe yearly to catch the latest tux-meets-jumpsuit-meets-abstract-futurism outfits from quirky enfants terribles, New York just wasn’t all that invigorating. They could very well just have been browsing through the boutiques for themselves. Not that there wasn’t the occasional spark of genius that flits through each show like a diffident firefly; today it was Siki Im, who brought some metaphysical depth to the show with his experiment with deconstruction. All that being said, America has always been different from Europe. While native designers like Thom Browne are making waves abroad, New York may yet emerge as the sobering transatlantic counterpart to an industry wont to being rather capricious. The upside is that American brands have the choice of being practical or being whimsical – much like British and Japanese designers. All through Milan and Paris however, we’ve seen continental maisons responding to the financial squeeze of flagging economies by tamping down their sartorial flamboyance and going for the everyman, often vying for influence in trends born out of the United States like sportswear and streetwear. Perhaps the designers who showed this season in Manhattan are the ones with their heads screwed on right.
POLO RALPH LAUREN
Is prep well and truly dead? Tommy Hilfiger’s collection yesterday was a half-hearted divorce from the hallmarks of prepdom, and today’s offering by Polo Ralph Lauren finished off the one-two punch. While Hilfiger shed the form, Ralph Lauren did away with the typical use of bright primary colours in favour of neutral tans paired with navy. As the collection got more casual, denim became the go-to fabric, at one time used for an entire three-piece suit. With the rise of sportswear, it would’ve been interesting to see how prep masters like Ralph Lauren would meld northeast Ivy League with modern technical fabric. Unfortunately, the heritage brand went all out for the latter, conveniently slapping camouflage motifs on a forgettable series of luxury sport RLX active/utilitarian wear in technical fabric.
Formal wear in summer should never be too solemn, and casual should never be sloppy – this seemed to have been Perry Ellis‘ mantra for his SS16 offering. In a classic New York style, suits were destuffed but remained tailored, with open shirts and unraveled ties, and breezy single thong sandals to complete the relaxed yet put-together look. Sportswear stayed classy without much exposed skin, as models wore full body suits under sheer pullovers, and tailored jackets and running shorts in glossy technical fabric. Most notable in the collection were sports leggings in mustard yellow and coral, which added some measured character to what has become a see-saw of extremes in men’s sportswear of either black-white-grey or psychedelic patterns.
PARKE & RONEN
Whenever Parke & Ronen appears on the runway, summer becomes a palpable reality. Small flowery prints, intricate paisleys, messy palm fronds, candy stripes, Jacquard prints, Breton tops, dye bleeds on white jeans, monochrome Oriental embroidery, leopard prints, navy camo and army camo, twinkle twinkle little stars, how we wondered where the overarching themes are? But we caught ourselves before we over-thought the whole thang – it’s summer, so let’s have some fun! Oh did we mention the 4″ shorts? It’s almost redundant to point it out on a Parke & Ronen show isn’t it?
German-Korean architect and designer Siki Im delivered a concept never truly explored on New York’s runway today with his intriguing collection – deconstruction. Computer processing chips and compact discs strung through sound cables doubled as metaphors and quick belts for baggy pants with externalised pocket flaps, gaffing tape embellished white leather sneakers with eyelets curving to the side, zips opened from the bottom up on the flanks, and the french cuffs on an turtleneck sweater started only after the fingertips. The words YOUTH MUSEUM seemed to sum up the warring dichotomy of what’s convention and what’s futuristic, and only time will tell if this collection will be what youths wear in the future, or be (re)viewed in nostalgia as another runway presentation of 2015.
There were no surprises at John Varvatos’ show today – fine tailoring, fine fabrics, and fine grunge rocker vibes. And that perhaps is the strength and the weakness of this presentation; it all looks great, but you wished there was more than just ‘fine’. The collection went through suits with vertical candy stripes of black and grey, paired with animal print scarves and burnished leather jackets, moving on to plum and maroon – which looked great on a slim-cut leather car coat, then to midnight blues, grey and black with pinstripes, shimmer dust, and the occasional glen plaid matched with tightly-spaced buttoning detail. In all, it was a solid but predictable offering.
Photos by Gerardo Somosa of Indigitalimages.com via Style.com, Monica Feudi of Feudiguaineri.com via Style.com, Polo Ralph Lauren, and Fashionisto.com.