At menswear shows, as in all businesses, it’s not just the clothes you’re observing. It’s also the sense of clarity – or, in many cases, confusion. After all, no matter the profession, if there is clearly definable purpose, there is a greater chance of success.
This is most obvious at Hermès, where excellence of material and make is combined with ideas that cover both fashion and lifestyle. This brand offers a catwalk that can play host to both utilitarian jumpsuits – very Fashion – and the comfiest-looking loose blue stripe smock top, washed and creased as if it had already been worn on some private island from the months of May to September.
Sure, there are nods to many of the themes of the season, from the way a ribbed cuff on a jacket sleeve turns the look sporty to a zip-up wind cheater worn as the new outer layer. But under the control of the label’s long-term menswear designer Veronique Nichanian, there is a deftness of approach to it all that makes every garment seem like a viable piece for an Hermés customer, rather than a trick souped up just for a show. A mention too of the sweet little leather slippers worn by many of the models, best in grey. Quite the most alluring footwear seen this whole menswear season.
By contrast, some shows present you with immediate conundrums. Why was the Dior Homme show set to a soundtrack of “Paninaro”, a much-admired Pet Shop Boys song about ‘80s Italian fashion? Isn’t Dior meant to be ... you know .... French? Luckily the show producers edited out a section of the song with the repeated refrain of “Armani, Armani, Ah-Ah-Armani”. It would have been like models at the upcoming Chanel couture show carrying Prada handbags.
Underscoring this sense of nonsense, the catwalk surrounded a maze constructed out of mirrored blocks of varying sizes, around which the models wended their way. Since they could see over most of the blocks, it can’t have been too taxing, much like the clothes they wore.
This was actually one of Dior’s menswear designer Kris Van Assche’s better collections, with jackets and blousons purposefully simple in their cut, or jackets decorated with differing size blocks echoing those in the maze. Shorts were tailored and cut an inch or two above the knee. The problem was there wasn’t much sense of how these clothes related to real life, meaning the work never felt like it would leave the collective confines of Fashion: first show, then advertising and magazine editorial.
This lack of purpose is compounded juxtaposed against Comme des Garçons Shirt, a show of such cohesion it was like a palette cleanser. Held the day after the mainline CdG show, the collection presented a wealth of ideas: shirts printed with human or dog faces, which were then roughly covered with patches of random cloth, saved for the eyes which peered out; shirts with pom-pom trim tracing the shoulder; shirts printed with a camo that was actually made up of a repeat pattern of Mickey Mouse. The young models looked so natural in their clothes, it was like they were just walking down the street. Now you see them.