Paris Menswear: day three

What to make of the current phenomenal success of Givenchy’s menswear? The mania for its printed T-shirts continues apace, proving there’s still a men’s market for unashamed hyper-fashion.

It might not be what the executives of owners LVMH might wear themselves, but they sure will appreciate its profits.

On day three of the autumn/winter ’13 Paris men’s shows, creative director Riccardo Tisci presented a collection mostly in black, the prints abstracts of bodies in seemingly provocative poses, their heads turned. Tisci cites Robert Mapplethorpe as a long-term inspiration, best represented here in leather waistcoats cut away so much at the front they ended up looking like holsters. Tailoring had the lapels cut away. Shoes had a huge metal cuff. Will those pieces sell? Unlikely. It’s the prints that count.

Friday in Paris was LVMH-heavy, and it is Berluti that is the jewel currently being most lovingly polished by the Arnault family. Eldest son Antoine is Berluti’s CEO, and its third ready-to-wear presentation was a no-holds-barred affair in the Musee National d’Histoire Naturelle. Earlier in the day, artistic director Alessandro Sartori talked me through the collection, centred around a formal but relaxed silhouette. A slight roll is hand-tailored into Neopolitan shoulder suits to give some structure to the soft shape, and then Sartori cuts the jacket short but with a low rise, meaning the lapels are long on a relatively brief jacket. His trousers are roomy around the hips, before tightening towards the ankle. Too much information? If he cares this much about the cut, maybe we should too.

In any case, there’s effort gone into it all. Tweeds have been specially woven from cashmere and silk; Japanese denim has had its indigo removed, then been dyed mustard for a wrap trench; a cashmere bomber is water-repellant; leather is hand-stretched at 40 degrees over blocks before being left to dry and harden to make document bags and small leather goods. And yet somehow it still looks relaxed and approachable.

The LVMH plan is to make everything at Berluti have a handmade dimension, thereby limiting the production of its hyper-expensive pieces, to be sold only in their own stores (the Paris store will also offer bespoke). “We couldn’t even think of making 50,000 of something,” says Sartori. “We think it’s better to go slow, and build the brand behind it.”

Also LVMH-owned is Loewe, the Spanish house designed by Brit Stuart Vevers, which is seeing its biggest growth in menswear. This means mostly bags, and in that context a new soft suede small tote with a strap, and a men’s version of the house’s signature Amazona bag, will probably be winners. Of the clothes, the best were lightweight sheepskin jackets, and a black leather parka.

Of course, not everything in Paris is owned by LVMH, though sometimes it feels that way. Comme des Garçons staged a bravura show, where the emphasis was on playfulness with cloth. Tailcoats were cut from golden material like tapestry, while other jackets came in a many coloured heraldic pattern. There were cropped trousers of pink soft cord, and a vivid orange sweater trimmed in white bobbles. For male devotees of Comme, the collection presented a full and varied shopping list.

Good news for Comme’s CEO Adrian Joffe, who said the opening of the New York version of its Dover Street Market store was slated for November, proving that it’s not just the conglomerates with empire-building plans.

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