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Does New York menswear deserve its own fashion week? There has been a growing chorus within the industry that it is time to separate the sexes, at least on the catwalk, as London has done; time to create a fashion week for the guys free of the constraints that come when showing during womenswear.
The customer base is certainly big enough. However, as the men’s collections this week demonstrated, the real challenge for this city may not be demand, or fitting another fashion week into an already full calendar, but rather content. Put simply: what talent will they draw on? This week it wasn’t entirely clear.
After all, Tommy Hilfiger cancelled his menswear show. Michael Kors moved his to July. Tom Ford has decamped to London and Calvin Klein and John Varvatos regularly show in Milan. If there is a hope, it must lie with the newer menswear designers and their nascent small businesses.
Case in point: Robert Geller, whose cool, black colour-blocked neoprene shirts with sweats and collarless car coats were inspired by 1980s Soviets just beginning to feel the influences of punk. While a bit heavy, the garments were visually interesting: canary yellow flight pants, a belted shawl collar blazer and leather moto jackets with gold detailing.
If Geller abandoned clear lines in favour of a loose, layered look that seemed better placed for autumn, Todd Snyder offered some respite. Snyder, now in his third year designing under his own label after years at J.Crew, presented a clean, simple collection.
There were sharply tailored plaid pants in navy and black, and navy micro dot trousers, all cuffed to show some ankle. The clothes were easy, including a grey linen double-breasted suit and navy T-shirt, as if Snyder was inviting you for a cappuccino; asking you to relax.
It was notable at a time when larger brands shirked that ease, focusing instead on more complex techniques. At Lacoste, for example, the need to impress with technical knowhow led to several trousers and sport shirts that resembled nothing so much as plastic. Looking like the day’s recycling may not prove that popular.
The more restrained pieces, such as a pine green suit with white piping and an oversized contrasting blue short-sleeve button-up with hidden placket, were better, wearable – unlike Kenneth Cole’s contribution to the tech race: nylon jackets with faux snakeskin panels and a snakeskin embossed T-shirt, which just felt juvenile.
Ironically, it was the young talent, including Tim Coppens, Patrik Ervell and Opening Ceremony’s Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, who had more success with the industrial: Coppens with a nylon-metal mesh jacket with leather panels behind the neck and Ervell with a black rubberised cotton and navy mesh sailing coat. Both men said they were inspired by transport: the open road and the high seas.
As for Opening Ceremony, which mixed the street-racing culture of Los Angeles with Lim’s Korean background, it’s too bad that there isn’t more to say. The men seemed an afterthought in the co-ed show, walking at the tail-end of the model parade, and all at once. Was that a cobalt crew neck with contrasting black panels or a black sweater with cobalt patch inserts. Who knows? It sure seemed cool though.
And it did suggest that a separate show for their menswear might have been a good idea – even if that would mean factoring in yet another slot in the fashion week line-up.