Monday, January 19, 2009

The re-creation of man...

The men's collections continued today with what I'm willing to predict will be my two favorite collections, and both for very similar reasons.

Gianfranco Ferre

I'll admit, I never paid much attention to Gianfranco Ferre when Ferre was still alive and designing it. Occasionally I would sneak a glance at the womenswear because for sheer guts and drama there are very few who could top him, but I rarely, if ever, took notice of his menswear. Earlier this year his most recent successors Tommaso Aquilano and Roberto Rimondi, who first became know with their signature line 6267, made their debut for Ferre womenswear and while I didn't love it (blah color palette and a little too controlled) it was certainly a decent debut. Yesterday they presented their men's collection for F/W 09.10 and I have to say, I kind of loved it.

There were a lot of elements in the collection that hit home for me; the dark monochrome color palette with shots of winter white, plays on shiny and matte textures, and razor sharp silhouettes. The entire lineup of strong shouldered coats (some with a slight peak, others with high funneled necks), 60's inflected narrow trousers and chunky oversized knitwear was nearly perfect from start to finish and managed to make a really powerful statement; protection, assertion and confidence.

The oversized funnel necks and gargantuan knitted sweaters and scarves were certainly in keeping with Ferre's love of all things oversized and dramatic, but here they were actually made somewhat believable as clothes that men can actually wear. A great variation on it was a black leather jacket with horizontal band detailing around the body and sleeves. It was different, and it was definitely a "fashion" sort of look, but I could definitely see it working on the street. The coats were a highlight, as they have been in all the shows so far. They were clean, cut mostly to right above the knee and had a certain militaristic vibe about them. It wasn't anything too specific like epaulettes or brass buttons, but the rigor and elegance of them did hint at something kind of regimental. In a way though that's to be expected. A few years ago, say around 05, was the first time I can think of where designers began showing military influenced outerwear for both men and women. At the time I loved it, but it was hard to find outside of a collection price point. Four years later and it's pretty much asserted itself as a classic in men's fashion, not that it hasn't always been apart of the male fashion vocab, but it seems like it's really at the forefront these last few years. To this day it's still a look I love for the elegance and strength it exudes, and when you think about it, so much of menswear is based on an idea of uniform anyway, so it's something that makes perfect sense. But I digress.

The other major thing going on besides the extreme, contemporary tailoring was the mix of both matte and shiny surfaces. I think that's really the key to successfully using such a restrained color palette. Unlike many people I truly don't mind seeing an abundance of black. Besides the fact that it's something that I myself wear a lot of, I think it also makes a great impact on a runway...when handled correctly. The key to it is breaking up the surfaces with subtle variations of texture, sheen and even tone. I think that's why I've never been much of a fan of Yohji Yamamoto's runway presentations. So often he sticks to all matte, all black surfaces and eventually you start to lose the details. But here, Aquilano and Rimondi blended the dullness of wool felt with chunky knits, techno blends with a subtle sheen, Astrakahn and even some mega-shiny blazers, like the one shown as the final look which almost looks beaded...I can't really tell. Plus I think they were smart to throw in that winter white (such an underrated color, I think). It was like a palate cleanser that came along every now and then, and after it the darkness would begin again.

Overall it was a really great effort, and a really strong collection. It was true to the legacy of the label, but at the same time it displayed a really fresh perspective. I guess it's safe to say that Aquilano and Rimondi might just be the team to make the Ferre name relevant again.


Let me just preface this by saying that I don't know what Miuccia Prada is doing differently in either her life or her work, but whatever it is I hope it continues. Just like during the spring shows where for the first time I fell in love immediately with Prada's women's collection, the same has happened to me with her men's collection for fall. I don't know what to think. I've never been much of a fan of Prada's menswear, at least not the shows. It's not even like with the women's offerings where a lot of the time they might grow on me. The men's shows never really do, with the one exception being her twisted take on emasculating men from F/W 08. So I wasn't really expecting to think much of the collection this season.

I couldn't have been more wrong. Not only was it completely free of gimmicks and whatever the sartorial equivalent of castration is, but from beginning to end it was almost entirely wearable and believable as clothing. Essentially the message Prada was trying to deliver was strength, or to quote the woman herself "survival". It's a pretty simple concept, and is certainly something that resonates on a larger, more significant global scale. But don't think super-aggressive outlaws going Beyond Thunderdome or anything like that, Miuccia really isn't one for themes. That's not to say there wasn't a strong seam of aggression running through the collection though...

She started out slowly, traditionally even, the first look being comprised of a double breasted overcoat and matching power suit in charcoal grey, an almost perfect example of the male corporate uniform. The only things that kept the look from being ready for Wall Street was the lack of anything underneath the suit jacket and the fact that the model looked more like a scared little boy than a power broker. From there she began to play, first removing the overcoat so that only the suit was left, then removing the jacket and replacing it with a classic v-neck top gone tough by being made out of leather, and then splicing leather into the cut of trousers. It was interesting the way the show progressed, like she was starting with this symbol of authority and rank and breaking it apart while adding something grittier into the mix. The fact that the first 8 or 9 looks played out entirely in black, or grey that was so dark it was nearly black, gave this sort of black hole feeling, almost like she was trying to say that with all of the turmoil going on today, the uniform of the corporate male is completely empty, it's meaningless (scary how this collection is bringing out so much pretentiously deep thought on my part, but I'm on a roll, so just go along with it).

Having rendered the traditional suit completely meaningless, Prada began to rebuild her man, creating a literal suit of armor. First it was a crisp white shirt, the front completely studded with metal paired with grey wool trousers with grommets running the length of the leg. Then a full suit in that same grey wool worn with a shirt that had studs tracing the collar and button placket. Then a shirt completely covered in hardware worn under a coat with classic black trousers. All the while the leather brogues that started out pretty staid looking also started showing up with hardware tracing the toes and seams.

From here she continued to toughen up the clothes until every inch of the garments were covered in metal. After that there was only one logical way to end the show, and that was to end where it began, with a double-breasted overcoat and matching suit on the same bare chested scared little boy, only this time the suit was pure black instead of charcoal. It's strange how the whole thing literally came full circle, and I'm not even going to try to explain what it all means lest I run the risk of sounding more ridiculous than usual.

Needless to say I loved the collection. There's a good 3/4 of it that I not only like, but that I could totally see myself wearing. The studs are a lot, and I don't know how willing I would be to completely deck myself out in them, but if she does a variation on the trousers with, say, a thick stripe of them down the side I may have to put myself into debt....or just buy the shoes.

Want. Now.

All photos from

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