I have to admit, I've never really been won over by Alexander McQueen's menswear efforts. It's not that I don't like his aesthetic for men or anything like that. It's that, since launching the line in 2005 the collections have had more twists and turns than someone with limited patience can possibly be expected to endure. It was like one of those movies that you sit through where you're screaming in your head "get to the f-ing point already!". McQueen never really has. Whereas his aesthetic for women is easy to identify and to put into words, the one real thread that connects his men's shows together is the impeccable tailoring. But since this is McQueen we're talking about, impeccable tailoring is a given and people expect something more. The one time in the four years since he started showing his men's line in Milan where I felt he hit the right note was with F/W 06, a mix of the severe lines, dramatic details and sinister undertones that he's well known for. Since then, nothing. Nothing has moved me...until now.
His F/W 09 collection was true McQueen, very aggressive, historically inspired, theatrical and twisted. If Alex from "A Clockwork Orange" was a real person and was cast as the lead in a Jack the Ripper biopic directed by Martin Scorcese, this collection would probably be pretty close to what the result might look like. A troupe of models, all with dark circles around their eyes, fedoras on their heads and canes in their right hand marched out in clothes that evoked all things London. McQueen opened with his signature sharp tailoring, camel overcoats and grey tweed, very traditional stuff being worn by guys who look pretty likely to beat you to a pulp in an alley for trying to stiff their whore out of her money...or something like that. Honestly though, the clothes all look pretty wearable when you look at them as individual pieces and without the styling tricks. A navy cardigan that was long enough to trail on the floor had two leather belts holding it closed across the chest and was shown with a vest and rolled up trousers. After that there was taupe knee-length coat worn over a skintight brown leather jacket (or vest, you can't really tell) and paired with gray tweed trousers detailed with cargo pockets. I actually really like those trousers. This whole section was kind of a mix between ruff and rugged street trash of the Dickens variety and dandified criminal. Then came a cognac colored leather apron, perfect for anyone who might be ritualistically dismembering someone, in style of course. It was a bit of that old-school McQueen darkness that has been all but dormant lately.
Soon after this though, the show took a turn for the darker side of things, both literally and figuratively. The beige, tan and muted shades of taupe and mushroom were replaced with black and steely gray, and the sort of delinquent tough guys grew into even more delinquent, tougher guys...you know the type, the ones that prowl the streets looking for trouble, victims and a bit of fun. There was a great shirt with a trompe l'oeil print that kind of resembled a male chest rendered in tarnished metal, a full length leather coat with an Astrakhan collar and a light grey suit of sorts, the vest worn wrapped around the chest like a harness and the coat slung on the shoulders. Overall I liked this section a whole lot more than the previous one.
After this there was a brief section of more ready to rumble toughs, though they had taken off their suits and replaced them with codpieces, metal breastplates, argyle sweaters with skulls hidden in the diamonds and boots laced up to the knees. But then came the best part; evening attire. What do the criminals of a Victorian/Dystopian London wear for evening you might ask? Why, only the sharpest of sharp tailoring in deepest black and bloodiest red of course. One frock coat in iridescent burgundy had an inset with a deep red brocade of some sort that looked like a cross between a floral and blood splatters. A waistcoat and trouser combo also had some sort of pattern either printed or woven into the groin area in a blue-tinged white/silver splatter that some on the Fashion Spot speculated might have been alluding to...er....DNA. And the final look was absolutely stunning; one half jacket, one half waistcoat, the back turning into a cape. It was up there with some of the best tailoring McQueen has ever done.
Overall this collection was refreshing not only because it was totally in keeping with the McQueen personality cultivated over years of his work, but also because it provided some kind of reassurance to his fans that his dark side is still very much intact and that he hasn't forgotten how to use it. I can only hope that carries over into his women's collection come March.
Six different exits, all of them head-to-toe in winter white opened the Versace men's collection for next fall. That right there is interesting in itself. So far this season black, and shades of grey that are dark enough to be considered black, have been the main and sometimes only colors on display. I have no idea if Donatella's opening looks were a conscious effort to make a statement or not, but it definitely made a powerful impression. In my bit about the Ferre collection I mentioned how underrated I think winter white is as a color. There's something super elegant and very soothing about it, not to mention kind of dramatic. So needless to say I thought Donatella's choice to open with those head-to-toe looks was pretty great. It didn't hurt that the clothes were really beautiful. She started with a classic double-breasted overcoat, followed by a suit with a thin turtleneck sweater underneath. Then there was a chunky knit sweater with trousers, a pea-coat and finally a short bomber style jacket paired with ever-so-slightly gray trousers (this look was my favorite). It made for a very bold and very dramatic opening to the collection, and even though I myself would think twice before wearing so much white (it's gorgeous, but not exactly durable) it certainly made me want to.
From there the collection moved into grays in every possible shade; steel, graphite, iron, anthracite, charcoal...all the way into black. Like Aquilano and Rimondi earlier this week at Ferre, Versace was smart to play with sheen in these monochrome looks. I especially love the metallic looking biker jacket worn with the shirt and tie and black trousers, and the belted coat that looks like either some kind of black tweed with gray flecks or some kind of wool with a slight metallic finish.
Interspersed throughout the collection of white, black and gray were occasional shots of different shades of blue. Everything from steely blue to petrol popped up as textured leather pea coats, jackets, iridescent shirts, the same thin turtlenecks that were throughout the collection and trousers. These looks really added something to the lineup because the colors really played off the monochrome neutrals nicely and added a bit of interest to an otherwise safe lineup.
About 3/4 of the way through the lineup however, La Donatella lost me. Out came a half-dozen or so looks all in beige, camel and red. What was this? Weren't we just moving at a solid pace through deep, cool monochromes? Every one of these looks was a complete miss for me, not even because they were particularly bad, but because they literally came out of nowhere. The entire section should have been completely nixed. It's not even like there was a need to fill space. There were already enough pieces and looks shown, all she had to do was send out some formal wear and take her bow. So simple. Anyway, it was a real headscratcher. Luckily after this she did send out some evening looks, my favorite being a coat with squared off lapels, white button-down worn open at the throat over a black turtleneck, and classic trousers topped with a cummerbund. It was definitely formal, but it was hardly traditional. Kind of makes me wish I went to more dressy functions.
All in all, a gorgeous collection filled with things I would love to wear through the winter months. Was it anything new or exciting? No. But you know what, there are just some times in life when gorgeous clothes end up making you not really care if someone has reinvented the wheel.
And now for the pop quiz; If I were to participate in a word-association exercise, which designer's name would make me think of euthanasia?
If you guessed Frida Giannini, well, don't expect any prizes because really, who else could it be? I've seen many debates on the Fashion Spot arise in Gucci fashion show discussions, and they're almost always triggered by the same type of comment. Someone, whether they like the collection or not, says something to the effect of "Every time there's a Gucci show people start comparing it to Tom Ford. Get over it". From there the debate ensues, and to be fair I've participated in more than my fair share of them. But after looking at the new men's collection, and believe me we will get to that mess soon enough, I think I might be able to enlighten all of those who want the Tom Ford fans and Gucci purists to "get over it". Imagine a label you really love, one that always has you waiting anxiously when the collections are being shown just to see the photos because even though you can pretty much count on the fact that you'll love it like you always do, you're still a little nervous that this collection will be the one that disappoints. Do you have that label or designer in mind? Now imagine that the designer decided to leave the label, which is disappointing enough but it's an unfortunate part of the industry, and the person to succeed them is not only incompetent as a clothing designer, but is someone whose work is so mind-numbingly stale and uninteresting, so basic in it's technique that they have so thoroughly dumbed down the luxury label you once admired to the point that the clothes now look like what you would have found in Zara stores the world over a full year prior when whatever convenient, cliched little trend was still remotely relevant. Would you just "get over it"? Or, season after season would you sit back in disbelief and feel like you're relieving the same nightmare over and over again. Of course, I'm being a bit dramatic here, but believe me, the nightmare thing is not so far off the mark. And at this point, I don't think anybody is still mourning the loss of Tom Ford, they're mourning the loss of Gucci.
So, now that I've been presumptuous enough to try and explain why some people can't just get over it, on to the collection.
Giannini's menswear, from the time she took over in 2006, has always focused on the very young, very thin and very trendy male. Whereas the Gucci man used to be, well, a man, he's now in that awkward stage when you start sprouting a few hairs on your chin. But it looks bad, because it's only a few hairs and nobody thinks a goatee with just a few bits of stubble looks cool. So right off the bat it's a bit strange because she's designing clothes for guys who are really young, but the clothes still carry that Gucci pricetag. As the years have gone by and she's discovered the joys of a Bedazzler, the embellishments have multiplied and the prices have skyrocketed. Now, I know that there are some guys in their early 20's who, by whatever means, are able to drop $5,000 on a shrunken studded military jacket, but I'd feel pretty confident in saying that most guys who would want to wear that jacket and who have the body to fit into it probably wouldn't be able to afford the sales tax, let alone the whole jacket. But she's continued on undeterred , and the idiots (or executives, whichever you prefer) at Gucci let her because her tattoo-ed, logo-ed and over-embellished garbage sells like crazy to those with more money than taste.
This season Frida continues blazing her trail and leaving all of her competitors in the dust by channeling some interesting inspiration (subtle sarcasm just doesn't work in type, so I'm gonna be a little OTT with it), 80's New Wave rockers! I know what you're thinking, hasn't the better part of 2008 been marred by people experimenting with that very same trend? Why yes, it has. And haven't skinny trousers and jeans, neon colors and cleavage baring tops been appropriated by desperately cool boys everywhere for a while now? Why yes, they have. But in this season of grown up sophistication, razor sharp tailoring and restrained details let it be know that there was a voice of reason, a voice that said with perfectly clarity "Wait, I haven't gotten to use that cliche yet, so it's not passe". Seriously, she's never met a cliche she didn't like, and it's not even like she's picking from the good cliches like "Parisian Prostitute" or "Italian film star in the 60's". So for fall 09 she envisions her boy/man as some synth or keytair playing badass circa 1984, two-tone brothel creepers and all. Graphic patterned high-water suits were worn with super-bright shirts, skinny ties and the occasional wallet chain blown up to such stupid proportions that one might wonder what the guy wearing it is overcompensating for that even his wallet chain has to be big. I will admit, I do like the purple shirt worn with the darker purple tie, and the rest of the outfit would make any squatter a nice little waste-basket fire. In all seriousness though, I don't know how many guys would be interested in wearing so much of such bright colors in the winter.
From there she ditched the neon and went for blue, red and burgundy, and she introduced her new pant. For those guys who don't mind going down the drag performer route and torturing yourself by strapping down your man parts, has she got the pants for you! Have you ever seen something so sexy in your life? You heard it here first, knobby knees are the new erogenous zone for guys. Again I have a confession, the leopard v-neck is cute. If it wasn't so insanely overpriced, I'd wear it. Same goes for the wool motorcycle jacket. That waist-length blue jacket however? Pass.
Then she took a sharp left into full on, heroin addicted, Pete Doherty worshipping Dior Homme territory. What the connection is between a pretty literal interpretation of 80's New Wave and Hedi Slimane circa 04/05 is beyond me, but then again I stopped trying to make sense of this women when she showed granny florals one season and slutty disco lame the next. From then on it's been like that movie Sybil. Every season we discover a new personality for the Gucci client. Now she's just speeding up the process. Glittery skinny jeans, sternum-baring tops, ragged scarves and shrunken leather, or in one case beaded fur, jackets are apparently what her dude wears for evening, and why not? Nothing says cool like trying too hard.
This was yet another case of Giannini picking up the breadcrumbs other designers left behind so she can navigate her way out of having to actually design something. More and more I find myself entertaining the delusion that maybe this whole Frida Giannini era is some elaborate joke. We're all being punk'd and eventually there will be a headline on Style.com that says something like "Hah! Gotcha. As if this woman was really a designer." Like I said, delusions. But considering the woman behind all of this madness has deluded herself into believing that she knows fashion to the point where it's a wonder how she'll ever find a way out of her own fantasies, I'm just trying to keep up.