Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Paint it black-ish...

Alexander McQueen

Last season was only the second time since launching his menswear line in 2005 that I was impressed by an Alexander McQueen mens collection. The first time was with his F/W 2006 collection, and not surprisingly there were quite a few similarities between the two. You could say that they were both "very McQueen", encompassing all of the things he's built his name on, delivering interesting, beautifully made clothing and inspired creativity in one dramatic package. So I was pretty excited to see what he had in store for S/S 2010, and wouldn't you know it? I was entirely let down, not to mention further reminded of why you should never, ever get your hopes up when it comes to fashion shows. This season McQueen opted out of a runway presentation, and that was strike one against him as far as I'm concerned. McQueen is a great showman, adept at creating an environment unto which he can project the clothing. Instead of his usual runway theatrics he and photographer David Sims collaborated on a short film (a growing trend lately, with Viktor & Rolf, Gareth Pugh and Stefano Pilati all getting on that bandwagon recently). I don't necessarily have a problem with creating a film to accompany a collection, so long as it's not some pseudo-arty piece of tortured soul b.s. Unfortunately that's exactly what we got here, and there isn't one moment in the clip that actually shows the clothing, unless McQueen is launching an underwear line now. By all means, go to alexandermcqueen.com and check it out for yourselves. It's short enough that it won't kill you or bore you senseless. My opinion? The film was an ultimately useless expression of the frustration that come along with being creative (seriously, the only thing I could think after watching about half of the clip was "yeah, been there and didn't make a mini-movie about it"). The clothes, presented in a lookbook, seemed to take inspiration from the life of an artist, meaning that a lot of them look like the kinds of crappy, beat up basics that an artist throws on to stand in front of an easel for hours, paint splatters and all. Needless to say the clothes were nowhere near McQueen's creative level. Honestly most of them weren't even marginally creative, let alone works of art in their own right. Sure, the tailoring was sharp, but even there it was done in such a run-of-the-mill kind of way. There was no surprise, no "how did he and his patternmakers do that?" shock, unless you want to count a ribbed athletic cuff at the hem of wool trousers as a surprise (and that's been done, it's nothing new). There were a few jackets that had brush-stroke edging to give the look of the piping or binding that comes on traditional English schoolboy blazers (also something that's been done), a white shirt with a sketch of an eagle printed on the chest and faded and bleached khaki trousers worn rolled up. For the most part these clothes were just that, clothes. I don't think you could really call them fashion. Judging from what I can see they just don't seem to cross that threshold into being something more than a garment.

Other pant options, besides the checked wool work out pants, Ralph Lauren looking khakis and bland, traditional trousers in bland, traditional fabrics were navy pants stained with paint splotches (again, been done by everyone from D&G to A&F). A shirt and jacket appeared to be assembled from god only knows how many pattern pieces that had the look of a quilt, unless it's in fact a print or some kind of woven design in which case they're far less remarkable. Then there were two looks, one a navy suit another a white shirt and navy pants, that had paint stains in the shape of hands on the chest and crotch, you know, cause no artist or house painter can resist groping a dude in dull tailoring. These pieces in particular were slightly offensive to me, and not because I've become some prude overnight. They offend me because the joke element of the hand prints is so utterly low-brow. It's cheesy, juvenile and gimmicky. The only thing I can credit McQueen with is actually having the balls to make them in the first place instead of letting that little blip of creative silliness pass. There was a suit that appeared to be streaked with silver paint, but the streaks were in fact woven into the fabric as opposed to painted on. It was kind of beautiful looking, though as a suit there is an unfortunate Tin Man effect that I doubt was desired. The last two looks were the most, or depending on how you look at it, only interesting looks in the collection; a vest/shirt combo and a jacket/shirt combo in an abstract digitalized mirror image like the prints McQueen used for his S/S 09 womens show. I'm actually kind of curious to know what images were manipulated to make the prints. Beautiful as they are though, I don't think I'd ever want to wear them. They're very busy, too busy even, and ultimately not something I see many men wearing very convincingly.

Overall, I don't think it would've been possible for me to be more let down than I was. The collection is brief, bland, not particularly creative, and lacking in the kind of beautiful, perfect clothes that make you overlook those things. For all of the tortured artist mumbo-jumbo that the video alludes to the collection sure as hell doesn't make good on what's promised, at least not as far as I can tell. What's most upsetting is the thought that last season, and F/W 06 for that matter were simply fleeting moments of creative clarity when McQueen's head was in the right place at the right time. It's depressing really, that one of fashions greatest contemporary talents has gotten to a point where his output is so uneven. Maybe Lee's more of an artist than anyone realizes, his creativity slowly burning away in his head and driving him to self-destruction. Hey, weirder things have happened.


So apparently for S/S 2010 Miuccia Prada sees life as one big gray area, and really, what could be more apt given that the world is broke, people aren't buying clothes and for the last few years most men's fashion has been stuck in the midst of puberty, giving guys who don't fit the gawky boy-man mold (ahem, me) a complex. But oddly enough, given that her collection was almost exclusively rendered in shades of gray the statement itself was as black and white as they come. There was a formality to the collection, with echoes of late 50s/early 60s menswear, but it was broken apart and softened to make sure the look wasn't retro. Prada stated that among her inspirations were black and white movies and the desire to make men feel "sexier, more beautiful, more sensitive—he wants to be vulnerable." and I actually think that, at least on the first two points, she succeeded. There was a certain sexiness to the looks (if you ignore the Lurch-like models blankly glaring into the camera). The show started out quietly, dully even by Prada standards, with a single breasted graphite colored jacket with narrow lapels worn with trousers in a slightly lighter gray and a deep v-neck top instead of a shirt. Then another variation on that look, the jacket now in charcoal. From there the jackets went from single to double breasted, only it was a single button double breasted look which, imo, isn't all that great looking. Combined with the drapey, straight cut it looked kind of sloppy, and one thing that a double breasted jacket should never be is sloppy, not to mention that the single button look strikes me as kind of dated. Much nicer were the infinite cardigan combos that were shown. Some were classic with sleeves cropped at the elbows and the hem of the white tees underneath peeking out for some contrast. Others were sleeveless, worn over sweater vests and sleeveless button downs with ties. Then with look 7 the detail that would be Prada's obsession for the season made it's first appearance. It was that same sleeveless cardigan, sweater vest and shirt combo, only now the cardigan and vest were perforated to look like mesh.

From there the perforations took over, with everything from coats, crewnecks, sleeveless mock neck tops and polos, right down to the shoes and occasional fedoras that topped some looks. There were four looks that combined jackets or parkas with short-shorts (a look I'm still not behind when it comes to menswear). Those looks were some of only a handful that had any kind of pattern or print to them in the form of small checks, dense paisley-ish patterns and what looks like some kind of digitalized herringbone. Aside from those pieces the rest of the collection was done entirely in solids. After this there were more iterations on the tailoring and knitwear that opened the show before Miuccia fully gave in to her obsession, sending out entire outfits in black that were marred with perferations which gave the pants a transparent look not unlike the organza bellbottoms she proposed for women back in Spring of '08. I wasn't exactly fond of the pants, mostly because I think they're just silly. Transparency for women serves two purposes; it creates a feeling of lightness and softness which serves as a foil to the seductive nature of see through clothing. You can be the Madonna and a whore while wearing the same dress. However men's methods of seducing aren't the same as women's, and seeing the silhouette of a pocket and knee high dress socks doesn't exactly have the effect of whipping me into an erotic frenzy. Who knows though, maybe it works on women. Anyone care to elighten me?

In all fairness, those perforated pants were really the only missteps in the collection. The rest of the clothes were essentially just good looking, well tailored classics tweaked through both fabric and cut. Even those perforated knits look completely believable to me. I can totally see those working as layering pieces for any number of urban males. Ultimately though this collection doesn't make as strong an impact as last season's menswear collection did. They were both based on the same premise, transforming classic staples of men's clothing as a means to transform the wearer, but while that one left so much room for interpretation, this one doesn't seem to have a very strong subversive undercurrent, at least not one that I've picked up on yet. I'm not about to knock it for that though, because ultimately the clothes look good and that should be the real gauge of whether or not a collection was successful. Who knows, it may prove smart on Prada's part that she didn't propose anything threatening this time around, because the next time she chooses to it'll pack even more punch than usual.

All photos from Men.Style.com

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