Monday, January 18, 2010

One pill, two pill, red pill, blue pill...


Granted it's only a couple of days in, but so far the mens shows aren't quite blowing my mind...with one exception. The Versace mens collection for F/W 2010 is, without a doubt, the most gutsy and exciting collection for men that Donatella has sent out in years. For a while, I'd say since Versace began her quest to revamp the house and steer it in a more luxurious, modern and profitable direction, Versace menswear has lacked quite a bit of the verve and attitude that made it so much fun back in the early naughties. That's not to say that it hasn't been good. Ever since Donatella hired Alexandre Plokhov to head the mens collection the results have been consistently beautiful, with a new emphasis on streamlined masculinity and sharply tailored chic. But the attitude; it was just a little too tame. Granted Versace is a label that will never appeal to everyone, you either like it or you don't, but I think anyone who cares even a little bit about fashion would agree that at the end of the day Versace just isn't meant to be tame. Ever.

If this collections makes one thing clear, it's that you can only tame Milan's platinum blonde beast for so long before she breaks free of her shackles, ready to tear it up. The collection, in all of it's hard-edged, cyberpunk glory, is fantastic for the simple reason that you could not possibly have seen it coming. It was completely unpredictable. For the last few years Versace's menswear has been classic, very grown up and sharply tailored bordering on formal, with a strong focus on a mature sense of luxury and glamour. Imagine the polar opposite of that and you have the F/W 2010 menswear collection. For starters the look is pure youth; narrow tailored trousers in black or gray worn stuffed into multi-strapped-and-buckled patent boots, motocross pants in skintight black leather or a patchwork of fabric and patent, tops made of strips of leather slit open like Venetian blinds to show the skin underneath, and streamlined biker jackets cut narrow enough to give Rick Owens a run for his money. While this all sounds like the type of stuff that trendy young fashion boi types have been wearing forever, Versace and Plokhov upped the ante with the details. Those biker jackets, among my favorite pieces throughout the collection, aren't mere Rick Owens rip-offs; instead they're detailed with cut-work, padding, topstitching, or a faux-wrap shawl collar. There were some gorgeous knee-length coats, in particular a gray tweedy looking one with lapels and no collar, or for the more ballsy type a patent leather car coat. A few pieces had this weird bump detail, like studs pressed under the surface of the leather or fabric, kind of a punky take on ostrich leather. A gorgeous knit top in silvery-gray had panels of laddered fringe, while other tops were woven like a fishing net. For evening, thought it wasn't traditional by any stretch of the imagination, Versace paired sharply tailored jackets and trousers, or more of those leather pants, with tops in the house's signature chain mail. The few times I've ever seen it used for men, I haven't liked the results, but somehow these tops looked cool. Mixed in with the black and grays were shots of electric blue, cobalt, burgundy and purple, as well as some multicolored "laser" print tops (which were not among my favorite piece in the collection).

Honestly the only thing I don't like about this collection is the fact that I'm in no way cool enough to pull the look off myself. I don't have a multi-million dollar record deal to accessorize my outfits with, and to work these looks I think that may be a necessity. But broken apart most of these pieces aren't as extreme as they appear. The styling is decidedly fashion-y and to be honest I'm thrilled with that. I'm tired of having my fashion spoon-fed to me. If all I wanted was to look at nice clothes, I wouldn't devote my time to following fashion. An added bonus is the shock factor that this collection provides. In yet another Milan mens season when the results are less than lust-inducing, this collection is like an adrenaline rush. Versace and Plokhov seemed to throw caution to the wind and just do what they wanted to do without any hesitation. They didn't just put some patent trim on a classic coat and call it futuristic, they went full tilt with their inspiration. For that reason this show stands out, and will likely continue to until the mens collections wrap up in Paris by the end of the week. But then I wouldn't expect much less from a member of the Versace family. Donatella may fall into her ruts, indulging in too much glitz for a while, then reigning things in too much after that, but when the woman decides to make a change there is no such thing as doing it subtly.

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