NEW YORK FASHION WEEK. FORM AND FUNCTION. Six months ahead of the first official installment of New York Fashion Week: Men’s, the Big Apple has already proven its strength in balancing form and function
Public School added graphic elements to its sporty designs
The Council of Fashion Designers of America or CFDA has finally made it official: Last June it organized its own men’s fashion week in New York with more than 40 brands showcasing their lineups for spring/summer ’16. The dedicated fashion week for men has thus brought new hope to participating designers, although many have also raised an important question on the show’s raison d’être: “Does New York Men’s Fashion Week matter?”
Hood by Air created statement trousers for the season
The parameter of what “matters” here may refer to either the substantiality of designs showcased or the event’s financial value. Both are, of course, the major driving forces behind the success of brands and individual collections alike. But, really, what is it that truly matters in fashion these days? Given that trends are no longer as relevant as they used to be, as well as how financial success does not correlate directly to artistic brilliance and that the industry itself has become overly saturated; it would seem that the answer lies in something beyond the tangible: a strong, singular vision.
“Menswear brands in the City That Never Sleeps have already started marching to the beat of their own drums”
And a distinctive vision is what the designers of New York have. Six months earlier, even without an official fashion week yet, menswear brands in the City That Never Sleeps have already started marching to the beat of their own drums. For the fall/winter ’15/’16 shows, they calmly projected wearability and accessibility—two qualities that might sound easy to apprehend but require closer inspection to be fully comprehended. Those qualities have been part of the charms of New York’s menswear offerings. It is in this ability to make pieces that can effortlessly be incorporated into a modern man’s wardrobe while still articulating a strong vision is the strength of the Big Apple’s foremost creative minds in fashion.
American classic was the theme of Michael Bastian’s collection
Take, for example, Public School and Hood by Air—two newcomers who are now lauded as contemporary frontrunners. Both have already developed their respective design languages to such an extent that their fall/winter collections feel familiar yet refreshing. In the hands of Public School, a sleeveless piece of outerwear was cleverly equipped with a turtleneck for wind protection, while a classic red lumberjack shirt was elongated to accommodate added accents around the collar and around the knees. A similarly familiar aesthetic came through clearly in loose, sporty silhouettes that were elevated with graphic prints and minimal strokes by the New York-based duo.
Duckie Brown charmed with muted color combinations
Hood by Air presented its fall/winter collection with the same “refreshing familiarity” tone, and toyed with the idea of adding newness to simple pieces. Newness, after all, is the forte of Shayne Oliver, the founder and creative director. “I’m very moved by intuition of the new,” he confided in an interview. So, he experimented with silhouettes, cutting and shapes—making them extra loose, extra high or extra long. But Oliver, who was the second winner of the 2014 LVMH Prize for Young Designers, kept the palette very familiar: blacks, whites and khakis. The result? Intriguing super-loose pleated trousers with adjustable buckles, T-shirt dresses with extremely exposing slits (for men) and trousers with extensions designed to mimic shoelace holes were the standout ones.
“Something that’s wearable and accessible does not always have to be familiar”
Likewise delving into familiar territory was Michael Bastian, who decided to return to what he does best: classic American wear with collegiate references. The designer cited the influence of his father, who was a teacher, when he explained his motivation for the collection. Blazers, sweaters and sweatshirts in vibrant, rich shades were aptly mixed and matched with jeans and cargo pants, making the whole collection look like an upgraded version of what one might see in classic American college movies.
DKNY rethought athleticwear in formal style
On the other hand, something that’s wearable and accessible does not always have to be familiar. Duckie Brown went ahead with this contrasting sentiment for its fall/winter collection as it strayed away from its usual playfulness and color combinations. On the runway, the brand exhibited its previously unseen sensibility in the form of flowing, almost poetic shapes, thanks to the designers’ ample use of soft, lustrous fabrics. For this year’s showing, the dynamic relationship between co-founders Daniel Silver and Steven Cox yielded languid pieces in whites, muted pinks, grays and blacks.
Patrik Ervell designed sci-fi flight jacket
However intriguing or playful a collection is, by the end of the day fall/winter presentations are expected to showcase an array of new seasonal staples. In case of New York-based designers, these would be the outfits meant to brave cold weather. To that end, sport references popped up time and again. Rebooting the sporty theme this season are DKNY and Patrik Ervell, each with a distinctive perspective that brings to light how sport has a certain depth if you delve into it far enough. At DKNY, menswear essentials were turned into activewear pieces despite retaining the appearance of both street and formalwear. On the other hand, designer Patrik Ervell forwent high fashion and instead delved into brutalism and sci-fi, which resulted in flight jackets and wide-leg trousers that gave equal nods to futurism as well as sport. And just like that, New York’s menswear players have separated themselves from the rest—by building collections with strong visions without undermining function. That premise has since been echoed in other urban precincts, too.