THE BIG APPLE’S DEBUT. At the first ever official men’s fashion week in New York, some frontrunners remained true to their design identities while a few showcased more playful offerings
Duckie brown’s striking silhouette with billowy pants
New York’s very own men’s fashion week—or what’s officially called the New York Fashion Week: Men’s—has been long overdue, given just how many menswear designers reside in the city and all the creative directors who continuously draw inspiration from the city. There is a cosmopolitan, carefree and commercial appeal to New York that the fashion industry finds particularly alluring. So, the obvious question is: How would designers take advantage of such an exuberant energy and turn it into intriguing collections which will also enable them to cash in on the city’s fashion sense? After all, hype doesn’t mean anything if it can’t translate into growth and increased orders.
Shades of white: Michael Kors
There are three of the Big Apple’s top menswear designers, however, who never really had to worry about creating collections that sell. Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger and John Varvatos have, over the years, built strong foundations in terms of aesthetics as well as business-wise. More importantly, the design lexicons of all three consistently explore the many sides of American style—but when they tweak, they tweak just enough. Kors, for instance, opted for an “island life” theme this season. A predictably sleek series of relaxed suits along with loose tops and sporty jackets were paired with athletic sandals, delivering casual but dressy vibes. “People in the city are dressing down, and they’re more polished on vacation,” he mentioned.
Drawing on similar themes for spring/summer ’16 was Tommy Hilfiger, who created a collection with island hoppers in mind. Just don’t expect the usual short shorts or waterproof attire, as the creative director showcased a broken suit instead, along with even more suits paired with crew-neck tops underneath. Stripes were the main accent throughout the collection, and the tailoring was neat—as usual. What was unusual are the three last looks: Models in Rafael Nadal suits, each holding a tennis racket as a not-so-subtle hint at the collaboration between the Grand Slam champion and Hilfiger.
“Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger and John Varvatos have, over the years, built strong foundations in terms of aesthetics as well as business-wise”
Part of the reason why this season was so special for New York was the fact that John Varvatos brought his spring/summer installment home after several seasons in Milan. Varvatos, who founded his eponymous brand in the Big Apple back in the late 1990s, rekindled his connection with the city through a runway show that romanticized the rock scene of the ’70s, which was defined by the likes of Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac. Deconstructed suits and worn leather jackets were quite prominent in the collection, in keeping with Varvatos’ well-known affinity for glam rock and sharp tailoring.
While designers like Varvatos dominated on the runways of New York, younger designers took to the streets of the Big Apple to showcase their work. Among the front-runners of this group, there was Public School, which had multi-ethnic models such as Waris Ahluwalia and Twin Shadow displaying their police lineup-inspired presentation. Designer duo Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne charmed the sporty folk of New York (and beyond) with their convincing proposal of elevated athletic looks. If anything, the season felt in tune: Elongated silhouettes, effortless pairings and versatile outerwear were readily adopted into the wardrobes of modern men.
“People in the city are dressing down, and they’re more polished on vacation”
Still, seeing so many designers who preferred to play things safe prompted questions about the lack of creative minds who will boldly venture into playful and experimental designs. Opening Ceremony dismissed the skepticism with its take on classical music. This time around, Beethoven and Bach were treated like slogans, as the names of these famed composers appeared on a variety of tops and jackets. Co-founders Humberto Leon and Carol Lim were indeed known for their cheekiness, but it was perfectly balanced out by their expertise in proportions and textures. A range of khakis in various volumes and silk-like materials made the collection all the more desirable.
Duckie Brown’s transparent organza top
Does being desirable help? Of course—but so does standing out. Take Duckie Brown, for example. The brand rolled out what was arguably one of the most memorable collections of the week, which made a strong case for paper-bag-waist trousers in every single look sent down the runway. Delicate and poetic, the pieces looked intentionally oversized but not stiff, simple but not minimal. There was also a subtle discussion about gender in the collection, which was manifested in transparent organza tops designed as if to challenge the notion of masculinity while also allowing a measure of vulnerability. More importantly, it sparked a lot of discussion. And so it should be with the first official fashion week of New York. Now, if only the designers could really push their limits and go beyond their comfort zones.
This article first appeared in DA MAN Style spring/summer 2016. Get your copy here.