Why the London (Men’s) Collections Matter

The Spring/Summer 13 menswear runway season got off to a different start this time around with London launching a three-day showcase called London Collections: Men. It happened just before Pitti Immagine Uomo in Florence and the current men’s fashion week in Milan which will be followed by Paris as per usual.

Here’s why London matters. For starters, menswear has long relied upon fashion weeks in Milan and Paris almost omitting the men’s collections that show alongside womenswear in New York and London (which happen 3 months too late anyway). In menswear more-so than womenswear, it would seem that we are mostly looking at big luxury brands for direction.. and a lot of times that equates to a whole lotta suits. Emerging designers aren’t as well featured and that’s where London comes in. In just 3 days, more than a handful of brands made their mark, most geared towards the youth market. It felt refreshing not only as our first look at the season but as if youth culture is finally getting its platform in menswear. It doesn’t hurt that the timing is also spot on. Below are a few highlights from London.

This one is perhaps early to say, but a few designers signal a more FEMININE direction for menswear via sheer materials and a soft color palette.

Elsewhere designers featured inspiration taken from SoCal SKATERS.

SPORT reference was also strong with baseball and basketball jerseys.

A more sophisticated take was noted at Xander Zhou with a new FUTURIST direction.

In silhouette direction, BAGGY shapes were key on pants and shorts. James Long took the baggy direction even further with below-the-knee shorts.

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There’s a major shift happening in denim for Fall-Winter 13/14, and a lot of it has to deal with what’s happening right now in Ready-To-Wear. And boy is it ever the right time.

As some of you may know, the Denim by Premiere Vision tradeshow was held just over 2 weeks ago in Paris. And while the event is always pivotal in surfacing denim trends long before they reach the market, there was something distinctive about the show this time around. You see, in the past few seasons there has been a lot of concern with the rising costs of cotton; harboring new blends but also alternatives such as CHINOS and new ways to position denim like SHIRTING.

This time around while most weavers were content to tout a RETURN TO DENIM (as opposed to the aforementioned chinos), treatments and finishes were introduced that bare a striking resemblance to what’s going on right now in fashion.

COATINGS become everything, with leather-like coatings leading the way. If you’ve been following runway trends in any estimation, you know that LEATHER is having a major moment well beyond the biker jacket and onto sportswear separates from tops to pants. The degree to which these coatings are used vary from all-over applications to those which still reveal the denim underneath.

METALLICS, which appeared prevalently on the Spring 12 women’s runways also make their way into the denim sector in the form of coatings. Extreme gold and silver applications are found along with more subtle GLITTER weaves and PEARLESCENT treatments, the later which bears similar resemblance to Chanel’s Spring 12 collection.

Probably one of the most expected trends to move forward is COLOR. There is no denying that color is a major factor at retailers right this second, and some brands – like J Brand – latched onto the trend early on. At last season’s Denim by Premiere Vision show, color was also a key trend, however it was expressed mainly on chinos. This time around, most weavers expand colored denim in season-appropriate ranges of olive, berry and goldenrod. DOUBLE FACED color also taps into the trend without going overboard.

If you’ve set foot in any retailer lately, you know that PRINTS (in addition to color) are everywhere. While printed denim has almost always been treated as novelty, there is no shortage of printed denim for Fall-Winter 13/14. In fact, new 3D expressions feature lamination and even flocking, just hinting at the plush trend in ready-to-wear.

Perhaps it is true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. One might think so with a glance at these KNIT LIKE WOVENS. Of particular note, Candiani’s new fabric lies somewhere between a calvary twill and knit jersey.

While that concept was first introduced a few seasons ago, a newer expression comes in the form of NAPPY and TWEEDY fabrics. Normally when referring to a nappy fabric it’s only visible upon close inspection, but this time around, excessive naps populate denim and open the door to tweedy textures.

Admittedly, denim brands are only just starting to think about fabric for Fall-Winter 13/14 now and some of the trends mentioned above are skewed more towards womenswear. Nevertheless, I’m a firm believer that these new trend-driven developments are just what the market needs to get us all back to denim (whether it looks like it or not).

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NEED TO KNOW Designers from Festival Hyères

This past weekend I had the amazing opportunity to attend Festival Hyères for my second time. In case you’re not familiar, it’s a ma-jor international fashion and photography competition that happens annually in the town of Hyères on the French Riviera (I finally escaped the rain in Paris). But an end-of-the-year student show this is not. Unless your school discovered Viktor & Rolf, Gaspard Yurkievich, Felipe Oliveira Baptista and Henrik Vibskov (to name a few) or had Yohji Yamamoto as the President of the Jury (for real). There’s a lot to talk about but right now I’m going to focus on the 10 designers featured in the fashion competition. The photos featured below are all my own and were taken at the fashion show and showroom presentations. Look for more coming soon on Fashion Snoops!

Lucas Sponchiado
Lucas Sponchiado graduated in 2011 from the École supérieure de La Cambre in Brussels and has worked with Balmain and Gaspard Yurkievitch. His collection “Out of Vacuum” is very much about metamorphosis in the sense that inspiration is taken from traditional English references and colonial India. The sheer lingerie aspect which appears on eveningwear happened entirely organically. Intricate embellishment on items like leggings make certain looks appear warrior-like while intricate pieced construction and cutouts appear on jackets. **Lucas Sponchiado is the recipient of the Public Prize from Palais du Tokyo and Villa Noailles.

Narelle Dore http://www.narelledore.com
Astrallian designer Narelle Dore lives in Antwerp and graduated in 2008 from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Her collection “Women at Sitting Rock” emulates a synthesis between nature, crystals and feminine energy. Her mostly handmade garments feature woven threads, crocheted lace and macrame which are only enhansed by a beautiful color palette reflected throughout the collection and even on colored hair extensions.

Daniel Hurlin http://www.danielhurlin.com
Daniel Hurlin is completing his studies at the Institut Français de la Mode in Paris, and has already worked in diverse environments from Raf Simons to supermarket Tesco. Inspiration for “Perfect Blue Tamara” comes from the painter Tamara de Lempicka and the animated film Perfect Blue from Satoshi Kon. Classic menswear silhouettes are deconstructed with daring cuts (often on the backside) while highly charged prints take center stage, often as fragmented screens.

Paula Selby Avellaneda http://www.paulaselbyavellaneda.com
Argentinian designer Paula Selby Avellaneda is a graduate from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp and Institut Français de la Mode in Paris. The concept for her collection is based on the ability to control seasons and a resulting iceberg in Mongolia. Performance materials take center stage including plastic, rubber, quick-dry and reflective lycra. Couture-like quality remains alongside this futuristic collection with highlights including scale-like sequins and a holographic dress.

Jasmina Barshovi
Jasmina Barshovi is a graduate from HEAD in Geneva, Switzerland. Her collection “The Birds are silent” features a new sensual side to menswear, often involving transparency in the form of cotton voile and silk muslin. Shadowy prints in grey also add to the lightness of the collection. Active elements are also apparent from modified sweatshirts and tanks to must-have parkas.

Maxime Rappaz http://www.maximerappaz.com
Maxime Rappaz graduated in 2011 from HEAD in Geneva, Switzerland. This year he is currently working for Roberto Cavalli in Florence. His collection is a study in purity and takes inspiration from his own photographic research which identifies lines and monochrome surfaces. Minimalist neutral colors are enlivened with shocking neons and transparency while boxy accessories add a dose of irony on the runway. Up close, the garments feature intricate folds.

Ragne Kikas http://www.ragnekikas.com
Estonian designer Ragne Kikas is in the process of completing her university education in Hamburg. Her collection “Dress Code Defensive” takes inspiration from 15th and 16th Century armor which is translated into knitted garments. Set to an almost all-black palette, the garments are equally as striking on the body as they are close up. Intricate items are smocked, pleated and patterned bringing a truly new dimension to knitwear. **Ragne Kikas is the recipient of the Premiere Vision prize and the public prize from the city of Hyères.

Siiri Raasakka, Tiia Siren and Elina Laitinen
Siiri Raasakka, Tiia Siren and Elina Laitinen make up the design trio from Finland who met at Aalto
University of Art and Design in Helsinki. The vision for their men’s collection comes from a tribe of “urban nomads, living in a utopian society of the future”. What results is an assortment of menswear destined for a rave in acid colors and asymmetrical shapes with elements of folk craft fringe and glowsticks. All prints are produced in-house. **Siiri Raasakka, Tiia Siren and Elina Laitinen are the recipients of the Grand Prize of the Jury.

Steven Tai http://www.steventai.co.uk
Canadian Steven Tai recently completed his studies at Central Saint Martin, and has already worked as an assistant for Bless, Viktor & Rolf and Stella McCartney. His collection is destined for bookworms with classical elements including button-down blouses met with exaggerated round waistbands that appear as sculptural appendages. Master craftsmanship comes through best with piles of fabrics that emulate stacks of books. **Steven Tai is the recipient of the Chloe Prize (more on that later)!

Kim Choong-Wilkins
Kim Choong-Wilkins is a graduate of the Royal College of Art and resides in London. His menswear collection “Dystopia” is defined as the opposite of Utopia and features a twist on classics, such as argyle patterns reinterpreted in metallic studs. Science fiction reference also makes an appearance with plastic overlays and chainmail knits.

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Neck and Neck

Prada is always a favored source of newness, with trends typically lasting well after they first march down the runway (see: 3 button blazer). For Fall 12, it seemed that the focus shifted to collar interest. Most forward were the high Edwardian collars which consisted of at least 3 layers.

But perhaps a more easily-adapted trend came in the form of contrast oversized collars which landed on coats.

Yet another point of difference is featured at Bottega Veneta, where contrast point collars appear on woven shirts.

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Outerwear Essentials from Milan

The Milan F12 menswear runways were packed with endless outerwear options. The parka, which has been a best-seller from Spring to Fall, comes out on top once again catering to the luxury market and youth centric brands.

Another classic is the pea coat. A velvet style at Gucci adds a dose of glamor.

Shearling becomes a favored expression for jackets and coats alike.

While puffer jackets and vests have long been a winter favorite, quilting becomes a key styling detail especially applied to outerwear.

In the tailored universe, the overcoat is key, set to a variety of materials from tweeds and wools to leather. Double breasted overcoats look forward.

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Good Things Come in 3’s

Followers of my blog may recall that I’ve mentioned the rise of the 3-button blazer since Prada did it back in Spring 11 and more recently last season. Here it comes AGAIN for Fall 12 becoming even more dominant in tailoring than before.

And while the double breasted suit is easily the most popular in Milan, the three piece suit makes a statement spanning both formal and casual styles.


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(K)nitwits in Milan

Although TAILORING has been a big focus in Milan this week, a handful of designers feature unexpected knitwear items, such as knit pants and/or meggings.

Knit blazers make for a relaxed tailored look especially at Missoni.

On a heavier note, sweater coats as well as the new cardi-coat (often a belted cardigan hybrid) factor in to outerwear.

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Fashion Voyeurism a la MUGLER

In case you’ve got nothing but time on your hands and/or are a really, really big fan of Nicola Formichetti’s Mugler, you probably don’t have time for this.

This is Fall 12 Mugler menswear, live-streaming pre and post collection on the brand’s Facebook page for 4 days (since Monday and until Thursday). Gaga is absent (so far) and I think we can all agree that it was time for a different approach after Mother Monster helped revive the brand (and deliver some new singles on the runway) last year. The genius of this crowdsourced concept is that up until now, no one has had their entire collection “on view” to the public in such a bold way (even if that means seeing rows of rolling racks). Reality TV shows could capture the madness only to a certain degree but this exposes much much more like set checks and rehearsals, IF you have the time and/or interest. When I checked in yesterday it was basically looking at them looking at boards and grabbing samples, set to a really good soundtrack.

Here’s what I think we could learn from this. Formichetti gets that fans want to be a part of Mugler. The live-streaming concept gives fans a sense of excitement and look into what goes into staging a runway show, with comment and sharing capabilities to generate buzz. Of course some parts are more exciting than others (and really you can’t see all that much since it’s shot in black and white). But being that voyeur at home tapping into what’s happening in less than 30 minutes before a runway show creates brand loyalty. And I’m willing to bet that that’s the exact audience shelling out cash for the Mugler fragrance.

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Introducing the Tribal Mountaineer

Ah yes it’s men’s runway season. Undoubtedly there are going to be collections set to outdoor themes because, let’s face it, that sort of look tends to be very commercial. But here’s something to get a little more excited about. Frankie Morello combines two loves – the great outdoors + tribal. The color palette includes shades of pumpkin and goldenrod, while the patterns – in either tribal or abstract geometrics really brought the vision to life. Embroidery and fringe serve as key details.

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Trending in Tailoring: Double Breasted Suits

More than a handful of Milanese designers favor the classic double breasted suit for Fall 12 as a key tailoring direction.


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