The Best Of Men’s Fashion Week: Round I

The men’s Fall 2012 fashion shows just wrapped up in Milan and Paris, and the big news was suits. Whether super tailored or soft and slouchy, menswear is seeing a major return to the matching jacket and pants next season. To which we say: Huzzah! Sure, guys look great in jeans and a T-shirt, but there’s nothing more handsome and – dare we say – stylish than a man in a sharply cut suit. Which isn’t to say suits are the only men’s option for fall. Far from it…

Gucci kicked off the shows in Milan with a bohemian grunge collection inspired by Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance as Arthur Rimbaud in Total Eclipse and the murky shadows found in Caravaggio paintings (think: dark floral suits, velvet blazers, fur-trimmed topcoats, chunky cable knits, skinny trousers, and distressed leather jackets accessorized with burnished brown oxfords and man bags).

At Burberry Prorsum, Christopher Bailey paid homage to the suit (in a collection dubbed “The Gentlemen”) by narrowing the silhouette to more modern proportions – perfect for the type of guy Karl Lagerfeld famously called “the boy with the body of today.” Said boy will surely flip for Burberry’s form-fitting jackets and stovepipe trousers in cool grey and warm plaid, many worn with graphic print drape-neck sweaters. Topping it all was a range of quirky-cool outerwear, including a beige trench edged in a bold cinnamon/tangerine stripe and a classic corduroy-collared barn jacket in olive leather. Talk about traditional with a twist!

The story at Giorgio Armani? A new play on proportion. Yes, this legendary designer also took on the suit, but he loosened and pleated the pants and shrunk the jackets (though the shoulder was rounded), resulting in a softened silhouette that breathed new life into the classic – especially when rendered in louche Fair Isle-print velvet, textured leather, wide-ribbed corduroy, or plush, drapey wool. Sure, it may not be the ubiquitous skinny separates favored by the boy with the body of today. But somehow, it felt as though Armani had his eye further ahead with a fresh new shape that may take a season or two for the rest of us to catch up to.

At Louis Vuitton, menswear designer Kim Jones called his show “A Tale of Two Cities” (Paris and Tokyo) and sent out a killer collection of kangaroo-fur trimmed coats, elbow-patched hunting jackets, high-tech parkas, luxe suits and evening jackets, and graphic print scarves and sweaters. All were filtered through the prism of infamous seventies fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez and realized with an incredibly refined eye for detail (as in the hand-painted feather and arrow pins that turned up on scarves and lapels, and the leather-covered luggage locks inspired by Chinese zodiac symbols).

At Dries Van Noten, the designer offered up “psychedelic elegance” by way of trippy calligraphy-print coats, shirts and pants (featuring the words of Oscar Wilde, whose The Happy Prince was read over the soundtrack alongside a Frank Zappa monologue), which were tempered by trim military coats, slim pants and carrot-shaped trousers in more traditional solids. Onstage, Dutch artists Gijs Frieling and Job Wouters painted a mural using Wilde/Zappa iconography as the models stalked down the runway. It was, as they say, a fashion moment.

And New York’s own 3.1 Phillip Lim unveiled a collection inspired by English rude boys, updating their signature Sixties style via board shorts layered over pants, translucent duffle coats, and ponyskin creepers worn with gobs of eyeliner and attitude. Standout pieces included wool topcoats in a digitized houndstooth print, pixelated print sweaters, and those aforementioned creepers, which may have been inspired by the Sixties, but felt completely of-the-moment as realized by the envelope-pushing Mr. Lim.

Lauren David Peden writes for Rue La La as a Contributing Editor.

February 2, 2012