New York Fashion Week Menswear Review: Gangsters and Daddios

September 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

Looks from Duckie Brown

Although the menswear shows were timid with muted color palettes and a dearth of pattern, designers still produced collections that were rich in design and commercial appeal.

When word got around that the the boys at Duckie Brown were reinterpreting British gang wear for S/S 12, the menswear cognoscenti were abuzz. Did the show live up to the hype? I think so. On their roughed-up, slate runway, Duckie Brown showed a slew of elegant clothes with roomy silhouettes. I loved the quilted suit in baby blue worn with suede boots reminiscent of Timberlands. It channeled a street-wise flair with its baggy shape and rough styling, but the subtle quilting and softness of color disarmed any aggression the look might have had. I also enjoyed the wispy roses they printed on head-to-toe looks to close the show. In light of the recent riots in London, these precious numbers created an image of comfort and hope, and channeled the pastoral paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe. After seasons of flying under the radar of major critics and buyers, with this collection, Duckie Brown showed us that they were ready to bloom.

Looks from Bespoken

One of the best menswear collections of the week came from emerging label Bespoken, which featured a balanced showing of quiet, thoughtful sportswear. What stood out most about the collection was the delicacy in the slim tailoring, effortless styling, and Easter-egg color palette, as well as the subtle design details that elevated otherwise run-of-the-mill clothes to high-fashion. One of my favorite looks was a salmon shirt/shorts combination worn underneath a tailored grey blazer. It had a levity and quirk that menswear designers, especially in New York, never seem to capture. Their suits were a boon as well, especially one that bisected into two shades of grey towards the belly button.

My only concern with this collection were the leather cuffs buckled around the models’ left biceps that recalled the placement of swastikas on nazi uniforms. Perhaps they would have been less glaring had the model casting been more diverse and less conspicuously Aryan.

Looks from Michael Bastian

Michael Bastian’s collection served up classic apple pie. While the looks weren’t particularly interesting, they were fun to look at and wholly accessible to sartorial wizards and average Joe’s alike. I loved the more casual items, like a bulky sweatshirt done in two shades of grey, or generously-cut shorts that tied at the waist. They were low-key and practical, but had just the right amount of fashion to separate them from the design-orexic loungewear you might find at the sale bin at Sears. I also liked how Bastian mixed work wear-inspired items with more classic pieces, as he did with olive cargo pants worn with a cozy v-neck sweater. The overall look was easy, masculine, and young.

In menswear these days, it’s hard to find clothes that have such wide appeal, catering to both directional fashionistas and men merely wanting to wear understated, well-made clothes. Bastian is the master of this, which this collection clearly exhibited.

Looks from Simon Spurr

From what I could tell, Simon Spurr’s collection was guided by two forces: geometry and equestrianism. The geometry-driven looks took from in field jackets with patent leather panels, trench coats with contrasting sleeves, and suits with intersecting stripe patterns. The suits were particularly interesting as they channeled the “Black Paintings” of Frank Stella from the 1960s, which separated raw sections of canvas with thick, black lines of paint. Like Stella’s works, the zigzag patterns on the Spurr suits had a controlled energy. Other stand-out pieces included a collar-less leather jacket with a quilted bodice that was reminiscent of the ubiquitous Chanel classic bag, except fresher. For me the collection’s styling at times looked confused, particularly the use of knee-high boots. Perhaps Spurr wanted to clarify his inspiration to viewers, but I think at times his efforts came across as unnatural.

Looks from Robert Geller

Robert Geller sent out his usual fare of disheveled street wear last week, but this time around, he infused them with a daddio-sensibility via wide brim hats in navy and black. It was hands-down one of the best collections of the week, showing us a series of looks that were wholly wearable, interesting, and downright hip. I loved the muted colors of the clothes – shades of dark blue, black, and grey – and the way Geller used them to create a sense of playfulness. This was clear in a shirt and short shorts done in polka dot patterns of two different sizes. The contrast gave the look a nice texture, and the dark hues kept the polka dots from taking the look into Minnie Mouse territory. Also notable in this collection was Geller’s masterful layering of mesh, which called inspiration from Burberry’s S/S 11 collection from last summer. To me, mesh tends to give either a trashy or unwelcome sportive touch to outfits, but here Geller used it to add interest and visual texture to otherwise overly staid ensembles.

Looks from Richard Chai

Richard Chai’s collection injected a much-needed dose of energy to the menswear circuit, vibrating with a freneticism that popped against the abundance of sober, monochrome looks of other collections. As I mentioned in a previous post, his floral prints looked inspired from an acid trip in Hawaii, and their sense of humor made me wish I could have gotten in on the fun. I especially loved the print on a straight-forward button down shirt worn with cropped navy trousers; it was bright and tropical without looking tacky. The striped looks were also interesting, particularly a pair of rolled-up trousers in cobalt and plum. It had a hints of classic regality but an overall artsy downtown attitude.

Menswear has always been simple, especially compared to all the peacocks you see in the women’s circuit. But while I have felt the limits of men’s fashion in the past, which I see as designated by seemingly universal standards of masculinity, this season I saw how those limits have pushed designers to be even more creative within their imagined parameters. I’d say that despite the lack of theatrics and spectacle in the menswear collections this season, they had an honesty and thoughtfulness that pushed design in quiet, but powerful ways.

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