You may have been glued to the England win this week, or been cheering on Federer on centre court, but in the French capital a different kind of sport was taking place – and the players are more competitive than any Grand Slam champ.
Paris Fashion Week Men’s celebrated the sublime and – occasionally – ridiculous in all things men’s clothing, but generally the message has been focused on how to ease out of lockdown while not easing out of your comfort clothing. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of brands are proposing that men step up and embrace suiting once more, but there’s others who propose a halfway between relaxed and formal that’s entirely enticing.
Designer Véronique Nichanian at storied luxury house Hermès led this charge, significantly lightening the mood, and the fabrics, for her new men’s collection. Coats in summer might seem incongruous, but have you looked at the drizzle? The designer’s solution was to make raincoats as light as air, using special techniques to render tech fabric paper thin. Those, with collarless shirts, looked like a fresh breeze.
That sense of ‘légèreté’ – lightness and airiness – is something Paris brand Lemaire does exceptionally well, whether it’s unique draping or in the particular cut of an otherwise standard collarless shirt to make it billow in a certain way. For spring/summer 2022 that was evident in the shirting, but also in the particular silhouette of suits, with voluminous trousers cropping above the ankle and the clean simplicity of the duster coats and work jackets.
That there was a theme of escape is no surprise; we don’t have to get too analytical about why that is. A case in point was Dior Men’s collection, which was designed in collaboration with Texan-born rapper Travis Scott. That acted as the starting point for Lone Star state references, from cacti to fringing and rustic, love-worn leathers in sepia tones.
On a similar note, an Italianate sentimentality has been recurring, with more than one designer referencing the landscape and colours of Italy. Sir Paul Smith was longing for his Tuscan home, which informed the collection of clothes in rich olive, rust and sand that evoked that spellbinding landscape, as well as sea blues and merry sunflower motifs.
Perhaps there’s something to be said for taking the Italian enjoyment of life into our every day, post pandemic. Smith’s foundations were built on solid tailoring – over the phone he enthused about the fact that suits are selling again in his stores as men creep slowly out of lockdown – and for spring/summer 22 he unpicked the seams ever so slightly, for a series of soft-structure, loose fitting suits.
Fashion’s musings on The Current Situation have taken myriad forms, but for Dries Van Noten that approach was more organic and thought provoking, via an exploration of his home, Antwerp. The Belgian designer began in the ’80s by exploring sub cultures, and in setting his presentation in Antwerp it wasn’t just a geographical return to his early years but a stylistic one too, zeroing in on rave-centric youth culture via oversized shapes, electric colour on collage-effect printed parkas and Nirvana-esque knitted tank tops.
Boxy jackets with flowing trousers that pooled around the feet, alongside crumpled coats and oversized shirts, were in keeping with the designer’s undone sense of ease and focus on the fabrics themselves as points of interest. It was a joy for the Dries Van Noten purist, and a reminder that the essence of what he does – a left-of-centre approach to classic dress – is as potent today as it was in the ’80s.
Although he wasn’t attending the raves of the 90s – he was still in his formative years in Northern Ireland – Jonathan Anderson was watching on with awe, a notion which informed his collection for Loewe. The designer fused the craftiness and sophisticated luxury that’s a calling card of his collections with a jolt of electric colour and vivacity; limes and bubblegum pinks, homespun knits in tangerine and gauzy, freeing kaftans, jumpsuits and slouchy sweaters.
This is an approach to luxury that takes the preciousness out and instead re-aligns it with exactly how Gen Z and the consumers of the future are going to engage with it, and it’s even more singular given that Loewe is a storied LVMH brand, allowing Anderson’s freethinking and exploration of menswear a full, joyous canvas.
Pierre Maheo at Officine Générale takes a more quiet, discreet approach to men’s dressing, and it’s made the brand an absolute cult – easy men’s attire from a seductive French insouciance. A fully transparent production process, sweet spot pricing and the fact that the dashing Mr Maheo is the best possible ambassador for his brand make it an appealing go-to for men. If the nonchalant charm of Saint Germain Des Pres could be distilled in sartorial form, this would be it.
For spring/summer, that meant a similar rumination on the style Maheo sees on his daily walks around the area he calls home, and the rumpled elegance of how French men dress – a suit but with a denim shirt, a blazer with jeans. This was evident in the breezy, collarless shirts with suits and trainers, and the sumptuous leather and suede jackets shrugged on with casual ease. A section of lilacs and chalky blues acted as the perfect palette cleanser to a frenetic, somewhat disjointed season of menswear in general.
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