The CLASSICS RECLASSIFIED
AS THE MENSWEAR INDUSTRY GOES THROUGH A PERIOD Of RAPID DEVELOPMENT, DESIGNERS FROM THE CITY Of LIGHT OPTED TO REIMAGINE THE “CLASSIC” MALE ATTIRE FOR THE SEASON
Menswear is a hot market right now, with more and more brands putting in greater amounts of money and energy into their men’s offerings. And it wasn’t exactly hard to read a man’s thoughts when it came to wardrobe selections— until the last several seasons, at least. Or perhaps, it’s menswear designers and their unthinkable pieces that have prompted menfolk to venture into hard-topredict categories. Simple collections of suits, shirts and trousers in neutral shades have been replaced by sporty suits, patterned shirts and colorful trousers. In short, the "classic" men’s look has become a field for experiments and boundary-pushing pieces. In other words, the spring/summer ’16 runway shows in Paris displayed ways to reclassify what counts as— or what will count as— classic men’s attire.
Of particular note was Dior Homme, with creative director Kris Van Assche at its helm. After closing down his own label to focus more on his work for the French brand, he took on the challenge of making the brand’s signature tailoring more relevant. “There is an insistence on the ‘Frenchness’ of Dior, both the man and the house, and what that symbolizes. At the same time, the collection could be seen as an exploration of sportswear; from its traditional roots to its contemporary incarnation,” he explained. This combination of French style with sportswear was immediately apparent in multi-zipped trousers, MA-1 jackets and nylon parkas. Nothing looked exceptional, trend-wise, but the collection summed up nicely what a man wants to wear these days: essential pieces in newer silhouettes and more playful fabrics.
Dreaming up similar bourgeois flairs was Véronique Nichanian from Hermès—although, obviously, this is nothing new for the brand. Her collections rarely carry specific themes, but always turn out smart, subtle and simple. These are clothes meant for men who would rather enjoy the luxury of such sartorial masterpieces as opposed to showing them off. As one of the longest—serving creative directors for menswear, Nichanian has an unmistakable grasp for subtle breakthroughs and effortless elegance like no other. This season, she added elastic detailing on a blouson, made a hoodie out of real leather and cut boxy T-shits from a smooth suede-like fabric. When put together under well-thought- out styling direction, the pieces created a strong wardrobe that will suit any modern flâneur.
Now, Kris Van Assche designed with a Frenchman in mind while Véronique Nichanian explored technicality for the subtle-yet-stylish bourgeois, and both of them consistently rolled out traditional pieces. Paul Smith, however, referenced a different kind of classical look— that of musicians.
In a collection that celebrates individuality and bold characters, he masterfully showcased his aptitude for tailoring—from straight- cut suits to loose blazers, double-breasted jackets with shoulder pads, extra-long suit jackets and even cropped jackets. He explored shapes, colors and textures, but he also delved into the personalities associated with these concepts, such as David Bowie, Led Zeppelin and David Hockney.
A more current and literal reference to musicians, though, struck a loud chord at Saint Laurent. The audacious and willful creative director Hedi Slimane dubbed the collection, “A Tribute to Contemporary Californian Surf Music Culture,” a personal homage to his hometown. However, what filled the runway was, quite fittingly to imagine, an amalgamation of tortured artists: patchwork-sewn leather jackets, smudgy white sneakers and mismatched patterns in one ensemble—in a phrase, rather kitschy items one would scrap together when looking for items at a downtown thrift store. For those inured to Parisian styling that favors “less is more” approach, this collection could be a cringe-worthy catwalk surprise. But what Saint Laurent may have lacked in simplicity and uniformity of patterns, it more than made up for in attitude; and relevantly, that is what the previously “classic” brand is known for these days.