Top Ten Fall 2011 Menswear Collections
William Blake. David Bowie. Rottweilers. Elmer Fudd. Thomas Jefferson. These are but a handful of the muses to the best fall 2011 Menswear collections. There were an unprecedented
amount of stand-out endeavors, from Balmain's stunningly-put-together prep to Vivien Westwood's clownish rebels, but it was the work of the following ten fashion houses that really
elevated the art to a whole new level. Chartreuse suits, cowhide oxfords, crewneck sweaters adorned with growling Rottweilers, quilted pants. This is but a morsel of the cumulative genius
that's sitting far-off in fall 2011, just waiting for us to get there.
By Alexander Patino
There are few designers that
manage to find the balance
between theatricality, wearability
and just pure sartorial poetry like
fashion's favorite Goth, Ann
Demeulemeester. Like William
Blake, the spark and the muse, her
collection is all Gnostic romance.
But it's not just Blake that we see in
here. The Demeulemeester man
is not just a poet, but a warrior.
Stephen King's enigmatic Dark
Tower gunslinger, Roland, also
comes to mind. She is working
with so many references here and
yet, the effect is so harmonious.
Pagan mythology (by ways of
woven horsehair), the mystery and
silence of the cosmos (in what is
without question the most
beautiful, soft and powerful print in
any menswear collection all
season - don't bother looking for a
better one. It doesn't exist.) and the
man that married Heaven and Hell
himself, William Blake. At the end
of the show Patti Smith reportedly
squealed "I'm in love all over
again!" We're with you Patti.
We hear you loud and clear.
Watching Christopher Bailey's latest
offering for Britain's ultimate label, one
can't help but recall Nicolas Ghesquiere's
historic flower collection. What exactly
does that mean? Well, just from looking
around at the majority of the collections
around, it’s easy to pin-point one very
major trend that no one excelled at so
beautifully like Bailey: interchangeability.
This Burberry Prorsum collection is all
about giving the fashionable man a
handful - no - a bucketful of options.
The trench and the peacoat are the
cornerstones of the house and Bailey
served up a parade of both, in every
heavenly charged color under the sun in
all different kinds of permutations.
Across the board, menswear and
womenswear, it's color option or bust.
Take Alexis Mabille's latest couture
collection for example - a model would
walk down in a crisp white couture gown,
followed immediately by the same exact
dress in say, midnight blue. And, Bailey
sees no reason why we should reflect the
confronting elements. In a day and age
when 'Global Warming' is something a
designer can't easily discount, Bailey is
making sure that we at least traipse into
the apocalypse looking like British royalty.
Dries Van Noten
David Bowie. The man (or creature?
Alien? Chameleon? Who really knows ...)
has helped to influence scores upon
scores of other artists that have followed
in his wake. It seems the Man Who Fell to
Earth was the mutation of choice for
Dries Van Noten's fall 2011 menswear
outing, with reddened slicked back hair
and all. But the real touches of masculine
elegance (and where Bowie really comes
into play) were in Noten's explorations of
gradients, hybridity and easy
sophistication. Pleated trousers and
motorcycle jackets, cozy knitwear and
tapered, paneled pants. Asymmetrical
jets of lined fur on double-breasted
blazers - and what about these
idiosyncratic lengths and cuts on dress
shirts and outerwear? One model came
down the runway in a crisp, white
button-down shirt that was almost
knee-length, sans button on the
lower-half, partnered with a pair of
paneled pants (it's about time paneling
made its way into menswear) and an
oversized knit coat? It's just the kind of
quirky, yet sophisticated look you might
see from a fashionable daredevil,
free-falling on his way back to Earth.
The divine bovine was
Kean Etro's power pull this
go-around. The Indian paisley -
Etro's ultimate calling-card, was
toned down to make way for the
explicit cow motif imbued in the
motorcycle jackets and even the
footwear. Steering from the
beachy limes, whites and pinks
that are synonymous with what
everyone knows to be Etro today,
the blue and brown palette was a
very welcome surprise.
It elevated the Etro man to a new
level of sophistication.
As precious and touch-and-cheek
as the cow/mohair ensembles
were, it was the peppy
Von Trapp, yodel-boy outfits that
really sparked a "I want that now"
covetousness. The beautiful
quilted pants alone were enough
to earn Etro a top-ten spot. Sixty
looks and there wasn't a dud in
the bunch. And with a handful of
models cat-walking with
ear-to-ear smiles, the message
was conveyed and injected: make
them smile. Point taken.
Rottweiler-chic? Who has ever
spoken or written these words?
Who would have ever thought?
In Riccardo Tisci's hands - yes,
even Rottweiler-chic is possible.
High fashion's ultimate
subversive bad-boy served up a
wicked brew of polarities - man
and beast, prep and punk,
autumn and shorts? Well so be
it. It seems that Tisci's editorial
sieve knows how to filter
through a bottomless pit of
influences and extract the most
perfect, robust notes. We've all
seen both men and women
trying to pull of the dark look -
hook-rings, straps and all.
This Givenchy collection is a
revelation in that one can finally
find meaning in what those
crazy, white-cake faced
moribund kids are up to. So
apropos of Tisci to find
touch-in-cheekiness in the
denizens of Goth. And well, if
Che Guevara's mug can be
called fashion, who's going to
deny Woofie his place? It's so
silly it's fabulous.
A house as special as Jil Sander is very,
very lucky to have found a head-designer
in the incomparable Raf Simons. The
simplicity of the Jil Sander silhouette,
the exquisite stream-lining and those
beautiful colors we have all come to
expect from the line are strict tenets -
these things are not up for discussion.
Simons has proven, since his
appointment in 2005, that he
understands the Jil Sander client, which
is not to say that Simons completely
looses himself in the material.
The Jil Sander man is now, moreso than
ever ... well, manlier. Manlier in that there
is no reservation in wearing a poppy suit,
a watermelon pink jacket or a chartreuse
head-to-toe look. It all looks much more
comfortable and easy to wear in his
hands, so much so that, dare we say it? -
the house's strengths are more aligned
in the menswear than the womenswear.
Like Christopher Bailey's Burberry
Prorsum collection, the dazzling colors
and the smorgasbord of options
bordered on the sublime. To be a Jil
Sander man, you have to be bold. It's all
or nothing. Who ever would have thought
watermelon pink and chartreuse would
be a call to man-up?
Oxford boys from the days of yore (yore
being the 1950s and 60s), Elmer Fudd,
Leopold Bloom. They all took a stroll
through the park in Junya Watanabe's
understated and beautiful collection.
These extreme facets of boyhood and
manhood - the book worm, the old
school jock who would bequeath his pin
in just such a park, the philosopher who
would go on this kind of a walk around
the park to collect his thoughts - these
paradigms that exist to a time before the
internet - men of raw ideas and organic
manliness. The graphic prints
emblazoned on the duffel coats and
professor blazers accentuated the
pieces with a dreamy innocence. Fair
de Isle cardigans, baseball jackets,
huntsman peacoats - these pieces all
had an innate familiarity, yet with
Watanabe's touch, it feels like a
reminiscence of the future
Like last Spring's Prada
womenswear collection, and
Louis Vuitton's the year before that,
the Lanvin man likes to add a little
foxy Boheme touch to his otherwise
glamorous look. The fox tail was the
little subversive splash that
Lucas Ossendrijver added to his
tightly bodiced, baggy panted
dandies. The silhouette at times
came off as a bit femme, but the
clothes totally justified such a notion.
It felt liberating even. The clothes
were unquestionably daring, which is
quite a feat and something to think
about considering that the models
were so completely swathed and
layered. Button-it-up was another
solid statement. There were no open
collars in sight and there were even
some looks with turtlenecks under
those sealed collar-shirts. More so
than probably any other collection this
season, Lanvin made one consider
the untouched treasures that are
hardly explored in menswear, and
what great things men, who typically
grunt at the supposed lack of
sartorial possibilities, can come up
with if they try and if they dare.
When Phoebe Philo premiered her debut collection for
Celine (Resort 2010), the fashion world pretty much
went collectively bonkers and her addition into the
pantheon of fashion greats was formed and solidified
in one fell swoop. Women reveled, the gents were left
of want. Consuelo Castiglioni's menswear collection
for Marni felt at times like the perfect analog to Philo's
historic showing. The connection felt most palpable in
the tan felts, the harsh color blocking with leather and
in the dually soft and hard silhouettes. There was an
air of corn-pone, industrial boy - sometimes a tad On
the Waterfront, at others - a little Johnny Appleseed.
The random referential crisscrossing: rich colors
(khakis, tans and grays) - soft, cozy fabrics (felt and
fleece) and the feel of lost Americana innocence
(primarily in the unstructured 'little boy lost in his big
pants look') made us think of what old movie stars
would wear. It's so easy to see a young Paul Newman
in those mohair crewneck sweaters and a
considerable dose of Charlie Chaplin's 'The Kid' in the
suits. The best thing to be said about Marni this
season is that far and beyond any other line, it gave a
masterful showing in the power of accents. It asks for
you to have fun with something as simple as your
socks (a definite new trend is the ankle-cut pant).
And, the best accent of all is in the footwear. The
shoes are undeniably chic and modern - a low chukka
boot in black, rich brown or wine purple, with a thick
band-strap in a plastiline green, black or red. Next fall
needs to get here already, if for Marni's shoes alone.
It's hard to know where to
begin with Thom Browne's
latest work. Inspired by his
namesake Thomas Jefferson,
Browne played with the
original conceits that became
the very fabric of American
fashion. Down from the
Quaker buckled shoes, to the
fetishistic miller's overalls with
the mounting straps - the
American zeitgeist was
plucked and examined at the
root. The charm was surely in
the bombast of the show in
itself, the exaggerated styling,
venue and all - the clothes are
still exquisitely accessible.
Piece by piece, the collection
astonishes. Major standouts
were the dark red high-waisted
shorts, tapered at the knee
with a vertical row of buttons at
the hem. As was a queer, yet
jaw-dropping green and white
checkered long officer's coat.
One could say it looks so
British - others could also say
it looks inherently American.
What a beautiful place to meet.