For the past couple of seasons, fashion has let politics seep in. When [redacted] was elected president, the runways clawed back with slogans (“Any Way Out of This Nightmare?”) and slightly more diverse casting - gasp. For the new AW19 menswear season, it seems fashion now exists despite politics. As Britain went through one of its deepest governmental crises in history, London fashion pushed on with a brave (beat) face. While the entire French nation and beyond protested for economic reform in clothing once promoted by Karl Lagerfeld as “yellow, ugly, matches with nothing but it could save your life”, Paris fashion steamed ahead decidedly without much of an (explicit) acknowledgment. True, these collections are put together months in advance but anyone with access to the internet could feel the winter of discontent coming. Thus, some critics complained of a lack of warmth and emotion at the various fashion weeks. Like a trusty pendulum, the industry is veering away from logo-manic streetwear into more formal territories, a return to form. Supercilious fashion as we know it. But a few designers tapped into a different well this season and gave us much to chew on. Let’s lower our frontrow sunnies and see.
Walter Van Beirendonck
If Walter Van Beirendonck hadn’t titled his AW19 collection “WOW”, the world surely would have. The eyes (and all your other senses for that matter) can’t help but be overwhelmed at such a furiously creative collection of cut and colour. Also known as “The Meltdown Collection”, AW19 shows the Antwerp legend at Richter 9. Revealing little of the actual show’s aesthetic through the Walter as Remus being wolf-suckled invitation by Mateusz Sarzynski & by Paul Boudens, the collection was a true collaborative effort throughout. There’s the “monster sneaker” footwear collab with young Antwerp Fashion Department-alum label Giddy Up, caps by Labels and Things, knitwear by Cecile Feilchenfeldt, Decca masks and bike tops as well as trippy Moon Boots. The models, the “WOWIES” came through literally dripping in glowstick bright paint by Inge Grognard and hair only Charlie Le Mindu could create. Cashmere coats featured oversize collars big enough to go hang gliding in, asymmetry in cut give endless dynamism and sleeves were seemingly hit with the magnification tool in Photoshop. Everyone got served: there were shorts and boiler suits, shaggy fur patchwork outerwear, shearling shadow linings and strappy effigy-adorned bombers – a Walter collector’s grail. Going by the “Endangered W. Species” script on some pieces, it becomes clear once more that a mind like Walter’s is to be protected at all costs.
Another force to be reckoned with, giving you superpower on a different plane, is Dirk Van Saene – who graced Paris with the presentation of his AW19 women & men’s collection. The collection boasted hand-painted super hero bird prints, a necklace made from watches and a major faux-fox stole taking the concept to a new degree. The pieces were truly semantic, with surrealist leggings that looked like legs, handbags that were literally handsy. Dirk Van Saene even put the ‘ring’ in earring, and the ‘boucle’ (‘belt’) in ‘boucle d’oreille’ (‘earring’). Supergirl and her cat were painted on a skirt and a turtle-neck and blazer combo put business on top while slinky shorts and said leg-gings made the bottom half nice and unpredictable. Van Saene true to form, you can’t ask for more, really.
At the Shangri-La Hotel, Raf Simons presented ‘Diptych’ – a show that contained an intermission to emphasize its duality, one half presenting neutrals and the other resplendent with colours like deep indigo, Tawny red, mustard, vanilla ice pink, aquamarine and a literally stunning aerospace orange. If you’d expected big apple prints pierced with arrows or shattered statue of Liberty appliqués, you were mistaken. “I don’t want to be negative”, Raf alluded to the highly publicised split and apparent ‘erasure’ from the Calvin Klein brand. This collection was supposedly finished before any brouhaha erupted. There was a lot to parse and to wishlist for AW19. Laura Dern, friend of the house, helped secure the David Lynch prints that peppered the collection in traditional RS fashion. Her face crying on the phone in ‘Blue Velvet’ poured the abundance of emotion right onto the clothes with guests like Frank Ocean, Rick Owens & Michèle Lamy as witnesses. Canvas helmet hats, stunning couture-like floor-length coats and fabulous cinched trench coats in satin, leather and wool continued the SS19 luxury story while dangling harm pendant tokens (also featured on the Eastpak collab bags) distracted revelers from their worries – no doubt aided by a live performance from the Naomi-approved band Whispering Sons, Belgian post-punk from a town near where Raf grew up. ‘Burning Down the House’ was a printed slogan on knee patches, as well as ‘nomophobia’ – the fear of being without a phone. What does this mean? What do you want it to? Not being on call 24/7 seems to be a prospect Raf Simons relishes. “The size of a company. Big or small. It’s not really what makes me happy anymore”, the fabled designer told Vogue. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had the opportunity to pull back for a very long time. I’m more fascinated to see how I’m going to deal with that, and what is going to come next.” First up seems to be a skiwear collaboration with TEMPLA outerwear: the slopes are shaking.
For his 107th show, Dries Van Noten presented a collection most inviting to the touch. Giving us quilted and padded suits with flowing and pooling trousers as well as soft woolen pinstripe greys, beige and navy shades, blankets draped over arms, the element of the tactile dominated. The show’s soundscape featured interview snippets with the DVN pantheon of heroes: David Bowie, David Hockney, Jimi Hendrix, Yves Saint Laurent, Francis Bacon, Kurt Cobain, John Lennon and more. There were caped jackets and trousers tucked over torsos, double-breasted peak lapel suiting with covered buttons, lush leather macs and fishing waders as well as plenty of belted waists. Where things got more psychedelic you had big and bold batik printing like huge cornea looking right into your soul. This is the kind of refined luxury that is mostly reserved for the wearer to truly enjoy.
“It’s my birthday and all I got was this overpriced hoodie from Vetements”, we never mind a self-drag. Fending off accusations of dwindling sales and relevance, Demna and Guram Gvasalia held their ground and didn’t divert from streetwear as their contemporaries did this season. Slogan culture gave us the no-filter “Corporate magazines still suck a lot” and “I survived swine flu so now I’m vegan” pieces for AW19 as well as surveillance state Interpol logo edits, themes of anarchy and references to the dark web. Even the floral dresses stuck around for a new season. Crises around the world were represented through balaclava hoodies and further sneers at corporatism and capitalism. Is it a dystopia or the evening news?
New label Casablanca, founded by Moroccan designer Charaf Tajer, has been making the Paris roster buzz of late and their AW19 collection proved to be no exception. AW19 is a sweltering, colour-laden affair that’s high on the double tap scale. Dusty salmon pinks and a petroleum long coat, bowl-of-tangerines intarsia, prints of Grecian columns, lobster dinner and 90s anime cocktails offer a fun platter that you kind of just want to get stuck in on straight away. One for the watching.
Any self-respecting, slightly louche lothario today prefers a Ludovic de Saint Sernin barely-there look. Even in the dead of winter there’s heat to be experienced in nothing but your LdSS genderless unmentionables. Models stepped out in their thirst trap finery: revealing cut-out shirts, asymmetrical and cropped cream-coloured tops, a slinky wire crystal-beaded mesh number straight from the early 2000s Paris runways and cross-laced leather underwear as they literally stole the spotlight, rendering their surroundings irrelevant. This is quite a (queer) mood indeed.
Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” was one of the videos that launched MTV to the heights of cultural relevance and turned the video medium into a music marketing staple. It seems very fitting that Virgil Abloh – who has blasted the Louis Vuitton brand into the Zeitgeist – would use this exact video as the set design inspiration for AW19. Abloh set out “to make a point about the humanity in his vision” and delivered just that with an all-inclusive burst of creativity and good vibes. Collaboration is a tool Virgil Abloh understands like no other, and having the great Dev Hynes perform live while legend Futura spray-painted the NYC pavement made this show a Paris moment for the ages. Not to mention having model phenom Alton Mason doing literal acrobatic flips in a gorgeous, flowy purple front bib satin suit. The show’s universe itself – a return to form for LV and the gigantic sets Marc Jacobs used to stage – was a lot to take in but the 60+ looks sent down the grey runway told us even more. Abloh is growing in his role and in just this sophomore show you could tell the tailoring got an extra dash of the designer’s famed eye for detail. Rapper Sheck Wes set the tone in dimensional grey suiting that evolved into a range of layered looks and fabric-coated insignia appliqué pieces (a decided nod to Walter Van Beirendonck - don’t @ us), cropped bombers, a huge padded matelassé logo bodywarmer, knife pleats and asymmetrical cuts. All with a bag to match, of course. There was embossing, transparency and even a geometric print made from mini maps of the African continent. MJ’s influence formed the backbone of this collection, popping up in everything from beaded tour jackets, socks-in-loafer looks, ribbon belts, crystal gloves and airbrush prints. Emphasising the storyline from the debut SS19 collection, it’s clear Virgil’s LV is a global movement – ending the show with flag collages and prints culled from the different nationalities held by his studio team members. The passion is unabated, young boys and girls are inspired and feel addressed like never before and I can’t wait to see where this train voyages next. Virgil’s rocked the fashion world and he knows he did.
On a giant walkway conveyor, in an even bigger box tent, Kim Jones set his vision for next winter out to sail. Never shy of a good collab, Jones enlisted the hand of le-gen-dary artist Raymond Pettibon to adorn designs from the invite to woolen knits brandishing Pettibon’s instantly recognisable portraiture. The collection stood out through its couture traces, more present than in last season’s debut. Drawing inspiration from 1950s Dior dresses, wraparound sashes lifted suiting and coats to the next level reaching their zenith in an emperor-like fur cape springing forth from a double-breasted wool coat. The accessories will make the most bank, but the coats are also a true triumph here. Jones understands the power of covetability, you want to touch these clothes, wear them and instill fear in any unsuspecting individual crossing your path. The impressive jewellery by Yoon Ahn doesn’t finish these looks, it uplifts them categorically.
Glenn Martens’ moment at Pitti Uomo was one for the books. Gathering his revelers in the 14th-century Santa Maria Novella church in Florence, invitees only had little handheld lights to illuminate the scene in the historic location. Adding new men’s styles (footwear and bags), this collection ranged from suits, thigh-highs, check shirts, the signature swirl earrings, mesh wraps, carpet-like cummerbund scarves, lapels and tops draped and twisted every which way – all genderless, as we’ve come to appreciate the brand for. “It’s important to me that the clothes we produce project individuality and show personality. The same jacket on a guy can be super elegant, and on a woman super rough, or vice versa. The idea is that it’s the person who makes the clothes, and not the other way around”, Martens told Interview before the show.
Kris Van Assche’s first full outing as Berluti Creative Director at the Opera Garnier, ten months after his appointment, felt like a headfirst dive into a cornucopia of luxury. Suits – the staple KVA has long perfected – were executed in lush, buttery leather with zip-up trousers and played with the house codes of hand-dyed patina. An oxblood kangaroo (!) fur coat was paired with a drawstring leather hoodie, we saw tailored motorcycle pants and soft leather shirts. No-vegan-zone. The designs started with the shoes, apparent in the angular oxfords and sneakers finished with metallic plates, worn by a diverse cast. Coats ranging from puce pinks to Yves Klein blues and a thematic print based on a photograph Van Assche took of the floors while visiting the Berluti atelier in Ferrara where the artisans create rings of colour on the marble tiling while dyeing their creations.
There was no need for the “Korsace” portmanteau to have ever been conjured up by the internet because it does not (yet) exist. Team Donatella held the gold-studded, black leather reins tightly in place and delivered Versace menswear as the world has come to enjoy it. More sports-focused than what we’ve seen in Paris, the Versace menswear lover will find enough leathers, hats, cross-body bags and jogging trousers to get them through another frosty Milano winter.
Firmly gripping the flag for London’s latest generation of designers, Charles Jeffrey’s LOVERBOY always operates from a place of wondrous joy and inclusion. Giving you 1920s interbellum Berlin – a time of rare freedom for queer Germans – cabaret with impressive tailoring, lush knitwear and intricate embroidery, big berets and accessories – it’s become clear that Jeffrey has been honing his skills with every passing season. In his show notes, we learned the following: “One thinks of policies being proposed in America against the trans community, or U.K. policies to further disadvantage the disabled. “An opposition to a rumbling sense of global unfairness lies beneath this show.”
Menswear usually takes a left turn at Thom Browne Lane, you don’t really know what it’s going to look like but it will be ankle-skimming, dappled with greys and tricolore details and styled within an inch of its being. No exceptions were made for AW19, the relentless precision of Thom Browne’s cut went deep until it landed on bubble wrap tunics. If you reckoned the financial injection dosed by Ermenegildo Zegna would slow down the weirdness, you can rest assured TB remains sui generis till the end.
All runway images: (c) Vogue Runway
Read the KNOTORYUS Best of Menswear Month SS19 here