NEW YORK — Last February, when Esquire magazine sponsored its first showing of American menswear designs for fall, the Gulf War was raging.
For this week's spring, 1992, show at the Plaza Hotel, the short-lived Soviet coup was in the headlines. With the world in upheaval, the message on the runway seemed to be, "Wear soft clothes to face hard realities."
This time, several European designers--Italy's Giorgio Armani, Gianni Versace and Dolce e Gabbana and Paris' Claude Montana and Yohji Yamamoto--were added to the roster of American menswear creators. The majority offered perfectly comfortable clothes.
The newest item may be the big, big sweater--sometimes in mesh and oversized for cool comfort. Joseph Abboud and Andrew Fezza did great ones to go over linen pants so lightweight they flowed like pajama bottoms. Really going soft was Bill Robinson, who showed a hooded sweat shirt and sweat pants with his elegant double-breasted, pin-striped blazer.
The dominant color palette was neutral: lots of tans and creams. But there were also lots of brightly colored linen suits (Montana had them in lemon, lime, plum and tangerine), striped jackets, plaid sport jackets and broad-striped Bermuda shorts (Perry Ellis' Roger Forsythe exceled here). And black and white optical prints appeared on sweaters, jeans and T-shirt/short ensembles.
The hippest look of the moment is slim pants, knit or woven, worn under big tops--voluminous shirts and jackets with little or no construction.
The models must have been poured into Gianni Versace's black and white optical-print stretch jeans, which opened the show. The poor-boy sweater is also part of this close-to-body experience.
Yohji Yamamoto epitomized the casual yet elegant look of most of the collections with his big and long velvet sport jacket worn with striped silk pants that looked more bedroom than boardroom.
Giorgio Armani's top-to-toe navy blue ensembles closed the show and managed to look at once subtle, salable and sporty chic. Maybe wearing the blues helps you cope with them.