NEW YORK — FROM pinstriped cargo pants to ice-sailing formal wear, as Fashion Week got underway here on Friday, the men's runways were a surprisingly wearable mash-up of the office and the wild.
There were luxurious alpaca long johns, hunter's vests made from fine suiting fabrics, and a color palette heavy on banker's grays, earthy greens and tans with pops of regal purple, a highlight color that started appearing on the European men's runways last month.
"It's part American woodlands and part British hunt with just a touch of Perry Ellis whimsy," designer John Crocco said of the Perry Ellis fall/winter collection. "It's a return to tradition; in times of economic downturn men look for things they are familiar with, fabrics like Donegals, twills and the tweeds."
Given the faux deer heads mounted at the top of the runway, Crocco's collection took on a "hunting lodge chic" feeling -- pinstripes, glen plaids and houndstooth check business attire capable of carrying a chap from a week of corporate arbitrage into a weekend of bagging pheasant.
Key looks included a wool windowpane check "hunter's tuxedo jacket" in charcoal, paired with a purple paisley dress shirt and a Donegal V-neck, a lime green shirt and necktie with a wool Donegal riding jacket and mini-herringbone trousers, and a Donegal Norfolk cardigan in purple velvet paired with trousers described as "cabin pants." Cabin pants, apparently, is the term used to refer to loose-fitting drawstring pants somewhere between hospital scrubs and sweat pants, designed specifically for that kicking-back-at-deer-camp time with the boys (the same weekend the wives are at home dressed like Victoria's Secret models having pillow fights, no doubt).
At Nautica, creative director Mirian Lamberth went with an ice-sailing theme, which found her mixing the label's bold-colored technical pieces (yellow nylon windbreakers, white snorkel jackets, long underwear) with herringbone and pinstripe cargo pants, chunky cable-knit fishermen's sweaters and three-piece suits. Her final look, a black, double-breasted tuxedo with a white silk bow tie and white nylon windbreaker, evoked the same upscale/low temperature vibe as Neil Barrett's "tuxedo ski" collection in Milan.
With a palette of browns, moss greens and tans inspired by the canyons of Los Angeles -- and battery of checks, plaids and tartans inspired by Scotland -- Scott Sternberg showed his fall/winter Band of Outsiders (for men) and Boy (for women) collections in a loft space where a tableau of models posed with a spinning disco ball overhead and dried autumnal detritus underfoot.
There were black watch tartan hunting caps and navy blue windowpane blazers for her, and double-breasted windowpane waistcoats and trousers and gray tweed cargo pants for him. As usual, Sternberg enjoyed details including leather and antique brass buttons, club ties with a thistle logo and barely-there patterns in a black watch tartan jacket and tonal Prince of Wales checked trousers.
"I see Scotland as the building block of everything in men's fashion," he said. "Look, they've got paisley, the Fair Isles, the Shetland Islands -- I thought that idea needed to be explored." This season he's exploring it through a partnership with Glenmac Knitwear of Hawick (similar to his co-branding with Sperry last season, a project that is ongoing) for knit cashmere gloves, sweaters and sweater vests.
In addition to the Top-Siders, Sternberg worked with Manolo Blahnik to shoe some of his models in cute Oxford heels that strike the perfect balance between the brands. Unfortunately, Sternberg said they weren't an official part of the fall lineup, although "they may eventually end up in a Manolo Blahnik store without my name on them."
Rag & Bone went to the royal rod and gun club with a men's and women's collection that included jodhpur leggings, double-breasted cardigans and hussar jackets -- and referenced the upper crust with royal blue in evening dresses and men's mac coats.
Hunters' vests with quilted chest pads in suiting-weight wools epitomized the serious sporting life, and the whole prevailing banker-meets-buckshot feeling.
When the world zigs, Duckie Brown zags, and this season was no exception. The music was cranking loud until the models hit the runway -- and then the show ran in silence: a procession of somber black pieces with clean, straight lines and covered button plackets. It all felt more Helmut Lang than Duckie Brown, but despite their best contrarian efforts, designers Steven Cox and Daniel Silver tapped into the prevailing trends here and there, notably with Prince of Wales checked shirts and herringbone suits accented with pops of purple. Of course, for the Duckie boys, the purple accents were such a contrast to the serious gray flannels and black rubberized trench coats, they served as a wink and a nod to reassure us they're still an up-the-establishment duo.