Looks from the Gant by Michael Bastian fall 2011 collection. (Jonas Gustavsson and Peter…)
Reporting from New York — — The look of the male luxury wardrobe for fall and winter 2011 has come into sharper focus with the end of the latest cycle of men's runway shows in the world's fashion capitals. The menswear designers who opened the season in Milan and Paris in mid-January, as well as the ones who brought it to a close at New York Fashion Week last Thursday, are banking on a healthy appetite come fall for British tailoring, bright pops of color, blanket-inspired wool outerwear pieces and toggle-button closures. The New York shows also revealed the beginnings of a menswear trend that was largely absent from the European collections — a dose of geometric, tribal-inspired accents on sweaters, jackets and accessories.
The signature hue coming out of Europe was road-cone orange, an unusually vivid shade — especially for the traditionally muted fall collections. While that was among the eye-catching colors cropping up on the catwalks of New York (most memorably in the safety-orange nylon puffer vests and canvas jackets of Nautica's homage to the Coast Guard), the ranks of the bright brigade swelled stateside to include cardinal-red corduroy jackets in the Gant by Michael Bastian collection, canary-yellow coats and trousers at Buckler and a candy dish of popping purples and pinks at Jeremy Scott's rave on the runway. And while blue is always popular in menswear (simply because it sells well), this season many designers seemed to gravitate to a particularly bright version (most memorably Calvin Klein's nearly electric hue), which was a welcome departure from the usual flotilla of navy-blue pieces.
There's no doubt that the slim silhouette and emphasis on Savile Row seen earlier in the season (the Vivienne Westwood collection in Milan and the Yves Saint Laurent collection in Paris are two that come to mind) has crossed the pond. Evidence of the British invasion could be seen in New York in the tartan Lowland blazers, moss-green windowpane tweed Highland blazers, kilts (with the occasional sporran) and hobnail boots of Rag & Bone; the glen plaids and royal blues of Timo Weiland and even the British boarding school meets club kid vibe of the quintessentially American Tommy Hilfiger label.
Heavy-duty outerwear pieces have been the focal point of many menswear collections this season, and no garment has done yeoman's duty like the coat crafted from blanket-weight wool, with some brands even putting blanket patterns front and center, such as the pair of wide Pendelton stripes on Tommy Hilfiger jackets and the multiple stripes on the white wool blanket coats and ponchos at Band of Outsiders. And the blanketing of the menswear collections doesn't stop at coats. At Hilfiger the motif made its way into ties and shirts, Rag & Bone crafted sturdy blanket-stripe trousers of melton wool and Calvin Klein used the same heavy fabric in a range of pieces including trousers, jackets and baseball-style caps.
If anything approached the near ubiquity of the blanket coat this time around the runways, it was the chunky toggle-button closure that turned up in collections as diverse as Rick Owens in Paris (who served up toggle buttons that looked like downright dangerous shards of metal), the Adidas-Yohji Yamamoto collaborative Y-3 line in New York and Tommy Hilfiger (also in New York), where the toggle closure was used to secure chunky cable-knit scarves.
One takeaway from the New York menswear collections that wasn't in evidence at the European shows this season was the presence of decidedly tribal, often woven geometric accents. At Band of Outsiders, it took the form of a God's eye pattern that could be seen on scarves, hats and gloves as well as accents on a few jackets and ponchos. Similar patterns gave a punch to chunky graphic knit sweaters in N. Hoolywood's mountain-climbing Half Dome collection and the zip-front alpaca cardigans and Fair Isle crewneck pullovers worn by Gant by Michael Bastian's cross-country ski gang. And they could even be found in a few pieces at less fashion-forward labels such as Perry Ellis.
Whether the American male will fully embrace these bold graphic knit sweaters remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, they represent a marked improvement on the sorry state of the hideous holiday sweater.
And really, that's a gift to us all.