Week 4. City No. 4.
New York Fashion Week: Men's battled hard for headlines against a stormy political backdrop of Trump travel bans and 'fake news' edicts. Still only in it's fourth season, the nascent week is still grappling with its identity and place within the fashion firmament. On reflection, it could best be described as 'old guard versus new guard' - with the more established, 'heavyweight' designers reaping most rewards in the popularity stakes and social media coverage. So, here's what I learned on my short, whistle stop tour of the schedule:
1 | Death of the suit
Left and right: Hugo Boss Menswear Show, Centre: Ralph Lauren Purple Label
The concept of the 'broken suit' - a non matching jacket and trouser combo designed to be worn together - is nothing new. Yet Hugo Boss' new creative director Ingo Wilts consolidated the idea with a collection aimed at the needs of the 'global traveller' - fashion shorthand for business men (and women) who travel a lot.
For Boss's first men's runway show since 2008, Wilts produced wider, outsize jackets and coats in heavy, dense grey and navy wools mixed with sportier nylon parka shapes with slimmer peacoats and duffles thrown in for good layering measure.
Over at the Ralph Lauren Purple Label presentation, the man himself was present - rocking some fringed suede black pants under his olive green quilted jacket - the epitome of insouciant American sportswear and layering. His Purple Label is known for its super expensive tailored suiting yet they were few and far between here. The emphasis instead was on softer, unstructured shapes - tailored in feel yet constructed as knitted jackets or outerwear with no inner linings. Textured layers were key - in the form of suede, distressed leather, flannel and knitwear. I counted just 3 knitted ties in the entire presentation.
Industry stalwart Joseph Abboud - an ex Ralph Lauren designer no less - extended the theme at his show with enormous black leather and suede coats over unstructured jacket and knitwear.
2 | Political messages are key
When RAF Simons announced he would move his menswear runway show to New York - after over 20 years in Europe - to avoid any logistical disruption to his debut as creative director of Calvin Klein, the New York fashion world breathed a collective sigh of relief. His mere presence on the schedule meant an injection of creativity into the relentlessly commercial nature of the city's 7th Avenue fashion credentials. He had intended the show to be a thank you to the city - a hopeful collection designed through the eyes of a first time visitor.
Yet, while he was prepping for the show, the unthinkable happened; Trump was voted in and the political landscape changed. Being an emotional sort, Simons reacted. His oversize coats came wrapped and cinched DIY style with printed duct tape - with the words 'Walk With Me' and 'Youth Project'. His asymmetric, droopy knits riffed on the typographic designs of Milton Glaser's 'I heart New York' and t- shirts shouted 'Any Way Out Of This'. True to form, when asked backstage about his take on the current situation, he replied 'Do I think that you should stand up against what is happening in this country, then I say yes'.
Elsewhere, other spontaneous acts of protest set the political agenda. Models at Robert James's event carried placards daubed with 'Bridges Not Walls' and German born designer Robert Geller took his end of show bow in a sweatshirt that read 'Immigrant'.
3 | Celebrity endorsement is alive and kicking
The appearance of teenage heartthrob Austin Mahone at Dolce and Gabbana's Runway show in Milan had a bemused fashion audience shazaming his performance (and probably his identity too) as a plethora of millennial influencers walked the runway.
Similar bemusement ensued at Engineered For Movement's show at New York's Cadillac House. Designer Donrad Duncan's easy, low key sportswear was eclipsed by the sudden appearance of rapper Young Paris - a Congolese, French-born, New York bred artist - wearing white hoody and face paint and who happens to be Jay Z's newest signee. Do designers realise that incongruous performances on the catwalk - however enjoyable - seriously distract from the clothes? Maybe that's the point.
Over at Nautica, simple, nautical, sporty separates - a reworking of their 90s archive- were presented against a backdrop of huge colour look book style billboards. But there was a surprise. Following on from his successful capsule collection with Nautica for Urban Outfitters, Lil Yachty, the Grammy nominated rapper had just been confirmed as their new creative director. As a fan of the label - and at just 19 years of age - his endorsement of this most classic of sailing brands will presumably reach out to cool New York teen sensibilities in the style of skate labels Palace or Supreme.
Even A$AP Rocky got in on the endorsement act - turning up to the Raf Simons show in his bespoke striped mink Baartmans and Siegel jacket.