ARTICLE WYATT ALLGEIER
THIS JANUARY WILL BE REMEMBERED AS THE SEASON THAT MENSWEAR DESIGNERS THREW DOWN THE PROVERBIAL GAUNTLET. PRESENTING COLLECTIONS WITH DARING VISION AND EXPERT CRAFTSMANSHIP, EDITORS ARE PRESENTED WITH A BLESSING AND A CHALLENGE.
Old fall-backs of tradition have been rendered obsolete in the context of Fall/Winter 2014 menswear, replaced with fantastical narratives and dandy-esque precision that require equal labor from stylists, editors, and visionaries in the creation of September issues worldwide. Let’s face it, with shows as in-your-face as Versace and Dolce & Gabbana or as gorgeously subtle as Balenciaga and Lanvin, the call for breathtaking editorials and advertising campaigns is louder than it has been in years. A word for the wise: play into the sensationalism and diversity of these collections or perish into an abyss of tired reiterations. There are no excuses for September. J.W. Anderson, Sarah Burton, Christopher Kane, Donatella Versace, Italo Zucchelli, Raf Simons, Bill Gaytten and Haider Ackerman imagined further for men’s fashion than anyone has in years, so to cop-out with tried-and-true tropes would be insulting. Here, we lay out some introductory approaches for presenting the most pressing trends of F/W '14.
HE BLINDED ME WITH SCIENCE
Earlier this month, Salon.com published an article on The Big Bang Theory doing exceedingly well in France, despite the show's multitude American cultural signifiers. Apparently, the humor and scientific banter on the sitcom supersedes cultural specificities. From a look at this season's menswear shows, science and technology were not only a matter for international laughs, but also for global style. The designers weren’t just continuing their use of techno-fibers as they have been for a decade now, nor were they simply exploring the new vogue of “wearables” like Samsung’s computer watch. Rather, "science" was used in a literal manner and as a base-signifier. From Christopher Kane’s use of atoms and technological renderings as a dynamic pattern on sweatshirts and shirts to Kenzo’s geometrical wave-length patterned pants it was clear that a stylish man could be a lab-worker (or at least play one on TV). The boys at Raf Simons were perhaps going a bit too hard in the lab chemicals, with bleach stains on their jackets and forgotten pocket-protectors evidenced by pen stains. John Galliano and Jil Sander gave us not the scientist at work, but the science-fiction enthusiast at home. Different sides to the same coin, science expands through these fictions, as any reader of Phillip K. Dick will tell you, and Gaytten’s Galliano ectomorph, ignoring sports in favor of prognosticating, can be seen bedecked in futuristic materials while Jil Sander’s silhouette betrays an obsession with Star-Trek influenced sleekness.
To properly capture this trend one should sign Mario Testino on as a photographer. His perfectionism and methodology are well-suited to evoke the inherent beauty of a laboratory—so objective, sterile, and pristine. Do away with ski-gear; instead adorn your subjects in chemist goggles and lab coats. Or if you have a considerable amount left over in your budget, let’s fly everyone out to the CERN super-collider in Geneva and shoot some techno-fantasy-cum-scientific-reality sequences. Pepper the editorial with some fascinating hyper-closeups of atoms, bacteria, and scientific equations. Why should Popular Mechanics and National Geographic have hegemony over the enchanting world of microphotography? Who knows, this could have some symbiotic advantages. Imagine NBC starts doing wardrobe pulls from Christopher Kane and Raf Simons for The Big Bang Theory (rather than those circa 2006 graphic tees).
FORGET FROSTBITE AND FLASH SOME FLESH
Lucky for male models everywhere, winter issues are shot in the summer. It started from the get-go in London and didn’t let up steam all the way until the end in Paris: cold weather be damned, men are going to be flaunting some skin next winter. Here in New York, as the first shows began, there was a weather advisory to conceal all flesh, lest you suffer the numbing effects of frostbite. Yet, the designers must have been playing farmer’s almanac, predicting an unusually toasty autumn and winter for 2014-2015, because skin was exposed (and how). Astrid Anderson showed some shoulders, as did J.W. Anderson with the addition of exposed ankles—like an Amish harlot, clogs and all. Christopher Bailey’s Burberry men must have been traveling to Marakesh, because it’s doubtful a mesh top has ever sufficed for an English winter. Sibling feigned warmth with their knits and crocheted ensembles, but there were so many designed holes and openings in the patterned yarn, the models' smooth skin surely looked like a plucked goose once they went outside. Either Elbaz’s Lanvin lads are expected to be tougher than the rest of us, or global warming will soon be in full effect, because they were shirtless under their jackets. Rei Kawakubo’s collection for Comme des Garçons utilized layering, but the clothes were full cutouts. Henrik Vibskov presented shorts that were equal parts exposure to coverage. The award for designer most likely to cause hypothermia in his or her customer base goes to Donatella Versace, who clearly made a collection for residents of a sexually liberated desert and nowhere else.
Luckily for the brains behind fashion imagery and art direction everywhere, flesh is a big seller. Usually sex appeal is a tool reserved for March and summer issues, but we now have the right to be unabashedly sexy year-round in 2014. Hire your McGinleys and your Richardsons, book the most brain-numbing beefcakes and angelic boys you can find, and start requesting the skimpiest ensembles you can imagine. Play with the irony of it all if you want to be taken seriously. Put them in the snow; throw a Comme des Garçons jacket on them and nothing else. Burberry’s mesh shirts in Moscow, Versace’s assless chaps on the ski-slopes. The only problem is that the Queen of fun and flesh, Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele, might be over-booked.
BEDECK THYSELF IN FURS
Fur wasn’t just seen in Silvia Venturini's fur-tastic show for Fendi, wherein the models not only were dripping in pelts, but also walked a runway patterned with animal skins. The first fabric could be seen at Gucci, Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Valentino, Dior Homme, Dries van Noten, Christopher Raeburn, Kenzo, Bottega Veneta, and Saint Laurent Paris, to name but a few. And a list of leathers would be laborious, as that was on nearly every runway this January.
Perhaps to highlight this trend editors could get ruthless. Have Steven Klein photograph gladiator men with swords in a blitz of life and death. Francis Bacon and Caravaggio weren’t afraid of painting the butcher shop, so why should we shy away? If you have any questions on how to highlight these ensembles, look to Carine Roitfeld’s body of work. More than any other stylist or editor she has an artistic and provocative methodology for spinning fur fantasies that never shy away from the truth of clothing as a perverse cornerstone of civilization.
ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF THE DESIGNERS