It used to be the women’s fashion establishment that gave all the flashy parties and glittery runway shows. But menswear manufacturers recently got into the act. During the Designers’ Collective show, where fall fashions were offered by 110 companies, a number of unusual festivities took place.
Designer Bill Robinson gave a splashy show and dinner for 450 people at the Plaza Hotel; Andrew Fezza presented his collection against monumental sculptures at the New York Academy of Art; Jhane Barnes tossed a cocktail party at the Rainbow Pavilion, high atop Rockefeller Center.
Sabato Russo, Jeffrey Banks, Joseph Abboud and Alexander Julian made special presentations in their showrooms.
It was the closest American menswear designers have gotten to approximating the organized men’s fashion shows presented each season in Paris and Milan.
Robinson reportedly spent about $150,000 to host the party at the Plaza, which showed off clothes that are sophisticated, yet realistic and wearable.
His outfits also epitomized most of the strongest new trends: the use of brilliant colors, such as plum, spruce, cardinal and gold; the melding of both dress and casual elements in a single outfit; corduroy worn by country gentlemen rather than schoolboys; the revival of the three-button suit; the use of rich fabrics, such as velvet, cashmere, alpaca, silk and wool.
Other trends: monochromatic outfits, such as a tobacco suit and matching trench coat; the continuing interest in the vest as a key wardrobe accessory; cable-knit sweaters and leather bomber jackets that have been re-interpreted for dress wear.
Robinson’s vibrant-colored ensembles expressed the new refinement of traditional looks: blazers in velvet or cashmere worn with polo, turtleneck or cardigan sweaters; cashmere and velvet vests and roomy pleated trousers in wool or corduroy--all in shades like slate, moss, mango, rust and Prussian blue.
Daytime sweater sets--polo shirts and cardigans to match--and beaded black sweaters for evening are two of Robinson’s new moods.
Jeffrey Banks excels with knitwear, including geometric-pattern sweater sets, ombre wool pullovers and cable knits. He also does a cable-knit sport jacket in shades of plum and navy and a celery suede shirt coupled with snazzy olive-print trousers.
Jhane Barnes, who’s known for geometric knits that she fashions on a computer, experiments this season with Lycra, not only for sweaters but for suit fabrics as well.
“The point is not to have stretchy fabrics but dimensional fabrics with comfort and durability,” says Barnes, who adds that a sweater with Lycra has the same bulk as an all-wool sweater but can weigh half of a pound less.
Andrew Fezza combines casual wool jersey and dressy wool crepe in a single outfit. He also likes brilliant colors for blazers and for a red-and-black check sport coat worn with a black polo sweater and full-cut black trousers. Motorcycle jackets, in shades of forest green, cordovan and petrol, are shown with dressy trousers.
American folklore and primitive art were inspirations for Alexander Julian this season. A group of quilt-inspired sweaters and shirts, a silk tie in a mini-quilt pattern and a cabled sweater inspired by a rag rug were all part of his collection.
His version of dressy/casual is “jackets that look like sweaters and sweaters that look like jackets.” Wool shirts with tails are worn as overshirts. Outerwear has shirting linings. And a striped shirt in cotton brushed flannel is referred to as “a hunting shirt for Madison Avenue types.”
One of the newer talents here is Sabato Russo, who belongs to the minimalist school. His simple yet elegant designs include monochromatic ensembles, such as a three-button suit in brown with a matching vest that buttons almost to the throat; a topcoat and suit in matching steel-gray alpaca and wool, and a modern-looking vest and sport coat with the collar attached to the vest rather than the jacket.
Other strong statements were designed by Los Angeles-based Nancy Heller, whose “earthy elegant” collection included a navy cashmere, notch-collared cardigan; corduroy shirts in red, mustard or green; washed-silk-print shirts and a great brushed cotton flannel Navajo-stripe shirt.
Fitzgerald Shirtmakers did some new takes on white shirts: high, two-button mandarin collars, and long-point “Bolshevik” collars.
Other news: Marienbad’s Matisse-inspired sweaters with suede cutouts; Joe Boxer’s “idiot” boxer shorts with “This is the right leg,” “This is the left leg” printed on them; Basco’s black leather car coat with black leather vest and bronze sharkskin, three-button suit; Wilke-Rodriguez’s olive-and-black, three-button suit and white shirts with “shadow” buttons (a round of color at the buttonhole); Sans Tambours Ni Trompettes’ “Hollywood” polo sweater with convertible collar.