If there was one conclusion to take away from the menswear collections shown here during the fashion week that ended Thursday, it’s that guys have a lot to get excited about when it comes to taking their fall-winter wardrobes up a couple of notches. Below are five of the things that will have men looking forward to fall.
The rise of cashmere
It feels like just yesterday (it was November, actually) when L.A.-based designer Greg Chaitseemingly came out of nowhereto win the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award for his Elder Statesman line of super-luxe cashmere knits. Now cashmere suddenly seems to be having a full-on menswear moment.
British Columbia-based designer Raif Adelberg made his New York Fashion Week runway debut this season with a lounge-about-the-yurt collection of cashmere sweaters of every stripe (including a cashmere cardigan with felted cashmere elbow patches); herringbone double-breasted peacoats; plaid blazers; drop-crotch trousers and sweat pants in piercing blue; hand and leg wraps, gloves, scarves, slouchy hats and beanie. There were a few non-cashmere pieces, like a deer-leather motorcycle jacket — with a cashmere lining, of course.
Billy Reid’s men’s and women’s collections were both shot through with cashmere, the super-soft hand providing a textural counterpoint to leather pieces that had been fermentation-treated to crackling aged roughness. In addition to cotton/cashmere waistcoats and T-shirts printed with tree-ring inspired stripes, cashmere came down the catwalk in the form of a three-piece suit, a knit necktie, tailored evening coats and a shawl-collar tuxedo jacket and trousers.
Formalwear goes casual
Fans of a more relaxed approach to men’s formalwear will find a lot to like in the fall collections. From the digital camouflage tuxedo at Mark McNairy New Amsterdam (perfect for next hunting season’s black-tie game supper) to the midnight blue tuxedo in sueded cotton in Todd Snyder’s Rebel Gentlemen collection, there were all kinds of options for the guy who wants a less-stuffy take on the traditional formalwear silhouette.
But it was Black Fleece by Brooks Brothers, a label that knows a thing or two about tweaking tradition, that offered the ne plus ultra of feel-good formalwear: a black-tie ensemble that included a ribbed-knit shawl-collar dinner jacket. Sure it resembled a cardigan sweater — but one that would make Mr. Rogers look like Hugh Hefner.
Houndstooth with bite
Houndstooth check is turning out to be a trend with some serious legs this season. First in evidence at the Milan and Paris men’s ready-to-wear shows last month (at Calvin Klein, Paul Smith and Versace, to name just a few), it showed up on this side of the Atlantic during fashion week as well. Tommy Hilfiger used the distinctive black-and-white pattern as the unifying graphic element — in a range of sizes and colors — for both his men’s and women’s fall-winter collections.
But the freshest take on the trend came from an unexpected place: Menswear designer Asher Levine, whose clientele includes Adam Lambert, Johnny Weir and the Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am. Levine’s collection riffed on and reinterpreted the houndstooth check, using a micro-scale version on ultra-cool, effortless rocker tuxedos, trousers and lounge pants, and a textured three-dimensional monochrome variation on sweat shirts and pants. Levine also managed to bring houndstooth to life in an animation sequence playing in the background of his runway presentation, where the pattern took flight as a kind of short-winged bat.
Since the constantly spinning roulette wheel of collaboration seems to be kicking out some real head-scratchers these days — show of hands, who thinks a collaboration between Special K cereal and OPI nail lacquers is a good idea? — it was exciting to see some of the new partnerships coming down the pike, the kind of collaborations that just feel right.
Tommy Hilfiger men’s runway show, for example, included a partnership with Southern California-based luxury shoe designer George Esquivel that resulted in distinctively color-blocked brogues — think rich red leather uppers with houndstooth-check soles — that played off the houndstooth-heavy collection. Whether the shoes will make it from the runway to the cash register this fall remains unclear (an Esquivel rep would only say the Hilfiger/Esquivel runway shoes are part of an “ongoing relationship”). But based on what came down the catwalk, it’s a partnership that holds promise.
Billy Reid is one of those designers whose projects with other brands (including Levi’s and K-Swiss) always seem to strike just the right balance of brand DNA. He used his runway show this week to introduce a new collaboration with Coach. The result was a limited-edition line of rustic but refined totes, satchels and weekend bags in sturdy canvas or croc-pattern stamped leather.
New logo to love
Few polo shirt logos have the lasting resonance of Lacoste’s alligator, but men of a certain age will remember one that came close: Boast’s embroidered pot-leaf-like logo (the company says it’s a Japanese maple leaf, by the way), which launched in 1973 with polo shirts and shorts for the East Coast tennis set. At the height of the brand’s popularity in the mid-1980s, it was an instant signifier of swagger that radiated bad-boy attitude.
Now Boast has been revived with a team that includes Andy Spade (co-founder of the Kate Spade and Jack Spade brands) as creative consultant and investor. The relaunched brand first hits retail with the upcoming spring-summer collection, but it’s the fall-winter wares that mark the foray into a full-blown men’s and women’s apparel collection.
That’s the collection that was presented at the august Harvard Club during fashion week. It was all about an Ivy League aesthetic grounded in navy blue and muted red with bright accent pops of blue and yellow in a range of rugbys, polos, blazers with gold logo buttons and bright yellow elbow patches. Varsity jackets boasted a bold yellow “B” and mixed fabrication pieces like sweaters with knit sleeves made from repurposed hockey socks.
As one observer pointed out in advance of last weekend’s rapidly approaching blizzard, while the collection was chock-full of light outerwear and preppy layering pieces, it wasn’t exactly the kind of clothing suitable for an East Coast winter.
Then again, for a brand trying to bring back that cavalier I-don’t-care attitude of a few decades ago, bracing for Winter Storm Nemo in a not-pot-leaf logo somehow seemed just right.