06 July 2012


A new austerity prevailed at the recently concluded Paris Menswear Collections for Spring 2013, which was all about a stripped down aesthetic dominated by clean necklines, a loose fit, a lack of decoration and a monochromatic palette. This represents a complete break from recent seasons which saw menswear trends escalating towards the baroque in terms of elaborate detailing, heavy accessories and rich fabrics. Even a label like Balenciaga (left), which routinely shows challenging, conceptual fashions, showed just 21 pared-down looks which highlighted an easy volume in its tailoring in grey, black and white, with nothing more challenging than a big Hawaiian print to leaven the monastic mood.

It was plain sailing (and very plain clothes) at Louis Vuitton. Inspired by sea sports, Kim Jones was all at sea in his third collection for Vuitton (right). The most successful looks were actually the most traditional, like the deluxe double-breasted tailoring which were sharp yet relaxed. Pyjama-pants, sailor-style flares and wide shorts (micro to knee-length) were shown with scuba tops and patchwork shirts; Yellow hoodie slickers, T-shirts and sweaters, though undoubtedly luxe in fabric, looked predictable and safe. It was the accessories that saved the day: Unfussy and practical bags, shoes and sandals, looked utterly desirable.

The archetypal sailor of Jean Cocteau and Jean Genet is something of a house icon at Jean Paul Gaultier and this collection was completely dedicated to this figure (left). The sailor theme sharply clarified the designs at this collection which previously suffered from a wild heterogeneity of ideas and inspirations. Forthwith, Gaultier’s classic suitings shone — sharp jackets (some with short sleeves) and gilets were shown with high-waisted sailor's pants, a couple of precisely-pleated kilts, and a few overalls that looked elegant, not louche. Sailor stripes, a bold slicker red and sporty yellow supported the seafaring theme, which looked modern and chic, not clichéd or lazy.

Kris Van Assche used a strict palette of regimental blue and grey at Dior Homme (right). This superbly un-hyperbolic collection was anything but boring, serving up a clean-cut military discipline (the models looked like cadets with cropped, shellacked heads) in classic jacket in every variation: some cropped, some sleeveless, some boxy. These were paired with sweaters and shirts that were buttoned all the way up, and easy-fit pants, or shorts that had the look of a schoolboy. The military theme was subtly hinted at in the brass buttons that never looked costumey. Everything unnecessary was edited away, so that the cutting and construction of the jackets were brought to the fore, especially in a passage where the cutting lines were traced in a contrast piping. This collection presents discipline as charm, perhaps an antidote to an age of excess.

At Rick Owens, it was Owens Lite this time around. Owens’s refined his usual propositions into more accessible form. The gothic robes have become roomy coats, the ragged dresses have become ascetic tunics, the skirts look less ridiculous designed as kilts and flapping shorts, and paired with what looked recognisably like zippered blousons (almost Police Academy),vests and turtlenecks. There was even a traditional black suit! A new trimness prevailed, with very few excessive flourishes. This season’s trend for black socks worn with everything here became chubby leg warmers and the footwear, usually an exaggerated Flintstones platform boot was simplified into a clunky toeless slide - on platforms.

Shorts, which are everywhere this season, were the startling highlights at Raf Simons’s eponymous collection. Styled with black dress socks and black lace-ups, the daringly short shorts highlight the bareness and vulnerability of the legs on the pale models. The fact that the shorts were paired with beautifully austere, perfectly correct jackets and shirts brought home the point that they were, in fact truncated pants, shorn off where the jacket ended, and made more revealing with splits and slits. The simple colour blocking (a pale powder pink was especially memorable) of the outfits had a tenderness, and combined with a passage of fine floral prints made this collection a study of how the genders have balanced out in sexual politics.

The collection Veronique Nichanian showed for Hermès (left)was colour blocked in monochrome outfits of blue, griege, tomato, absinthe and black but the effect was a youthful, unambiguous masculinity. The collection has a brisk, breezy feel that mirrored the season’s general vibe of ease and simplicity. These were simply elegant clothes that you can stride out in with great confidence on a sunny untroubled day. The high luxury of the label and its fabrics was made fresh and light by subtle design and tweaking of the proportions, so that the menswear classics like blazers, windbreakers, parkas, and coats looked athletic, clean and cool without looking staid or boring. There were shorts here too, but these, sensibly, reached the knee.

Perhaps the collection that best crystallises the season’s key messages was presented by Lucas Ossendrijver for Lanvin (right). Ease is in the generous fit of the tailoring: the jackets have a softness and movement and the pants have fluidity and waft. Shirts with wide sleeves, and wide necklines, were cut big, so that they drooped a little at the shoulders, and bloused at the belt. The volume is anchored at the (very) high-waisted, for some shape and sensuality. The silhouette is admirably clean, as every item seemed reduced and precise, shorn of details and embellishments. The palette too is reduced to a monochrome black and white, with a passage of futuristic shine right at the end, a pinch of florals, and sparks of blue as accents. The athletic sandals, which owes something to traditional Tevas, have a space-age shine and elegance. The pleated pants do not look back to any era past, thankfully. Instead, this fiercely modern, forward-looking collection gives the new austerity a positive spin.


  1. Replies
    1. Dear The Fetch Blog: Thanks Erwin! You're kind as usual. X

  2. thank you. and your take on Dior Couture?

    1. Dear Anon: Sorry for the lag, but I just posted the Haute Couture review up.
      I liked Dior Couture; I really think that Raf Simons one of the most talented and exciting designers working in fashion today. However, I'm not foaming at the mouth at his couture debut, as many seem to be. It's good, but I was expecting more? It's not as good as he can be, and upon study, I think maybe too many looks - the collection could have been better edited IMHO. X

    2. Dear Anon:
      Sorry it took me a while to post the haute couture review but i just did! do take a look.
      I do think that Raf Simons is a great talent and one of the very few exciting visionaries in fashion today but i'm underwhelmed by his couture debut.
      I know many critics are foaming at the mouth at the collection, predictably, but i do think he can do much more.
      IMHO the collection suffers from too many looks, and could have been better edited. But then the entire season was dull, wasn't it?
      Chanel was pretty terrible too.