At Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs’ rollicking ride on the Rudolf Nureyev train was an exhilarating stream of consciousness, resplendent with all the trappings of luxury and a touch of bad taste. "A dash of paprika," as Mrs. Vreeland would say, to spice it all up. Jacobs drenched the clothes in animal hides — nutria, fox, ostrich, oiled ponyskin — which all fought for prominence in a collection full of ideas. And that’s not even saying anything about those great carpet like textured bags that you’re going to see splashed all over editorials.
But the real story for fall is tailoring, specifically if it involves checked fabrics, and even more specifically if that weave has a Prince of Wales pedigree. Checks clash and are laid one over the other in quirky three-piece tailoring, leaving formal business association behind. We’re seeing a carefree dandy with a great wardrobe. At Rykiel Homme the mood was reminiscent of off-duty public schoolboys from the Brideshead era, while over at Masaki Matsushima it was clean, sharp, and modern, with the addition of a cane and oversized glasses. Raf Simons and Kris Van Assche added tailoring with a steely, modern edge; we saw this in Simons’
tiny jackets and baggy pleated pants (which were a development of last season’s groundbreaking show), and Van Assche’s equally snug fits and low-slung pants, which look to mature men with youthful spirits for inspiration, gave a nod to his mentor Hedi Slimane. While everyone else was tailoring away, Yohji Yamamoto stood apart, staying true to his oversized cut — slicing here, gathering there — and playing with layering and proportions till a white shirt was reduced to little more than a bolero with an oversized cummerbund filling in the waist. Trilbies and flatcaps (a trend that carried over from Milan) in velvet and corduroy added to the sense of dressing up in a lot of shows.
But while there must be dressing up, it’s important to do it with attitude, especially if that attitude is rock ‘n roll or the open road. Paul Smith’s check-clad mods and rockers glinted with gold fob chains, and Hedi Slimane at Dior Homme raided the coolest 1970′s kid’s wardrobe. Dries van Noten turned up with a quiet collection. He did leather motorcross pants in a reassuring and masculine style, a single path of light leading into the future.
With fur here and there — as linings, facings, and collars — it was pony or calfskin that were the big beast stories. At Hermès, black calfskin seared with Prince of Wales check, Vuitton inset glossy pony into cashmere cardigans, and at Givenchy it was cut into a jacket in deep bark red. Ostrich was important too, from shoes at YSL to almost everything at Vuitton, including pieced weekend bags in colorful house checkerboard damier.
Come fall there will be lots and lots of velvet, especially if you lead the sort of life that requires much lounging around in, well, lounge suits. Hermès, Dries, Rykiel, Paul Smith, Givenchy, and Masaki Matsushima showed luxurious loungewear, all with nicely nipped waists.
And, just when the High Street was finally trying to sell off the last of those girl’s ponchos, capes for men continue to make a big statement. Take hooded scarf capes at Dior Homme, luxurious black cashmere at Givenchy, tweed flower bedecked and simply-cut at Miyake, or cropped and inspired by trench coats at Matsushima.
And there’s been more than a whiff of sexual ambiguity in the air. Or maybe it’s the next step forward since we all suddenly realized overnight that we’ve become
metrosexuals and want nothing more than to skip the Superbowl and head out to do some serious damage at the skincare counter instead. But floppy bow ties, fur scarves, silk scarves frothing from shirt collars, flowers at Issey Miyake, and those lurex pants, gold Cuban-heeled boots, mascara and lipstick from style zeitgeist name Dior Homme, all mean that something is blowing in the wind.
Photos: Louis Vuitton a/w ’05-’06
Raf Simons a/w ’05-’06
Kris Van Assche a/w ’05-’06
Dior Homme a/w ’05-’06
Dries Van Noten a/w ’05-’06