The spring/summer ‘12 menswear collections in Paris seemed to be cut from the same cloth. Designers found balance in uniformity, ambiguity and multi-cultural motifs, while adhering to a cohesively daring aesthetic across labels and aesthetics. From androgynous flair to paradoxical cross-references, the collections spoke to the blurring of conventional boundaries in both society and style.
YSL was ever-mindful of its traditional fit with waist defining blazers in slim tailored navy blues and grays. Neutrals were introduced halfway through the show as a khaki rendition of military-meets-tribalwear looks surfaced in male corseted shorts and python printed blouses. The collection represented balance in cross-culture and cross-gender dressing as the classic male suit touched on the beauty of ambiguity in a conventional society. Ann Demeulemeester also represented the androgynous with nude sheer tees and masculine tunics with black patent-piping. Reveling in vests, waistcoats and three-quarter length sleeves and pants, her rugged sand-inspired collection had notes of a modern-day black tie affair gone awry as well as hints of Asian influenced cuts and cloths.
Rei Kawakubo’s collection for Comme des Garçons featured a similar cross-cultural reference within its “tailoring for punks” theme. Perhaps the most paradoxical of the shows, Kawakubo sent tattoo covered models down the runway in perfectly tailored pinstriped blazers with biker zips that revealed the classic Prince of Whales check underneath. Color was intentionally placed in orange buttons and pink cuffed socks, while slimming skirts—think Gothic kilts—refined the punk-meets-prince look.
Skirts were also featured in Riccardo Tisci’s surfer-turned-fashion-boy collection for Givenchy, where tropical printed skirts, pants and shorts were bejeweled in sequins and crystals that glistened under the runway lights. If a fairy tale came to life in the fashion world, Tisci’s male models would likely be the warriors of its fantastical realm. At Acne, Jonny Johansson’s ‘70s-inspired denimwear line dazzled in leggings, biker shorts and mini shorts paired with patent evening shoes.
Other flesh-wielding menswear pieces were seen in Maison Martin Margiela’s collection, where unbuttoned and transparent shirts were paired with straight-legged pants rolled up to reveal rebellious undertones. Thierry Mugler took “skinspiration” to a whole new level with a collection suitable for a frat superhero party. Opening the show with a modernized take on a Grecian god, Mugler’s models revealed more and more skin with each piece. With realistic items like stonewashed skinny jeans and surf rashguard tees, Mugler’s body-conscious collection was ever aware in spite of its bare-all underbelly.
If June Gloom were ever a theme, Dries Van Noten’s weatherproof collection was the rainbow of the storm. With nylon parkas, polyester jackets and slim tapered pants, his dew-finished pieces dominated the runway in dark navy and burgundy hues as manufactured brights lightened the streamlined look through saturated stripes. Meanwhile, Raf Simons’ collection keyed into the same prevailing midnight theme of other designers, while also featuring neon plaids and flower-hybrid muscle tees that flirted with femininity and the idea of nudity. With confidently coiffed models, uniformity ran rampant as carbon-copied hair and pant suits ascended and descended amidst a stage of escalators.
Uniformity was seen in Lanvin’s multi-faceted collection as each model embodied Alber Elbaz’s admission that “a man in uniform is always a hero.” Rather than mutually agreeing on one look, the designer released characters at the beginning of the show. Likewise, Alexander Wang reinvented his classic womenswear line in a coordinated sportswear themed debut of track suits, running shorts, hoodies, sweatshirts and varsity jackets for men, while other designers captivated the comfort of sport-prep ensembles as pajama pants and blazers were seen on Louis Vuitton and Hermes runways too.