Come Together: The Spring 2011 Runways

At the fashion shows in Milan, Paris and New York, everything seemed to converge.

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Appeared In
Special Issue
Menswear issue 10/18/2010

Like an episode of Mad Men, a fashion season invites viewers to a game of oversimplification: “This time it was all about heritage.” “All about redefining luxury.” “All about survival.”

This story first appeared in the October 18, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

We’re playing again, because it’s fun, and because the spring runway was all about…convergence.

Editors and publishers want to sell luxury goods; designers and retailers want to create and publish content. Retailers favor their private labels, while designers open stores. Bloggers are models, writers, photographers, editors, stylists and publishers rolled into one. Meanwhile, all of the above adopt blogging practices, especially Twitter. In the olden days, editors used to focus and take notes during shows. In notebooks! Now they fumble with cameras, Flip recorders and smartphones to help them meet their tweet quotas.

Yet, as everyone gropes their way through this sped-up, telescoped, cacophonous world, at least there is a heightened sense of camaraderie, of fellow survivors. We’ve seen worse times, and the worst seems to be over. Why, partying on a grand scale has already made a comeback, thanks to an escalating anniversary arms race.

In June, during Milan Fashion Week, Dolce & Gabbana celebrated 20 years of men’s wear with a riveting runway serenade by Annie Lennox, an exclusive dinner and a public spectacle at Milan’s city hall that included photo, video and performance installations. Ermenegildo Zegna’s centennial called for a doubleheader runway show, a multimedia exhibit at the Triennale Design Museum and a soiree at the museum with pianist Michael Nyman. Brioni marked 65 years with a visually stunning open-air gathering inside Milan’s Castello Sforzesco fortress. In September, when the circus rolled into New York, John Varvatos’ 10th anniversary concert drew a brotherhood of famous rockers to his Bowery store. And Tommy Hilfiger’s celebrity-clogged show segued into a bash at the Metropolitan Opera House headlined by The Strokes.

Designers also treated audiences to live music at the shows, including Franz Ferdinand at Pringle of Scotland and La Roux at Viktor & Rolf. The acoustic music, the undercurrent of anniversaries and the first Alexander McQueen show without the brand’s late founder resulted in many tender moments. At McQueen, the proceedings carried a distinct sense of mourning. Creative director Sarah Burton played it safe with house signatures, but introduced interesting shapes.

Heritage remains a buzzword and a key marketing strategy, but not so much a design method, blessedly. After an archive-faithful fall season, designers remembered to innovate and inject freshness for spring. Gucci continued basking in its Seventies-playboy heyday, but with a Moroccan twist. Burberry Prorsum fused its military heritage with a motorcycle-punk motif. Giorgio Armani focused on urbane work attire rendered modern via fabric, color and informal styling.

Convergence, in terms of product, meant tailoring became more casual as sportswear became more sophisticated. Tailoring took on active, Eastern or utilitarian elements.

“It’s active clothing in a sartorial environment, but not sportswear,” said Lanvin’s Lucas Ossendrijver of his and Alber Elbaz’s collection, which featured coarse-looking fabrics and feral jewelry.

Bottega Veneta’s tailoring took a sportif, technical turn, equipped with lots of zippers and cinchers. “The collection is about performance and possibility,” said Bottega’s Tomas Maier.

Even the double-breasted jacket, the most formal and dandyish of men’s blazers, resurged in the most informal and understated ways. Dries Van Noten’s skinhead-influenced show opened with a DB blazer worn with cargo shorts and army boots.

In sportswear, T-shirts and trousers came in directional new silhouettes, and designers ditched prep for more worldly, more rugged or, frankly, more virile references. Nautical emerged as the biggest theme, but think Dolce’s Mediterranean villagers or Michael Bastian’s Navy SEALs, not yacht owners.

The camel trend from fall evolved into a preponderance of beige, especially unbleached linen and hemp, and again Michael Kors nailed it. Army green and china blue were so popular, they almost acted as neutrals, while citrus colors were the favored accent.

A continuing attraction to Asia and North Africa was also in evidence. Louis Vuitton integrated chinoiserie. Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Jean-Paul Gaultier all looked to Marrakech. “Simplicity is the true luxury,” said Dior Homme’s Kris Van Assche, whose minimal and soft tailoring reflected the influences of samurai and martial arts as well as the larger trend toward globalism, the grandest convergence of all.

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