Paul Helbers is back.
This story first appeared in the January 22, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The former men’s designer at Louis Vuitton under then-artistic director Marc Jacobs will launch his first namesake collection — Helbers — for fall during Paris Men’s Fashion Week.
The 20-piece offering is designed to address a wide swath of men with its cross-generational appeal. Everything from T-shirts and high-quality tailored pieces to denim and shoes were made by local artisans around Venice who were challenged to create luxurious looks that are a bit worn, ultralight and soft.
In the handmade tailored pieces, for example, the designer uses goat hair instead of horsehair to make the construction of the jackets and coats lighter and more supple.
Traditional fabrics have been given the same modern twist and include a coat made from a blend of cashmere, wool, silk and linen that has been woven from a specially treated waxed thread that renders it completely waterproof without looking technical. This fulfills Helbers’ goal to make the sartorial elements as comfortable and technical as sportswear.
As for the more sporty looks, Helbers likes to mix different fabrics on the same garments, such as a zipped jacket whose front is made of waterproof lambskin, its back from cashmere jersey and its sleeves from nylon.
Another key look is a cashmere jogging suit with patches of microfiber nylon.
The color palette is restrained to a savvy palette of grays, taupe, browns, blue and cinnamon — dark but never hitting black. This includes the shoes as well with bench-made derbys done in a vegetal leather in very dark brown or anthracite.
Helbers worked some historical military references into his outerwear pieces including a snow coat inspired by a Swedish Army model made of cotton and leather with a detachable sheepskin lining, and a military anorak from U.S. Army with sleeve construction similar to a kimono jacket.
While pushing the edge with fabrics, the designer didn’t experiment with volume and shapes too much. An ultralight gray flannel single-breasted suit is shown with straight-leg pants that are neither too large nor too fitted.
Prices for the collection range from $436 for a corduroy pigment-dyed pant to a baby alpaca coat for $3,058.
There is also a smattering of accessories including a tote made of military canvas with an outside leather pocket. This is a category Helbers will expand upon for next season, he said.
Since leaving Vuitton in 2011, Helbers has been consulting creative director with several brands, including a women’s ath-leisure label called Callens, which was founded by Lawrence Stroll’s wife Claire-Anne Stroll.