Clothes make the man: Spring/summer menswear from London, Milan and Paris

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Following three cities, two weeks and a hundred shows, Alexander Fury takes you through the best the fashion fraternity has to offer for spring/summer 2014


London was a tale of two cities: one buttoned-up in Savile Row tailoring, the other slouched in sportswear. Work and play? Not really – they weren't even competitors given how diametrically opposed they were. Can you imagine the same man buying Richard James and JW Anderson? But those designers can co-exist on the London Collections: Men schedule, a week that saw our heads snap from midriff-baring, obi-sashed, crimped-fringe boy-toys (JW Anderson) to glowtick-hued latex-laden rave kids (Christopher Shannon), to Scrapheap Challenge cardboard pile-ups (Craig Green).

That line-up doesn't say much about what men will really be wearing come next spring. As magnificent as designer Craig Green's second catwalk show was, with its hallucinatory tie-dyed layers and massive cardboard constructs, it's a statement that's restricted to the catwalk. But those designers are representative of London fashion's greatest asset: ideas. The stuff you saw on the catwalks will be pored over, picked apart and copied by the rest of the industry.

Alexander McQueen is an example of where those ideas get you – noticed on a global scale. Sarah Burton's second menswear show in the capital riffed on the McQueen trademarks. Yes, that included tailoring, but she turned her suiting inside-out (a trend for artful deconstruction we've seen across the fashion capitals), sending out silk linings as billowing robes or rendering her suits in intricately woven lace.

So who's next? The money's on JW Anderson, a man with a plan and a staggering work ethic. Days after showing his Versus Resort collection, he sent out a collection of origami-wrapped, baggy-trousered boys that wiped memories of his last show from our minds. His shtick is gender-blending. This season he wanted his men to look like they were wearing column-dresses, and said that menswear is all about necklines (his were halter). It's difficult to imagine any designer in Milan or Paris coming up with that.


Milan's great advantage over London or Paris? Climate. The sun always shines over its spring menswear shows, making it easier to imagine men wearing the clothing on the catwalks. This week, a preponderance of shorts, tropical florals and the dreaded but ubiquitous “Mandal” all looked a bit better basking in the glaring Lombardy sun.

If London is about ideas, Milan is about industry – the whole shebang is geared towards the bottom line. The most interesting designers last week, however, managed to show clothes that trod a tricky line between creativity and commerce. Take Miuccia Prada, who splashed flashy Hawaiian prints that could have been lifted from Duane Hanson's Tourists sculptures across a covetable collection of summer basics. The show generated intellectual discussion, but the clothes themselves generated desire.

Jil Sander's theme was interestingly synched with Miuccia Prada – the former inspired by the “accidental tourist”, the latter mid-century tropical travel. But if Prada wanted to evoke menace, a holiday closer to nightmare than dream, Jil Sander was jubilant, re-interpreting the oversized shorts and pinched-in cotton jackets of her first spring menswear outing, swapping their original navy for eye-socking fluorescents and almost neon white.

In Milan, the designers sometimes feel like they're all singing from the same sheet – they'd all got the memo about luxury sportswear this season. By the third day, techy, rip-corded collections had already begun to look old hat. The striking exception was Italo Zucchelli's collection for Calvin Klein, a label so rooted in American sportswear they can claim the territory as their own. This collection was entirely played out in blue – a reinterpretation of the trademark Calvin denim?


You see some extraordinary things during Paris fashion week. You watch a thrash-metal band get hoisted to the rafters by their ankles. You see hyper-realistic dandelion-clocks made, by hand, from minute slivers of feather. You even get hauled 40 minutes out of the city to an aircraft hangar and seated in a piece of contemporary art worth a few million.

What's the point? To show and sell clothes, ostensibly. But really fashion is about the thrill of the new. The clothes in Raf Simons' show in a huge Gagosian Gallery space adjacent to an airstrip even managed to overshadow the Alexander Calder mobiles looming large over the catwalk. Simons' silhouette was short and tight, infantile and a little feminine. It questioned our ideas of menswear, as well as good and bad taste.

If Simons was channelling Nineties rave culture, Rick Owens, who suspended surreal Estonian punk group Winny Puhh over the catwalk, was knee-deep in a mosh pit. But, oddly, the designers proposed strikingly similar looks for men, shorts barely clearing the crotch, shoes pumped-up, high-performance sports sneakers.

Sometimes Paris can get caught up in its haute couture heritage, overworking garments for the sake of showcasing the expertise. Kim Jones' Louis Vuitton collection was refreshing because it wore that luxury lightly. You didn't clock the fact that the LV monogram on the closing tuxedo was created by the rather extraordinary technique of weaving minute strips of mother-of-pearl into silk velvet. You also didn't realise it had a price-tag of roughly 80k, although that's no issue for Vuitton's customers. Valentino's Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli are stabbing after the same market: crocodile flip-flop, perhaps? Or maybe a camouflage coat in bonded leather.

Those visions, from short-shorts and monster trainers through crocodile flip-flops and hyper-luxe camo, seem disparate. But that's the joy of Paris fashion: the best of the best, at their best, not looking over their shoulders at what other designers are doing, but looking ahead to the future. It's what makes really great clothes.

sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

    Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

    £70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all