He's a bright lad: Menswear with a touch of sparkle

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After a sombre season, the latest round of menswear shows offered punchy colours and a welcome touch of sparkle, says Adam Welch

Before we sprint off into 2011's winter trends, let's take a moment to reflect on the season just past. Yep, bleurgh. With temperatures plummeting, the end of 2010 was a portfolio of pretty miserable months. And morale was hardly helped by all the sober, classic and exasperatingly subtle clothes that were on offer.

Thankfully, the soothsayers of Paris and Milan seemed to have learnt their lesson, injecting a bit of vitality and visibility back into the fashionable male's wardrobe. Though there's still a feeling that simple is supreme, there was also something of an invigoratingly gaudy spirit. Lucas Ossendrijver at Lanvin described the play between the two extremes with words such as "tension" and "energy" – ah, that's more like it – and he in particular seemed to have hit the jackpot this season, juxtaposing the tried-and-tested with the unexpected in a series of silhouettes that mixed tailoring with sportswear shapes, playing inventively with proportions. "We tried to have something clashing in every outfit," he said, recuperating after the show, before concluding: "It's really about options." His words ring true throughout the season, which is full of brash, mix-and-matchy possibilities – good news for all those sick of the back-to-basics approach.

That 70s Show

The decade of the moment is the 1970s: Dries Van Noten's cool, buttoned-up collection was inspired by David Bowie, and superbly cut jackets, overcoats and trenches made for a long, wide-shouldered silhouette. And Dolce & Gabbana raved about Bryan Ferry, whose penchant for elegant tailoring from the mid-70s onwards was the starting point for a collection of nipped-in dinner jackets and low-slung, carrot-shaped trousers, while Frida Giannini at Gucci quietly referenced glam rock with flares, turtlenecks and fur.

Flashing Lights

Yes, sequins and sparkles are inherently un-butch, but several autumn 2011 shows made a case for executing these dazzling accents with a bit of restraint. Chief among these was Prada, as ever a reference point for the season, where gawky, minimal tailoring (think round-shouldered, three-button blazers and slim, neatly tapered trousers) was worn with diamond-print suede jackets and this season's statement piece – the lurex knit – which came as a plain scooped V or loose-fitting, contrast- collared polo shirt in various shades of brilliant green, gold and bronze. At Comme des Garçons – where Rei Kawakubo took a characteristically eclectic romp through Chinoiserie, androgyny and Gustav Klimt, with a bit of punky tartan thrown in for good measure – lurex glinted again in mixed fibres for jackets. Also going at it with the sequins were Jean Paul Gaultier at his James Bond-themed show (think gold-spattered wetsuits, gold leather jackets and gold sequined jeans) and Dolce & Gabbana, who fielded some showstopping contrast-lapel tuxedo jackets for razzing up the dreary winter evenings.

Agent Orange

One of the dominant themes this season was a clash between sobriety and glamour, and this meant a good dose of eye-burning colour, particularly in that most hazardous shade, orange. At Burberry Prorsum, Christopher Bailey eschewed the ornate tassels, studs and military regalia-inspired embellishments he's often partial to, going for a simple silhouette that practically vibrated with brightness. There were orange coats in compact wool and vinyl, orange laminated knits and orange jackets in fine down nylon, the colour palette for outwerwear rounded out by vivid yellows, blues, greens and reds. These pieces, all oversized, were worn over plain, slim trousers in jarringly neutral shades of blue-grey and black, with thick-treaded black Chelsea boots. Other advocates of orange included Tomas Meier at Bottega Veneta, where flashes of colour undercut a collection heavy with black leather and textured wool, and Lady Gaga's left-hand man Nicola Formichetti in his debut for Thierry Mugler, in which he drew a trademark orange from Mugler's archive. ("I'm bored of black," he sighed from the showroom in Paris.) But it seemed that everyone was toying with loud shades, from Louis Vuitton (where a new colour, "Motel Red", was invented for the David Lynch-inspired collection), to Yohji Yamamoto, who went for "flashes" of orange and red ("I have often done this all through my men's shows," he remarked afterwards, as if slightly affronted by the suggestion he could be on-trend).

Double-breasted

The double-breasted blazer is nothing new. Nor is its promotion to trend status – the Eighties style has been back for several years now. But it really seemed like everybody was exploring the shape with renewed gusto, not only fielding interesting takes on double-breasted tailoring but taking the idea into outerwear. Stefano Pilati at Yves Saint Laurent reinvented the typical, broad-shoulder silhouette of the double breasted jacket by slimming it down and re-positioning the buttons on the torso. Louis Vuitton, meanwhile, showed double-breasted blazers, crombies and a luxurious shawl-collar peacoat, and Lanvin modified the template with magnetic fastenings and long, slim cuts. Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen used the double-breasted blazer to hook into another mini-trend, adding a shearling collar (also in evidence at Margiela) into a pinstripe jacket, and riffing on the tightly buttoned jerkins of 19th-century military uniforms.

Bold and Baroque

Alongside an outburst of colour at the fall 2011 shows, the cherry-on-the-cake of many a show was a statement print. In some collections this was a brief flash – Lanvin, for example, showed one all-over print look, inspired by kaleidoscopic patterns. In others, prints were used with more abandon: both Comme des Garçons and D&G scavenged from pop culture, the former lining its jackets (worn inside out) with scraps of vintage T-shirts bearing slogans such as "Enjoy Coca-Cola" and "D.A.R.E.", and the latter splashing its toytown-esque outfits with Mickey Mouse and more Coke logos. The most striking use of a repeated motif, however, came at Givenchy, where Riccardo Tisci played with images of growling rottweilers in a way that recalled the excesses of Nineties Versace. His urban baroque played out across bomber jackets, sweaters and shorts, worn over tights and laced boots.

Amish Paradise?

Amid all the warmth and colour came one startling trend: the Amish. No, really. Angela Missoni clad models in wide-brimmed hats and uncharacteristic subtle colours. Raf Simons quoted Amish quilting in his shirts, tees and outerwear, and Paul Helbers also cited Amish monochrome as inspiration for his Louis Vuitton collection. But the most overt Amish fantasy came in Kris Van Assche's Dior Homme collection, which he dubbed "essential luxury". The pared-down, yet sumptuous clothes bore remarkably few signs of buttons, zips or extraneous details. And then there were the hats again, with rounded crowns and brims extending a good four inches either side of the face. Let's just hope we're not expected to turn off our electric heaters, because that could make for a tough winter indeed.

Adam Welch is editor of Wonderland magazine

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