Summer 2010 is going to be hot. Boiling. Of course all those zany scientists – global warming, what will they think of next! – have been harping on about this for a while, but now, thankfully, we have it from a much more reliable source: the luxury fashion industry.
Peering into the near future, the designers at the Paris and Milan menswear shows imagined a range of superheated environments populated with intrepid explorers, messengers and itinerant soldiers. While sweltering audience members fanned themselves with their invitations and bitched about the overwhelming absence of, ahem, free bottled water, the looks breezing down the runways seemed loose, cool and easy; perfect gear for braving long, sweaty summers.
Many collections reflected sun-drenched landscapes, with bleached colours and exotic prints. At Issey Miyake, Dai Fujiwara looked to Turkey for his mosaic-style appliqué blazers and geometric textiles, while Dries Van Noten impressed with clashing patterns and quirky silhouettes, conceived as a face-off between Tokyo and Calcutta. John Galliano's seasonal muse, Napoleon, was imagined striding through southern Spain and Egypt, while in Milan, Versace gave us Foreign Legionnaires (improbable weapon of choice: dinky clutch bag) and the tanned cowboys at D&G looked nicely roasted in distressed denim ensembles.
At Givenchy, Riccardo "obsessed with Morocco" Tisci showed a collection modelled by street-cast boys that had something for everyone, from the super-dressy all-white suits to the punky star-studded tartan trousers and top-to-toe, slightly Roman prints. As in last spring's collection, Tisci pushed the shorts and leggings look, and this season it made more sense than ever before, teamed as it was with severely pimp gladiator sandals; a recurring trend for spring 2010.
White place, white time
Naturally, in the face of all this hot weather, designers were fielding a lot of bright, reflective whites. Raf Simons at Jil Sander was the main contender here, showing a number of all white ensembles that seemed sterilised and hospital clean, a look that was emphasised by surgeon-like, thigh-length coats and uniform bowl haircuts. The Gucci menswear collection explored a different side of the shade, featuring a series of flashy, yacht-tastic white suits with matching loafers, set off by loud flashes of colour and bold power dressing prints. Bruno Pieters at Hugo Boss played similarly, with white as a statement colour, using it in blocks to contrast bright reds and pale blues, and in monochrome ensembles that looked wonderfully angular and futuristic, particularly in the cropped jackets with polygonal hemlines. Fresh, light whites were also a mainstay of collections from Ann Demeulemeester – who dressed her models in billowing white dressing gowns – and Junya Watanabe, whose show ended with a parade of natty dandies in white shirts, matching shorts and contrasting patterned scarves.
See through it all
Sometimes, however, it seemed that even white wasn't light enough. This is where sheers came in. Some were more obvious, like the filmy rainproof trousers and parkas in Thom Browne's collection for Moncler Gamme Bleu, or the layers of perforated suiting and knitwear at Prada, which undermined the masculine sobriety of the grey suits on offer.
Kris Van Assche's collection for Dior Homme, one of his best to date, incorporated translucent linen mix jackets and high-sheen, thin outerwear in a palette that was very soft for Dior. The slightly tapered trousers and semi opaque layers made for a collection which suggested there is elegance beyond Dior Homme's past of androgynous teens and stick-figure volumes. Good news for crotches everywhere.
On the subject of volume, there's room for growth next spring. Though bagginess has had its day and bootcut remains a dirty word (it's all about a smartly tapered ankle this season), there was an overwhelming feeling of roominess to the men's collections. Missoni set the agenda in Milan with oversized knits, rolled up pleated trousers and voluminous outerwear with a humble slope to the shoulders, suggesting a luxury that was unfussy, languorous and comfortable.
Similarly at Hermès, knits (in navy, white and apple green) were wide-necked and oversized while the simple leather trench coat was cut straight for a slouchy silhouette. Dolce & Gabbana also showed some big knits, including that staple of every man's wardrobe, the sparkly dressing gown. But the real king of the swingers was Stefano Pilati at Yves Saint Laurent, whose collection of louche, romantic silhouettes was once again among the highlights of the season. Following a film, directed by Samuel Benchetrit, in which a young boy rifled through the far-too-big wardrobe of a mysterious hotel guest, models emerged in knee-length cardigans, draped, wide lapelled coats, zip up capes and wide leg trousers, with every item cut to move and billow enticingly.
A casual, worn-out brand of luxury was created on many other runways through distressed and crumpled fabrics. Miharayasuhiro, whose collection was inspired by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's Le Petit Prince, imagined clothes weathered by days spent in the desert, with wrinkled fabrics for outerwear and tees puckered with holes. This contrasted nicely with the cosmological references of the collection – bright, sparkly shirts and knits that were inspired by space travel and iridescent stars. Wrinkles were also evident in the dark suiting fabrics at Burberry Prorsum, the rippling linen jackets and denims at Issey Miyake and washed leather jackets at Yamamoto and Pringle. Alexander McQueen showed clothes trashed by splotches of paint, particularly provocatively on a pair of trousers stained with handprints on the fly.
Even Margaret Howell, usually impervious to trends, got in on the worn-out action, with a luxurious silk and linen fabric that came pre-bobbled on tailoring, and on drawstring trousers, a deep overdyed blue which was designed to bleach and age with wear. At the spectacular Kenzo show (which ended with cascading streams of sand falling from above the runway), Antonio Marras showed whole suits in a lovely creased pale-blue linen, inspired by 19th-century explorer Pierre de Braza. The chunky knits and washed-out denims here also had a worn quality, and Kenzo's trademark floral prints seemed to have grown wild and unruly, scribbled messily across trousers, blazers and outerwear.
Shoulders of giants
There has been a focus on the shoulders in recent womenswear collections, and it looks like menswear is to follow suit. Yohji Yamamoto fielded some enormous shoulder pads in his collection, which with its oversized silhouettes, beautifully tactile materials and subtle contrasting facings, was a soft, attractively-straightforward take on classic Yamamoto ideas. The supremely relaxed Cerutti collection brought shoulder seams down along the arm for a rounded silhouette, while the menswear at Balenciaga continued to play with curved shapes from the couture house's archives. Paul Helber's collection for Louis Vuitton (which he described as "an active, dynamic silhouette ... elegant but roughened up a bit") riffed ingeniously on shoulder decoration, with sporty zip up boleros and protruding shoulder attachments on bomber jackets, all in a refreshingly fluorescent palette (bright orange and yellow with metallic and oil slick textures) inspired by the bike couriers of New York City. The best of the (rather nice) bags also hung from the shoulders here – colossal leather rucksacks with nifty straps at the bottom to secure LV monogram beach towels.
Meanwhile, the shoulders at Lanvin were huge and puffy, emphasised by trenches and shirts styled with sleeves rolled above the elbow and a tightly-cinched waist. This last show in particular exceeded the highest of expectations, featuring a quick-fire double walkout of models and a seemingly endless stream of unique, moody ideas for spring. "It's a collection for men who love to dress and love to be dressed," said Lanvin menswear designer Lucas Ossendrijver backstage, and the collection gives Lanvin's customers numerous options, from sleeveless black suits to striped and checked trousers, and sporty accessories.
And now for the trends to send a shiver down your spine. As is customary at the menswear shows, we saw a few "experiments with gender". Naturally Rei Kawakubo's contrary Comme des Garçons label continued pressing pleated skirts, while Gaultier and Yves Saint Laurent nonchalantly whipped out moob tubes. Romain Kremer, Qasimi and John Galliano all had fun with crop tops, but the perverse star of this season has to be Bernhard Willhelm, who made a welcome return to Paris with his cutaway lycra playsuits, man bras and flesh-coloured shorts.