Let's hear it for the boys

Designers veer between conservatism and courage for next season

How long is an epoch, in fashion terms, given that everything changes every six months?

That may not be entirely clear in this fast-paced, innovation-obsessed industry, but it feels like we're currently in the middle of a distinct era – what we might call the age of uncertainty. There's been shake-ups at many big houses in the past year, with Hedi Slimane showing his first collections for the newly-renamed Saint Laurent, Raf Simons being replaced at Jil Sander with the brand's namesake, a new CEO at Fendi, a temporarily empty seat at Balenciaga (where Alexander Wang will report for duty next season) and a mildly confusing chop-and-change of show schedules, which, this season, saw Kenzo at Pitti in Florence and McQueen coming home to London.

So much change, and in a relentless period of recession where designers don't seem entirely sure whether they're better to go for blog posts and bag sales, palatable clobber for the masses or gut-wrenchingly extravagant status-wear for the super-rich. The result of all this, in the men's shows for autumn/winter 2013, was a season that veered between conservatism and outrageousness, self-conscious consolidation and damn-it-all flights of scuzzy fantasy.