Everyone's muscling in on the action

Suited men in bustles, superheroes and a dormitory of schoolboys were a ll vying for attention in Paris. Tamsin Blanchard reports
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
There was Batman and Robin, and the Joker too. At the menswear shows in Paris last week, we witnessed the battle of the superhero versus the wimp, the brain versus the brawn, the teacher versus the naughty schoolboy. All forms of man were there, from theman-god to the downright weedy. Unlike womenswear, men's clothes are not designed for an exclusive Tall and Skinny club. If you are male, it is okay to be middle-aged, over 50, imperfect, small, tall or chubby; it is acceptable to be a geek - unless, ofcourse, you are wearing Gaultier, in which case, you need a severely chiselled jaw, muscles of iron and a few extra sandwiches in your lunchbox.

For at Gaultier, we saw men dressing up for other men and the result was fabulously camp and glamorous, with all the sparkle, high heels and sex appeal usually reserved only for womenswear. As Vladimir, Marcus, Benja and friends were called out of their stables by Lola, our gorgeous blonde transvestite hostess, and paraded round the catwalk like wild beasts, the audience whooped and whistled. The models' hair was bouffed into high manes, Dynasty-style, and the beefy boys strutted along in their dandy suits with bustles poking saucily from behind.

Who said bustles and big hair are just for female fashion victims? Men can have fun with the dressing-up box too. And if the idea of wearing a huge silk bow on your bottom is too much to bear, take away the frills, skirts and handbags and you are left with sharply tailored manly suits that would cast few aspersions on your sexuality.

Of course, a jacket is a jacket, but what is important in menswear is the character inside that jacket. In Paris last week, we saw students and their teachers, techno heads, Forties football stars, clerics, spivs, pretty boys in baby pink, butch boys in baby pink, and superheroes in cartoon boots and wrinkle-free latex body stockings.

And then there was Mr Reality at Dublin-based designer John Rocha's first menswear collection to be shown in Paris. He wore unfussy narrow suits, easy knits and heavyduty nylon jackets. These were real clothes for real life, as were those by the Barcelonan designer Antonio Miro, whose unstructured, easy collection was not ageist or sizeist.

Nor was Dries Van Noten's show, for which we were bundled into a convoy of coaches for a school outing and driven across a rain-drenched Paris to a sports stadium on the outskirts of the city. Inside, it was back to the Forties and out on the sportsfieldwith models speed-walking around a running track in preppy clothes and old-fashioned football strips.

Van Noten's menswear sells: like his womenswear, there is something to suit everyone. His vision of menswear is sweet and innocent in mouth-watering, Opal Fruit colours.

Nostalgia for schooldays was a pervading theme: while football coaches mingled with college boys at Dries Van Noten, a lab-coated chemistry teacher put in an appearance at Dirk Bikkembergs (as did more football jerseys), and there was even a dorky-looking history teacher sighted at Paul Smith. At Comme des Garcons, we interrupted a midnight feast in the schoolboys' dorm, with boys in striped pyjamas and sweaters. And amid the men old enough to be those boys' fathers at Yohji Yamamoto, there was the school janitor in a navy-blue knitted all-in-one.

If you happen to be the size and shape of a heavyweight wrestler, however, there were clothes to suit you too. Walter Van Beirendonck - one of the three Belgian designers who gave us some of the week's strongest clothes - used Mexican wrestler imagery for his label, W.&L.T. (Wild and Lethal Trash). One hundred men (and some women) were zipped into brightly coloured graphic latex body suits which formed a canvas on which the collection was shown.

Steven Caton, buyer for Geese in Manchester, has already put in an £8,000 order for W.&L.T's summer range. "It's young, affordable, always humorous and will fly out of the shop," he says.

The show was larger-than-life with Power Rangers on steroids swaggering down the catwalk. These were not supermodels by any stretch of the imagination, but kinky superheroes, albeit sweaty ones. Projected on to the walls were slogans: "All bodies are perfect," cheered one, and "tell me, who stole your smile?" flashed another as a disco sequinned dazzler in matching wellies sauntered past. The late Leigh Bowery would have loved it.

Comments