Yohji Yamamoto sent in the clowns. Stovepipe hats towered over severe asymmetric jacket lapels. High waists accentuated sleeves that hung mid-thigh. There were magical details in shirt collars that billowed and swirled, tucked and bowed, and crushed-velvet jackets in dove and plum were appealing. But overall, it was reminiscent of Dr Seuss's The Cat in the Hat. The gender issue went untouched. No skirts.
On to Issey Miyake, where the Japanese wrap-and-pleater's protege, Naoki Takizawa, made a brief nod in the skirt direction with denim sarongs worn with T-shirts. But nothing more. Instead, a bold attempt to redefine the sportier, more functional side of menswear with innovative fabric treatments. In a collection refreshingly devoid of suits, Takizawa built on pleated taffeta bomber jackets, stretch corduroy pants and woollen jeans, topped off with leather bandanas.
Paul Smith emphasised the bloke - and blokes don't yet wear skirts. This time, our Paul was less style anglais, more celtic - bold tweeds clashing with garish shirts, tartan ties and ribbed tank tops. Smith has a talent for skirting the boundaries of bad taste while never quite overstepping them. Ooops, did I say skirting? Hush my mouth. Smith, who modelled a fleecy greatcoat in his own show, would never dream of such a thing.
Dries Van Noten made Oxford bags and fluid jackets staples of le style belge. The frock coat put in an appearance, ditto corduroy and tweed, knee-length cardigans and flowing scarves. Suits were well defined, with strong, sharp shapes in brave colour and fabric combinations, with bone needlecord and bronze mohair each making an appearance.
Eureka] Rei Kawakubo, she of Comme des Garons and all those boxy oversized suits of yore, showed a mannish skirt option, pleated like a kilt and worn over trousers. For the gentleman who prefers the longer length, here were butcher's aprons, too. Otherwise, the look was lumpy, frayed, uneven, twisted out of shape and matted; character clothes that appeared on the edge of disintegration, which fashion people will deem intriguing while everyone else is puzzled. Hers was a kind of idiot-savant look, at odds with the man-as-nerd option touted elsewhere.
The Gaultier man is no nerd these days. He's a Mongol barbarian, a fierce warrior with a beard, nose-ring and the tang of horsemanship. He might have been beamed up from Ulan Bator, tweaked by Jean Paul Gaultier's styling team and sent down the catwalk on wedge-soled platform sandals.
Only JPG could pull this trick off. Genghis Khan would have killed for a cardinal-red ankle-length tunic and rich navy waistcoat, while chocolate cords with ankle laces would get any cossack hot to trot. The only mistake was the fake leopardskin jeans. Fortunately this species is increasingly rare these days, even chez Gaultier.
Of course, really rich men like their cashmere cloth cut into trad trousers only. And that's what they got at Hermes, where Veronique Nichanian produced another collection of clean, warm, softly styled classics in bold colours and luxury fabrics. The effortless chic of Hermes makes it clear why wealthy men cleave to this label.
In an underground car-park, Dirk Bikkembergs, a Belgian, produced his tightest, most focused show yet. Asymmetrical knitwear managed to be both innovative and commercial, tailoring was suitably severe and authoritative, the colour palette of darks jolted up with purple was expressive. Here was studied modern elegance for Real Men. Here things were no fuss, butch, direct. Bikkembergs should please designer lads everywhere.
Alas, he didn't do skirts this time, but he should think about them. If anyone can sell skirts to men - and I'm buying - Dirk's our boy.
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