Menswear Round-Up: Milan & Paris AW14

  • Port’s fashion features editor, David Hellqvist, on the European men’s shows and what collections stood out

    The menswear season is a journey, both from a sartorial and geographical point of view. Hundreds of shows in three countries showcase the best men’s fashion out there, offering niche as well as mainstream brands. London kicked off the AW14 season with youthful energy, Milan continued with sophisticated elegance and Paris closed the trip with a never-ending mixture of storied Houses and avant-garde conceptualism.

    In many ways Stefano Pilati and Ermenegildo Zegna sum up Milan. Extremely formal and elegant, Pilati has labelled his work ‘couture’. And it’s true, few countries can pride themselves on such fine fabrics and craftsmanship. For AW14, maybe as a consequence, Ermenegildo Zegna – like Marni, Missoni, Jil Sander and Calvin Klein Collection – seemed more product-focused (think thick Vicuna coats) than hung up on mind-boggling concepts. Others, like Prada, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana, had all very clear themes. “Yes, two aesthetic strands dominated Milan: the all-inclusive collections that catered to multiple lifestyle situations, and the brands who showed specific and strong themes with very particular visions, which is much more inspirational,” reflects David St John-James, Port Magazine’s fashion director.CALVIN-KLEIN-AW14-JL

    Calvin Klein, illustration Jason Lear

  • D&G illustration Jason Lear
    Above: Dolce & Gabbana, illustration Jason Lear

    Prada, even if it’s an off-season, is brilliant – the true highlight of the show schedule. For AW14, Miuccia presented imaginative actors from an alternative theatre; bohemian artists dressed to the nines. As last season, the show also featured womenswear. Actually, for AW14, this was a bit of a sub-trend. Other designers featuring girls on the catwalk included Matthew Miller, Moncler, Carven, Haider Ackermann and Givenchy. Dolce & Gabbana continued their Sicilian theme but with more of a medieval royal slant – manifested by models wearing golden crowns. Gucci, moving on from their high-tech sportswear spell last season, found the perfect balance away from their luxe 70s obsession and settled on a sharp, coherent and beautiful Mods-inspired look.

    But it wasn’t just in Milan where the artisanal qualities of Haute Couture made a mark. In Paris, the first ‘big’ show came courtesy of Valentino. Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli has constantly expanded their signature aesthetic since 2008. Mixing street staples, like trainers and camouflage, with extreme elegance, they’ve managed to dominate that play field. Bruce Pask, Men’s Director at New York Times and T Magazine, agrees: “Paris is both simplified and purified, as well as luxurious. Brands like AMI, APC and Officine Générale are high-design but mid-range prices… it’s a lot more relevant to me than that persistent heritage trend. But Houses like Valentino actually do Couture; in their Paris and Rome stores you can have those double-faced cashmere coats made especially for you.”

  • Issey Miyake (no photo credit)
    Pask’s point about a new mid-range market is valid. Paris attracted a wide range of brands for AW14, not all of them ancient and reinvigorated catwalk Houses. There’s been a recent influx of contemporary streetwear brands in town for the shows, most notably Visvim, Overall Master Cloth, Pigalle, Hood By Air and new brand Off-White. Still, it’s important that those presentations are, quite literally, side shows. Paris, in its truest essence, belong to high-octane and ultra-luxurious fashion. This is where the Japanese master trio of Kawakubo, Miyake and Yamamoto show. This is where Ann Demulemeester, Rick Owens, Damir Doma present their tribal fashion. This is where Kim Jones and Louis Vuitton rule.Many shows stood out but to Bruce Pask, but especially fellow American Thom Browne. “It was weird but wearable. His stuff is always provocative but those tweed suits and the raw shirt edges were great. I also liked AMI – it was a charming presentation, utterly wearable. If only more men dressed like that!” On another note there were two reasons to like the Raf Simons show. A) his collaboration with Ruby Sterling and B) his return to an aesthetic resembling his punk past with slogans and messy colours combos. Raf managed to reference himself while still looking ahead.

    Above: Issey Miyake AW14. Click to listen to the soundtrack

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  • Dries Van Noten created colour-coded gangs, at least for the finale. In the gritty basement of the Grand Palais he showed intricate details and an interesting colour palette, making the collection next to irresistible.

    Meanwhile Rei Kawakubo opted for a super-niche look, showing black hair pieces with a tight wardrobe of mostly black causal tailoring. To be let into her universe of “beautiful chaos” twice a year is a treat.

    Dior Homme head honcho Kris Van Assche has steadily grown into his role and improved his vision for the brand since he took over in 2007. For AW14 he managed to mix traditional pinstriped tailoring with denim pieces and army-inspired khaki garments. The mixture, at least in the first half of the show, made for an interesting watch as Van Assche pushed the Dior Homme style forward while staying true to its sartorial legacy.