This article first appeared on Harper's Bazaar Singapore's website.
Harper's Bazaar Singapore is the leading fashion glossy on the best of style, beauty, design, travel and the arts. Go to harpersbazaar.com.sg and follow @harpersbazaarsg on Instagram; harpersbazaarsingapore on Facebook. The February 2021 issue is out on newsstands now.
SINGAPORE - Compared with last season's experimental mood, the recent men's fashion weeks in Milan and Paris had a stronger sense of assuredness, indicating that designers have honed their understanding of what is expected of fashion at this moment in time and how best to communicate that message.
After last year's ingenious Show In A Box and Show On The Wall, Jonathan Anderson continues pushing the boundaries of how to keep the fashion dream alive and tangible in this era of diminished physical connections.
For his latest Loewe menswear presentation, he settled on two different formats.
First, there was the Show In A Book, a 200-page hardbound volume dedicated to the works of Joe Brainard, the writer and artist who helped define New York's queer scene in the 60s and 70s.
It will be released as a standalone volume when the collection hits stores in June, with all proceeds going to Visual Aids, a New York-based organisation that uses art to fight Aids. Inside the book, Anderson has compiled Brainard's rarely seen comics, graphics and collages.
The collages, in particular, became Anderson's starting point for the collection.
The clothes were cut up, rearranged, piled up and juxtaposed in different combinations; sheets of Brainard's art were printed or pasted on jacket lapels and shirts.
The collection was also a collage of subcultural codes - in the mix were grungy sweaters, punk bondage leathers and mod duffle coats. The silhouettes veered towards the supersized and elongated as Anderson kits out his men to take up space.
Bound together with the Show In A Book was a cardboard box containing the Show On A Shirt, showcasing the brand's Eye/Loewe/Nature collection printed on an oversized white tee.
It is the first time Anderson is presenting the capsule along with the main runway line -
all the better to highlight the different facets of the Loewe man. The outdoors-oriented collection mixes elements of vintage, military and performance gear with a bigger focus on upcycled and repurposed materials.
Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons' first show last September rewrote and redefined the Prada uniform for women.
They sought to do the same for men with this debut Prada men's collection, stripping things down to the basis of what makes the brand and designers who they are.
The most prominent Prada fingerprint lay in the triangle emblazoned across the back of every look, occasionally and cleverly transformed into a nylon zip pouch.
Simons' touch was evident in the styling and silhouettes - ultra-skinny tailoring and knits; lean tops worn with loose, low-slung trousers; boxy coats with body-hugging trousers; and sleeves hitched high and layered over bodysuits.
On the other hand, the ugly-chic prints spoke of Prada's iconography - as did the oversized buttons and contrast lapels.
The off-kilter colour play has also been a signature of both designers in their decades-long careers.
What they both felt strongly about this season was a desire to explore tactility and physicality. This came through clearly in the bodysuits and long johns that riffed on the concept of "reveal and conceal", the skintight forms in service of the former and their full coverage playing up the latter.
With Kim Jones' upcoming role at the helm of Fendi womenswear, Silvia Venturini Fendi is back to designing menswear after last season's solo co-ed outing.
For her latest collection, she posed the question: "What is normal today?" The clothes seemed to propose that it looks like the normal of before, but with major concessions to comfort and familiarity, twisted with subtle subversion. These twists were in the way shapes were let out into roomier proportions and elongated lines that evoked boyishness; in little slashes cut into jackets and trousers; and in the contrast pipings, seamings and revers.
These touches lent zing to an otherwise classic, straightforward collection composed mostly of dependable wardrobe heroes in a neutral palette that was occasionally broken by pops of bright colours and a scrawling print that brought to mind neon lights.
The cosiness underpinning Venturini Fendi's spring and summer collection continued here, adapted for autumn. This resulted in ribbed knits, puffy down coats, quilted separates and - fittingly for Fendi - gorgeous shearling and fur pieces. Almost every look was accessorised with a bag, whether toted purposefully in the hand or worn nonchalantly around the neck.
In Virgil Abloh's most accomplished, ambitious collection for Louis Vuitton since he took over the reins at its menswear division, he sought to break down and dissect the archetypes of the male uniform.
Riffing on stereotypes - the Artist, Writer, Drifter, Salesman and Gallery Owner - Abloh explored the codes society has imbued in attire and pondered how these can be shifted, adapted and moved forward. His show notes summed it up as an experiment in how to "keep the codes, but change the values".
The results of this experiment were presented in an equally lofty manner: a cinematic three-act film that was more multi-disciplinary performance art than standard fashion show. Dance, skating, staged tableaus and spoken-word poetry accompanied the clothes.
The clothes were some of Abloh's most elegant yet.
He alternated between slim tailoring and a slouchier silhouette, often topped by statement outerwear - the billowing floor-length coats were particularly alluring.
Rounding out the collection were text prints created by conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner, multiple takes on Louis Vuitton's travel bags, giant blooms that continued last season's supersized soft-toy story and wide-brimmed hats that, when worn over headscarves, evoked the Buffalo look.
Veronique Nichanian again delivered a collection that, while true to the Hermes DNA of quiet luxury, also addressed the way men want to dress in this new normal.
She played with the ideas of the inside versus the outside, the formal against the informal. Soft tailoring, elevated workwear and luxe sportswear were all cut with the ease of loungewear, grounded by glossy leather boots or colourful sneakers. Pockets were turned into a graphic detail, twisted and placed askew, their outlines picked out in saddlery stitching.
The fabrications continued the interplay of opposites. Technical fabrics such as water-repellent cotton, canvas and gabardine appeared alongside rich, tactile materials such as double wool, cashmere, tweed and leather cut from deerskin, lambskin, baby lamb and calfskin.
The way Nichanian clashed colours was also subtle but impactful, using shades with delectable names such as cumin, glycin, absinthe, frost blue and liquorice.
Equally impactful was how the clothes were presented. Nichanian reunited with French director Cyril Teste for more choreographed spontaneity that drove home the collection's nonchalant spirit.
Models wandered up, down, outside and around the Mobilier National in Paris - some huddled chatting in groups, some leaning against walls. Cameras wandered with them, zooming in to focus on details or out to present the full tableaus. The film's meandering quality captured the energy of a fashion show and the way a physical attendee would take it all in.