New York designers occasionally feel safer than those from Europe. With numerous exceptions, the collections that come out of here just feel a little less “artsy,” for lack of a better term. I don’t know why that is. Maybe, that despite the city’s storied history with avant-garde expression, it is in many ways a jeans and t-shirts kind of city when it comes to the dudes.
There were quite a few collections that transcended that notion this week. Greg Lauren (nephew of Ralph) presented a massive and striking collection of vintage Americana deconstructed to tatters. Lauren, a former painter, seems to be aware of the fact that beauty can sometimes be constructed out of harsh and ugly beginnings. Russian designer Alexandre Plokhov (formerly of the Cloak label and current creative director of Helmut Lang) presented his first menswear collection in a few seasons and continued his goth, post-apocalyptic aesthetic, but surprised with some splashes of primary colors. Though the collection was nothing out of the ordinary for him, the clothes would certainly appeal to an out of the ordinary guy.
But, the clothes that I felt had the most personal identity and would even venture to wear largely came out of Capsule S/S 16: A Snapshot of Modern Menswear presentation. Seven upcoming labels from around the globe presented five looks per brand, and made the case that the most creativity in menswear design is being conceptualized outside of New York.
London-based designer Matthew Miller was probably the best known of all the labels showing at this presentation, and from my standpoint, easily the best. Having shown his collection at LCM since 2013, Miller is part of a young generation of mind-blowing menswear designers: JW Anderson, Craig Green, Nasir Mazhar, and more. On first glance, his clothes look like classic “cool guy standing on a street corner,” infused with a punk-inspired rebellious spirit. One standout piece was a leather moto jacket that read “Born to Fail” that was draped over a mega-distressed oversized navy tee-shirt. Most guys that are interested in post-punk and horror films would wear this stuff in a second. But when you look closer, there is a real poetry to the craft of what Miller does. The clothes are EXPERTLY made, and in five looks Miller tells a story. Miller is one of the most exciting young designers out there. This collection is actually available for purchase on his website.
Conceptualized by designers and partners Saif Bakir and Emma Hedlund, CMMN SWDN makes highly desirable, street-ready menswear. But the clothes are infused with a slightly leftfield and odd sensibility, with skinny trousers cropped far above Thom Browne’s notorious ankle exposure, and a crisp dress shirt freed of its sleeves and infused with an interesting neon print. The clothes are perfect for a guy looking to dress a little different, but not fully ready to bend his gender quite yet (don’t worry, I’m right there with you).
Bradley Soileau launched Blackfist as a fashion/art/music project out of Los Angeles last year. In only his second collection, Soileau looks like he’s onto something. He has said that his inspiration for these garments was the 1980s thrash metal scene in Los Angeles and also the Wes Craven film The Toxic Avenger, and you can see that in the models with cholo tattoos and the oversized cuts. But some of the slightly wild olive greens made me think of an army soldier tripping on acid to pass the time between combat. Soileau also introduced his take on Vans slip-ons, emblazoned with the collection’s message, “Hurts So Good.”
Italian designer Stefao Ughetti launched CAMO in 2007 to modernize menswear while paying homage to the traditional workshops in Italy. The look is sharp and minimal. Some pieces look like hospital scrubs elevated by silky and luxurious fabrics. CAMO wasn’t the most impressive lineup of garments that I saw, but its sneakers were fantastic. They look like a less detailed version of the “mocca-sneakers” created by Hiroki Nakamura for his brand Visvim, but much more sport-ready.
Baartmans and Siegel
The London-based design duo and graduates of the London College of Fashion, Wouter and Amber, have contributed talents to some major European fashion houses, but devised the Baartmans and Siegel label as a way to fabricate clothing using the most luxurious of fabrics while maintaining and utterly wearable appeal. Because of this, the design is only half the fact, and the label really makes its name on its materials. That being said, pieces like the niclas work shirt and the alton reversible car coat look like they would be spectacular to wear.
The influence of legendary Japanese conceptual designers like Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, and Rei Kawakubo can be felt around the world, and now specifically in Los Angeles in this decidedly radical looking collection from LA-based brand Second/Layer. Established by partners A. Franco, Joshua Willis, and Jacob Willis in 2012, Second/Layer filters the California avant-garde through a non-gender specific clothing line. People too often forget that Los Angeles is just as important to the history of art as New York or London (um, The Germs, Ed Ruscha, freaking Hollywood?) and Maiden Noir filters a meeting of high and low through a Californian lens. Models with Dogtown and Z Boys hair wore a mostly black and white collection that could fit in any wardrobe.
Adam Lehrer is a writer, journalist, and art and fashion critic based in New York City. On top of being Autre’s fashion and art correspondent, he is also a regular contributor to Forbes Magazine. His unique interests in punk, hip hop, skateboarding and subculture have given him a distinctive, discerning eye and voice in the world of culture, et al. Oh, and he also loves The Sopranos. Follow him on Instagram: @adam102287
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