What's next for men's fashion?

Paul McLauchlan on what to expect from a resilient fashion industry  
What's next for men's fashion?
The great outdoors - Robyn Lynch spring_summer 2021 collection

It’s a difficult time to talk about fashion. The Irish economy is expected to contract by 8.5% in 2020 with early estimations of 6.25% growth in 2021 in the aftermath of the health crisis. 

Will people be motivated to spend money on clothes as discretionary income decreases? Probably not. But inspiration is abundant.

Fashion is a resilient force. The recent spring/summer 2021 collections proved that as an industry, it likes to keep face: the recent online fashion shows that took place at digital versions of fashion week in London, Paris and Milan were as much a testament to boundless creativity in times of crisis as they were about individual brands flexing that they’re capable of pushing forward. 

The shows came in the form of infomercials, music videos, interviews, documentaries, visual galleries, and many more oft-confusing iterations of physical and digital worlds.

Here’s what you need to know about what you might wear in the next 12 months.

Zoom-friendly clothes

The workplace of the future is likely in your house. At least for another 12 months. The clothes one wears will reflect how they see themselves in the workplace even if it's through a webcam for now.

Hermès is a storied French brand and it delivered one of the most convincing answers to what Zoom-friendly fashion truly is. The clothes are made from the finest, most expensive fabrics. Deer and calfskin are engineered to have a weightlessness about them. To your colleagues, viewing you through a webcam, it might just be a blue shirt but it can be so much more. Crisp cotton poplin in sky blue, a ribbed pistachio sweater, loose pants in the grey of a murky Parisian sky. There’s something seductive about a luxury product that’s so quietly luxurious. A tacit relationship between you and your clothes.

Zoom-friendly dressing - Officine Generale spring_summer 2021
Zoom-friendly dressing - Officine Generale spring_summer 2021

Officine Générale’s Pierre Mahéo wants to simplify your life. His clothes serve men who reach into their wardrobes for uncomplicated assistance (loose chinos and relaxed button-down shirts. Jackets and blazers are optional. Maheo had some in grey and tan, one in cobalt). Simple clothes that act as a backdrop to a busy life.

Miuccia Prada, the designer, said the function of a fashion designer in these trying times is “to create beautiful, intelligent clothes.” 

She wants her clothes to be “an antidote to useless complication”. A crisp white shirt and a black tie tucked into grey sweatpants is as appropriate as it comes: outwardly professional from the waist up, comfort-driven from the waist down. Other highlights included tailored tracksuits in fine wools and sharp three-button blazers.

Dean Cook, Head of Menswear Buying at Browns in London, finds that customers will want a reliable, useful wardrobe in the months ahead.

“There are definitely more timeless products [for spring/summer 2021]. I feel customers will want balance; there are so many options across categories but having spent many months at home I believe there will be a lure to classic pieces that will live in your wardrobe for a long time,” said Cook.

A return to the great outdoors 

Despite the hyperconnectivity during the pandemic, the period cemented that physical experiences are irreplaceable with digital ones. Houseparty, the app, can never compete with a house party. Enjoying languorous shots of the West of Ireland in Normal People is no match for experiencing the locations IRL.

Phipps, designed by Spencer Phipps, showed their new collection as a trailer for a Spaghetti-Western. The clothes resembled a “neo-cowboy”: think checkered tailoring, eyeleted workwear, and silk pyjamas, fringed jackets, wide-leg trousers and board shorts. 

The great outdoors - Phipps spring_summer 2021 collection
The great outdoors - Phipps spring_summer 2021 collection

The clothes embodied the ethos of “prioritising comfort for the great outdoors and the great indoors alike.” While Western backdrop added a layer of humour to the clothes, individually they looked like something you’d yearn to walk down the street to, wear to the pub, maybe even on a hike.

Reese Cooper immersed himself in nature with clothes that directly responded to surroundings of his native California. The camouflage prints used in the collection denote the foliage and rocks found along the banks of Lake Piru and neighbouring streams. Alongside technical outerwear, he had patchworked denim and utility vests that are emblematic of post-pandemic pragmatism.

The Irish designer Robyn Lynch worked with cycling brand Rapha to fuse her signature knitwear with sportswear. In one look, she spliced together windproof jackets and surplus knit fabrics to fashion zip-knit technical sweater.

The great outdoors - Gucci pre-spring_summer 2021
The great outdoors - Gucci pre-spring_summer 2021

Something new to think about 

While some designers concern themselves with how they can immediately impact men’s wardrobes, others are ruminating about where men’s fashion will head next. Jonathan Anderson is an expert at this.

JW Anderson offered a directional take, a mix of utility, protection, couture grandeur, excess and decadence. Volumes were blown up to heightened sense of architecture. Mackintoshes are deconstructed and spliced together to make a new coat-cape hybrid. Jolly patterns are used in structured coats that evoke a 19th-century grandeur, a frivolous respite to trouble times.

Something to think about - Kiko Kostadinov spring_summer 2021
Something to think about - Kiko Kostadinov spring_summer 2021

Loewe, also designed by Anderson, is connected with the analogue notion of the artisan and craftsmanship. There was the Japanese dyeing technique Shibori, basket-weaving, and hand-knitting. He worked with elevated proportions that envelop the body in cosy yet practical layers. Every aspect is about the human.

Anderson was thinking about how men in the aftermath of World War II turned to needlepoint as a therapeutic process, redolent of how many turned to baking and knitting during the recent lockdown. One sweater is a tapestry of sorts: a Paul Cadmus painting of a young man holding a mobile made of objects from the beach. Anderson was drawn to its fragility.

In a video that accompanied the release of the collection, Anderson said, “it is always nice to explore within clothing vulnerability because I think it is an emotional connection within clothing, which I think is probably what we need more of.”

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