Raf Simons: Snake Charmer
Raf Simons is on an ascending curve. Word on the street is that he now wants to make elegant clothes for men with means, and boy he's not kidding. New this season is RSSR (Raf Simons Sterling Ruby) a select denim range covered with artfully bleached blotches handmade by Ruby, the Los Angeles-based artist who is primarily known as a sculptor. There's also an upscale collection of bespoke tailoring and for the first time, underwear. Raf also continues with two co-branding collections begun recently: polos for Fred Perry and footwear for Doc Martens.
But the real news for spring is the snakes slithering all over everything from snakehead brass belt buckles to slithering snake print canvas jeans. Even the white car shoes—and apparently he never liked them before now—feature a mass of dark leather snake coils which curl from the uppers to congregate on the sole.
Simons has always dreamed big and one of those dreams is to take tailoring to a new level. His latest method is to combine bespoke techniques, like hand stitched lapels, with technical construction, as in thin fabrics fused with polyurethane, for a stiff, standout shape. So even a sweatshirt, like his new one in raw edged, blush pink Japanese jersey, is bonded, giving it just enough stiffness to transform Clark Kent into Superman.
Rick Owens: Not an Ugly American
Rick Owens is smiling because, as he puts it, "I'm niche." What he means is that his brand is small and personal with less overhead than the luxury giants. Business is pretty good: He's opening a new shop in Japan in September and has a show the same month of his furniture designs at the gallery Sebastian + Barquet in London which features 40s to 60s French, Italian and American designers including Donald Judd, Charlotte Perriand, Jean Prouvé and Jean Royère.
This is Owens' second mens' runway show. "Menswear is now 25% of my business and I want to support it," says Owens who turned a negative into a positive to get his creative juices flowing for spring. "I was asked by Details magazine to give my 10 Rules of Style, and as soon as I'd done it I regretted pointing my finger at American tourists who over-accessorize and wear fanny bags, because I really don't believe in rules. To make up for it, I forced myself to work accessories into the collection." One of the results is an oversized black plexiglass cuff—he wears one on each arm—elegantly twisted like an Elsa Peretti sculpture. And although he's done denim before, this season he really went to work on it by masking off geometric shapes and garment washing to obtain various gradated shades of faded indigo. This necessitated five separate washings. "I drove the dye house crazy to do that, he says, "and I'm still wondering if it was worth it."
Walter Van Beirendonck: Wonde®
The casting for Walter's bear parade took several months, described the designer: "I asked for applications on my web site and hundreds came in. From these I selected 29, but I never saw them in person before the show. It was like a big, blind date." Van Beirendonck was his own muse this season and used his own 115-cm waist measurement as a guideline for his model selection. The casting brought in chunky, hairy-chested, cuddly types from all over Europe and the United States including, one who goes by the name of Baby Bear from Dublin. The chosen were proud to be involved, but admitted to having some pre-runway jitters. And they all chipped in for a post-show bouquet for Walter. This was a show about big, hairy bears in XL style and it was one of Van Beirendonck's best and coincidentally most wearable collections, full of shorts, fictitious logo T-shirts, tent-like parkas, suits in electric pastels and socks striped with evocative words in red on white like a cross stitch sampler. Beyond the bears there are other messages Van Beirendonck takes seriously: "Today we talk about Apples not computers, and the Sun is an English newspaper, not a ball in the sky. This show is also about how trademarks are dominating our world. I was influenced by a Dutch book I read called Catalogue of Strategies, which asks the question: 'how can these things be owned?' To illustrate his point Van Beirendonck designed a series of fake future logos for products that don't yet exist, from fur growth accelerator to supersonic sex.
John Galliano: Historical Layers
This has been a season of Arabian dressing and John Galliano caught the kitschy historical vibe in his rendering of Lawrence of Arabia as portrayed by Peter O'Toole. Galliano's O'Toole goes native in a mix of military jackets and blousy pants with the occasional souvenir T-shirt thrown in, and a great pair of boots covered with sandal straps. For most designers that would have been enough, but Galliano has more ideas than he knows what to do with. So he went to another film, Abel Gance's 1927 moody Napoleon. This was his way to show off black tailoring with a swagger. And for the beach: six packs airbrushed bronze and Speedos in an homage to the homoerotic images of Wilhelm von Gloeden, who had a thing for Sicilian boys in Greek poses at the turn of the century.
Tim Hamilton: First Steps
Tim Hamilton is going places. There's Paris for a start. The young American designer launched his women's collection here for fall 2009 last March and he returned to stage his first proper men's runway show. This was aclean-edged take on the season's major looks: shorts, minimalist lab style wrap coats, transparent parkas, lots of shiny nylon, tunic T-shirts, and jumpsuits.
Comme des Garçons: Lay It On
Start with a square, ample jacket, shirt or cardigan and lay on additional pieces of fabric and sweater knits, throw on the old tie, then appliqué it all in a happily random manner. Rei Kawakubo released her inner child this season for a colorful, abstract, arty collection she calls "random collage." The idea is lots of clothes accidentally placed on top of each other in a completely uncoordinated way. Why does an image of the floor of my daughter Jan's bedroom come to mind right now?
Junya Watanabe: Eccentric Gentleman
It's interesting to look at the commonalities between the Junya Watanabe Comme des Garçons Man collection and Comme des Garçons as designed by Rei Kawakubo. Both spice up spring with fabric patching—but while Kawakubo goes far out on a limb to construct pieces fit for a fashion rebel, Junya keeps the frame very classic and patches in a quietly subversive way for a natty gentleman who favors Mackintosh raincoats, brogues from Tricker's (Prince of Wales shoemaker) and silk print foulard scarves tucked into everything from formal shirts to T-shirts.
A devoted fan of traditional English and American menswear, Junya does blazers, in outerwear nylon instead of traditional cotton or linen. The colors are paint box bright and he might add bespoke style topstitching on the label and a corduroy collar. The result is an urban/sport hybrid with a cartoon flourish a bit like Tintin, the boy reporter character created by mid-century Belgian artist Hergé. The key piece this season is Watanabe's latest collaboration with Levi's for a photo print of a pair of jeans on cotton pants that are so realistic you have to touch them to know that the jeans styling, holes and rivets are just a print.