There have been signs all over fashion week this season that menswear has finally found its place in New York. The front rows at Public School, Siki Im, and Tim Coppens were more packed with editors and It-people than ever before, and there seemed to be consensus at streetwise brands like Highland and Rochambeau that it was time to raise the quality of their clothes to match their level of cool. The market is growing fast, and so are everyone’s shares.
Manhattan’s men’s designers still don’t have three or four days reserved to showcase their wares like they might in London or Milan, but for now, at least, they have one all to themselves under the aegis of MADE. “We know that the men’s market in particular has never had a clearly defined home,” says Jenné Lombardo, who curated the lineup for yesterday’s Men’s Day at Milk Studios. “This,” she wagers, “is our way of starting to take the initiative to define it.” On the schedule were Public School, Tim Coppens, Eckhaus Latta, Rochambeau, Pyer Moss, and Highland. We went backstage to talk to our favorites about their starting points for this season.
HIGHLANDLizzie Owens: This collection started with nostalgia for some of the eco movements in the ’80s—Greenpeace, The Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, Save the Whales—and just thinking about this Highland guy who’s sort of an earthy guy, but growing up a little bit and doing some good in the world. So this season is about him. As it evolved, a lot of the details came through thinking about climate change, because designing clothes, you can’t really help but think about weather patterns. Just think about the extremes we’ve had in the last days—it’s 55 degrees one day and then the next day you’re covered in snow. [laughs] So this season has a lot of layers that are interchangeable and work with one another, creating this very diverse way of wearing clothes for different extremes.
Cramer Tolboe: I think you can’t help but take your own personal evolution and put it into your process. That’s also what this collection is about. It’s a little bit more grown-up. We always like to have a nostalgic riff on cultural aspects of our youth, but this collection is a bit more serious, a bit more dressed up. We’re both in our 30s now, so I think that sophistication within our aesthetic is paramount now.
PUBLIC SCHOOLDao-Yi Chow: For us, it’s been this new idea of modernity. Restraint has been a strong theme continually for us, and we’re just building on the minimalism that we’ve already been building into Public School. This collection specifically was really looking at nuances and the idea of a trompe l’oeil—presenting something where you feel like you know what it is, but then it comes into the light, and you’re like, “Wait a second!”
Maxwell Osborne: The fabrics were really huge for us. It might have been a surprise for some because some of them were kind of bright. For us it always starts with the fabrics before the silhouettes, so for us to do womenswear this season was actually easier than we thought, maybe because the aesthetic and the idea were already there. It wasn’t like we were doing something we were totally unfamiliar with.
Chow: It’s been just a natural extension. It’s hasn’t felt forced. We sort of just flowed from the foundation that we built with men’s.
ECKHAUS LATTAZoe Latta: This is our fifth season. We’re both 26 and we started this when we were 23. It’s a really emotional and exhausting practice, these twice-a-year creative births that happen.
Mike Eckhaus: So this collection was sort of about finding private spaces.
Latta: Yeah, using the interiors fabrics, it became very internal. We usually try to avoid words for references—it’s more that we’ve developed a language where we can come at each other with ideas that are kind of ineffable. They don’t really have a verbal backing.
Eckhaus: It’s about starting with a reference, and then moving as far away from it as possible, in terms of how things materialize.
Latta: It’s more based in energies and emotions than one style reflecting an era of dress or anything. There’s a certain kind of fluidity between genders and races and shapes and ages that we prefer to see our clothing in, in the same way that we describe the fabrics or our process in terms of where inspiration is coming from—something that’s more based on an intuitive narrative that we find, rather than a norm.
TIM COPPENSTim Coppens: It’s about mountain climbing. And King Krule. [laughs] We used traditional fabrics, loden fabrics, and technical fabrics. There are very heavy wools, cashmeres, but then also nylons and other poly fabrics. But everything is really high-quality—even if it’s a nylon, it’s got to have a really nice touch. We wanted to give it a very modern feel just by the composition, the cuts and the volumes. It’s about mountaineering, so I think it should be wearable, but I don’t want to think too much about the practicality of the garment in the first place. That has to come later. First, it has to feel good.
ROCHAMBEAULaurence Chandler: Last season we played off the idea of sportswear and we wanted to carry that narrative through, but not in an athletic way, so that took us to looking at demolition derby. We loved the idea of the destruction involved in that, so a lot of the clothing has elements of padding and protective wear that a driver would wear. This season we worked with a lot of suedes, neoprenes, Italian wools, waxed cottons. It was our first season really focusing on knits, which I think turned out great. There’s a lot of great layering in the collection. We did something called a tire-tread knit where we tried to create tire marks on the knit itself. We were really happy with that.
Joshua Cooper: I think as a younger brand, we were always trying to create excitement or a shock piece, but now we’re finding ourselves somewhere between wanting to still do that and actually becoming a solidified brand. And this is a collection where we really felt like we thought that through.