Menswear to Stand Tall To: Raf, Hermès, Damir Doma, Lanvin

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Published June 27, 2011

Raf Simons has said if he could launch a second career, it would be as an architect. So it’s natural for him to choose contemporary design sites for his shows. This time, he returned to Le Centorial, a stately stone former bank that has been completely gutted and rebuilt with a vast glass-and-steel atrium and an old cupola designed by Gustave Eiffel. It’s the same platform Simons picked a year ago for his 15th-anniversary show. This time he took to the escalators for a precise lineup of pastel overcoats, bias plaid shirts, and skinny, sleeveless sweaters, featuring an assembly line of boys with identical lacquered hair.

Simons is a task master—his shapes stand at attention. One surprise was the light pastel pink, sky blue, and butter yellow he chose for precisely architectured, A-line topcoats. He also did some truly amazing work with plaids and checks, cut on the bias, and patchworked, like a kaleidoscopic crazy quilt, for tailored jackets with matching coats. Injections of bold turquoise, orange, and red in sleeveless leather scoop-neck tops, cropped to the waist, over narrow black pants, are outstanding—but unforgiving. Gym work is advised before entering the fitting room.

Hermès menswear designer Veronique Nichanian doesn’t do tricky. Using only the finest skins and fabrics with perfect construction, she distills the current vibe until it looks and feels effortless. This season she’s kicking back in baggy cotton PJ stripe pants and piped tops worn with a light, linen double-breasted suit jacket, and monk’s sandals. And Nichanian has a thing for turtlenecks, some with cap sleeves, paired with short shorts.

Damir Doma is the star of the flowing-robes school of contemporary menswear. It’s a look he’s refined for years with the help of stylist Samuel Drira, who produces the magazine Encens. Doma’s impeccable “Into Rooms of Light” show set in the hallowed halls of Paris’s Faculté de Pharmacie beside the Luxembourg gardens, was, he says, a nod to William Klein’s 1950s photos of gritty Roman street scenes featuring a collision of the past and contemporary bustle. But what really stood out in this collection were torso harnesses made from thick straps of grosgrain silk, like a new kind of body jewelry, peaking through featherweight voile tunics.

With Alber Elbaz and Lucas Ossendrijver at the helm, it seems Lanvin can do no wrong. Sunday’s spring show drew raves. The look has toughened up quite a bit. Scoop neck leather tunic jackets with cap sleeves and zips looked like chic punks, and the new three-piece suit is a tunic over boxy shorts and a jacket, all in putty. The total look continued with matching silky parkas and pants, and silky shirts with draped necklines matched with pleat front trousers. By the end of the show, the guys went hippie with big bead necklaces, tie dye leggings and ethnic pattern pants.