Garden Variety

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Published June 27, 2011

The men’s collections continued into the weekend in Paris, with military minimalism at YSL, a Buster Keaton mix-up at Comme des Garçons, Givenchy’s tropical paradise, and Junya Watanabe’s gardener.

It was minimalist force at Yves Saint Laurent, where Stefano Pilati took uniform colors (navy blue, khaki, and white) on a casual trip. The collection showed lots of skin—even a slim, tailored trench looked like there wasn’t much on underneath. Throughout were elements of military and dress tailoring: Gurkha shorts with matching blousons, trousers with cummerbund waists and a new jacket with a pair of patch flap pockets that curl around to meet at the back. Pajama-thin silk jackets mixed with cotton trousers and python loafers managed to be both opulent and spare. And the safari lace-up tunic was a nice nod to Yves.

Rei Kawakubo was up to her usual switcheroo ways at Comme des Garçons, fronting a coat with bias biker jacket zips and using silky tie patterns for tailored jackets and matching shorts. The guys looked like extras in a Buster Keaton slapstick, with spit curls and center parts. Before long, she had cut the sleeves off the jackets: an ideal way to show off the ruched, short-sleeved shirts underneath. And although she did indulge in a spate of total look bubblegum pink, her last word was in tattered black lace.

After last season’s Rottweilers, the anticipation leading up to the Givenchy show was understandable. From dogs we moved on to birds of paradise—the hothouse plant variety, not the beaks and feathers—through a kaleidoscope, brightly. Very brightly on blazing white and grass green, in loose T-shirts over short cotton kilts. Kilts, you ask? Yup, and there were a lot of sparkly sequins all over loose varsity jackets, too! Riccardo Tisci sure is having fun, and that in itself, is a precious commodity in fashion today. Not since Versace, when Gianni was designing, have we seen this kind of flash.

Which brings us to Junya Watanabe, who has discovered that true elegance is in the garden. Watanabe’s quietly powerful collection was an ode to overalls, which he produced over and over again in subtle variations with work shirts, wellies, and his own patched and faded takes on the multi-pocketed Barbour jacket. This was the gardner’s wardrobe in all it’s enduring glory. And in the midst of the menswear races, it was a gentle reminder that less is often more.