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30 November 2023

Menswear: what will make it from catwalk to sidewalk?

British fashion designer Paul Smith (C) is applauded at the end of his men's Fall-Winter 2012/2013 ready-to-wear collection show in Paris. Lashings of leather, slinky knits, bomber jackets and iPad cases were hot trends on the Paris runways - and ones likely to make it into men's wardrobes next autumn, buyers said as the menswear shows wrapped up. (AFP)


Lashings of leather, slinky knits, bomber jackets and iPad cases were hot trends on the Paris runways - and ones likely to make it into men's wardrobes next autumn, buyers said as the menswear shows wrapped up Sunday.

During nearly 10 days of shows ending with a rich-hued 1970s-inspired look from Lanvin and a sexy sailor line from Paul Smith, the world's fashion buyers have been criss-crossing Milan and Paris scouting styles for next season.

Shawn Pean of the US luxury retailer Saks Fifth Avenue buys from half a dozen top Paris names - including Dior, Kenzo, Lanvin and Givenchy - selecting catwalk pieces based on "our customers' needs, esthetics and functionality".

"Men are creatures of habit, whereas women are creatures of fashion," said Pean, explaining that his choices need to cater to the more conventional male mid-market as well as the fashion pioneers.

"But things that complete the lifestyle are becoming more and more important in the men's market, whether that's a coat or an iPad case."

"Certain items are easy to pick out," he told AFP. "Bomber jackets have been trending this past six months, and there is the whole military thing, with cargo pockets on trousers."

Dior was the latest house to mine the military theme on Saturday, sending out a slick army in slim-cut forest green suits and visor caps.

Pean said the collection's "clean esthetic" would translate easily from runway to store. Likewise a silhouetted bird motif adorning coats and jackets.

From his time in Milan, he said Prada's "rich, regal burgundies and purples were "spot-on" and would "probably translate as a colour story."

Tartan plaid and checks - which popped up most strikingly in curvy, destructured patterns at Issey Mikaye - were a sure bet for next season too, he predicted.

By the standards of your regular man's wardrobe, this week saw some pretty bold propositions, from pumped-up, futuristic supermen at Mugler, to ninjas clad in diving suit neoprene at the South Korean Juun J.

"I try to find a way of buying a collection that represents what the designer is trying to express, but that will also appeal to an average customer," said Ivan Donovan of the London-based Joseph, which runs some 30 multi-brand designer fashion stores as well as selling its own clothing range.

"Do you know anyone who wears neoprene?" he asked. "I like men to experiment but I don't want them to look ridiculous."

Like many buyers, Donovan will be seeing the collections of Dior, Lanvin et al up close over the next week at private showroom appointments.

But with ever higher pressure to get clothes early on to racks, much of Joseph's autumn selection was ordered months ago, from what are known as pre-collections, where stores buy their "wearable looks" which they top up with "show pieces" from the runways.

So far Donovan has stocked up on "luxurious unstructured cashmere jackets from Yves Saint Laurent," on cashmere knitwear in "strong but not hard colours," like brick red or sapphire blue, and separates - ie jackets and pants that don't necessarily match.

Of the runway trends likely to do well, he picked out "soft checks and tartan," and lots of mixed materials.

Mixed-material creations were all over the runways, including on Sunday in the puffer-jacket-wool-coat hybrids at Lanvin, and at Paul Smith with ship's captain style overcoats with a leather panel across the shoulders.

Strong, ultra-masculine shoulders were a clear trend on the Paris catwalks - bulked out on outerwear from Mugler to Rick Owens and Lanvin.

Leather - a male wardrobe staple - was everywhere, most strikingly in head-to-toe details at Yves Saint Laurent, and at Hermes in full tailored suits in buttery leather.

But in other ways men's fashion "is moving towards something much more feminine" argued Armand Hadida, founder of the L'Eclaireur concept stores, whose high-fashion flagship is on the Champs Elysees.

The shift, he said, was visible in more sophisticated fabrics, graphic knits, the use of panels of contrasting colours and textures, or in the details that define a man's wardrobe like a rounded collar on a suit jacket.