It’s just the beginning of 2019, and we’re already talking about a fashion week. While men’s London fashion week simply seemed to be there, somewhere in the background – with such exceptions as Charles Jeffrey Loverboy’s phenomenal spectacle – the new season takes a more interesting path in Italy, in Florence specifically. Pitti Uomo invited Y/Project, the Paris-based label nailing modern-day nonchalance, to present its collection in Tuscany’s magical capital. Glenn Martens took his guests to the Cloister Grade of Santa Maria Novella, and the result was… fire. Indeed, Martens mastered his distinct touches, like distorted proportions, too-short-here-too-long-there volumes and texture clashes to a perfection of its kind, and we know it looking at his previous collections. But the autumn-winter 2019 outing for guys (and pre-fall 2019 for women) goes darker than usual, even slightly dramatic I would say. And we’re not speaking about couture-ish embroideries and ball-gowns. No. But the way the designer tailors a trench-coat, shapes a velvet jacket or elongates a chunky knit is extremely vivid. Those garments leave and breathe! And Glenn evidently experiments with that feeling of clothes in motion. I also loved how Martens injected this flea-market edginess to his new season offering: (faux) fur stoles and floor-sweeping coats looked like stolen from your grandma, while hand-picked Persian rugs were worn as belts and scarves. The vocabulary of Y/Project grows, but you’re well aware that it’s the same soul. Whether it’s in a off-beat, Parisian location or in one of Florence’s most exquisite churches.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
It’s the first time in a while, when Pitti Uomo feels exciting. This season, the fashion editors and buyers have seen Gosha Rubchinskiy take on Italian culture; the same day, Raf Simons presented one of his most defining collections in his career. The standing fashion show for spring-summer 2017 was a special occasion – it was a nod to Robert Mapplethorpe, a controvertial American, who was known for his unconventional black-and-white photography. During his lifetime, the photographer shot such extraordinary characters as Patti Smith or Andy Warhol, but also, he was famous for his highly BDSM polaroids, flower still-lives (often compared to erect phallus) and nudes of female wrestlers.
The photographer, who began the cult of erotic photography in the 70s, was the main, well-visible and fully acknowledged reference point for Raf this season. Rather than simply putting famous Mapplethorpe photographs as prints on tops, Simons challenged himself to make his inspiration something much more profound. “Every boy is a representation of a piece of work” – this is how the designer described the models, with dark, curly hair and skinny black pants. Some looked like the original characters taken out of Mapplethorpe’s polaroids, wearing leather biker caps and voluminous, white shirts. Oh yes, the shirts. The over-sized silhouettes reassembled white walls of a gallery, perfectly exposing these defiant and somewhat deviant visuals. Debbie Harry, with a stern face, looked at you from under a cropped V-neck sweater; a penis photo on a striped t-shirt wasn’t a surprise, keeping in mind Robert’s late obsessions. Wherever you turned, you could sense respect for the photographer, coming from Raf’s heart. The focus was on the clothes – the images weren’t shouting, leaving space for the pieces to speak for themselves. It’s not a one-season-only type of collaboration between an artist (specifically, Mapplethorpe Foundation) and a fashion designer. It’s a collection, where everything is about the rebellious attitude, with a very clear, labelled reference. Other designers should take a note from Simons on how to name their inspirations, in order not to become accidental copycats.