Men’s – Natural Allure. Brioni SS23

Norbert Stumpfl came across a mid-’50s newspaper with pictures of Brioni’s collections of that time: “They looked incredibly modern,” he said during his spring-summer 2023 presentation. ”They made tailored jackets out of jersey, trousers in leather, traditional masculine suits were made with sumptuous women’s evening wear fabrics.” This spirit of modernity is what he wanted to propose in the spring collection, presented in the verdant private cloisters in one of the hidden locations Milan is famous for. Expanding on the idea of individuality, Stumpfl offered an anecdote: “One of our young clients choose a pale pink suit to propose in,” he said. “It made me so happy, it felt so nice, and it was proof that Brioni is the go-to label to celebrate the most special and intimate moments.” The sentimental gesture of the young customer inspired him to draw the line: for spring, he said, “no business, no ties, but supple, formally informal tailoring for young men.” Playing on subtle contrasts, pajama suits were made in silk knitwear; blousons in matte crocodile felt as malleable as jumpers; a shirt’s fabrication, light as air, was used for an equally weightless unlined soft tailored suit. Reprising the house’s tradition of using women’s fabrications for menswear, a trench coat was made in satin de cuir, a heavenly smooth, sumptuous fabrics with a discreet, inconspicuous shine. Stretching the remarkable skills of Brioni’s tailors and artisans, a three-pieces suit was entirely made by hand as if it were a couture piece. But the jewels in the collection’s crown were the evening tuxedos, made in precious silk jacquard woven on antique looms by Setificio Leuciano, an historic artisanal company which was purveyor to the Royal Palace of Caserta. The edited women’s offer was as elegant and breezy as the men’s, with masculine silk shirts elongated to become a dress worn over soft straight pants, and ankle-grazing evening coats impeccably cut. Brioni is imbued with a quintessentially Roman mindset: lightness of spirit, a perfect eye for beauty, and the natural allure of nonchalance which comes from millennia of proximity with the world’s most stunning artifacts.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Men’s – Motopapi. Courrèges SS23

The energy of the concise, item-driven modernity Nicolas di Felice brings to Courrèges is all over the spring-summer 2023 collection. “You know, back in the day, Andre [Courrèges] was speaking to the young generation. I knew from my first week that it was part of the house,” said Di Felice. “So I really want young people to be able to afford the clothes; to make it, let’s say, more accessible.” He grabbed a vintage zip-up scuba-fabric jacket which Courrèges had designed for men in the 1970s as an introduction to how he got started. “I found this in the archive, and thought, ‘This shape is amazing,’ but there’s no point in doing it again. So I wanted to mix this silhouette with a biker vibe, because I had a motorbike when I was young. I thought about how it feels to drive to the beach, or to a festival in the summer, or something,” he laughed. “I’ve been at the house for two years now, so I feel more comfortable to explore a bit more of who I am.” One thing about Di Felice is his knack for filtering lived experience into his minimal-seductive design. His collection captures all the features of young masculine body-con display that’s taken off this summer: tight-to-the torso leather jackets, twisted, cutaway T-shirts, slick moto pants in the house’s heritage-look black vinyl, gabardine polyester trousers and denims with a hint of bootcut flare. It’s his addition of the faux leather bondage straps across the front of jackets that adds a clever utilitarian twist. He demonstrated: “So what you can do is take off your jacket or poncho and hang them off your shoulder by the strap, like this. It came to me simply when I was one more time in a party, and it’s hot and there are not enough cloakrooms. I was like, ‘OK, um, so when I go in on Monday – I’m going do that in the collection!’” The lookbook shows the device in action – clothes gradually becoming cool-looking drapes toted from shoulders, until the last guy ends up naked, carrying all of his clothes. “Like he’s just come out of the water on the beach,” Di Felice grinned.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Cowboy, Reconstructed. Greg Lauren SS23

Greg Lauren started the spring-summer 2023 collection by thinking about the cowboy: the archetype, the myth, and the real deal. It’s not all boots, denim, and big hats (though there is plenty of that). Instead, his collection, titled “Re-construct”, taps into his muse’s renegade spirit. “There’s something at the core of the idea of the cowboy that resonates with people that has to do with individualism, and the idea of the figure that doesn’t conform and has the courage to draw their own path,” he says. That individualism expresses itself in unexpected ways. The spring 2023 lookbook opens with a pale pink trucker jacket. It’s made from scraps of fabric that were discarded to make last season’s pink tuxedos. Through a process called stitchwork, these teensy bits of fabrics are patched together to make a textile that can be used to make a pink jacket for a cowboy. There’s a nice cyclical energy to that, which Lauren clearly relishes, after all, repurposing pre-loved materials is what put him on the map. The most interesting developments here are the contrasts. Consider baggy cargo pants and a relaxed blazer made out of herringbone fabric, or the many jackets with tails Lauren created this season out of denim, ivory satin, and, spectacularly, leather. Lauren had fun picking apart black- and white-tie dress codoes, playing with ways to make a tuxedo jacket or tails casual through fabrics. Make no mistake, it’s still elegant. The craftiness running through the collection – the continued collaboration with Gee’s Bend quilters, the top made of vintage Cub Scout shirts, the stitch work fair isle sweater – only underscores the designer’s maverick qualities.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Men’s – Mirage. Saint Laurent SS23

For spring-summer 2023 season, Anthony Vaccarello came up with his best menswear collection for Saint Laurent. The clothes were brilliant and absolutely desirable. Of course, the setting helped. Vaccarello had decamped to the Agafay desert, an hour or so out of Marrakech. It’s a city with real significance to Yves Saint Laurent the man (he had two homes here, most famously Villa Oasis, nestling beside the Majorelle Garden) and the brand (Marrakech is the location of the Musée Yves Saint Laurent). And then factor in the show’s mise en scène: an epic and haunting circular light show installation designed by artist and set designer Es Devlin, which rose up from a mirage pond, and was erected atop the moonlike terrain. Still, a cinematic setting doesn’t mean a whole lot if the clothes can’t live up to it. And here was Vaccarello’s master stroke: present a collection which he said, just before the show, was, “for the first time, my most personal. It’s maybe less, let’s say costume-y, than it could have been in the past.” Vaccarello looked back 20 years to when he was a student in Brussels at the La Cambre art school, a time when the tautly drawn lines of Belgian noir were omnipresent in fashion. It gave a defined tailored silhouette, to be sure, but one with a softness and a crumpled sense of being loveworn. Vaccarello took his own sartorial impulses from his earlier years – “it was how I dressed in 2000. It was a look that I loved, and I wanted to recreate that spirit; I was missing that” – and married them beautifully to the classic codes of YSL.

Trenchcoats came sharply shouldered but with a beguiling fluidity to their silhouette, cut with a barely perceptible flutter to them, in black wool or pliable glove-like leather. Lanky pants started high at the waist then fell into an easier, wider stride, some with a satin-y tux stripe running down the leg, or styled like jeans but cut from the most luscious of velvets, both often partnered with delicate gauzy tops that clung to the torso. The le smoking was a constant and compelling refrain here. Vaccarello had updated the classic tux, utilizing all the inherent fluidity of YSL’s beloved grain de poudre fabric, while others were cut from the slitheriest and slippiest of lounge lizard satins. He shaped his jackets with a judiciously judged jut to their shoulders, then might finish them off by having them clasp the body via their double-breasted or wrapover fastenings, drawing attention to a slenderized waist in the process. Sometimes though the newness came from something of the past. The flash of male décolleté – Vaccarello’s models sported almost to a man their jackets sans shirts – was something he’d picked up on from looking at how house icon Betty Catroux preferred to wear her tailoring back in the day. Again and again, look after look, it became clear that there was something about the pleasure of yielding to all of this, finding a place of comfort, of peace and of calm. It’s why, Vaccarello said, he’d chosen Marrakech. Not because he wanted to do a YSL in Morocco tribute collection, but because he understood that the city had been a place of solace and refuge for Monsieur Saint Laurent, in much the same way that Los Angeles has become a place of rest and recharge for himself.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

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Men’s – Vibe Shift. Dries Van Noten SS23

For Dries Van Noten, the spring-summer 2023 menswear collection wasn’t just a bold return to the Parisian runway, but also an aesthetics shift. “The Zazous in Paris in the 1940s, and Buffalo in London in the 1980s. Both were in periods which were a bit similar. Hard times. So we wanted to make our own version of that.” Van Noten said he’d been researching male subcultures for inspiration this season. That turned out to be a strong opening statement: louche, dandified pinstripe tailoring, disrupted with lingerie-pink body-con “corsets” and camisoles. “Masculine-feminine” is how he put it. The Zazous were underground rebels who dressed loudly, frequented bars and jazz clubs, and defied the Nazi occupation of Paris. Buffalo was the subversive British style movement founded by Ray Petri in the time of Margaret Thatcher. In these, our disturbingly Right-swinging times, you could catch the significance of the timing behind Van Noten’s wanting to work a queer anti-authoritarian reference. That said, his suit silhouettes, with their double-breasted jackets and wide, drapey trousers were spot-on as non-disrupted standalones. The one that came out a bit later, the jacket and pants in two slightly different shades of burgundy was Dries Van Noten at his simple, elegant best. But he had other ideas about underground subcults going on. That turned out to be part of the reason behind his choice of the the rooftop of a carpark as a venue. “Garage scene grifters, cowboys, sleepy dreamers,” was the character gloss he put on the second half of the collection. Here, he delved into the motocross trend that’s sweeping youth fashion, hybridizing bike pants with track bottoms and translating them into satin; he also threw in Western shirting and styled cowboy boots bare-legged with shorts. This part didn’t really convince me – the result felt overly random. Yet in the heat of a Paris summer, it was easy to see an intended destination for this kind of casualized Van Noten dressing: next year’s festivals and all night raves, of course. He’s obviously out to catch a new young audience with this offering. But who knows? Hopefully the youth are more than likely to be going for those dandy suits instead.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

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