Men’s – Fire at Pitti Uomo. Y/Project AW19

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.

Men’s / Strip Everything Back. JW Anderson SS18

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Looking back at J.W. Anderson‘s memorable man-skirts or heavy boots covered with studs and flowers, you would never believe that the designer might suddenly do something so… simple. “No-fuss fashion basic-ness. Trying to strip everything back.” This is how Jonathan Anderson summed up his spring-summer 2018 collection presented at Florentine gardens of the Villa La Pietra (as a special guest of the season’s Pitti Uomo). And then he added, “I think this is the first season I’ve tried everything on myself. It was like going back into yourself.” Even the jeans are cut in the way he really likes it. And I like this type of cut, too – slightly baggy, cropped. Also, who doesn’t love a pair of off-duty Converse? Anderson collaborated with the sneakers brand for the upcoming season. Multicoloured heart patches bring on the hippie mood of carefree, summer nights. Chunky knits and tattered-looking jackets will be the perfect choice for a breezy beach day. Sometimes it’s worth going chinos and loose t-shirts, to just settle down and chill.

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Robert Mapplethorpe. Raf Simons SS17

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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.

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Men’s – To Pier Paolo and Kappa. Gosha Rubchinskiy SS17

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London’s collections were all about diversity (Casely-Hayford, Wales Bonner) and edginess (J.W. Anderson). However, Pitti Uomo in Florence started with a much more realistic approach by this year’s guest designer and a Comme des Garçons protegé, Gosha Rubchinskiy. This Russian designer, who’s obsessed with Russian youth culture, is a street wear favourite for years, with his cyrillic slogans on sweatshirts and Reebok collaborations. But this season, the direction changed, just like the city in which the designer presented his menswear collection. Still oozing with a street-wise attitude of a post-Soviet bloc skater, Gosha looked further for inspiration and found a connection between his signature style, Italian 90s mega-brands and the controversial director, Pier Paolo Pasolini.

For the show, street-casted models stormed the runway set in a former tobacco factory, abandoned 15 years ago, and the setting was a key connection between Tuscany’s capital and socrealist fascinations. Gosha’s long-time friend and stylist, Lotta Volkova, said that the factory was “the only Soviet-looking building in Florence“. Feel like home, then. Moreover, these geek brands that invaded Europe and Moscow’s streets later on – Kappa and Fila – unsurprisingly appealed to Rubchinskiy. Firstly, it was once everyone’s dream to have a Fila logo on his or her chest, and that’s a distinct memory for the designer himself; secondly, this 2000-era thing for sportswear as daily wardrobe strongly matches Rubchinskiy’s aesthetics. Another Italian factor in this collection was Pasolini, whose sexually defiant films, like Teorema or Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom, play an important role in envisioning spring-summer 2017 guy. Even a short film directed by Renata Litvinova was created for this occasion, dedicated “To Pier Paolo.” Pasolini, a communist (weak point for Russia-loving designer), intended to show deviant view on both men and women – so, no wonder why there was something disturbing about the first two, bald-headed boys, wearing pin-stripe suits without a shirt under. Mafioso vibes, quite aggressive – note the chains on their necks and wrists. They could star in Pier Paolo’s film for sure – as Italian murders, maybe?

Definitely, Italian culture and Soviet youth are not your average, fashion combination. The designer brought the unexpected, with new silhouettes. Reviving Pasolini’s art and the old-good logomania (Kappa girls were literally placed everywhere here) helped developing Rubchinskiy’s boyish look. And that’s good for him – surely, he won’t fall into monotony of sweatpants and Instagram-beloved meaning of the word “hype”.

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