John Varvatos, a Hilfiger brother and denim flares: What rule the runway at New York's third men's fashion week
New York: Congrats, New York fashion world, you made it through your third stand-alone fashion week for menswear.
With men's weeks far more established in Milan and Paris, it wasn't clear exactly how that would work in New York when the Council of Fashion Designers of America decided to try it.
Though some designers decamped to other fashion capitals, and the feel of men's week remained more relaxed with fewer formal runway shows and more showroom appointments and staid presentations, there was still plenty to see with about 80 designers on hand.
For spring 2017, the focus was on the old guard and the new. Here were the highlights.
Varvatos was groovy, as always, but his sexy calm of Provence reimagined for urban romantics was rocked by the real-life news of many dead in Nice after a truck plowed through crowds of Bastille Day revellers.
"Oh that's awful," the seasoned designer said. "It just doesn't stop around the world right now, does it? It's incomprehensible."
For his 17th spring, Varvatos played with the hard and soft of men's fashion, using ultra-light linen fabric for breezy jackets and coats but providing his young romantic with killer rough-and-tumble ankle zip boots that can handle the grit of the big city.
Some of his jackets had collars fitted with wires for personalized shaping. And he put out a few great man bags in leather and linen.
Varvatos, 60, has been in the business since 1985, when he worked for Ralph Lauren. His own company is 16 years old . Joyfully, men care more about fashion today than they used to, he said.
"The world has gotten very small in terms of fashion. Everybody knows everything that's going on everywhere instantaneously. I love that we're all so connected in that regard."
He called this collection less rock 'n' roll, softer.
"It's a cool evolution for us," Varvatos said.
Among the old-world touches he embraced was a lush calfskin leather for an asymmetric jacket, its surface embossed with a crocodile skin motif. Another in supple, buff suede, was the colour of almonds. One wheat-colour linen vest was flecked with metallic fibres for added sheen and hand dyed for a vintage feel.
The idea, he said, was to honour "heritage" and lend a nod to "old-world craftsmanship."
Actors Kellan Lutz and Colton Haynes were among his guests seated at small cocktail tables at The Django, a cave like, Paris-inspired jazz venue under The Roxy Hotel downtown.
Andy Hilfiger is a star brander, rock dude and the brother of Tommy. Greg Polisseni is a painter, Rochester, New York, dude and doesn't play the guitar.
So how'd these two come together over fashion?
After making a splash in high school by painting his clothes, then accidentally splattering some paint on his jeans and sneakers a few years ago and earning compliments, Polisseni founded a fashion company in 2013. Last year, Hilfiger attended his men's show and the two hit it off as Polisseni continues to grow Artistix.
This time around, paint splatters were everywhere on the coveralls, canvas vests, white leather jackets and some pretty hot boxer briefs Polisseni showed, because what dude doesn't need some high-end undies.
And the inspiration for all the splatters? In black and teal, mostly. It's "equality," but really a collection of Jackson Pollock-esque abstract paintings that Polisseni did and were on display i n a gallery space leading up to his show.
"For me, it's just trying to show that there's so much animosity in this world and so much hatred," he said. "We all live in this world together. We should all thrive together."
After helping Nicki Minaj, Adam Levine and other music celebs launch successful clothing lines, what's in it for Hilfiger?
"We both like one thing a lot," he said. "We like pop culture but we really like rock 'n' roll."
This Hilfiger has been mixing rock and fashion for some time now. He gigs on guitar, founded his own rock-inspired brand, Andrew Charles, which was once fronted by Steven Tyler, and does fashion PR and marketing.
"Greg is a real artist. It's very authentic," Hilfiger said.
By that, he meant Polisseni remains a working painter while also designing clothes. Hilfiger called his latest collection "chic workwear."
"And it's for everybody, young and old," said the 54-year-ol d Hilfiger. "I'm not too young, you know, and I rock it."
Can you be an outlier and a fashion darling at the same time?
Rio Uribe of Gypsy Sport isn't worried. He admits he was a bit after winning with two others the lucrative 2015 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, but so far, so good.
"It used to make me nervous, actually, when I first won," he said. "I was, like, what are people going to expect now?"
Then the 31-year-old, $300,000 (Dh1.1 million) richer from the competition, spent a few weeks in Paris, trying to figure it all out.
"I wanted to see what I could do and how I can carry my voice forward without feeling the pressure to always outdo myself," Uribe said as a continuous loop of models hit his latest gender-fluid runway during men's week.
"I think what it is to always go back to my roots and my roots are with DIY clothing, so I made a lot of the clothing by hand. There's also a fun elem ent, and if we're not having fun it's not Gypsy Sport."
On a runway of artificial turf, Uribe was, again, true to himself. His New York-based brand has been around since 2012 and he has maintained a commitment to unisex design.
"I was inspired by so many things this season, starting with soccer and sports. I wanted to take rituals from sports and turn them into ritualistic clothing," Uribe said. "That led me into DIY, turning some soccer jerseys and football jerseys into dresses and lingerie. And then I was also inspired by eveningwear. We've never made eveningwear but I really wanted to have lace and fringe and pearls and all of those elements in there. So it kind of became a big mashup of sportswear, eveningwear and fantasy wear."
On those fronts, he scored.
Putting out high-priced clothes for rich people is one thing. For Sam Linder and Kirk Millar, the design duo behind this New York-y brand, it's more about stocking the closets of creatives like those who frequent the west Soho neighbourhood near their only store.
They design, said Linder, for "people who aren't stuffy".
On Monday, the first day of men's week, the two took to the tiny Dixon Place theatre downtown to roll out a collection of mostly everyday pieces for the 30-something musicians, actors and, yes, alt-fashion folk they're drawn to and who are drawn to them.
Denim jeans were split up the back in the legs to provide a swing. Others were adorned with numerous rivets as they explored the idea of exposing the "behind the scenes" of garment making. Graphic T-shirts depicted a female worker surrounded by hangers in a garment factory. Some pants had one wide leg and one narrow one. Others included back pockets just slightly off-kilter, with one higher and one lower.
The Linder shoes and boots, made in Portugal, were a different story. They were awesome in that comfy, lug-sole, clunky way. Th e pickings included some great sand-coloured suede loafers.
Linder launched in 2013 and this was the brand's first runway show. In addition to roomy jeans and kimono tees, some of the knits were works of surf-inspired art, including a cardigan with a wavy blue seam at the buttons and the edges of sleeves that landed above the wrist.
Millar, 27, and Linder, 42, come from different generations. Of the two, both New York transplants, Linder lives more on the edge, willing to take risks to please a mostly younger clientele. They support a team of about nine now as they run their brick-and-mortar business while continuing to design, trying to focus more on their own brand rather than rely heavily on selling others.
The rewards, like putting on a runway show, are "thrilling," Linder said, "but it's also really a grind, a lot of anxiety and worry."
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