Menswear

As New York Fashion Week began, news came that Mitt Romney had won the Maine Republican caucuses. And during the next few days, as the autumn/winter collections continued and the fashion pack trekked from Lincoln Center to various art galleries in Chelsea and back, the talk was of Rick Santorum’s rise as an alternative, and how serious any of it was.

It’s my belief that the iPad, for all its marvelous abilities to show films, make it look like you are reading actual books, and otherwise replace most electronics in your life, is actually beloved of the majority of men I know because it lets them play Angry Birds, or Zombie Smash, or Hungry Shark no matter where they are. And I do not think I am alone in this, judging by a new Prada video, which taps into exactly those gaming urges.
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Today Jacob Weisberg coined what I think should become a representative catch-phrase of the 2012 US election along the lines of James Carville’s “it’s the economy, stupid,” in 1992 and Ronald Reagan’s “it’s morning in America” in 1984. To wit: he noted that Mitt Romney suffers from “the affliction of excessive handsomeness.”
Who knew there was such a problem? Such is the reality, it seems, of 21st century, recession-ridden America.
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A snowman wearing a CNN hat at Davos

A snowman at Davos yesterday. AFP/Getty Images

Reading the FT’s live blog from Davos as I sit warm in my hotel room in Paris (it is one of life’s cosmic jokes that Davos always coincides with that ultimate in 1 per cent consumer indulgence, couture), I was struck that among the debates on income inequality, critiques of Angela Merkel’s speech, and the growing concerns of the private equity folks about the end of their special tax status, one of the few topics everyone agreed on was the importance of hats.

Indeed, before the repercussions of George Soros’s lunchtime talk were analysed, his special hat was noted, and compared with the bigger furry hat of FT columnist Martin Wolf. Personally, however, I think both pale in comparison to the enormous furry gloves worn by Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP. Read more

Let us pause to consider the sweater vest, that milquetoast item of men’s wear that is neither a sweater nor a vest but something soft and cuddly and in-between. Let us pause to consider the fact that it has become, bizarrely, a sartorial player in the current Republican primary contest. Has ever a piece of clothing seemed less likely to be a political tool?

Last night’s various post-nomination speeches in New Hampshire were mesmerising, for a variety of reasons, from the ridiculous quotes (Ron Paul: “We ARE dangerous;” Jon Huntsman: “Third Place we’re on the hunt” — you have to wonder what genius strategist thought that one up) to the way battle for hearts and eyes is shaping up. The Republican stump style is solidifying.  Read more

Spring-summer collection 2012. Credit: Catwalking.com

Before his pre-fall collection for Lanvin today designer Alber Elbaz told a funny story. He was in NYC a few months ago for a meeting about the new Lanvin Men’s store, he said, and took a cab ride down Fifth Avenue. He passed megastore after superstore (he didn’t name them but the new, airplane-hangar-sized Uniqlo and H&M come to mind) and by the time he got to his new store he was in a tizzy. “We have to be bigger!” He told his architect. “New York is all about big!” Read more

I was wrong yesterday — at least partly. In the end, after campaigning down to the wire in Iowa in shirts with sweater vests (Rick Santorum), shirts and tees (Ron Paul), and V-neck grandpa numbers and jeans (Mitt Romney), the big three Republican presidential rivals all disappeared into their various hotels — almost as good as a phone booth — and changed into suits and ties for the final tally. It’s a bird…it’s a plane…it’s Mitt Romney by eight!

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The Spant

As I’ve been making the (endless) pre-collection rounds I’ve noticed a few trends/innovations I wanted to pass on. Here they are, from most original to most accessible:

1. The Spant

This could also be called a “skant,” though since scant is an actual word already, I think it risks confusion and “spant” is better. As to what this exciting new hybrid is, think silk palazzo pants-meet-long-skirt, so what looks like soigné trousers from the front swish like a train in the back.

The garment comes courtesy of Olivier Theyskens at Theyskens Theory, and though it may sound weird, paired with a tank top or t-shirt (though it’s called “pre-fall”, it hits stores in June) it also may be the coolest new proposal for how to dress up for evening. Also — just say the word. “Spant.” Spant. Fun, right? Read more

British Fashion Awards 2011 - London. Sarah Burton with the Designer of the Year award. Credit: Ian West/PA Wire

Sarah Burton, Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Awards 2011. Ian West/PA Wire

Take a wild guess who won the designer of the year award at the British Fashion Awards last night. Yup, it was Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. A well deserved win, given her acclaimed royal wedding dress and the sensitive way in which she has interpreted Alexander McQueen’s legacy, but not really a surprise. It was the first of many not-really-a-surprises at the awards, held in London’s Savoy hotel, which is probably a good thing, indicating that there is a consensus behind which British names are ones to be confident about.

Mary Katrantzou, who won the Emerging Talent – Womenswear award, is fast becoming a highlight – if not the highlight – of London Fashion Week. Not only are her bold and unusual prints arresting, they are also tailored to be highly wearable and fairly commercial. The question of when a designer is no longer deemed to be emerging can be a problematic one though; there’s often no clear moment when they become – like a butterfly from a chrysalis – fully formed. Read more

OK, I know he’s in the line of fire on the whole News Corp hacking scandal, but isn’t this a bit obvious? Today, as he testified for the second time before Parliament, James Murdoch, deputy COO of News Corp, accessorized his traditional navy suit, white shirt, and poppy with…an army green tie. The first army green tie I think I have ever seen in the halls of Westminster.

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So it all came true, and PPR did, indeed, buy Italian men’s wear luxury brand Brioni. So far, so rumoured. But what does it mean? Seems to me there are two main implications to the deal. Read more

At the make-or-break Eurozone economic summit in Brussels yesterday, there may have been vociferous debate about what to do to solve the EU’s financial problems, but on one subject at least there was surprsing unanimity: what to wear to telegraph your feelings. Read more

Pirelli – it’s not just about tyres and tastefully sexed-up calendars anymore. As of this week, it’s also about fashion, as a new 1,500 square metre store, on prime real estate off ur-shopping drag Montenapoleone, demonstrated. It features rubber! A lot of it.
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It being Milan fashion week, I have Milan news on the mind, and here’s something interesting: I’ve just learned Yoox Group, the Italian etail experts who build and manage about half the fashion world’s etail outlets, are about to make a move of their own. Next week, thecorner.com, their high-end multi-brand boutique, will become the first multibrand etailer to launch in China. The floodgates are opening! Let the race begin.

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President Obama, his VP, and John Boehner’s Republicans may be butting heads in every other area of political and economic policy, but sartorially, they’re in harmony: not copying each other, but coordinating. I wonder (it would certainly be nice to believe) if perhaps there’s more diplomatic discussion going on behind the scenes between Mr Boehner and Mr Biden than the Tea Partiers might have us believe. Read more

If ever a man tried to telegraph the fact he was stuck between two competing factions via his tie, it’s Barack Obama.

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It had to happen, I suppose. Post the huge-public-love-fest associated with the Kate Middelton/Prince William wedding, and the corresponding publicity and sales boost it delivered to many associated fashion brands from Alexander McQueen to Launer, maker of the Queen’s buttercup handbag, it seems every other English designer is hoping a royal nuptial association might have a similar knock-on effect. Any royal nuptial association.  Read more

Women’s wear daily is reporting today that PPR is in talks with Brioni about buying the Italian luxury brand. The PPR folk won’t comment, but I think this makes sense. Read more

Fashion can make allies of the most seemingly apposite of pairs. Last week, ex-US Secretary of the Treasury, current Harvard Prof and FT columnist Larry Summers announced that: “One of the things you learn as a college president is that if an undergraduate is wearing a tie and jacket on Thursday afternoon at three o’clock, there are two possibilities. One is that they’re looking for a job and have an interview; the other is that they are an asshole.” Then, yesterday, Peter Bingle, chairman of PR company Bell Pottinger, revealed in a blog that he had received “a letter informing me that my membership of Soho House and Shoreditch House was being revoked ‘effective immediately… because I have disregarded Soho House’s ‘casual dress code.’ I have been banned for wearing a suit!”

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