Raf Simons; Lanvin, by Lucas Ossendrivjer; Givenchy, by Riccardo Tisci, spring/summer 2012 menswear
But the gender play in the spring/summer 2012 Paris shows seems more intriguing. Designers are looking at a global market that includes cultures — and not just Scotland — where male/female garments are fluid. And attitudes in the 21st century are so much more open to the idea that hard and soft can coexist in one man’s spirit and in his wardrobe.
The dichotomy was perfectly expressed at the Lanvin show on Sunday. It started with martial music and tough military looks but ultimately dissolved into layers of softness. Often there was a deliberate melding of opposing attitudes — the army-style cropped hair and longer bangs, boots versus sandals and dark, smudgy tones lightening to brighter colors. Significantly the only classic suits were in pink, turquoise, cherry and purple.
“There is nothing more sexy than a man in uniform — that’s testosterone for me,” said Alber Elbaz, Lanvin’s style supremo, backstage, while Lucas Ossendrijver, the men’s designer, referred to the different textures that embraced strokeable leather tunics or rough-weave crepe de Chine jackets. The diversity of modern life was at the core, with the concept that the same man might wear a somber, earth-brown zippered coat or a formal jacket with leggings.
Nothing was outré. When a T-shirt appeared below a jacket or a printed pattern went across pant thighs, these were glancing suggestions of femininity, never gender statements.
“Life is not a fashion show,” said Mr. Elbaz. Capturing different facets of masculinity made this show in phase with modern life and a standout in the international menswear season.
Two other shows were winners for their absolute definition of manliness: Givenchy, where the testosterone count was raised as men strode out in boldly patterned skirts and tops; and Raf Simons, where form and function came together in a graphic line of squares.
The face-off was seen even in a choice of flower prints: Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy had oversized T-shirts patterned with bird of paradise blooms, their stamens pointing suggestively upwards.
The Raf Simons flower was a branch of Hawaiian hibiscus in bright colors diagonally across the front of a sweater.
And so the contrasts continued:
The line up of male models, their silhouettes slim and straight below short, oiled hair at the Raf Simons show was set against the metallic escalator of a bank — the better to trace the slim, clean lines of tailoring that the designer has never done better.
At Givenchy , the public pressed its collective nose against the windows of the Pompidou Center, as the violet and green floral patterns, swollen as if a Georgia O’Keeffe painting, flashed past.
“Surfers in Hawaii and Matthew Barney,” the artist, were the inspirations, said Mr. Tisci, who has transfixed the fashion crowd and given a mighty hoist to the once-classic Givenchy.
The performance was powerful, but one-note. Male skirts are no longer a rebel yell since Jean Paul Gaultier first offered them 30 years ago. The Givenchy tailoring was sharp and convincing, freshened by a lean white silhouette or a suit in leaf green. But the
show was so condensed that it left a sense of needing more.