Show season: done. After brands and buyers and models find their feet once more after Covid, fashion weeks are back with a vengeance that’d put Bruce Willis to shame. And, though some labels have branched out to do Their Own Thing at later points in the year, most of the mainstays were keen to show off in London, Paris and Milan.
Esquire was at all three. We had a good time. We saw a lot good clothes. We saw many, many trends – and we’ve put the biggest and the best in our big spring/summer ’23 report.
Thanks to a couple of especially housey new songs from Beyonce and Drake, there has been much talk of the ‘return’ of house music. Fans of house music will know that it never left in the first place, but nonetheless, there’s something of the Hacienda permeating culture right now, and the S/S’23 collections were no exception. At Paul Smith and Dior there were blissed out knits in acid-wash shades, and even at Hermes, a brand whose menswear is normally so impossibly chic, there were parkas, fluoro colours and bucket hats. (All still impossibly chic, of course.)
Beyond the Nineties-ness of so many collections, it felt like the shows were welcoming people back to real life (and by that we mean, partying) in general. For the finale at Dries Van Noten, an aesthetically sparse rooftop was suddenly punctuated by giant waving tubes of colour and thumping techno. The audience was moved to applause, perhaps relieved by the return of glee that fashion has reticent to express for the past couple of years.
Tailoring Isn’t To Be Toyed With
For a while, suits were big. They were bold. They were also really quite mad, and in a really good way (see the late Virgil Abloh’s cloudscape two-pieces at Louis Vuitton for further details). But for all the Doc Brown alchemy, tailoring is returning to its natural state.
So eat that, chattering classes! Because, despite the very premature eulogies of fashion’s loudest pundits, the suit is not dead – especially the traditional kind. At Canali, a sun-soaked piazza lined with lemon trees (complete with some really banging fresh lemonade, too) played host to a presentation that showcased pastel, linen suits that were as classic and as effective as they were fifty years ago. Prada and Dolce & Gabbana served up a plate of their bread and butter (pane e burro?) in some pitch black-on-black-on-black suits. Even Craig Green, the phantom menace to the old guard in his signature and bestselling left-fieldism, sent down an actual suit. It was a bit Fifth Element, sure, with some paper doll straps, but tailoring is tailoring is tailoring, and it’s the last thing you’d expect from an art school kid.
The suit: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
We all wore sweatpants and hoodies throughout lockdown – if you say you didn’t, you’re either weird or lying – but it turns out we should have gone all Wee Willy Winky instead and opted for proper Dickensian pyjamas. In Florence, at the Pitti menswear show, we met with Tom Leeper, the new creative director of New & Lingwood. The British brand is perhaps best known for its classic British loungewear – dressing gowns, slippers, pyjamas etc – and Leeper is looking to take that archetype and retool it for the now. It has resulted in traditional bedwear in Hockney-esque pastels that can easily slot into a modern, playful, preppy wardrobe. Less Toad of Toad Hall, more the Great Gatsby, via Manhattan’s Lower East Side. And the cool jammies don’t stop there. There were billowy striped trousers at Dries Van Noten, and a litany of very good stripey, square-hemmed shirts at LEJ.
Cadbury Purple Really Is Your Colour
In 2006, a self-styled ‘gypsy punk’ band by the name of Gogol Bordello released a single called ‘Start Wearing Purple’. Don’t Spotify it, it’s rubbish. But do heed their premonition. Purple is back; specifically the shade of warm-your-cockles Midland confectioner Cadbury’s.
Historically the colour of cruel nobles and bad bruises, purple was always hard to wear. It can be unflattering. It doesn’t go with much else. But in Paris and Milan, several marques bravely set out to conquer this harsh territory. And they did it, Joe! At Giorgio Armani, models walked ever so slowly (as is tradition) in ever so relaxed, fluid tailoring, with jackets of purple broken up by navy and sky blue tones. Purveyor of Nice Stuff, Officine Générale, celebrated its tenth anniversary with purple bandit scarves and classic shirts. Louis Vuitton paid its respects to former creative director Abloh in purple, furry overcoats. Hermès even gave it a go.
See. Loads of the stuff. So in the jarring words of forgotten gypsy punk bands: start wearing purple.
The Return of the V-Neck
There really isn’t anything that can’t be cool. Until now, it would have been fair-game to mock the supremely noughties, Lee-from-Blue-ness of a deep v-neck knit or tee. And yet, here we are, writing about the coolest fashions of the near future. And here they are, demanding we witness people’s solar plexuses. (Plexi?) At Ami, the oversized Parisian prep skewed hard toward 2006, as one v-neck argyle knit attests, while at Paul Smith the deep-Vs were sleeveless, which, if you’re wondering, is the ultimate configuration for layering. At D&G, the Vs were carved into oversized knits cut to accentuate your shoulders and make you look even buffer than you are. But the deepest V was look 24 at Dries Van Noten – a brand clearly intent on bringing the chest back for Sumer ’23. However…
Good Things Come In Small Baggages
Long ago, before really dangerous flus and mayfly apps called Houseparty, Jacquemus released a bag so small, so tiny, that it could only fit half a cigarette and your last shred of dignity. People loved it.
Then that trend moved over to menswear. And while our bags aren’t quite as fun-size as the infamous ‘Le Chiquito’ bag, they’re still pretty small. At Fendi’s luxury ode to the Montana broncobuster, a yellow carry-around the size of the mini Kellogg’s you only ever seem to find abroad was stamped with the house initials. The stony boys of Versace carried small leather bum bags (and acid-coloured water vases). There was similar at Givenchy (minus acid-coloured water vases). Thom Browne’s school for wild and wacky boys went to class carrying hollowed out stuffed toys with handles. And Dior, a house that has long capitalised on the power of an It Bag, had all manner of micro bags. We also now love them.
Everything But The Tie
I mean, there were ties at the S/S’23 shows, quite a lot in fact. There were even ties at Craig Green, which is something I never thought I’d see. But the interesting thing was that scores of designers opted for tricksy neck stuff that wasn’t a tie. At Officine Generale, renowned menswear classicist Pierre Maheo offered voluminous pleated scarf in shirting cotton poplin, while at Louis Vuitton shirt collars extended to feature tie-able ribbons, creating something halfway between a bowtie and a neckerchief. At Kenzo there were little Indie-Sleaze scarves in a Milk Snake stripe, and Dior draped jewel-studded shell necklaces around the necks of its models. It speaks, perhaps, to the HarryStylesification of menswear, and how the fluidity of the popstar seems to be rubbing off on the general populous to the point that traditionally feminine design flourishes are becoming commonplace in menswear. Alongside the pearl necklaces, nail polish and mary-jane shoes, we now have fussy neckwear, and it’s great.
The Race To Outshoe Each Other
A few weeks ago, you may have seen pictures of soon-to-be Man City midfielder Kalvin Phillips signing autographs with what looked like a pair of hoover bags on his feet. No one know what they were – the football fans mocked; the fashion fans googled. Well, it turns out they were a pre-release pair of Loewe booties that were unveiled in earnest at the S/S’23 show in Paris. Compared to regular shoes, they are undeniably ridiculous, but they will no doubt sell like hot cakes, and moreover, they represent a trend in high fashion that shows no sign of abating: the need to outshoe everyone else. Consumers, it would seem, are keen for ever bigger shoes, and the brands are more than happy to oblige. At Givenchy, there is a new Nineties runner with a massive ball of rubber at the heel, while at Louis Vuitton, one of the new shoe shapes offers the same proportions as a snowboarding boot. Ami offered slim pants that broadened at the cuff to better accommodate the massive shell-toe trainers, and even Hermes offered a ‘chunky’ sneaker.
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