Preppy versus bohemian; those were the two main looks fighting for supremacy at the men’s shows in New York.
Squaring up in the preppy corner were Calvin Klein, Antonio Azzuolo, Billy Reid and hipster label Band of Outsiders. The most applauded show of the season was Calvin Klein, where designer Italo Zucchelli’s use of waffle materials and puffed-up tweeds enhanced the models’ air of authority, while exaggerated blousons and padded trench coats gave the consummate alpha male on display a cartoonish superhero twist.
Blazers in bouclé wool and Linton tweed appeared at Antonio Azzuolo’s French take on the preppy theme, which was inspired by the Seeberger Brothers’ early 20th-century photos of smart French resorts. In spite of the label’s non-conformist name, Band of Outsiders’ show evoked wholesome university graduates in college scarves, Native American-inspired graphic cardigans and wool blanket coats.
Another strike for the preppy gang came from Billy Reid, a southern gent who won the Best New Menswear Designer in America award last year before scooping the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund prize. He gave his gents a rugged masculine air with dinner jackets in undyed velvet and waxy leather pea coats worn over construction boots that were soiled but still polished.
Meanwhile, Andrew Buckler, Richard Chai and John Varvatos flew the flag for a more bohemian approach.
Andrew Buckler’s boys strutted out on to the snow-streaked SoHo street where he staged his show wearing floppy necked T-shirts, rock star-like mechanic boots, yellow leggings and oversized cardigans with hoods, recalling the painters and sculptors who used to inhabit this neighbourhood.
If Buckler’s catwalk character also had a posh attitude, taking meetings with his agent in sleek double-breasted jackets and canary yellow parkas, happening designer Richard Chai imagined someone with such a bohemian disregard for convention that they might wear a dressing gown to a restaurant. Think pyjama tops with crisp pants and cardigans and long-john leggings with shiny nylon coats. For fringes-of-society-chic, there was John Varvatos and his artful dodger-style frayed suits and great bashed-up Dickensian wingtip boots with khaki cloth sides, while slightly wrecked jeans are still de rigueur at Buckler, Varvatos and Ralph Lauren.
At Tommy Hilfiger and Lauren, however, the lines between these two dominating concepts were more blurred. Lauren, the ultimate establishment brand, launched a whole new range of rugged jeans called Black Label Denim. Although brand new, they looked as if artists in Brooklyn bedsits had worn them in over a couple of years. Tommy Hilfiger, who already has a collection entitled Prep World, also mixed up the opposing ideas with a show he called “Indie Prep” after “the meeting of indie rocker and college preppy”. Staged in West Village restaurant The Lion – decorated like a Pall Mall private members’ club with panelling and quirky prints – the show also featured the key outerwear of the American season – the big blanket coat, ideally in broad horizontal stripes. After a bitter winter left every street corner in Manhattan covered in black ice, perhaps it’s little wonder that designers created something so cosy.
It wasn’t until a rather quirky event entitled “The Ultimate Dream Date”, however, that the winner of the sartorial battle was clear. Financed by toymaker Mattel, the show involved designers such as Billy Reid, Simon Spurr, Yigal Azrouel and Michael Bastian creating a range of clothes for Barbie’s “beau” Ken. The result – a college-boy array of New England beach shorts and sailing sweaters with miniature Scottish and American flags and even a wool tam o’ shanter – was a deciding blow for the preppy crew.