PARIS (AFP) — That male staple, the suit, but hotted up and dandyfied, made a catwalk comeback during Paris's four-day menswear collections that ended Sunday with a daringly different vision of next winter's masculine silhouette, courtesy of Dior.
To the strains of a string ensemble perched high above hundreds of fashion addicts attending the first catwalk show by the luxury label's new creator for men, Belgian designer Kris Van Assche trotted out a string of Renaissance-inspired minimalist men-in-black, with barely a note of colour in sight.
Starkly striking in its pure bold line, Van Assche's maiden catwalk show drew heaps of applause from a crowd that included designers Karl Lagerfeld and John Galliano as well as New York transgender celeb Amanda Lepore, turned out in red.
Their hair sleeked back and plastered flat, the Dior models strode in skin-tight pants reminiscent of Renaissance tights or huge ruffled trousers ballooning over hips.
Jackets were body-hugging and hip-length short, over austere white or black turtle-necks or high-collar shirts with butterfly-shaped bowties. Ties and cravats too came black as did shirts that flowed in back or front in origami-like pleats.
Van Assch's stylised collection with its rare hints of metallic red or green was a stark contrast to the colour that flooded this season's menswear shows, including a collection under his own name that featured denims and a lot of the same red and blue Highland tartans that splashed the Milan catwalks last week.
Along with a wide palette of colour, fur and oversized cashmere scarves for men underlined the added dandy-like elegance of this season's collections, with mix-and-matching as well as layering giving menswear an extra touch of womenswear-like extravagance.
Suits were the winners in that category, the highlight of Paris fashion week both with high-brand labels for big earners -- such as Ungaro, Yves Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton, Lanvin or Smalto, -- as well as collections destined for younger men, from Jean Paul Gaultier, Kenzo, Dries Van Noten through Yamamoto to Agnes B or Blaak Homme.
Like others who gave the traditional suit a new contemporary touch, Britain's Paul Smith for instance threw out suit after suit, including three-piecers, but barely one with matching parts.
Crumpled, as in just-out-of-the-wash and never-seen-an-iron, one suit combined green tartan pants with red tartan waistcoat with a Prince-of-Wales jacket. Ties were rare or worn askew and often came with spots.
Likewise Japan's Masatomo presented a biker-inspired collection largely in black-and-white in the slim-look line that dominated the shows, with jackets often cut to hip-length and pants sliced just above the ankle.
Smalto harked back to the Roaring 20s for his inspiration, with a crop of suits and jackets and coats pleated at the back and often worn with belts, furs, cravats and flowing scarves.
"It was a sparkling, elegant and jazzy time, when people would dress for pleasure," said Smalto's Korean-origin designer Youn Chong Bak, summing up the atmosphere of the January Paris shows.
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