Obliterating the faces or the heads of models with masks or fabric is definitely an old runway trick. In a way it's an old trick in other disciplines such as visual or performance arts as well, but let's remain for the time being in the realm of fashion.
Masks are usually employed to disguise someone and create a new identity, but we have seen masks being used on modern runways with different purposes in mind, almost to hint at mutations or distortions.
As you may remember, last year models showcasing Martine Rose's Spring/Summer 13 collection wore white stockings on their heads; Sarah Burton opted instead for clear plastic masks during the catwalk for Alexander McQueen's Autumn/Winter 2013 collection, presented at the “London Collections: Men” event on Tuesday. The event marked the return of McQueen's menswear shows from Milan to London.
Stockings or plastic masks are usually associated with robberies, gangsters and criminals, figures that were somehow referenced in Burton's collection for McQueen.
There were strong hints at British tailoring traditions, fabrics and style (pinstripes, Prince of Wales checks, velvet and military attire, for example), while Savile Row reigned supreme (McQueen started his career there and the label opened its menswear store on Savile Row last year, so it seemed a very apt reference), though there were also occasional allusions to Prada's Autumn/Winter 2012-13 (read layered looks, dandyish blood red wool coats and silk polka dot dressing gowns matched with velvet jackets) and Spring/Summer 2013 collections (jumpers/trousers with bands in contrasting colours View this photo).
Modern moods were introduced via deconstructed pinstripes that turned into broken and fractured lines on a suit (View this photo); dark excess and decadence appeared via gold brocade baroque flourishes and suits with stained-glass window motifs replicated also on the leather brogue slippers matched with pinstripe socks. While a few models wore masks, all had perfect slicked-down hairstyles and gold hoop earrings in the left ear.
Sinister moods were created not only by the masks, but also by the narrow waisted jackets with peaked pagoda shoulders matched with shirts with long and pointed velvety collars for that slightly disturbing and dramatic silhouette.
As a whole the collection was a mix of those kind of twisted characters that you find attractive and repulsive at the same time, borrowed from assorted masterpieces of literature, from Great Expectations to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, from A Rebours to The Portrait of Dorian Gray with Huysmans' decadent aesthetic infjected in some garments that you could picture on Des Esseintes in his self-imposed exile from the over-stimulating metropolis.
Elsewhere, Christopher Kane turned to monsters - Frankenstein, Dracula and the Creature from the Black Lagoon - printing them on shirts (by the way, did you pay the copyright, Chris? because, if you didn't, we may as well turn to the usual Boris Karloff/Creature of the Black Lagoon Vs Julie Adams bootleg shirts on eBay...) for a funny and maybe a bit nerdish yet commercial collection that played with the gothic trend intertwining it with the fear, fantasy and dream aesthetics.
Specialised publications claim that menswear is booming and that male consumers are currently more interested in rediscovering tailoring traditions and garments and accessories made by hand following the highest standards of quality and craftsmanship. Yet menswear shows have so far portrayed not a wide range of men but a specific selection of men - from groomed dandies to bearded and mustachioed countrymen and juvenile urban delinquents - most of them perfectly studied yet cold interpretations of such men.
Besides, all these dandies, gangsters, criminals and monsters are designed to sell to a class of affluent consumers who work in specific sectors of our society (even the “juvenile delinquent urban moods” are not for your average juvenile delinquent with an ASBO, but they are destined to hip and trendy representatives of an edgy fashion industry...).
From a social perspective it is interesting to note how there is a great absent from the menswear shows - the working class man.
Try not to laugh at this statement: the best-selling garments throughout the decades were always borrowed from the working class (think about denim designs). Maybe there are no clothes inspired by the working class since the latter doesn't exist anymore and the concept of labour has dramatically changed in the last few years.
But it's legitimate to wonder if all these dandified fake criminal gangsters and cool monsters are here to stay or they are the fleeting products of a trend generated by specific people currently considered as painfully hip by the industry.
Who knows, maybe sooner or later the neo dandy focused on creating his own perfect and dark wardrobe will disappear and succumb to the harsh and cruel reality of this sad world.
Until then we will have to try and stand his unsufferable Gabriele D'Annunzio style slippers. Mind you, this may be a rather difficult challenge to take in 2013...Member of the Boxxet Network of Blogs, Videos and Photos
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