After several years of Americana and heritage-inspired clothes dominating menswear, designers have set aside their lumberjack plaids, vintage washed cottons, and bearded urban poet looks in favor of an aesthetic that's filled with the promise of the future. The 2015 fall/winter collections shown at New York Fashion Week offered clean lines, bold forms, and utility.
This new wave was very recognizable in Tim Coppens. Belgian-born and -trained, Coppens served as the design director for Ralph Lauren's RLX activewear line before launching his own collection a few years ago. He's since garnered praise for his luxurious take on performance wear, adapting its specialized materials and constructions for everyday use. Color blocking, fabric paneling, zips, and other trimmings are all part of his repertoire, which he showcased at Made Fashion Week at Milk Studios. All of these elements coalesced to create a modern uniform that's as stylish as it is practical.
But a modernist point of view doesn't preclude romance. Duckie Brown's Stephen Cox and Daniel Silver played with feminine fabrics like silk satin, using them for bombers and funnel neck pullovers. It was sensual and seductive, but at the same time crisp and clean.
Siki Im, a former architect and one of the most stringently modern designers in New York City, showed a more vulnerable side too. In a show that involved his heroes, artist Clayton Patterson and hardcore legend Walter Schreifels, Im put together a film screening and impromptu punk performance at a downtown gallery. Patterson designed embroidery for Im based on his own graffiti work, and the results added a folky accent to Im's angular aesthetic.
Like Im, General Idea's Bumsuk Choi also proved that modernism doesn't need to be cold and distant. His collection had a strong edit of superb tailoring with architectural coats that featured the now-trendy drop shoulder. It took notions of the past and filtered them through the mood of today, creating a look that could make perfect sense with track pants and sneakers.
Patrik Ervell, a mainstay in the menswear scene who has outlasted many of his peers, also served up his incrementally evolving vision of menswear. He took the classic shapes of Patagonia and the North Face and stripped them down to give them a raw, blunt feeling. The show, held at Made Fashion Week, was inspired by brutalist architecture and featured an abstract sculpture installation. Ervell always uses some of the most interesting technical fabrics out there, and this season he partnered with Maharam, the maker of high-end interior textiles, for outerwear and jackets. You couldn't think of anything more appropriate for Ervell's eternal styles, many of which could be traced back to his first collections but still look incredibly fresh.
But the most compelling iteration of this new attitude may have been presented by Japanese designer Daisuke Obana's N. Hoolywood brand. Looking to the functionality of garments worn for ski and mountaineering, Obana repurposed them for the street, cleaning them up with a clear modern line. His penchant for authenticity (Obana will not hesitate to geek out over infinitesimal details) only helped the clothes, whose fabrics and construction could easily stand up to a Colorado winter: Hooded pullovers and funnel neck base layers in tech fabrics, turtlenecks galore, athletic pants, and unassuming cold-weather outerwear.
The philosophy at work here was to make the best of the necessary, to elevate the realities of daily life to the exceptional. No extras, no superfluous details, no gimmicks, no tricks. The beauty was in their refinement and their proximity to real shit people wear when it's beyond bitter cold. The collection also saw a collaboration with New Balance, which you can be sure will be sought after by all the sneakerheads come fall.
Hiroki Nakamura's Japanese cult label Visvim made a strong counterargument for vintage. As always, his clothes—washed and worn, sanded, patched, deconstructed, and reconstructed—were incredibly beautiful in their precious detail. But in the wake of the exciting new experiments by designers like Tim Coppens and Patrik Ervell, a garment that's been artificially aged and decayed just doesn't feel as compelling. Of course it's beautiful, but its decadence carries with it the strong and off-putting waft of yesterday.
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