Marc Jacobs Is Doing It. So Is Stefano Pilati. Men in Womenswear Is Not Just a Runway Gimmick
Marc Jacobs Is Doing It. So Is Stefano Pilati. Men in Womenswear Is Not Just a Runway Gimmick published by Evanvinh
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Posted on 2016-03-31
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by Alexander Fury
A couple of weeks ago, Marc Jacobs posted a picture of himself on Instagram, which he does quite often and occasionally gets in trouble for: see #Buttgate. This time, he was fully clothed, in something he emphatically bought himself: the varsity jacket that comprised the top of look 19 from his Spring 2016 runway show. His womenswear runway show. My immediate thought? I wonder if it comes in my size. I wonder how many other guys thought that?
Men in womenswear has often been a taboo subject. Women started wearing pants en masse back in the ’20s and ’30s; they became a fashion item in the ’60s with Yves Saint Laurent. Today, women wearing menswear is so common as to be ubiquitous—the boyfriend jean, the boy short, all manner of slouchy, outsize garments simply dubbed “mannish.” Menswear, it seems, is finally catching up. Granted, despite almost 40 years of runway reiteration, we’re a fair way from men seeing the skirt as a viable alternative to pants (sorry, Jean Paul Gaultier). But just as women have borrowed double-duty clothes from men’s closets, the guys are getting in on the action now.
Fashion designers are, naturally, some of the most forward-thinking of dressers. Londoner Edward Meadham, one half of shuttered label Meadham Kirchhoff and the designer behind the broken bride gowns at Sophia Webster’s Fall presentation in London, is habitually dressed in mixed-up Miu Miu (a favorite women’s-only label), as well as pieces he designed himself. Jacobs wears not only his own womenswear but that by Miuccia Prada and Rei Kawakubo—he sported a lace dress by the latter to the Met Ball in 2012. And the last time I saw Stefano Pilati, former designer of Yves Saint Laurent and until February of the Italian menswear brand Ermenegildo Zegna, he was wearing a pair of his generously cut Zegna trousers with a skinny red tweed Chanel jacket, laced through with a leather-tangled chain belt. It could have been one of those few Chanel menswear pieces that end up on resale websites like therealreal.com, but I somehow doubt it.
Incidentally, if you go into any Chanel boutique, signs subtly indicate which shoes are available “in men’s sizes,” meaning 42-plus. Chanel jackets are also manufactured up to around a European size 50: There’s a video on Chanel’s website of Pharrell Williams trying on quite a few of them in the Chanel boutique on Rue Cambon, before the label’s Fall show. “As a man, selfishly, I looked at a bunch of things that I wanted for myself,” he said after the show. Later in the evening, at a party in Chanel’s couture salon, he was wearing a signature bouclé style that slipstreamed straight from hers to his, with minimal changes.
It’s tricky to figure which came first: men demanding the clothes, or designers offering them. I suspect with a powerful label like Chanel, it was the first. However, now you have major league labels like Gucci showing their clothes on guys as well as girls. Who are these clothes for? The oversize slouchy embroidered bomber may be on a girl, and the lace shorts and Lurex T-shirt on a guy, but they could easily switch. Vetements gives the same feeling, with shows of mixed-sex models in clothes labeled “Pour Femme” that are selling out pour homme too (after four seasons of selling to both sexes, they just officially launched menswear, with specially adapted labels). Demna Gvasalia told me that the casting choice was simple: They just couldn’t find enough girls to model in their early runway shows. And the clothes wound up being worn by everyone anyway, no matter what it says on the label, because they looked great.That’s often the draw of womenswear for adventurous male customers: Regardless of the runway statement, the clothes that wind up on the shop floor for her end up being far more exciting than what’s on offer for him. “In my mind, fashion has no gender,” says Bryan Grey Yambao, who blogs as BryanBoy. He’s wearing a Prada resort paillette-strewn coat that I’ve also seen sported by JapaneseVogue’s Anna Dello Russo and Sophia Neophitou, the creative director of Victoria’s Secret and editor in chief of British biannual 10. It clatters as he gesticulates, eagerly. “If I fit into something that I really like and if my finances allow it, I’ll buy it, regardless of whether it came from the men’s or women’s section. I never really use clothing to identify or align to a certain sexuality or gender.”That’s how men—not all, but increasing numbers—seem to be thinking. Having figures like Kanye West and Pharrell in womenswear pieces marks a significant shift. And how about Jaden Smith in those Spring Louis Vuitton adverts?
Given that Gaultier’s skirt for men debuted in 1984, you wonder why this is all blowing up now? It’s tempting—but facile—to ally it to an increase in transgender visibility and LGBTQ equality. I doubt anyone is really thinking about that heavyweight stuff when they put something on their back, or especially when buying something extravagant from Jacobs or Prada.
It’s not an intentional political statement, although it does reflect an urge to stand out and be counted, and a willingness of men to wear the more extreme fashion statements hitherto confined to womenswear but now increasingly evident in men’s. Gucci’s bold embroidered lions and tigers and bears are possibly the best example, given the influence they’re having at every level. And how about the legions of suburban teenagers cramming themselves into skinny-fit girl’s jeans? This isn’t something just happening on the catwalks—arguably, it’s bubbling the other way.
It’s ultimately about freedom in dress—a freedom that’s markedly expressed by a younger generation, by fashion fans like the 17-year-old Smith, who doesn’t seem to care if he’s wearing shorts or a skirt, and designers like Shayne Oliver of Hood By Air, who is 27 and shows men and women in skirts, hose, high heels, and everything in between. Oliver feels gender isn’t an issue when designing his collections, which appears to have struck a chord with guys who, finally, don’t seem too hung up on which side a jacket fastens on, if they like it enough.
I’m always struck by the words of Gvasalia: “It’s just clothes.” So why not just enjoy them, whether they’re in the men’s or ladies’ department?
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