The second round of men's fashion week in New York has wrapped up on a high note after four days of shows reflecting thirst for innovation, openness and confidence in what's to come.
The nascent showcase for the latest in American menswear drew trend spotters, bloggers, buyers and other style gurus -- all in a distinctly laid back atmosphere. There was "a cool vibe," stylist Stevie Gatez said on Thursday, the final day of some 60 fall/winter 2016 shows concentrated in Manhattan's west Soho.
"It has a lot to do with menswear, it's more chill," added the young blogger, wearing a three-quarter wool leopard print jacket paired with a gray hoodie, jeans rolled up at the ankles and Adidas sneakers.
New York Fashion Week: Men's is indeed more relaxed than its much larger and higher-profile women's counterpart, whose fall/winter shows kick off next week. The men's showcase made its debut in July with spring/summer 2016 collections, but this time around, more labels were on the schedule.
But New York is still behind London, Milan and Paris when it comes to putting men's fashion on the map.
On the catwalks, the tone was also one of casual ease and comfort -- as demonstrated by the collections of Public School, Stampd, Cwst, Todd Snyder, Michael Kors and even Tommy Hilfiger -- with often disproportionately baggy cuts of coats, trousers or scarves.
Also spotted were sleeveless padded vests, oversized blazers and pajama-type suits, as well as visions of next winter's man wrapped in soft fabrics -- cashmere or silk for hooded zip-up jackets, as well as fine wool, thicker wool and even nylon.
At Theory, innovative synthetic materials were part of the mix. "Our DNA? Minimalism, technology within fabric, clean silhouettes," designer Ben Stubbington told AFP. "It's all about the fabric and technology and luxury."
The key this week was to find the right balance between structure, comfort and originality. "I wanted to present something that nobody else was doing," said Mike Rubin of Krammer & Stoudt, a small label that was virtually unknown prior to its presentation this week.
"I'm trying to do a balance -- the struggle is to be progressive and classic" at the same time, he added. Tommy Hilfiger went for a similar look, telling AFP: "We are celebrating heritage pieces and style staples, updated for a modern age. Those are the building blocks for a modern world."
"We looked at each garment from every angle, giving a sense of newness without ever losing sight of what made them special in the first place."
David Hart also came back on classics harking to the golden days of jazz, with cross-button blazers, Scottish prints, high-water trousers and colored socks, to add a modern twist. There were "so many designers playing with textures," Gatez said.
Non-traditional venues were de rigueur for showcasing next winter's couture, with John Varvatos presenting his collection inside the former punk club CBGB.
Streetwear label Public School meanwhile returned to its roots -- the street -- parading its models down the road in front of fans and bloggers who were tipped off on social media about the event.
And artist-designer Greg Lauren, nephew of Ralph Lauren, plunged his guests into an urban jungle where two models in torn threads fought each other in a boxing ring as 19th century dandies watched on.
Gatez, meanwhile, was pleased with what he called "tons of diversity" on the catwalk. "I've seen more black models this time around than before," he said, referring in particular to Hart's "all male, black" show.
Overall David McLeod, blogger for Thedapperdaily.com, summed the men's fashion showcase up succinctly: "I thought this was a successful show season." "I look forward to the spring/summer shows in July," he added. (Prune Perromat, AFP)
Photo 1: Michael Kors - Vogue
Photo 2: Tommy Hilfiger - Vogue
Photo 3: Public School - Vogue