May the dressed man win
All eyes were on Asia at the Paris menswear shows last week as continued political and economic uncertainty in Europe and fears of increasing austerity measures forced designers to look East for both inspiration and refuge.
Many menswear brands continue to vie for customers in emerging markets and this was reflected on the runway. The luxury menswear market is estimated to be growing at 14 per cent a year - double the rate of womenswear - with indications that China is chiefly responsible for lifting sales.
Berluti, the bespoke shoemaker owned by LVMH, showed its first ever menswear line at a private event after announcing that the company would be turned into a general menswear brand.
Berluti CEO Antoine Arnault, son of LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault, is confident the company's new line will be appealing.
'China fits perfectly in our plans,' Arnault says. 'The Berluti story and history is very appealing to the Chinese customer; we have seven stores there already.'
Designers looked to Japan, not China, for stylistic influence in the collections for Issey Miyake, Miharayasuhiro, Louis Vuitton and even Kris Van Assche.
Kim Jones' second season for the luxury giant Louis Vuitton saw a slick and assured collection that explored Japanese elements. Stand-out pieces included the grey and blue seersucker shirts, single-breasted jacket and hand-woven suits made from kimono silk fabrics.
At Damir Doma, it could have been a five-star winter in Dharamshala or Shangri-La with the boho-luxe looks, suits crafted in ikat and jacquard, Nehru shirts and kimono shirts in gem hues that set a lighter tone.
The biggest trend to continue from Milan to Paris was militaristic in flavour. Kris Van Assche of Dior Homme took the most literal approach, naming the show 'A Soldier on My Own' and sending down the runway models dressed in military greens and sporty items with a hard-edged tailoring.
The runways were also awash with leather in different forms. Leather trousers at Viktor & Rolf Monsieur were teamed ambitiously with satin tuxedo jackets. And at Hermes, Veronique Nichanian sent out a uniform of the stealth-wealth at the Grand Palais, in laser-sharp but fluid leather suits and croc trenches. The Paris collections were not without a sense of nostalgia for old world Americana.
This season, designer Bill Gaytten's muse at John Galliano was prohibition America, in oversized proportions - lashings of patent, fur (fox, beaver) flannels and big, costume-like, double-breasted pin-striped suits.
Meanwhile, Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci reimagined his childhood fantasies of the American dream and the Minotaur. This involved playing around with zipped jackets fringed with appliqued grosgrain stripes and stars on either side of the jackets, as well as Tisci's signature pleated skirts.
Thom Browne carried on an eccentric train of thought with models dressed up as punk American footballers, studded to the nines (often on blazers and trousers), donning gimp masks and marching in sinister, preppy looks.
London has announced it will hold menswear showrooms for the first time in June, putting the city back on the menswear circuit.
We wonder how London will fit in, since Paris reflects the avant-garde side of men's fashion, as favoured by many young hip Hong Kong men (yes sometimes right down to those Givenchy man-skirts), whereas Milan is more a lesson in traditional men's glamour, preferred by our city's well suited and carefully booted.