The current issue of Metal magazine carries a striking menswear shoot by Nicolas Valois. Styled by, Julian Monge, the story does for the gaucho and the toreador what ‘Bladerunner’ did for Sam Spade-style film noir detectives. Shot in a very direct style against a black background, it weaves a strange hybrid of futuristic sculptural form and images of the male as a romantic figure; archetypal Latin lovers of the Valentino tradition or the anti-hero straight out of a 1980’s New Wave cult sci-fi film.
Showcasing an eclectic range of brands – Jean Paul Gaultier, Raf Simons, Lacoste, Lacroix, Lanvin, Dior Homme and others – the starting point here is palette and form. We are already being told to expect a bright winter and, indeed, as the majority of these garments demonstrate, many of the most influential designers have decided to avoid the winter blues, unless of course they happen to be electric. Vibrant reds, burning oranges and emerald greens all appear to be on the menu for men’s winter wardrobes in the coming colder months.
If this rather bold palette naturally tends towards a somewhat retro notion of the futuristic, so too do many of the sculptural forms that the story picks up on. David Bowie himself also seems to be something of a preoccupation bubbling just beneath the surface. Burberry Prorsum’s plasticoid orange trench coat with hidden buttons, for example, is very much an image straight out of ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’. A pair of box-pleated peg trousers in bright red in another image is also classic Bowie. Even the Gaucho-esque ensemble could readily be something that the famous star might have worn at the height of his trend-setting fame.
Once again, the enduring iconography of the 1980’s – or perhaps even the tail end of the 1970’s- holds a fascination for many in fashion terms: much of this imagery is very reminiscent of the cutting-edge sci-fi and cult movies of the day. And, in this, we can recognise a desire to produce something arresting and out of the ordinary that actually dates back to Constructivism and the Bauhaus with their agendas to overhaul practically every aspect of life through design. In terms of the more subtle meaning of such silhouettes, there is of course – in hindsight- a strange tension between the original failed Utopian vision of a joyous Brave New World and the more melancholic cynicism of the Dysptopian ‘retro futurist’ tradition that first appeared in low-budget science fiction films at the end of the 1970’s and culminated in the Hollywood blockbuster that was ‘Bladerunner’ in the mid-1980’s. In these images there remains that tension between the almost naïve joy of Courreges or Paco Rabanne ‘space age’ clothes from the 1960’s and a much more knowing wariness of later clothing by Claude Montana or Thierry Mugler where form would have to be the only hedonism since political ideology and social evolution had shown themselves to be far too untrustworthy.
The discussion about striking sculptural form that has been picked up on in many of the collections in this particular shoot is also very much related to an editorial thematic that runs through this particular issue of Metal that examines the connection between technology and fashion. More specifically, it considers how advances in fabric and construction technologies have something of a tradition of being picked up by designers eager to explore their potential with daringly directional statements through fashion. In many ways, this bold menswear story also acts as a kind of illustration of the discussion: if we are to see a lot of bold directional statements in many of the collections, then chances are there is also a connection with recent developments in fabric and fabrication technologies driving this.