THE FEATHERLESS BOYS BY HEDI SLIMANE

In fashion nowadays on everything theres a rochy Saint Laurent air, because Hedi Slimane managed to reset global clock since the times of the collections for Dior Homme. The effect is seen on almost all male catwalks.

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DIOR HOMME by HEDI SLIMANE  – Solitaire – F-W- 2001-2002 – ph R. Avedon

The featherless boys by Slimane. An aesthetic journey began 15 years ago. Skinny rockers, electric metissage which today from Saint Laurent is a little more than a styling exercise, which succeeds where others fail: sell the dream of eternal youth.

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Male catwalks SAINT LAURENT by HEDI SLIMANE. From left: Fall-Winter 2015, Spring-Summer 2016. 

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Male catwalks. From left: LANVIN Paris Fall-Winter 2015, PAUL SMITH Spring-Summer 2016.

Su tutto ormai nella moda aleggia un’aria rock alla Saint Laurent, perché Hedi Slimane è riuscito a resettare l’orologio globale dello stile già ai tempi delle collezioni di Dior Homme. L’effetto lo si vede in quasi tutte le passerelle maschili. I ragazzi implume di Slimane. Un percorso estetico iniziato 15 anni fa. Skinny rockers, metissage elettrico che oggi da Saint Laurent è poco più di un esercizio di styling, ma che riesce dove gli altri falliscono: vendere il sogno dell’eterna giovinezza.

 

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THE LOSS OF VALUES IN CONTEMPORARY MEN’S FASHION

Text MARINA CARMIGNANI*

More than in other historical moments, grasping what lies behind today’s vast and varied fashion proposals seems as complex as interpreting other phenomena of our times. Obviously we start from  the idea that fashion is a manifestation which tells us something about the world in which we live  and about collective attitudes; this means going beyond categories generally used in fashion  to emphasize the constant and free search for our identity. 

Flowery patterns are proposed across the board from Gucci to Tom Ford, from McQueen to Prada for coats, jackets and suits as well as a t-shirt paired with shorts. Short bolero jackets and tight leather pants by Hedi Slimane, reminiscent of the choice of materials typically used in the  60s by rock stars, offer free combinations, both in substance and form; Lanvin’s  elegant dark jacket completely loses its historical significance put alongside short pants that expose bare legs creating a kind of  vague adolescent appearance.  An elegant and classic Balenciaga or a Neil Barrett zip jacket also appears suitable in combination with shorts. Multiple messages emerge from some of some proposals in the new fashion shows and the common denominator  seems to be this modern male figure, youthful almost to the point of childishness, nonchalant, free from references, committed to using the body as a place  for continuous creativity.

Flowermania-ProprietexclusiveFlowermania – images from men Spring-Summer 2014 collections – From top left: ANN DEEULEMEESTER, MARC JACOBS, DRIES VAN NOTEN, GUCCI, ALEXANDER MCQUEEN, PHILIP LIM, JEAN PAUL GAULTIER, PRADA, TOM FORD.

These images raise some questions.  When does the idea of fashion without rules which dominates contemporary research even today come to be?  Can we still use a tradition that began long ago as a key to  interpretation? At the beginning of the 20th century, male dress looks almost like a uniform, in shape, color and material, after a period based on the representation of  precise collective values. The basic pieces, jacket, pants and waistcoat,  established in the  18th century, had remained the same for several centuries, though they did  follow  a  path of continuous simplification. The first indications of a different way of conceiving not only clothing  but also the individual, emerge in the refined context of  the 20th century avant-guard: new themes of informality, the predominant idea of youth, a new freedom of expression in the  return to color and in the loss of structure along with  the break from bourgeois patterns take shape in a mass of ideas that influence all artistic languages. If their provocative proposals do not have an immediate effect on the fashion of those times, they do create the foundation for  future and complex shifts in mentality. Transformations will become evident in the ’60s, that decade in which, thanks to youth movements and new political and cultural phenomena, both men’s and women’s fashion turn to new sources for ideas. They look at what is happening on the street and  find  new energy and  inspiration  able to overcome rigid canons dictated by social distinctions and  roles that had always guided the construction of the male figure. This is  the beginning of that contamination of styles and  the tendency toward appropriation that permeate the fashion world  even today,  the ability to draw with ease from the recent or distant past.  The close connection between dress, social role and status is lost and this is of the most significant aspects  that the latest proposals from recent fashion shows have in common. In the eighteenth century, the variety of fabrics, colors and decorations set a standard  of unsurpassed elegance with various similarities to  women’s clothing and this  model corresponded with great precision to the  male role and life-style within the aristocratic society of the Ancient  Regìme.

Modernists-ProprietexclusiveModernists – images from men Spring-Summer 2014 collections – From top left: BALENCIAGA, COSTUME NATIONAL, LANVIN, NEIL BARRETT.

In the 19th century, the 18th century courtier is replaced first by the Napoleonic soldier model, and subsequently and  definitively by that of the bourgeoisie.  The new social order, the idea of a life based on work, responsibility and respectability, have a direct effect on men’s clothing which becomes more  serious in order to better interpret new collective values. The very few changes in the course of an entire century, affect mainly the cut and chromatic nuances within a narrow range of fabrics and small decorative details such as shirts, ties, gloves and hats.  Quality now marks economic differences in a  subtle way. The complete disconnection from social roles  that characterizes  fashion  today is linked to a loss of values that in other times were strongly reaffirmed through every artistic language.  The idea of community has been replaced by that of the individual with  the  freedom and limitations that this entails. In addition, we cannot underestimate the importance of the rapid transformations in today’s fashion and  the globalization of styles which has opened scenarios that need to be interpreted to help understand our contemporary world.

SaintLaurent-ProprietexclusiveCollection Spring-Summer 2014 SAINT LAURENT PARIS by HEDI SLIMANE.

* MARINA CARMIGNANI is an Art History Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, where she teaches courses in the History of Art and History of Applied Arts. Her studies are dedicated to the textile sector, with a particular focus on fabrics, embroidery  and lace. Since 1980 she has organized and curated exhibitions in various Italian museums, including  Florence’s Bargello Museum, the Pitti Palace,  the Palazzo Davanzati Museum where she is still responsible for the embroidery and lace collection and the Poldi Pezzoli  Museum in Milan  and the School of Burano in Venice. She has taught at the University of Urbino and Polimoda. In 2005 her book “Fabrics, Embroidery and Lace from the Renaissance to Art Nouveau” was published by Electa.

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THE MALE SILHOUETTE / TO BE A DANDY NOWADAYS 1995-2010

In 1994, while the end of the eighties was officialy enacted, Corinne Day was shooting a young Kate Moss for British Vogue magazine. In a time  ruled by “über-models” – such as Nadia Auermann, Cyndy Crowford, Eva Herzigova and Naomi Campbell – Kate Moss was the perfect nineties embodiment of the teenage’s rage for the older generations: kind of whacky-corrupted youth banner, anorexic and heroin-chic. The popularuty of the young girl from London suburbs, that ephebic and diaphanous aesthetic novel, was automatically reflecting on the male side. Charley Speed, Kris Kramer, Scott Bernhill and the Italian Luca Fedrizzi were only the first ones leading a bony and punky looking models army. Through the clothes silhouette transformation, a new aesthetic course was born in early nineties: the garment was dressing a sharp contemporary cut while becoming clean in the shape. The silhouette thus becomes an instrument for a certain target identity exploration, the size of the persuasion power of a new style acting through volumes and proportions, the unit of measurement to read a pictures inventary that already turned into a semiotic system: a fifteen years visive condensed tale that points out the crucial passages leading to male outiline thinning process, through life style, status and subjective conditions.

1995-2000

UNSETTLED YOUTH

Between 1995 and 2000 fashion gets into a weird atmosphere characterized by fragmented and overlapping  trends: minimalism hypocrisy, London’s underground subculture functionalism, Prada’s sport, avant-garde conceptual fashion and retrò revisionism. Some young designers begin to distinguish from the others by following different views. Costume National’s designer Ennio Capasa, Helmut Lang, Carol Christian Poell, Raf Simons and Hedi Slimane melt down different languages inspired by musical icons references: 60s and 70s rock stars, The Velvet Underground, Berliner David Bowie in ’76 The Man Who Fell to Earth and Sid Vicious from the 77’s punk scene. So do many others inspirations like the idea of ethereal beauty coming from the literaly and cinematic imaginary born with Larry Clark’s lost guys, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Ragazzi di Vita”, young Tadzio from Luchino Visconti’s movie Death in Venice, the eccentric-dandy style of Michael Jackson in 85’s video We Are The World, the weightless and zippy Rimbaud’s body as Verlaine traced in his drawings, or Delacroix’s dandy silhouette. The attention on the garment moves from the outside to the inside during the nineties: it goes from the subject to the way the subject perceives itself inside that specific dress. Since fashion revolution is a centrimetres matter, blazer’s cuts gradually start to make the waist thinner, in anticipation of reduced size models like in ‘94-‘95 Ennio Capasa’s collections. Helmut Lang is crowned as the standard-bearer of a bare minimalism during this years. The legendary Carol Christian Poell likes to play with leather jackets reducing waist sizes in turn and using transparent tulle sweaters above white shirts, as an attempt to show off slimness, then emphasizing on the importance of the shoulders to ensure the outline uprightness. Suburban and subcultural movements of an unsettled youth are the overriding signs coming from Raf Simons and Hedi Slimane’s investigation. Slimane is the one who will give the propelling impetus to the new male silhouette, thus becoming a sign of the first decade of the 2000, through Yves Saint Laurent’s male collections. The excellent execution of the YSL A/W 00-01 collection shows in particular this silhouette advance, by mixing in an unique formula the teenage androgyny with dandyism, in a deeply existencial poetic with some tastes of rock. At the beginning of the century the only idea that ruled was the success of a young body, rangy as an horse-jockey, one of a neutral and wiry beauty, with an undisciplined and painfull boldness. The kind of boldness coming from these under-21 year old model guys, catched in the middle of nowhere, with no continuity solutions supplied.

DIOR-SOLITAIRE-AW-01-02--Dior Homme by HEDI SLIMANE  – Solitaire – F-W- 2001-2002 – ph R. Avedon

2000-2005

REMOVAL AND SYNTHESIS

Silhouette fashion trend radically evolves in the first five years of the decade.While Helmut Lang sells his brand to Patrizio Bertelli and briefly disappear from the scene leaving nostalgic trails of his style, in A/W 04-05 show, Chanel’s creative director Karl Lagerfeld, immediately inspired by the iconic shot of Mademoiselle Coco hooked on his friend, both dressed with theirs fiancés’ clothes, wanted a young model boy to dress some female collection items. Lagerfeld demonstrates two basic points to take into account: “unisex” is a misleading, anachronistic expression belonging to the last century; the androgyny concept is evoking only a sort of Lolita with a gamine, playful complex. He adds: “Some men – and I should say, boys – could wear some of these clothes just as they wear lots of things today, which have abandoned the frontiers between menswear and womenswear.” (from Chanel’s press release “Sens Unique”, Pret-a Porter A/W 2004-2005). French fashion dean reset the unisex concept, evolving the induvidual up to pure shape, just like Roland Barthes predicted in the sixties: “the body is pure shape that doesn’t allow any predicate, and for a sort of tautology refers to the garment in itself: the item doesn’t have to mean a rounded body, slender or tiny, but only through this absolut body, it can mean itself in its generalities.” (R. Barthes, Système de la Mode, Paris 1967; trad. it. Torino 1970, pp. 260-261). The silhouette dressing this clothes evolves in an invisible and ascetic extent. In the pure shape, it acquires gods beings and provides symbolic phantom material to overcome the meaning of the image realting to itself. Through the silhouette sharpening process, the final dissolution of the body as a permament entity, as a gothic vertical line is finally settled. While the investigation on the shape follows removal and synthesis principles, the sartorial cut becomes sharp-edged and rational. The male aesthetism in action foresees a taste on the particular: jackects become smaller, slim pants barely graze the ankles, then the ties, papillon, tiepins and that shoulder-bag which belonged to the female legacy for years, they finally re-acquire a belonged daily ritual, for the young and the old generations.

2005-2010

DETACHED PURISM

In an absolute prissiness atmosphere, during the last five years of the period we’re taking into account, everything appears elegant, silent and measured, as the already severe and essential body outline is now identified with a detached purism DNA. Hedi Slimane slided into photography around 2007 when he left Maison Dior, but the phantom of his work was present more than ever in many collections as an uniformity of “style”, above fragmented trends lacking pathos able to provoke some easy and superficial enthusiasms: stained and crumpled wovens, geometric shapes, retrò futurisms, athletic-shaped minimalism, dandy gangster, romantic noir, excentric traveller and then exotisms, country, rocker-chic, classical… well, one for each taste. Costume National, Marni, Giuliano Fujiwara, Jil Sander, Lanvin, Neil Barrett, Prada, Gucci, Tom Ford, Moschino, Raf Simons, Calvin Klein, Trussardi, Gareth Pugh and Etro have in common the severity on proportions for a graphic and neat silhouette, composed by layers of stratifications and inlays, with contrasted colors on trousers, shirts, coats. A perceptible sign of changing on the outline is what appeared most in the last male collections from Costume National, Giuliano Fujiwara, Jil Sander designed by Raf Simons -his personal line included-, Lanvin, Neil Barrett, Prada and Trussardi, above all. Starting from the next Spring/Summer 2010 collections, these designers are pointing out, but in a slithly detectable way, the willing to abandone the stricht sartorial schemes in order to embrace a more essential lifestyle, composed by soft volumes, made fluid to please relaxed postures. The horse-jockey-body model is now confirmed. The next thing for this right future is a deep investigation devoted to details and to  tailoring, which is always the good quality distinctive hallmark.

BEING A DANDY TODAY

The images inventory narrates the linguistic invention, as well as the production and the starting of a closed and aside world, which is infinitely reproducible, strictly neat and tidy, but still in his theatrical acceptation. It describes a uniform, a kind of lifestyle concerning an individualism and narcissism culture, both locked to the official beauty effects: it’s the new form of dandyism happening right now. Under the inspiration that leads to aesthetic perfection, the taking of a rigorous “Ego” is going through fashion but also through the cosmetic industry, which commits its strategies to the conservation of the body and prevention on time. The conservation of the perfect body image through the youth ostentation, better known as the Dorian Gray Syndrome, keeps its intentions on the preservation of the aesthetic and moral integrity, in a constant fight between body and soul. Within this target, there are no homogenized images erasing etnical or personal differences, as the variety of faces doesn’t represent any stereotipe. The only concern is converting the body image into an enlightened entity, one higher and more spiritual, that becomes a legendary and transparent narrating object. A body that’s showing off, it’s polished and perfectly overexposed not only in the outfit. The use of cosmetics is now allowed to everybody, so as to let fade away the fear of looking feminine common in most men, who in turn enhance their consumption in many careful even pathological choises. Therefore, the products convey the synthoms for the preservation of the body look in a young and spiritual silhouette also in cosmetology. The new “way of life” of European market are cosmeceuticals, which represent the marriage of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals and have been gaining efficancy between 2005 and 2007 through medical expertise. Dr. Brandt, SkinCeuticals, Ré-Vive, Zelens Cream, Crème de la Mer, Lab Series, Lancôme Men, Dior Homme Dermo Sistem – the last born-, L’Homme di Yves Saint Laurent, are all dermo-professional hi-tech series, better known for their scientific and medical approach giving back a smooth and luminous complexion. Male cosmesis is pushed towards an extremely high technological direction. According to Dominique Leguay, beauty trends specialist at the Parisian agency “Alchimie”, in the very next future we’ll be able to study our DNA to create some ad-hoc treatments for individuals and families, a sort of genealogical skin cream tailored on the tribe genome. However cosmetic products for men must be quick to apply but still high-performing. The Dorian Gray Syndrome is an expanded pathology of normality in which some exasperated features of contemporary culture release: the time obsession, the decline of the recreational spirit, the exhibition and the sacrifice on ourselves that must be on a level with the public role we’ve chosen. Dandyism is the mean by which the Ego is metaphorically reflecting itself in the external world, it’s relating to it tracing narcissims principles. Paradoxically the dandyism, that seems to mock the positive community values, should be proposed as the only protector of the authentical ones against the world that has been losing any memories of them and will be falling soon into the night.

Alessio Nesi

Helmut Lang F-W 2004/2005

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Dior Homme by Hedi Slimane S-S 2005

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Jil Sander S-S 2007

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Marni F-W 2007/2008

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Fendi F-W 2007/2008

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Prada F-W 2008/2009

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Neil Barrett S-S 2009

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Prada F-W 2009/2010

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Neil Barrett F-W 2009/2010

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Moschino F-W 2009/2010

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Dior Homme by Kris Van Assche F-W 2009/2010

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Moschino S-S 2010

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Marni S-S 2010

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Dior Homme by Kris Van Assche  S-S 2010

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Prada S-S 2010

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