DALLAS, Jan 27, 2008 / FW/ — With the conclusion of both Milan and Paris menswear seasons, there is a dichotomy on the vision of what men should wear next fall. Milan-based houses want men to look sharp, taking a cue from the grammar of gentleman dressing, while Paris-based designers want men to be independent in the way they dress, taking inspiration from the youth’s rebellious nature.
From the socio-economic point of view in terms of the U.S., the reactions of the designers are also dichotomous. While Milan took a proactive stance, Paris took the grimmer outlook. The reactions are neither right nor wrong. The different responses by the designers are just proof that socio-cultural-economic-political factors affect fashion more than meets the eye.
Paris’ reaction is philosophical, a very logical course of action to the city that gave birth to many philosophical movements and philosophers like Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sarte, among others.
The same way that Victor Hugo described the realities of life in the early 19th century France in ‘ Les Misérables’, Paris-based designers and those who choose to unveil their collections there took the realistic point of view – a grim and gloomy outlook.
To the designers who show their collection in Paris, fashion does not just mean clothes. Fashion is also a way to express oneself; to the designer, it is also a means to express his or her art. And on expressing their art, the designer also expressed what they see in the world today. (photo above: From the Dior Homme Fall 2008 collection)
For Milan, a proactive stance is also very logical. After all, Milan is a city that was built on ‘reinventing itself’ since 400 B.C. Over the course of history, Milan, which is strategically located at the gateway of the Italian peninsula, had been attacked by the Celts, Romans, Goths, Lombards, Spaniards and Austrians. Every time that happened, the city had to rebuild itself, never giving up. In short, survival is part of the Milan DNA.
Though the outlook for 2008 is not great, even depressing in the eyes of doomsday seers, to Milan, it did not matter. What matters is that they will fight to make things brighter, even better than before.
So, it is not surprising that Giorgio Armani, Prada and Versace (photo at right: from the Gianni Versace Menswear Fall 2008 collection), the three giants of the city spearheaded the renewal of men’s fashion. And, the other houses like Roberto Cavalli, Moschino and Missoni amongst others supported that train of thought. Because at the end of the day, they are all Italians who in general are optimists. When faced with a challenge, you can expect them to face it with smiling faces because they know they will win in the end.
As a fashion observer, the dichotomous reactions of Paris and Milan to the same socio-economic-cultural prevailing today is uplifting, even an eye-opener to a certain degree. Ten years as a fashion journalist, I have come to accept that the world view fashion as ‘just a pretty face.’ Being classified under ‘ENTERTAINMENT’ with fashion as a subsection in search engines is already a good indication.
Of course, the fashion industry does not help it either because the news coming out from our sector is all about glitz and glamour, almost like a fairytale, though truth be told, the glitz and glamour is only 1% of the industry. The remaining 99% is hard work, beginning with the designer all the way to the seamstress on the manufacturing floor.
Hence, for the world to see another facet of fashion, albeit a more serious part, but still wrapped with all the glitter is heartening and enriching.