MBFWA - Mens’ Show (Part1)

May 30th, 2012 by  |  Published in Headline, Sydney Man

It has been exceptional to see more menswear presented at this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia, often forgotten as a market of its own. With a dedicated group show in the largest venue, it is sure to renew confidence amongst designers, buyers and consumers that menswear is something to invest in.

The 6 premium designers From Britten P/L, Zsadar, Injury, Nathan Paul Swimwear, Mils, Kalb & Etiw have shown that menswear is more than just separates and is something that can be experimented with, even when using solid muted colours. Spring/Summer menswear is about loose tailoring, careful layering of shirts and outerwear and creating new shapes that should be easy to wear and not overly styled.

Nathan Paul Swimwear
In a country that has branded itself on beaches and beautiful bodies there are few options for men outside of a generic surf chain store forcing baggy shorts on those with a Y chromosome. Hopefully that will change with Nathan Paul Swimwear, who has given a European cut to swimwear that is both designed and made Down Under.

The collection is inspired by the Mexican celebration of ‘Day of the Dead’ with obvious prints of playful dancing skeletons and skulls printed in repetition. Others feature solid popping blues and reds with alternate colours along the waistband staying true to the theme of the ‘Day of the Dead’ which is both a remembrance of mortality and a celebration of life.

The line features a range of swim briefs, square leg trunks, swim shorts and polo shirts. Both the fitted swim brief and square leg trunk maintain a clean masculine look that is a far cry of the budgie smugglers favoured by Tony Abbott! With loud colours and a clean fit it gives a renewed take on the Australian icon that many men could unashamedly wear. The swim shorts are loosely fitted above the knee and provide a great escape from the typical board shorts flooding the beach. Some feature the morbid dancing skeletons and others are a sporty classic black short with curved white piping along the seam.

It is confusing as to why and how the label comes to describe itself as being avant-garde when it presents itself as a swimwear collection that any guy could proudly and easily wear. And when that’s what it is - a collection of men’s swimwear “contemporising” old ideas about men’s togs - does it need to be anything else?

From Britten P/L
From Britten Product Laboratory‘s collection ‘Correction’ takes cue from Lad culture of the 90s Britpop scene. For a movement born out of reacting to the feminist movement and immersing themselves in drinking, football and sex (has anything changed?) the collection looks exceedingly luxe and sophisticated, no doubt the touch of designers Tim and Alex.

‘Correction’ plays with proportions, layering, simplicity and restriction to balance the rugged style of Lad culture that contributes to this bigger conceptualised idea of being a man’s man.  Models styled with yellow baseball caps present a line of two-toned suits, trench coats and cropped jackets in muted greys, brown, white, black, navy and a loud coral-red. It seems the collection is one big oxymoron - muted colours, textured fabrics, sharp tailoring and smart layering never made lad culture look so distinguished and mature.  It’s this irony of turning streetwear into this bigger, formalised idea that makes this brand so interesting.

The layering of clothing is one of the best examples you would see in many menswear collections with many outfits characterised by a two-toned blazer, where two greys meet at a smart horizontal seam across the chest of the blazer, worn on top of a long white T-shirt with a severe dropped hem that stops below the crutch of chocolate brown shorts that come to above the knee. This is all worn over grey spandex-like tights that are scrunched over the knee that gives a very clean, grungy street look. Using muted, neutral colours, it creates a clever outfit that can easily be worn at night. With the repetition of lines of the seam across the blazer, the dropped hem of the T-shirt, the shorts over the tights it emphasises clever layering, all done in a way that looks natural and doesn’t add bulk to the body.

Pronounced “Sha-dahr” the label was launched in 2011 to create menswear using unconventional approaches to create avant-garde pieces that are devoid of gender. For such a new brand it understands its identity as a brand quite well, drawing inspiration from ideas of androgyny, subversion, anarchy, experimentation and the surreal.

The collection ‘Mysteries of the Organism’ explores the polarity between the masculine and the feminine where the dark aesthetic is balanced by the use of Australian wool, bamboo, silk, cotton, linen and jersey. Zsadar subscribes to the Japanese design philosophy of wabi-sabi where imperfections are celebrated. This idea is maintained through asymmetric points of design in the garments from uneven hems and draping of the fabric to the fabrication of the pieces where it rebels against standard textile patterns - hems have large shapes cut into them like triangles or semi circles, and shirts being buttoned on the diagonal instead of vertically down the middle.

Looking at the collection a number of times, it becomes clear that the garments are both easy to wear and easy to work into your wardrobe which is a fantastic feature when you want to give a little punch, but not being too literal to the style. With numerous fabrics used, shirts give subtle details through the grain and texture in the material which gives an understated, refined character than just being a classic button up shirt. That said the collection can easily become lost in the market with many brands already subscribing to the dark, grunge aesthetic.

The whole runway collection was very dramatic thanks to the styling of pieces together with jewellery designed by Alister Yiap whose pieces are very in sync with the collection using metal nose rings, chains that connect the model’s nose and ear and even a metal brace that stretched across the model’s back in the style of the torso of a skeleton. In other pieces what looked like thin strips of muslin was tied as a belt to give a sort of bohemian vibe that became a little tawdry.

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