Not more than four days ago, my creative design teacher expressed how lucky I was to be interested in designing menswear in this day age because of how much it's all changed since she was making men's clothes. For one, sex and gender issues are at such a fore in our popular culture that designers have more leeway to explore gender neutrality and some even moving towards postgender (Gypsy Sport comes to mind here). In addition, the idea of functionality being the defining trait of what makes menswear is taking a backseat to more notions of decorativeness and aesthetics that women's clothing fully embodies (think of the amount of prints, patterns, silhouettes available to women, versus the often solid colours and linear cuts of men's clothing).
Of course, this isn't to say that functionality is being abandoned to the scale that it often is in women's clothing. In fact, current menswear is made all the more innovative and interesting by the meeting point of aesthetic and function, or as Vogue's Maya Singer puts it: Practical Peacocking.
While designers use soft, girly colour palettes or maxi-skirts and assymetrical hemlines, there's a harder emphasis on straighter, harder line, dramatic movement, and toying with structural fabrics. This idea of functionality has kept more avant garde designs from appearing completely dandified or cross-dresser lite but retained a signature look exclusive to menswear.
From NY Menswear Week and London Collections Men, I've seen the Rude Boy or Dark Prince aesthetic (a la McQ Alexander McQueen and Siki Im), abstracted atheleisure, postmodern deconstruction by way of Greg Lauren and a new clean cut Mr Man look (think Public School) or a rougher, street smart prepster like the Theory or Orley man.
Interestingly enough, local designers at South Africa Menswear Week didn't blindly follow suit as many popular designers are prone to do. While the influence of international aesthetics like the Rude Boy and prepster could be seen, they only served to enhance an inherently South African look: a look that varied from a haute couture safari adventure from an African gaze (like Jenevieve Lyons), initiation/bush school retreats (Pilgrim), references to South Africa's huge Eastern/Arab/Persian culture (Imprint) to pop cult, Internet culture tones like in Dicker, Maxivive and Blanc.Dicker // Dicker // Blanc //
Maxivive // Augustine // Maxivive // Blanc
Blanc // Blanc // Taf the Taylor // Jenevieve Lyons
Jenevieve Lyons // Jenevieve Lyons / Jenevieve Lyons // Maxivive
Maxivive // Dicker // Pilgrim // Imprint
Imprint // Maxivive // Martin Kadinda // Martin Kadinda
Martin Kadinda // Imprint // Augustine // Augustine // Dicker // Dicker
Blanc // Pilgrim // Pilgrim // Taf the Taylor
All photos are from SDR Photo.