It may well be one of those moments that every generation experiences a few morbid times in their lives. Where were you when Kennedy was killed, when Princess Diana died, when 9/11 happened, and currently, where were you when Britain disastrously, unwittingly, accidentally, downright stupidly, opted to divorce itself from our European family? For a group of luxury journalists collected from all corners of the world, that location was Paris. We were gathered for men’s fashion week, but talk of trends rapidly faded as we watched the world as we know it potentially fall apart. For British press members especially, it was admittedly difficult to shift attention back to the fine garments on display from one of the greatest examples of European culture and heritage - that of design and craftsmanship created by a melting pot of skill and talent representing not one particular nation, but from a wealth of talent from all over the world. But it was difficult to be reminded of this and to focus on an industry whose very survival relies on the existence of prosperity and affluence when facing an imminent future of economic uncertainty and overwhelming sadness at the thought of being separated from our European cousins. And so, the significance of being on this now enforced foreign continent was not lost on those of us due to travel back to our emancipated island nation, feeling less than Great. As for the designers who showed this week, their contributions to the world of fashion were indeed great and that served to lift spirits, if only momentarily.
It may be a time of transition for the traditional French shoemaker turned luxury lifestyle brand, but the mood was upbeat and the performance strong. Models frolicked in the evening sun enjoying leisure activities in sporting chic styles. It was an accurate display of what men have come to expect and need from clothes today, that of elevated performance-wear. The suits were soft and lightweight, the shoes too, with signature patinaed leather but on a sole of rubber for a contemporary alternative to the Alessandro or as a viable luxury sneaker look. There was an offering of accessories and jewellery on display this time, as well as swimwear and leather dumbbells, all of which provided a welcome distraction, but the clothes still had the signature elegance we’ve come to know and love from Berluti since launching ready-to-wear, but this time a few more casual, commercial pieces filled the gaps to provide the complete lifestyle offering.
The former menswear designer of Louis Vuitton and now leading the ship of his own brand, Paul Helbers’ second menswear collection encapsulated a summer by the beach that, at this time of year, most people find themselves yearning for. Inspired by the natural tones of his own favoured vacation spot, the palette lent itself well to the casual relaxed silhouettes and the thoughtful fabrics Paul uses. And that’s one of the things he does so well. The aesthetic is one of casual elegance, but it’s his choice of fabrics that ensure that the look is coherent, that it translates his vision of classic, clean, elegant clothing. He told The Rake: “the mixture of textures is really at the core of what I do. Soft and dry textures - for example the speckled linen suit - then in the knits we have silk, linen and cashmere.” This is one brand we’re enjoying witnessing growing and continuing the progression of luxury casual menswear.
On the morning of his show, I walked through the adorable streets of Le Marais, stereotypically strolling with coffee and croissant in hand, sun shining and I walked passed Ami founder, Alexandre Mattiussi who was sitting at a café enjoying, I hope, the same scene. It was a well-deserved moment of respite for the designer who set up his brand in 2011 designing mostly for his friends. For real people, not an ideal or for a conglomerate; “It’s real clothes for a real man”, he says. And this season, his offerings were a great combination of seventies sporting apparel, zipped silk jackets in mustard tones, fifties shaped printed silk shirts and loose pleated trousers styled perfectly with slim belts. The check pattern throughout served to elevate the collection. It was a collection that was succinct, at first glance simple but in fact, quite the opposite; every piece was wearable, sellable and styled to perfection. Here’s to keeping it real.