Why Do I Suddenly Care So Much About Men’s Fashion Week?

leandra medine cohen mens fashion week spring 2020 recap
leandra medine cohen mens fashion week spring 2020 recap
Ludovic de Saint Sernin Spring ’20


recent hack I have uncovered, if you can even call it a hack, is shopping the men’s section of resale sites. I was reminded that I have been doing this while riding home from an airport on Sunday night, scrolling through the men’s shows, which, this season, have lit me up like a candelabra on Hannukah. They just wrapped after a four-city tour through London, Florence, Milan, and Paris. (And lest we forget yesterday’s jaunt to Provence.) On the car ride home, it was a neon pink shorts set by a brand I have never heard of—Ludovic de Saint Sernin—that lifted me a little higher out of my seat. I recalled that I had recently acquired a pair of lilac purple swim shorts of a similar ilk. If I could find a matching lilac shirt, I could add a bra, or bathing suit top, and rebuild the look at home.

I could do this with nearly every look from Officine Generale (which, granted, offered a number of womenswear looks, too), and Hedi Slimane’s Celine for men. Those blazers, and flare leg jeans, the button downs, and hats—I could wear it all.

leandra medine cohen mens fashion week spring 2020 recap
Left: Officine Generale Spring ’20, Right: Celine Spring ’20

There was a joyous youthfulness about Lanvin. It reminded me of Jacquemus in its spirit. It encompassed the carefree nature of a long, lazy summer day in Europe. I could almost taste the humidity mixed with a meek espresso shot. I thought of day trips to the beach and poolside pasta salad overlooking a body of water sprinkled by copious floaties. That kind of innocent, but wholesome fun—you know? Hermès served a helping of this lightheartedness, too. Then I saw it in the corsages pinned into blazers at Loewe and the use of color at both the aforementioned and Sies Marjan. It was illuminating, even freeing, like the feeling you get when a window has just been lifted open on a bright, warm day.

leandra medine cohen mens fashion week spring 2020 recap
Left: Lanvin Spring ’20, Right: Sies Marjan Spring ’20

The optimistic energy of these collections could be attributed to the choice season—Spring/Summer—and the fact that it is spring/summer right now. (Showing clothes that are applicable for the season in which you’re living? Genius!) Warm weather and sunshine is like a mindset reframer that makes everything look rosier, but that’s just one piece of it.

leandra medine cohen mens fashion week spring 2020 recap
Louis Vuitton Spring ’20

When Kim Jones took the lead at Dior Men and Virgil Abloh was appointed designer for Louis Vuitton’s mens label, there was a lot of chatter surrounding the role of mens fashion in the larger discourse—the way it was creating a weightier value proposition, becoming as important to watch as women’s collections had been. I knew all of this was happening—that new labels had been sprouting long before Jones and Ablohs’ respective appointments, who were building remarkable cult followings, but I did not anticipate that I would personally care this much—that I would prioritize analyzing a mens show, look, or garment over a woman’s. And yet.

But what does it matter who the show, or the look, or the garment is intended for? What’s the difference? Clothes are, effectively, a mere vehicle of expression and so long as the thinker has profound thoughts to let spill, the vehicle is irrelevant. What’s happening here, particularly in the way of mens fashion, is reflective in a tip-of-the-iceberg kind of way of a greater brush up against the broad cultural boundaries that have heretofore defined gender. Because, really, what is the difference?

Lately, there have been plenty of men’s looks on women’s runways and ditto that women’s looks on men’s runways. Creative directors of mens collections, like Raf Simons, or Alessandro Michele of Gucci, and recently, Lucas Ossendrijver of Lanvin and perhaps most famously, Hedi Slimane of Dior Homme, have taken over women’s houses to varying degrees of unique success. I’ve got to assume this is related to how they approach storytelling through design. The way in which the framework is more fluid. Dries van Noten has been designing womenswear for as long as he has produced menswear (and for what it’s worth, along with Kim Jones of Dior Men and Emily Adams Bode of Bode, showed ballet slippers for men on his runway this season).

leandra medine cohen mens fashion week spring 2020 recap
Bode Spring ’20

Two of the houses earning the most credibility—winning CFDA awards (Bode) and the hearts of fashion fans and gatekeepers (Ami)—touted themselves as unisex from out of the gates. As our relationships with gender begin to settle more firmly into the era of fluidity, the question of what is made for who becomes ever less relevant. It just does.

And I know we’re speaking within the terms of a distinct aesthetic prototype: waifish young men—boys, really —effeminate by most accounts. It’s not the first shape that comes to my mind when you think “relatable,” and is, aspirationally speaking, rather impossible and irresponsible but there is something to be said, unilaterally speaking, of recognizing that these clothes are not designed to target me. It makes the lust more proactive, a little less charged. Like, it doesn’t matter who the clothes are intended for, whether they’re intended for anyone at all, because I’m making them about me. For me. The most self-righteous parts of me want to exclaim that this represents a proclamation that I am not a cog in a wheel, responding to a consumerist tactic set forward by the framework of our larger industry. But the truth is, really, I’m just connecting, 1:1, with a pair of pink shorts.

Photos via Vogue Runway.

Leandra M. Cohen

Leandra M. Cohen is the founder of Man Repeller.

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