The Telegraph's deputy fashion editor seeks out true innovation in this autumn's menswear collections
The second-most abused word in fashion, especially mens' fashion, is 'designer'. Used to describe jeans or underpants, the D-word implies meticulous creativity. But underpants is underpants, and jeans is jeans: all 'designer' signifies is a minor tweak plus clever marketing. Even on the catwalks of high fashion, a lot of designers fail to live up to their job title. This is because the central codes of menswear design are long-established, and rarely shift. Sometimes, though, come flashes of true innovation. Trend-wise, this winter's mens' shows majored on three broad themes. None were outrageously new yet each one contained some nuggets of novelty.
FORMALITY REFORMED In tailoring, the Italian elite of Ermenegildo Zegna, Canali, Armani and Corneliani all riffed on two fail-safe standards: conventional work suiting in sharp metallic shades of grey or blue, and bolder 1920s revival silhouettes featuring doublebreasted suits and wider trouser shapes. At Z Zegna, the young Englishman Paul Surridge went his own way: his diamond toeshapes and laser-cut tabards were uncompromisingly innovative, but tricky to wear. At Dolce & Gabbana the design was just as radical, but more user-friendly. To match its hard-shouldered, notch-lapelled jackets, the designers went against the skinny-trouser orthodoxy and played with a new, roomier trouser shape. This silhouette works and is very flattering.
THE URBAN PIONEER Even if he works in an office, 21st-century man likes to dress for action. Burberry mixed "Experimental pattern and texture tempered by tried-and-tested tailoring is the most fruitful new front to explore" olive green military wear with vibrant patterns, while Oliver Spencer played on traditional English workwear and country style. Louis Vuitton was my favourite in this rugged category – a Himalayan mountaineering theme was observed, including jackets in Yak felt. Such forensic attention to detail is equivalent to the fastidious British sourcing that makes the John Lewis & Co collection such a great investment.
RAMPED-UP TAILORING Coming through is a casual look that owes much to London's Savile Row, but is tempered with a punkily anarchic attitude. Rake, E. Tautz, Hardy Amies and even Hackett are all expert mixers of the conventional with the irreverent, but Alexander McQueen's collection – starring a rose-window jacquard suit – was the boldest. Experimental pattern and texture, tempered by tried-andtested tailoring, is the most fruitful new front for menswear designers to explore, and McQueen leads the way. When wearing a new garment makes you feel a little different – elevated, even – then behind the scenes a designer has lived up to his or her job description. Oh, and the most abused word in fashion? That would be fabulous, darling.
FROM LEFT: Dolce & Gabbana does away with the skinny trouser; Alexander McQueen goes bold; Louis Vuitton is ready for action; military rule at Burberry; innovative Z Zegna