Vulnerable Masculinity and Versatile Workwear

While the first two days of the Paris' Fall/Winter 2020 menswear shows showed that several brands were turning to more formal styling, this third day was marked by a less assertive, more fluid take on masculinity.  

Chinese designer Sean Suen explored fluid tailoring infused with dark romance. His light workwear pieces came with a hint of sophisticated tailoring. They were characterized by a minimalist style, as well as geometric and graphic cuts that played with strong textures and materials. Outstanding pieces included Suen's sharp jackets with tie-dye optical illusion, as well as sartorial outerwear pieces that came with abstract face prints. Overall, the strength of Sean Suen's collection lied in the graphic surface treatments of his clothes. And this artistic take on craftsmanship comes as no surprise: after all, the designer first studied fine arts and then specialized in graphic design before turning to fashion. 

Later that day, Virgil Abloh's protégé, Heron Preston expressed a desire to make workwear more versatile and genderless, and easier to wear daily, by offering authentic men's styles that were closer to the street than to the workplace. The American designer also joined forces with a carefully chosen selection of collaborators, such as Caterpillar for the footwear designs and Los Angeles-based artist Kenny Scharf for paintings. More notably, the Heron patches on cargo pants and outerwear were the result of an exclusive collaboration with the wildlife conservation project of the British Ministry of Defence, which protects animals from poaching in Africa. 

Preston was also questioning his role as a fashion designer in society — and came to the conclusion that the best way forward is to challenge the current status quo by creating new narratives. "Look at the world as the largest construction zone that we've ever witnessed, it's like a work in progress," Heron Preston explained. "It's this idea of picking apart and putting it back together in better ways with new solutions, innovations, and new technologies. Using your brain to imagine a better world and then designing that into reality." 

Designing a better world into reality is also precisely what Yohji Yamamoto did. Complex layerings, fluid cuts, and sartorial military fits were predominant in his latest menswear collection. Yamamoto's dark, monochromatic color palette subtly emphasized his lavishly-textured pattern and fabrics. His red checkered trench coats unveiled a vibrant surface design, which was intertwined Japanese calligraphy prints — these pieces were true eyecatchers. 

Finally, Botter ended the day on a high note: the designer-duo emphasized male vulnerability in a deliciously naive and spontaneous way. Unstructured, transparent and fluid tailoring, deliberately rough finishings, as well as quirky surface prints and embellishments all made for a poetic runway show, which explored the many facets of vulnerable masculinity. 

Another highlight included a quirky print on a top, which winked sarcastically at the fashion industry: "There is no crying in fashion." In an industry that is becoming more and more self-obsessed and driven by performance — an industry that continues to produce more and faster, regardless of the necessity to do the exact opposite — Lisi Herrebrugh and Rushemy Botter wonder if it might not be about time to awaken the fragility, empathy and sensitivity that lies within each and every one of us.

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