21-Jul, 17:29

15:51, July 12 61 0

2017-07-12 15:51:03
Critic's Notebook: Real New York Shows From Raf Simons and Todd Snyder

Change the name and New York Fashion Week: Men’s in its earlier iterations might as well have been Topeka Fashion Week: Men’s, so little did it engage with the great metropolis. Shows held in generic repurposed industrial spaces could have taken place in any city, anywhere. Fashion, as Stefano Tonchi, the W editor and sometime curator, once said, “is not about clothes” so much as the expression of an overall cultural gestalt. Lacking the frame of a city and a world, catwalks quickly devolve into Habitrail wheels.

The Belgian designer (and chief creative officer of Calvin Klein) Raf Simons upended all that on Tuesday with a moody nighttime show of clothes designed for his own label. He staged it in a Chinatown market with messy stalls clustered among the massive stone foundations of the Manhattan Bridge. Malodorous, clamorous, and with N and Q trains racketing overhead, the setting was Mr. Simons’s homage to the animal market scene in Ridley Scott’s dystopian classic “Blade Runner,” with the addition of ripe fish-market smells.

Printed on pendant paper lanterns and glowing in neon signs was the word “Replicant,” rendered in the graphic font Peter Saville once produced for New Order — in case anyone needed a key to the familiar referents. That Mr. Simons’s allusions led to no place in particular hardly seemed to matter to a mob that included Jake Gyllenhaal, Marc Jacobs, Julianne Moore, ASAP Rocky and hundreds of other New Yorkers, who are never happier than when being crowded, deafened and herded in the direction of something new.

And Mr. Simons is that, a welcome, if exacting, novelty in a city and business lost in indecision. He is an almost dictatorial creator firmly in command of a vocabulary — a formalist trained to design industrial products, who happened into fashion somewhat inadvertently.

Sometimes the accidental path is the best one. New York has plenty of well-schooled journeymen capable of producing designs whose general staleness no amount of clever styling can disguise. Ideas, on the other hand, can often seem scarce, and the concealing, genderless, uniform-style clothes that Mr. Simons showed had plenty of those.

Models carrying umbrellas, as if against toxic fallout that left some parasols in shreds, paraded past the standing crowd, all but concealed inside shiny conical raincoats with anatomically suggestive puckered armholes. Their faces, too, were mostly hidden by protective scarves and wide-brimmed floral hats.

Their limbs were lost inside clinging tunics, oversize collegiate sweaters and flowing trousers printed with blurred silk-screen motifs. The roped gumboots on models were reminiscent of those worn by workers at Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji fish market, and were among the many nods Mr. Simons made to a continuing fascination with the intersection of East and West.

Moments before the show started, at roughly 10 p.m., production assistants arrived with big white plastic fish pails and sloshed water all over the pavement to ramp up the atmospherics. At this bit of added verisimilitude even some die-hard Simons fans cried foul.

“Do you know how much these shoes cost?” one fashion editor said, sidling away from the creeping tide. “Honey! Céline!”

Unlikely as it is that their names might appear in the same sentence, Mr. Simons and Todd Snyder turned out this week to have in common an unexpected mutual interest in global urban realities.

Mr. Snyder, an Iowa-born designer, has built his career largely on gentling consumers toward a vision of reworked American classics, updated and smartened with a tailor’s eye and vintage details. Though he is now a stalwart of New York fashion, it is worth remembering that before his particular vision could succeed here, he first had to become famous in Japan.

His deceptively chic and elevated sports clothes — varsity jackets, khakis, sweats made in collaboration with Champion — and easy suiting have often resembled the kind of stuff a guy might wear to a tailgate party, if the game were held in the Roppongi Hills in Tokyo.

Mr. Snyder changed all that for a spring 2018 collection that may be his best to date. (The Monday evening show was terrifically aided by a musical set played live by the two-man Brooklyn indie band Lewis Del Mar.) It is fascinating to consider whether the designer’s decision to embrace a mash-up of influences from cities around the world was a result, as he said backstage, of a postelection recognition of New York’s precious position as an immigrant place built on dispersion or whether internet-trained consumers now expect of designers that they keep abreast of what’s cool in Lagos or Mumbai.

Whatever the reality, Mr. Snyder extended his range to include not only fabrics inspired by striped organic cottons spotted at a souk in Marrakesh, but also looks that combined elements of traditional dress in ways that, while unexpected, are geared to the new world of work. That is, a tidily tailored topcoat of refined burlap was worn with a pair of what Mr. Snyder called “active shorts,” along with military dress shoes from Alden and black socks pulled high, just like his father used to wear them.

The experimentation extended throughout a collection that torqued classics by pairing a drifty cotton trench coat with pleated linen trousers; put a contrast banded polo over a white dress shirt; and offered varsity jackets in Glen plaid, pocketed work jackets in Japanese indigo, and neat suits whose double-breasted formality was downplayed by unbuttoning the jackets so that they looked as casual as sweaters.

The oversize trousers that are about to replace skinny jeans and overtake us all appeared in Mr. Snyder’s collection in the form of fantastic khakis and bluejeans — “dungarees” might be the better word — big enough to upholster a divan.

On the subject of those big boy pants, a droll sidebar to fashion history was provided this week by Michael Maccari, the creative director at Perry Ellis. While he is still trying to guide his label’s mainstream consumer in the direction of the narrower cuts that have dominated men’s wear for more than a decade, the company’s perennial best sellers, Mr. Maccari conceded, are “double-pleat wide-leg khakis from the ’80s.” What that suggests is a convergence as rare as a hen’s tooth or a solar eclipse. For perhaps the first time in memory, the fashion-forward Instagram kooks who preen for the cameras outside the shows are dressed the same as an unwittingly hip dad-bod commuter riding the 5:51 from Penn Station to Babylon.