Eric Wilson

This Week's Wow: Europe Goes on a Gender Bender

This Week's Wow: Europe Goes on a Gender Bender
Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images; Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images
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In this weekly feature, InStyle’s Fashion News Director Eric Wilson shares his favorite fashion moment of the week, and explains how it could shape styles to come. Look for it on What’s Right Now every Friday.

The Moment: Strange things have been happening across the pond this week as European designers present their fall men’s wear collections, and I’m not just talking about Rick Owens, whose runway show in Paris on Thursday included a smattering of male models wearing tunics with openings at the crotches that offered glimpses of their genitalia. Once again, Owens demonstrated he is not only a showman who knows how to command attention, but also a fascinating designer, albeit one of very specific tastes. Not many men would wear a penis-exposing tunic (beware: NSFW link), but then again, not many men would wear a tunic in the first place.

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Yet as it happens, the fall men’s shows have become a surprising venue for a lively discussion of gender in contemporary society, whether asserted graphically in the example of Owens, or blunted into a more androgynous, and somewhat confusing, state in so many other collections. Several included women’s looks, or women wearing men’s looks, as seen at the shows of Gucci (pictured, above), Moschino, Prada, Giorgio Armani, and Raf Simons (pictured below, from L-R). Traditionally, the shows have been entirely segregated between the genders, mainly for the logistical reasons of catering to magazine editors and retailers who specialize in men’s wear or women’s wear, so what's going on?

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In some cases, combining their fall men’s wear with looks from their women’s pre-fall collections was a matter of convenience, rather than showing them in separate, and expensive, presentations. Or in the case of Gucci, it was possibly to make a bigger statement, an illustration by its head accessories designer, Alessandro Michele, who led a team effort on a tight deadline this season in the wake of the departure of creative director Frida Giannini, that he was up for the job. In fact, Michele was named creative director just after the show.

RELATED: Gucci Names Alessandro Michele Creative Director

Why It’s a Wow: The designer men’s wear business has been the hot spot of fashion in recent years, energized by cool concept stores, a fixation on street style, and a new generation of peacocks who embrace shopping for creative clothes, tunics included, with a relish that is more stereotypically attributed to women. Gender roles are changing everywhere, in the workforce, in politics, at home, in fashion. Miuccia Prada flicked at this subject in a dual-gender collection that came with a complicated subtext, though in fact the women (in pre-fall) wore dresses and skirts, and the men (in fall) wore neat double-breasted suits.

“What are the unexpected possibilities, the various relationships, that may occur between the way men and women can or would dress?” Prada mused. “The way they represent themselves? This is a subject always under investigation.”

It would have been so much more subversive, of course, had the clothes been shown the other way around. In the end, though, a lot more people are paying attention to the men’s collections, but maybe that’s because the women stole the show.

Learn More: Besides her fashion combo show, which you can see in full, Prada is having a big moment in Milan, also finalizing plans for the opening of the Fondazione Prada that will bring another blast of cultural influence to the city beginning in May.

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