This Week's Wow: The Front-Row View from New York Fashion Week: Men's

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.

NYFW Mens SS 2016 - Erics Wow
Photo: Courtesy

The Moment: “You’re so polite,” said Michael Kors to the assorted editors and buyers who had turned up for his 10 a.m. men’s wear presentation at Spring Studios on Wednesday morning, simply because they had stopped talking when the designer entered the room.

There is a running joke in the fashion business that men’s wear editors are more relaxed and easy going than their counterparts from women’s magazines, but that’s probably only because there are fewer of them on the men’s side. While I’m not sure this is remotely true, I must admit I found it very disorienting this week, at the inaugural New York Fashion Week: Men’s, when a security guard outside the main hub for shows actually hailed a taxi for me and then told me to “have a nice day.”

How dare he?

It is fair to say that the long-awaited revival of a dedicated men’s fashion week has been a big success, well received by editors and buyers alike, prompting an extraordinary amount of media coverage on international news this week. Clearly, there is a lot of good will toward those poor men’s designers of New York who had largely been ignored over the last decade, while those in Paris, Milan, and lately, London, too, were being celebrated with their own fashion weeks.

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Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images; Courtesy

By and large, their spring collections were strong and straightforward. In fact, I found myself in the mindset of a shopper, rather than an editor, more often than not. At Kors, a faded blue cashmere and linen cardigan, and a seersucker suit stripped of linings and shoulder pads – “It’s tailored, but feels like a PJ,” the designer said – made their way into my mental shopping basket (pictured, top). At Polo Ralph Lauren, there was an abbreviated version of a fireman’s coat in a paper-crisp bright red cotton (pictured, above left), a trimmer khaki cotton suit, and lots of cool looks for the gym (I might even go sleeveless for a Swedish-camo-printed top from the sport collection). I particularly liked the array of technical, sporty, and tailored designs in a new collection from Craft Atlantic, all in some shade of navy, all perfectly adaptable to just about any urban workplace (pictured, above right). (Although I must protest the infestation of Teva-like sandals and bare toes everywhere at NYFW:M – gross!)

Jeffrey Rüdes, the founder of J Brand, unveiled his new SoHo flagship for his signature luxury collection, which focused on the merger of classic elegance of the old Hollywood variety with the overt sexiness of the nouveau rock star type. It was a solid debut, particularly on the classier front with his bent for double-breasted jackets (a white one with navy stripes, a gray striped version, a sandy taupe suit; pictured, below left). What set this collection apart from others, as Rüdes himself said, is that “everything is wearable.”

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Andrew Toth/Getty Images; Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Why It’s a Wow: In all, more than 40 collections were shown, including a few men’s champions like Michael Bastian, who has so perfected his signature brand of luxury that his work could not be mistaken for that of anyone else. If you spot a funny intarsia sweater worn with a richly tailored suit, embroidered slippers, or perhaps a premium version of a sportswear classic like a rugby shirt or cut-off denim shorts, you’ll know Bastian was there (pictured, above right). Among the newcomers, I liked George Sotelo’s swimwear collection called Thorsun, which featured nice prints like a hummingbird feeding on flowers, and also lots of abs.

The collections as a whole largely served to illustrate American fashion as dependable, approachable, even desirable, with designers here strongly focused on perfecting the details, rather than making a big statement on their runways. While that’s great for customers, it’s not so great for the image of a fashion week. Only a few went so far as to challenge conventions, like Duckie Brown, Tim Coppens, or Alexander Plokhov, and none of those were exactly shocking. The challenge going forward for New York designers who want to maintain the buzz will be to make a stronger case for their clothes as being worthy of all this fuss.

Actually, the most directional show of the week came at the end, that of John Varvatos, a designer who built his fashion brand on an image that is more approachable than all that skinny-suited fare from Europe. The key visual of his collection was a high-contrast striped suit, rendered with the rock style of a Ramone (pictured, below). That is to say, his show spoke a lot louder than anyone else’s.

John Varvatos - Runway - New York Fashion Week: Men's S/S 2016
Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Learn More: Browse through the highlights of New York Fashion Week: Men’s and learn more about the initiative to promote men’s design in the city by the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Amazon, which sponsors the event, also has great behind the scenes images from Kevin Tachman.

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