by William Buckley

While it is factually correct, and has been adopted by all parties involved to preface the name “New York Fashion Week: Men’s,” I think if I type the word “inaugural” one more time, I might be diagnosed with a serious case of onomatomania, so I shan’t. Oh wait. I just did (doh!).

Well, perhaps given the solitary nature of all firsts, that will be the last, and given the overall success of the week, I can look forward to the words “second” and “third” etc as the seasons pass.

By all accounts, the week was successful. The shows were all well attended, press continues to cover the week (here I am), and there was a resounding sentiment that everyone involved did a very good job indeed. The space, Skylight Clarkson Sq, served its purpose perfectly, and was decked out accordingly. Street style photographers’ camera’s clicked, and all the usual suspects were present and correct.

There was some disappointment regarding some of the major American brands that showed pared-down presentations of the collections they’d already shown in Europe, but there is a hope that with one season successfully down, we may get them back properly next time.

One thing that struck me was the order of it all. Compared to the manic fashion weeks of New York past, all the shows, except perhaps Varvatos on the final night, were notably quite calm and collected. Back stage at the Nautica show, Amy Reinitz looked surprised, ‘It’s all very calm!?’ That calmness seemed to permeate through some of the collections too. We are a mass market society, capitalist and global, and many of our biggest international designers such as Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren produce clothing that is largely “commercial.” I interviewed Katharine Zarrella, senior editor of V Magazine yesterday at the MRket show, and she decried the use of the word “commercial” as a negative. I would have to agree, a girl gotta eat, but many of the shows played it safe. While watching the beautifully executed Todd Snyder show, a blogger sitting next to me turned and said into my ear, “I could basically go to Zara right now and buy this whole collection.” I felt offended on Snyder’s behalf, and having seen the quality of his clothes up close, I know the statement to be grossly incorrect on many levels. But there it was, from someone on the outside looking in.

From some smaller brands there was more brazen creativity. We saw plenty at New York Men’s Day, and Capsule’s collective presentation of brands including Matthew Miller, Baartmans and Siegal, Maiden Noir, Camo, and CMMN SWDN was exciting. J.Lindeberg’s collections was unexpected and wonderful, presented offsite at Spring Studios against a backdrop of sunlit TriBeCa rooftops. Inspired by the Midnight Cowboy, there was a perfectly restrained use of fringe and suede that struck just the right balance.

Michael Bastian and John Varvatos presented collections that offered little in the way of stylistic surprises, both firmly rooted in their typical aesthetics, but both collections were strong and salable.

Greg Lauren, Billy Reid, Orley and Duckie Brown, while also rooted in their aesthetics, showed developed collections. Reid’s use of custom fabrics including unexpected tweed and jacquard knits looked as soft as he said they’d be, and his use of custom patterns inspired by the outdoors gave the whole collection a unique cohesion. Lauren’s studied disheveling and subversive interpretation of American menswear classics was notably tailored, with three-piece suits and double breasted blazers made from his signature vintage fabrics. Orley took their knits up a notch, with almost lace-like tops in unexpected proportions. Duckie Brown gave us some of the voluminous pants we’ve come to expect, but bunched high above the waist and tied with drawstring ribbon. Coupled with sheer blouses, the collection certainly explored preconceptions of gender and the feminine, but with an artistic beauty that Duckie Brown does so well, and a surprising masculinity.

All said though, it was Robert Geller’s collection that really stood out for me. The collection could easily have shown alongside European heavyweights like Saint Laurent, Givenchy or Balmain: billowing pants in Japanese linen and satin worn with sheer wrap-around shirts; lightweight satin overcoats and wide leg shorts; embroidered cummerbunds with tall felt hats and Mary Jane shoes or leather sandals; pieces that looked like they were made from scrunched up paper or wrinkled sail cloth; and his use of rich autumnal tones combined with mineral earthy neutrals. Geller’s SS16 collection is not only his most exciting in recent seasons, but the elegance of his sartorial sportswear also makes this one of his most wearable, which for me, is the magic equation that every designer should strive for.