These women who dress the man and transform the representation of virility

They are still rare, but more and more numerous: women designers are racing for men’s fashion where there is so much to do, by transforming the representation of virility with a more sensitive or pragmatic look.

Véronique Nichanian, at the helm of men’s collections at Hermès for 35 years, presented her vision of a young and sexy man on Saturday by injecting poetry into this always desirable wardrobe, which has been a great commercial success.

But the men’s ready-to-wear week which ends on Sunday has also brought back to the Parisian catwalks promising young designers such as the British Grace Wales Bonner or the American Emily Bode, winners of prestigious design prizes in their countries.

The young designer Jeanne Friot, behind the eponymous gender-neutral brand, presented a flamboyant collection all in red, feathers and sequins as part of the Sphere project of the Fédération de la Haute Couture which supports emerging creation.

– “More room for expression” –

“I got into men’s fashion because there’s a lot more room for expression. Men’s fashion isn’t very developed, it can be quite conservative at times,” Wales Bonner told AFP .

For Serge Carreira, the designer of Jamaican origin through her father, known for bringing an “Afro-Atlantic” touch to European luxury, tackles stereotypes about the black man by highlighting “sensuality and poetry rather than strength, performance or exoticism”.

Like her, her British compatriot Bianca Saunders also creates pieces for women but says she is a “designer for men”: “It allows you to work on a different canvas and invites exploration”.

Specialist in “tailoring”, she “breaks out of the rigidity of formal pieces by bringing something vibrant and alive”, according to Serge Carreira.

With scenes of rural America recreated at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Emily Bode returned to Paris after a Covid-caused hiatus and on the strength of her title as the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s (CFDA) 2022 Men’s Designer of the Year. ).

In his vintage-inspired collection, men wear tuxedos with rhinestone lapels, suits adorned with sequined champagne bottles or classic-cut camel hair coats.

Emily Bode, who works with recycled old fabrics, “looks in the folk repertoire and very strong American cultural references for a new relaxation for men”, according to Serge Carreira.

– “Less clichés” –

In a different approach, the French Marine Serre now parades at Men’s Fashion Week with mixed collections that reflect her vision of committed and eco-responsible clothing. Does she prefer to create for women or men? “It’s the same,” she replied to AFP.

For Jeanne Friot – whose “upcycled” jeans – made from existing jeans – with feathers are the most popular piece, bought more by men than by women – “men need to have more options in their wardrobe and not just black, white and grey, possibly more feminine or more fun pieces”.

“As a female designer, I have another look at men and at fashion in general” without sticking gender labels on a garment, she explains.

While men tend to follow representations of an ideal – “hey, today I want to be Marlon Brando, I’m putting on a leather jacket” – women dress the man “with fewer clichés, with a look outdoors and more neutral,” says Pierre Hardy, who designs shoes for Hermès and has worked alongside Véronique Nichanian for more than 30 years.

Alice Feillard, director of men’s supply and purchasing at Galeries Lafayette, finds that designers are more pragmatic.

“They have an eye more rooted in reality, more distant and less fantasized, proposals for a more complete wardrobe,” she concludes.

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