Showing posts with label high street. Show all posts
Showing posts with label high street. Show all posts

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Under Inspection: H&M Trend for Men S/S 09

   Somewhat unheralded in the stores themselves, but not hidden away either, it took me a few minutes to note that there was a specialist H&M fashion collection distinct from the current offerings of its Oxford Circus and Regent Street bases last month

   A mixture of lightweight fabrics, offbeat cutting and tailoring, bright to the point of lurid colours and sweet, optimistic prints, I wondered if I'd finally found outfits that would suit a Gilligan's Island remake set in 2165, but that would be a spin-off too silly - Team Knight Rider was bad enough. More observation revealed clues that further distinguished the collection - a purple and black label of the H&M logo and, printed on the bottom of the size tag, the word "TREND"

   It's an apt, and on-the-nose, title for a cornucopia of influences that coalesces into a summary of around the last 2 years of menswear (if you're feeling snarky, all it needs is the 'y' at the end). At first, it's a somewhat self-conscious effect, jumping from the shorter tailoring of Junya Watanabe and Philip Lim to the eyecatching but tasteful prints of Dries van Noten to the double lapel buttonholes of Paul Smith. It especially seems to revel in the block colours and busy stripes of Raf Simons and the fabric play and nonchalant cuts of the ever-directional Lanvin, with nods to the moddish tendencies and safari suit days of Yves Saint Laurent

   But none of this is meant to take away from what H&M is for. It's still about basics a-plenty that are to support or enhance the wardrobe of many a fashion-thinking man, and there's an enticing thinking to throwing today's "hot" styles into a blender and kicking it into the affordable arena with nary a care but for success

   Of course, it's mainly of interest for a regular H&M customer looking to side step outside his comfort zone, or, more pertinently, for the ones who camp outside for each year's designer collaboration. Shirting takes particular twists - short sleeves come with waist-level side pockets, or collarless and chest-bearing with pleated details. Other clever-clever ideas include patched flap pockets stacked on top of each other, and barely-there cutaway collars

   The pyjama-inspired shirt trend, possibly approaching a temporary respite for next year, is rendered in tonal grey-blue, with a lighter grey trim along the placket, collar and chest pocket, and there's a somewhat garish number in the same colours in wide, dyed stripes. I ultimately procured a white button-down collar shirt with paneled sides and arms in grey that nods to Junya's recent Brooks Brothers experiments

   Trousers are tapered, cut slim in cotton and nylon, and proffered in a simple range of bright-to-dark colours, but the attention is mostly on the top. The best stuff is the outerwear, boasting a serviceable charcoal topcoat that dresses one up or down, an off-white windbreaker with elongated zipper details (very Tim Hamilton), along with a similar, shorter number in nylon navy, and a lightly crumpled beige-grey leather jacket suitable for your "Quadrophenia in the Summertime" needs

   Par for the democratic age of style we're in, as well as some of this fits together, so the versatility highlights its incongruities. When Trend was first launched last season, H&M itself pointed out that "Menswear right now is all about choice", and there tends to be a case of both too much and too little. The knitwear and coats are generally strong, but not offered in enough colours or variety (less so the knits, admittedly), and also generally lack the bold hues of the other garments. Although the lookbook promised shoes, I have yet to actually come across any, and hope this will be rectified soon. And frankly, since there's deliberately no single guiding aesthetic, no sane or smart man will be piecing together too many looks from this collection, since that way may lie a "hot mess" more often than not. It's not impossible; merely a matter of careful choice. And there really are some fun choices to be made here

   I had to give kudos to a floral print shirt that isn't immediately identifiable as either Liberty or Paul Smith (although the other offering is almost eye-bleedingly bright and busy) , and the short sleeved cardigans with contrasting trim give a subtle finish to a ubiquitous staple; subtlety being one of the strengths that Trend actually has, if one's prepared to dig deep enough

   It has its moments. It's a mess of fun. It can do the Lanvin thing on regular folk without the 80s fabric nightmare results. And it's good to see H&M branching out under its own name

   Take a look

Portraits by Peter Gehrke for H&M via