Gentlemen of note

Men's appetite for luxury is growing and the Paris autumn-winter shows were happy to provide, writes Georgina Safe.

Sydney's capricious weather is still shifting from soggy to sunny with infuriating changeability but on the international catwalks, the fashion forecast is decidedly clear: it's raining men.

When the Weather Girls recorded their hit in 1982, the global runways were dominated by womenswear.

But as retina-searing images of '80s fashion have faded, menswear has risen to prominence, fuelled in the past few years in particular by the birth of luxury menswear retailers such as Mr Porter and, in Australia, luxury men's department stores including Harrolds in Sydney and Melbourne.

As the Paris men's collections drew to a close following the men's shows in Milan, news came at the weekend that London is to receive its own dedicated showcase for menswear, rather than the single day of men's shows that is presently tacked onto the end of London Fashion Week.

Called London Collections: Men, the three-day event will run from June 15 to 17, just before the next men's collections in Milan and Paris.

Announced at an event co-hosted by the British Fashion Council and British GQ magazine in Paris, London Collections: Men will be an ongoing, twice-yearly event run by a committee headed by British GQ editor Dylan Jones that includes designers Tom Ford and Christopher Bailey and Mr Porter's editor-in-chief Jeremy Langmead, whose company is sponsoring it.

''Menswear has never been so important in this country and the extraordinary appetite for menswear can be seen at all levels, from the high street to Bond Street,'' Jones said in Paris.

''The men's day during London Fashion Week has grown and grown to such an extent that it is now too squeezed to remain one day.''

The growing importance of the menswear sector was also acknowledged during Paris Men's Fashion Week by Antoine Arnault, the 34-year-old heir to luxury conglomerate Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy.


Despite worldwide financial turmoil, Arnault said the luxury sector was enjoying an ''anti-crisis'': between June and September last year LVMH reported sales of £4.9 billion ($7.2 billion), an 18 per cent increase.

He said the most surprising aspect of the luxury industry's 14 per cent boom in the face of broader economic gloom is that it is being driven by men, who are now spending £155 billion a year on luxury clothes and accessories for themselves, according to a new study.

''The only explanation is that people still want to please themselves,'' Arnault told London's Telegraph newspaper. ''Men seem to be a little bit more selfish these days and spend a bit more on themselves and a bit less on their [partners].''

Lashings of leather, slinky knits, bomber jackets and iPad cases were among the runway trends likely to make it into men's wardrobes next autumn, according to buyers at the menswear shows, which ended on Sunday.

Almost 10 days of shows in Milan and Paris ended with a rich-hued 1970s-inspired look from Lanvin and a sexy sailor line from Paul Smith.

Shawn Pean of the US luxury retailer Saks Fifth Avenue buys from half a dozen top Paris names - including Dior, Lanvin and Givenchy - and said he selected catwalk pieces based on ''our customers' needs, aesthetics and functionality''.

''Men are creatures of habit, whereas women are creatures of fashion,'' Pean said, explaining that his choices needed to cater to the more conventional male mid-market as well as fashion pioneers.

''But things that complete the lifestyle are becoming more and more important in the men's market, whether that's a coat or an iPad case.''

Dior mined a military theme in Paris, sending out a slick army in slim-cut forest-green suits and visor caps with a ''clean aesthetic'' that Pean said would translate easily from runway to store.

Tartan and checks - which popped up most strikingly in curvy, unstructured patterns at Issey Miyake - were a sure bet for next season too, he predicted.

In his second collection for Louis Vuitton, Kim Jones showed a collection inspired by ''Japonisme'', the French word to describe the influence of the Japanese woodblock prints on impressionist painters. A suit offered a twist on the kimono and slim-fitted suits and sportswear in reflective fabrics also featured in the range shown beneath a mirrored globe inscribed with the words ''Paris'' and ''Tokyo''.

But by the standards of an average man's wardrobe, Paris threw up some bold propositions, from pumped-up, futuristic supermen at Mugler to ninjas clad in diving suit neoprene at the South Korean Juun.J.

''I try to find a way of buying a collection that represents what the designer is trying to express but that will also appeal to an average customer,'' said Ivan Donovan of the London-based Joseph, which operates 30 multi-brand designer fashion stores as well as selling its own clothing range.

''Do you know anyone who wears neoprene?'' he asked. ''I like men to experiment but I don't want them to look ridiculous.''

Like many buyers, Donovan will be seeing the collections of Dior, Lanvin et al up close in the next week at private showroom appointments.

But with ever-higher pressure to get clothes onto racks early, much of Joseph's autumn selection was ordered months ago, from what are known as pre-collections, where stores buy their ''wearable looks'', which they top up with ''show pieces'' from the runways.

So far Donovan has stocked up on ''luxurious unstructured cashmere jackets from Yves Saint Laurent''; on cashmere knitwear in ''strong but not hard colours'' such as brick red or sapphire blue; and on separates - that is, jackets and pants that don't necessarily match.

Of the runway trends likely to do well, he picked out ''soft checks and tartan'' and lots of mixed materials.

Mixed-material creations were all over the runways, including on Sunday in the puffer jacket-wool coat hybrids at Lanvin and at Paul Smith with ship's captain-style overcoats with a leather panel across the shoulders.

Strong, ultra-masculine shoulders were a clear trend on the Paris catwalks, where they were bulked out on outerwear at Mugler, Rick Owens and Lanvin. Leather - a male wardrobe staple - was everywhere, most strikingly in head-to-toe details at Yves Saint Laurent and at Hermes in full tailored suits in buttery leather that would be the perfect wardrobe addition for the new modern man of luxury.

With Emma Charlton of AFP