Do you know where your man's style is? Bruce Pask, Men's Fashion Director at T: The New York Times Style Magazine, helps us find it. With the fashion season for menswear finally winding down (some men's spring collections show in June in Europe, while others show in September with the women's collections), he tells Dana Linett-Silber, a regular contributor to The Inside Source, everything we ever wanted to know about men's fashion but were afraid to ask.
The Inside Source: New York Fashion Week wrapped earlier this month. What shows did you most look forward to?
Bruce Pask: I was really excited about J. Crew. It was the first time they were showing at the tents and [President, Executive Creative Director] Jenna Lyons and [head of men's design] Frank Muytjens do such consistently great work -- he really propelled them as a mass brand while still injecting a decent amount of fashion into [the clothing]. The show was well-executed with really clever clothing. Another one I was excited about was Patrik Ervell. He has a consistently clear vision -- very militaristic but with a little bit of whimsy, levity and color. It's nice to see that developed and strong an aesthetic for such a young designer.
The Inside Source: Any big surprises?
Bruce Pask: Siki Im. He's given smaller presentations but this was his first runway show. The difficult thing here in New York, as compared to Milan and Paris, is finding the right venue. You can show in a garage in Paris and it can be a really romantic environment. The tents are necessary as a central focus but it can be really hard for a young designer with the scrutiny of a white runway and a big white space. Siki found abandoned office space on Varick Street and it was great. Very large and with gravity -- it set the tone that the show was going to have significance, and it was spectacular. It was very heavy, called Topography of Globalization, focused on the idea of Western clothing and its effect elsewhere, touching on the Arab spring and military influences. The clothing was very clear, concise and cohesive. Brilliantly executed, it was a big surprise!
The Inside Source: Give us your favorite five looks of the spring 2012 season?
1. Ethnic, colorful prints like Patrik Ervell's Hawaiian shirt. It's not your dad's vacation shirt but the idea of a short sleeve printed camp shirt is fresh right now.
2. Safari: Khaki jackets, linen utility shirts... Michael Kors had a great show based on Peter Beard that romanticized the whole ideal of the African bush. It goes from high designer to a shirt at The Gap or J. Crew. It's easily accessible and wearable.
3. White is everywhere: Not the easiest to wear, but it can be incorporated. Lots of it in Ralph Lauren's new denim line, Denim and Supply. We saw great white cotton twill pants with white gauze cowboy shirts, it's an interesting way to use the trend and make it approachable. A white suit, after all, is definitely not for everybody.
4. Slim jeans and jackets: Men can't go from a skinny jean to a wide pant in a season the way women can. We are definitely in a slimming down trend, though, and so we won't be seeing things oversized any time soon.
5. Athletic influence: I'm seeing jersey track pants in more tailored silhouettes, like Calvin Klein's high tech fabric, so there's a very prevalent athletic mood surrounding the spring season that's interesting. Lots of clothes being made with traditional high tech nylon.
The Inside Source: Fashion changes in fits and spurts. Is anything dramatic going on right now that's going to change the way men on the street look in a big way?
Bruce Pask: I think Thom Browne created that aesthetic shift six or so years ago when he really changed the focus with the idea of higher armholes, higher waists, shorter jackets... That shift was quite severe and it really did make itself down to mass fashion, as in Uniqlo's + J collection. That shrunken shape has everything to do how Thom's vision shifted the eye.
Now the change I think is how menswear is becoming quite open for individual interpretation. Men can be confident caring about what they wear. In America we don't come from a tradition of dressing up. It's all about easy sportswear. America is kind of learning that.
The Inside Source: So what does Fashion Week mean to the average guy out there who really doesn't pay attention to fashion? What is he going to want to wear to work and on the weekends?
Bruce Pask: The idea of the deconstructed sports jacket is a natural reaction to that highly structured silhouette we used to see. The financial crisis changed people's ideas about what one wears to work. What people needed was more flexibility and options. The economy changed and that created this whole workforce that didn't go to an office. The era of the company man is over. This has all changed what the working man looks like.
It was interesting to see how the suiting companies dealt with that. They really all did come together very intelligently and thoughtfully and learned how to deconstruct things. No shoulder pads, easy to wear, unstructured and casual enough that people felt comfortable in it. If your boyfriend, or husband, or brother has to get one thing, I'd say nothing is more flattering than a great fitting sports jacket. Muji, the Japanese department store, has a great one right now at a great price. It's a cotton poly knit so it feels like a sweatshirt but looks like a tailored jacket. This is what tailored clothes have become. Not this strictly business uniform.
The Inside Source: And of more immediate concern, since we have your attention, anything for fall that we should be getting guys to wear right now?
Bruce Pask: I love that these mass stores are making fashion so accessible. There is some great clothing out there right now for men, like the "Mad Men" Collection at Banana Republic. So again I'd say get a good sports jacket if you don't already own one. And go get a toggle coat and a denim shirt -- guys always look good in denim shirts. Keep it simple, you need minimal effort to look good.
The Inside Source: Any general do's and don'ts advice for men on how to dress?
Bruce Pask: American men don't have a concept of what size they should wear. They think the bigger, the more masculine. So I would say buy stuff that fits and you'll look better. Try on the size you think you normally wear for comfort, but then go one size down and take a look. I'd say eight out of ten times, the smaller size will look better. The mirror doesn't lie, so really take a look. Men always try on a jacket and push their arms around for room, which is so funny! You're not going to the gym in your sports jacket! You don't have to pretend you're rowing a boat to see if it fits!
This article was written by Dana Linett-Silber. For more interviews with fashion and design industry insiders, visit The Inside Source.