Workwear’s influence on high fashion is one of those trends that required a few spins on the fashion turntable before its real impact has taken hold. For one, it needed to shrug off the associations of the overly-earnest workwear enthusiast, or more recent re-treads of such classic looks being rehashed as “heritage”. Extending London’s menswear runways’ current love affair with the boys from the blackstuff, at Kenzo in Paris yesterday the workwear/industrial aesthetic was blown up to new proportions with a three-dimensional sense of fun typical of Humberto Leon and Carol Lim’s vision. Balanced by a solid palette of greys, black and brown, accented with acid lime (shouting as loudly as hazard tape) and orchid purples, familiar shapes such as tough steelworker bombers, factory-floor shirt-jackets and straight legged pants were given an avant-garde twist. Of particular note were the tailored jacket hems peeking out under broad-collared tops, tailored furs, futuristic safety boots, colour blocked sweaters and prints featuring factory worker tool “creatures”, distorted checks and classic Americana landscapes made weird through the skewed colour scheme.
As arbiters of global taste through the growing Opening Ceremony boutique network, Leon and Lim have an almost unique perspective on men’s fashion; one imagines that they are exposed to more examples of envelope-pushing design through talent-seeking than could fill catwalks globablly. Not forgetting that they have also reversed the fortunes of one of Paris’s most iconic fashion houses in Kenzo, whether or not they remain flavour of the month. I love the fact that every Kenzo collection they have produced so far and the associated campaigns are infused with a sense of Paris as the ultimate fashion playground and the Kenzo brand as a dressing-up box full of design heritage from the priceless pre-digital days when fashion lasted more than an Instagram moment.
Yesterday’s collection is an example of focus and of not being lost in influences, trends and contrariness. Colour and proportion are the things that lifted Kenzo AW14 from yet another re-tread of workwear into a more relevant exploration of shape, technique and fragmentary layering.