Genuine, masculine, chic. These are the leitmotifs of the Fall-Winter 2012-2013 Les Hommes collection by Tom Notte and Bart Vandebosch. But there is experimentation and dynamism to their chic, referencing tradition without seeming traditional.
There is a feel for elegance throughout, for dressing up. A certain formality is evident even in the easiest pieces: a classic bomber-jacket cut in python and camel-hair, a Perfecto reimagined in shearling as soft and luxurious as mink. Genuine, unapologetic luxury is a central motif - exquisite materials, beautifully cut and exquisitely finished, and still retaining an inherent masculinity: dandy in the true sense of the word.
Peru was the starting point for this sartorial trip - but it is an abstract idea of South America that permeates the collection, seeping into the clothing through a rich burnt palette of ochre, jade, merlot and velvety almost-black. Peruvian knitting patterns began Notte and Vandebosch's fresh experiments in colour combination and pattern, and indeed with exploring texture through knitwear. Thick cashmere Aran experiments with pattern, chunky ribbed knits add volume while delicate mohair gives a consciousness of the body beneath. Colour combinations are striking: anthracite against camel, deep red against silver-grey.
The graphicism of these patterns lead Notte and Vandebosch to the abstract artist Peter Halley, whose geometric work inspired colour-blocked sweaters and suiting. The colour blocking became an optical effect: jackets turn to reveal a contrast back, lapels and waistbands are underscored with a colour, like a shadow, a trick of the light transformed into a trick of tailoring. Sometimes, the reverse is true: the signature slim Les Hommes jacket is sliced apart and reconfigured, external seams casting shadows like pinstripes across the surface.
This combination of knit and tailoring delineates the male form: a new male form for Les Hommes, with a certain volume and emphasis to the shoulder, torso and sleeve above a slender trouser. There is a modern nostalgia to the shapes, a Deco echo of male sartorial elegance of the 1930s and 1940s, as re-imagined in the 1970s. But these references are synthesised into something entirely of-the-moment.
The accessories underline the idea of gentlemanly chic. The beret, a classic an unpretentious male head-covering, is reworked in firm wool to create a graphic shape. Gloves are fitted in kidskin or paper-thin precious skins, foulards knotted high on the throat to give a proud seat to the jawline. Shoes fuse heavy walking-boots, brogues and Oxfords - a wardrobe of male footwear that relies on eternal style rather than fashion for its impact. Thick-soled, they form an emphatic conclusion to a dramatic silhouette.