The zeitgeist has a peculiar way of dictating the way collections come about, which proved to be accurate for the AW21 menswear round-up part two. Clickbait luxury pieces from the biggest names in fashion are battling it out to overthrow Bernie Sanders of his meme-coup of 2021 with larger than life backpack jackets and duffle bags in the shape of aeroplanes. Parallelly collections are becoming ever so political, with recontextualised military uniforms and brands shedding light on the inequality war throughout their collections, designers today are taking a stand and responding to the zeitgeist with collections of hope and humour.
The multi-talented photographer and creative director Eli Russell Linnetz presented his multi-conceptual ERL AW21 collection titled “The Final Frontier” with a lookbook that showcased what Cali beach bums should be wearing to an apres-ski in Big Bear, California in 2021. The 33-look collection saw references to ‘90s pop culture and Americana, juxtaposed with accents of tinfoil outerwear and harlequin hats. Linnetz sure knows how to make one giggle over clothing. ERL is still a young brand in terms of age, but Linnetz has consistently put out great collections that centres around his love for California: easy-going clothes and humour since its inauguration in 2018. This collection was in no way different.
For his AW21 collection, Linnetz has collaborated with Salomon on skis and boots featuring a bold Americana-inspired star print, which complemented the collection and lookbook perfectly. Shades of grey melange, teddy bear brown were parallelled with acid green, bright orange and cream across sweats, long johns and fuzzy knits. The star pieces of the collection were undoubtedly the shearling tote bags and not to mention his venture into the realms of formal wear. In classic fashion show history, closing a show with a wedding look or prom look, in this case, has become less normal, however, Linnetz brought this tradition back and exemplifies what the ERL client should be wearing on his wedding day.
Virgil Abloh’s sixth collection for Louis Vuitton saw a deeper and more personal approach to design from the American designer. Perhaps his most thorough and well-executed collection to date, Abloh challenged the status quo and spoke tales about being a Ghanaian designer from Chicago in a predominantly white fashion sphere in Paris. As Saul Williams and Kai Isaiah Jamal spoke words of breaking barriers and inequality, the models appeared in hand-in-glove fitted tailoring partnered with classic LV staples printed with his “Tourist vs. Purist” motto, whilst Mos Def performed on the sidelines.
There were so many hidden – and not so hidden – messages to Abloh’s theme this season, perhaps the most obvious was the bomber jackets which featured 3D skylines of both Paris and Chicago. Kente cloth infused with the LV monogram also underlined his personal heritage this season. The minimalist palette of burnt orange, green and red were combined with an impressive iteration of the LV ‘Keepall’ in the shape of an aeroplane, an emblem that could also be found as buttons on the outerwear. The plane signified two things in this collection, Louis Vuitton originally being a travel goods brand and Virgil Abloh’s own impressive journey from Chicago to Paris.
The latest Rick Owens collection, titled Gethsemane, was named after the garden where Jesus was arrested before his crucifixion and for AW21, Rick Owens tapped into masculine anger and Covid-friendly attire like built-in gloves on the outerwear to chiffon-draped face masks. In archetypical hues known to the Rick Owens brand, cloaks, bomber jackets and thigh-high boots were cast in shades of black, army green, purple and washed out grey. The show opened with the muse of the brand, Tyrone Dylan Susman wearing nothing but a pentagram stitched pair of briefs and a black wizard-like cloak.
Next to his underwear as outerwear ensembles were neatly layered knits with perfectly shaped holes across the bodice, allowing the contrasting undergarment to shine through. This season also featured a collaboration with Converse, a pair of boots that perfectly merged Rick Owens’ signature footwear like the toe cap on his Kiss boots and the body of his Ramone sneaker. Rick Owens also appeared to have gotten the memo for the hottest AW21 trend for men, long johns (which could also be seen at Prada and ERL). However, for Rick Owens, they were nowhere near your traditional long john as these ones appeared in all black second-skin leather.
For AW21, Jun Takahashi enlisted Swedish painter Markus Akesson for his main print story with a range of Akersson’s paintings plastered on the backs of down parkas and on the chest of cotton hoodies. A series of intricate jacquard sweaters, featuring mountains and hills in shades of army green and beige partnered with earflap beanies, opened the collection, only to be followed by relaxed and knitted cognac-coloured ensembles. This season, Takahashi put all his time and energy into perfecting already perfect outerwear silhouettes, like his duffle coat with puffer sleeves and wool coat featuring PVC pockets.
Eastpak is the latest brand to collaborate with Undercover, not only on a series of backpacks but also on a handful of coats and bombers, with the whole back panel being constructed as an iconic Eastpak backpack. Jun Takahashi knows how to create clickbait fashion like with his backpack jackets this season proving yet again, that big clothes for small screens is the way to go in 2021.
Kim Jones presented his AW21 Dior menswear collection just days after the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden in the USA. With the timely theme of warfare taking centre stage, the designer traced the trajectory of military uniforms in his collection for the French Maison. Kim Jones stripped the collection of gimmicks and its oblique pattern this season, focusing on pristine tailoring with traces of uniform history, resulting in a collection that reminds one of dressing up – perhaps this is why the brand used Christian Dior’s Bal des Rois et Reines costume as “King of the Animals” from 1949 as inspiration for the invites. The animalistic nature of Christian Dior’s costume became the focal point for the print stories this season, which was created by artist Peter Doig.
Contemporary camo print in shades of green and burnt orange made the collection feel modern, whilst faded images which appeared to be from the Napoleonic war were stretched across single-breasted coats and sudden hits of bright yellow and terracotta lifted the collection to the high ground. Dior Men AW21 saw Kim Jones perfectly splice his expertise in streetwear with the rich textile history of Dior. The collection celebrated modernised serge coats and Eisenhower jackets as the world lowers its shoulders from the departure of another president.
For Vetements AW21 the team put together a whopping 165-look collection consisting of reinterpretations of bestsellers and iconic Vetements pieces from their own archives. After Demna Gvasalia’s departure, the brand started referencing itself by putting out clothes you’ve already seen before. This season saw the return of the teddy bear shoes, the Juicy Couture looks, motorcycle-inspired bombers and thigh-high boots, to name a few. Inevitably, the ultra-commercial collection does what it says on the label: clothes, but in French.
What the collection lacked in new forms of referencing was overshadowed by how the team at Vetements managed to keep Gvasalia’s love for Maison Martin Margiela alive, which was seen in the collection through the lace masks and the semi-couture Stockman bust from Maison Martin Margiela SS97. The collection featured a broad array of politically-themed shirts, heaps of logo play, rhinestones and a widespread array of textures like PVC, velour, leather and lace. The highlight of the collection was undoubtedly the tailoring featuring sliced off lapels, which gave the collection a sense of maturity in midst of the many graphic t-shirts.
For AW21, Grace Wales Bonner looked to the 1970s with a collection that embraced the act of dressing up with razor-sharp tailoring and preppy school uniforms. Wales Bonner knows how to cut a suit and for AW21 the tuxedo got a major overhaul with navy blue silk accents. Through Bonner’s themes of the 1970s and relaxed luxury, the designer perfectly taps into what people have been missing lately: reasons to wear your finest garb. The collection saw hues of camel, cream and navy partnered with striped multi-coloured knitwear accessories and vests, whilst double-breasted coats were adorned with fur collars next to contrast sleeve-cuff shirting and bucket hats.
This season, Grace Wales Bonner also premiered her forthcoming Adidas collaboration which consisted of your favourite three-striped tracksuits, trainers and raglan sleeved sweaters featuring school logo emblems that reads “Adidas Originals Literary Academy Wales Bonner”. The collaboration perfectly complemented the overall theme of the 1970s and school uniforms which for this season also consisted of cropped cigarette trousers and a casual jacket, often paired with a cardigan or a crisp cotton shirt. Instead of looking to the future and what that may bring, Wales Bonner encourages its fans to pick up a book and imagine life in the 1970s.
Written by Madeleine Holth for Perfect Magazine