Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Suited for Winter: Prada Menswear 2012

Blustery winds and cool mornings have had me reaching for the central heating switch at home, and dusting off my winter coat. Although the fashion world works months in advance, and despite the fact that I might have read Vogue's September issue last month, I'm only now giving serious thought to what I'll be wrapping myself up in during the coming cold months. And yet this post isn't even about womenswear, because today, in a blog-first, I'm instead turning my eye to menswear.

Gary Oldman, Jamie Bell, Garrett Hedlund & Willem Dafoe for Prada
Prada's Autumn/Winter 2012 Menswear campaign, shot by David Sims, makes me very happy for a number of reasons. Firstly, it features some of my most favourite actors, and secondly, they look sharply turned out. But there's a third reason, too: Messrs Oldman et al are the kind of men who would ooze cool whatever they wore, but the sleek tailoring of the Prada collection elevates them into the stratosphere.The collection is heavily influenced by the late Victorian and Edwardian eras, mixing the strong tailoring of the period with elements of quirky Steampunk.

The key points of the collection:

Double-breasted: These days, you're most likely to see a double-breasted suit on the likes of the Duke of Edinburgh, and featured in the (*ahem*) 'Classic' section at Mark & Spencers. It's a difficult look for a gentleman to pull off, with the double row of buttons often having an unfortunate widening effect across the midriff. Here, though, both the slightly elongated length and higher lapels of the jacket worn by Willem Dafoe make for a more flattering cut, reminiscent of late nineteenth and early twentieth century lounge suits. 


Men About Town: A 1909 Harrods Advertisement.
Military Style: Jamie Bell also sports a double-breasted jacket, combined with high-waisted trousers, and while it looks good on him within the confines of the editorial, I'm not convinced this is a look many men would be willing to wear. Not unless they were off to a Victorian-themed battle re-enactment, that is.It also has shades of a Downton Abbey Footman's uniform about it, too, dare I say? Yet despite the military influence to this look (which I always love to see),this outfit definitely has more of a film costume feel to it than anything else.


Is Jamie Bell possibly hoping for a Footman role on Downton Abbey...?
Tailored Overcoats: Again, double breasted, looking equally good buttoned up or down. The double-breasted look becomes much more flattering as the length of the coat increases. By cleverly elongating the silhouette, attention is taken away from the buttons across the midriff, creating a sense of balance and proportion. Special mention has to go to Gary Oldman's striking red brocade version with grey fur-trimmed lapels,not unlike the hunting attire of a country gentleman. 


Steampunk Pocket Details: There are some excellent details to be spotted in the front pockets - crisply folded pocket squares,bejewelled and cameo pins, bright buttonhole flowers, round sunglasses and (my favourite) big, thick pens fixed to front pockets with an elegant clip.




Use of colour and print: Along with the neutral blacks, whites and greys, there are handsome contrasts in deep reds, luxurious purples, stripes and striking prints on waistcoats and jackets alike.


The Smoking Jacket/Trenchcoat Hybrid: What better way for a Victorian gentleman to relax in his library, than to don a comfortable smoking jacket and silk cravat to fend off autumnal chills? Prada's take is to combined the relaxed tailoring and comfortable printed silks of traditional smoking jackets, and add the structure of a trenchcoat belt. 


Oscar Wilde, Smoking Jacket Aficionado, 1882
Buttoned Up (but no tie): Shirts are pristine white or grey, with an impeccably starched stiffness reflecting the most formal of Victorian and Edwardian portraits. There is, however, the very distinct absence of a tie, but top buttons are staunchly fastened. The quirky touch here is again, something I don't feel would be adopted for mainstream wear; throughout the shoot, co-ordinating turtleneck tops are worn underneath shirts, peeping out over the top of the collar. To me, it seems like a modern take on the starched and elaborately arranged early nineteenth century neckties, pioneered by Regency style icon, Beau Brummel.

The Regency Collar in action: Alexander MacKenzie by Sir Thomas Lawrence, c.1800
In conclusion, the ad-campaign is the winning combination of a beautifully groomed stellar cast, slick,the clean tailoring for which Prada is rightly famed, strong historical references, and the fun of the Steampunk genre.

Prada campaign images courtesy of The Pursuitist.
Harrods Advertisement courtesy of cutterandtailor.com.
Downton Abbey image courtesy of Spoiler TV.
Oscar Wilde image courtesy of The National Portrait Gallery.