Dolce and Gabbana Fall/Winter 2008: Trend Barometer

While some fashion shows are often more a display of pure fantasy and artistic creativity than realistic wear, Dolce and Gabbana’s collections are often as much an indicator of current fashion trends as they are an influence on future ones.

This collection displayed a marked departure from last year’s, where the emphasis was on slim fitting, structured pieces set in futuristic metallics that created a polished, avant-garde look. If Fall 2007 was about an urban cosmonaut, then 2008 seemed almost otherworldly with the strangest pairings of hugely oversized sweaters and baggy sweat pants, punctuated by some imposing shearling pieces that looked like they were stolen from Daniel Boone’s log cabin.

Though there seemed to be in total less realistically marketable pieces than past shows, it is still possible to distill the wearable elements that will likely be present both in runway knock-off retailers and on the street.

Gucci introduced bulky, over-sized sweaters this season but the trend has seemingly pervaded many designers’ collections and the swinging pendulum of fashion has decided that what was once simply sloppy is now a fashion statement. The way to make an over-sized sweater work without looking like a homeless person is to wear it as part of a layered outfit. Wearing a cropped jacket will provide needed structure over top of a longer sweater and can create a high fashion look.

In keeping with the super-sizing trend, trousers also have moved away from slim fitting to a looser, more classic cut. Also back on the rise are single pleated pants after a long dominance of flat front pants. Dolce and Gabbana does an interesting job with this look by contrasting a fitted suit jacket over the relaxed-fit pants. This may be a style to emulate come next fall, as it offers a good halfway point between the two ends of the spectrum.

Toward the end of the show, Dolce and Gabbana showed their more ‘bread and butter’ designs: high design, modern suits that reflected the currents trends in fashion. Peak lapels, besides being highly lauded by men’s fashion gurus, have been an increasingly present feature on European suits. Shawl collars as have recently become stylish once again on tuxedos and are now slowly become a fashionable option for suits. The double-breasted suit seemed to have enjoyed a ‘come-back,’ only to be quickly forgotten after the popularity of the three-piece suit. Whereas the problem with double-breasted suits is that they can sometimes appear stodgy, the high-sheen fabric used here gives it an interesting update.

One of My Favorite Brands: Theory

Though I normally tend to shy away from brand evangelism—I am too often let down or turned off by some aspect of the marketing; one brand that has never disappointed me and that has remained consistently excellent throughout the years is Theory.

What Theory does best is stylish, modern clothing that incorporates subtle trends with a classic American style that makes nearly ever item in the collection infinitely wearable. In this sense, they are similar to Banana Republic, but are ultimately more chic and fashion conscious.

Another thing that makes them so fantastic is their attention to detail. While most of the pieces themselves are simple in design, a shirt pattern or material used will be the factor that makes it stand out against a sea of low-cost, mass production retail chains.

Theory is all about clean lines and modernized classics; they eschew the ephemerally fashionable; you won’t find any buffalo check plaid or corduroy pants on the shelves.

Since all the pieces are understated and refined, it’s a great label to find both clothes for the office as well as some casually cool items for everyday wear. Trousers are mostly either straight leg or relaxed fitting but are so without being vulgar or too loose. The best items they make though are their dress shirts, which are easily some of the best off the rack sport shirts one can buy. Besides being fitted so that they won’t bunch up like a balloon around your waste, the designs are always in good taste: no garish colors or tacky patterns. This dotted shirt ($195) offers a good example of how ingenious their designs are. While close up, one can easily discern the pattern of large and small dots; from afar the shirt looks like a textured and sophisticated light blue.

The pricing is expensive, but not unreasonable if you consider that these are items that are not only high quality, but also will not be outdated when the next season comes around. Rather, many of the clothes can be worn for years with impunity since they make great staple wardrobe items. I still wear the first dress shirts I bought from Theory when I ‘discovered’ them few years ago.

An interesting feature they added to their website called “In Theory” allows you to drag separate tops and bottoms from their runway pieces to create new outfits.

Theory has its own stores in large cities and is also sold in high-end retailers such as Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, Barney’s and Bergdorf Goodman.

How To Dress While Abroad

When traveling abroad, you are a representative of your country. Like it or not, you are judged based on your appearance and interactions, and your perception will either fuel or help dispel cultural stereotypes.

“Doing as the Romans do” is extremely important, not only because it is the right thing, but it also has many practical consequences. When you blend in with the local populace, you both reduce your chances of being pick-pocketed and being turned away at restaurants, as well as increase the possibility of meeting new people and gaining entrance to places you might not otherwise.

Europeans, for example, on average do not have the same fear of dressing as the majority of American men. Instead, they rightly see it as another means of self-expression. Disregard of appearance is seen both as a lack of respect for self as well as others.

Unless you are traveling to Cancun, ‘vacation’ does not always inherently mean t-shirts, shorts and sandals. When traveling to a foreign city, it is important to always be presentable and give the same attention to detail you would for a first date.

Certain things are a dead giveaway that you are an American tourist. Principal among them are cargo pants, non-ironic American flag shirts, rumpled clothing, and torn jeans. Chinos are another item that, while popular in the U.S., are basically nonexistent in most European countries.

The best way to go is to wear understated clothing in neutral colors. Clothes from European labels such as A.P.C. are great because they are pegged to the fashion in Europe rather than stateside.

A fail safe packing list, which can be modified for the duration of your trip, would include bringing at least one stylish blazer, which is imperative for access to upscale restaurants. Also plan on bringing at least a few dress shirts for daily wear; ties are up to personal discretion and style. For jeans, think about what you might wear to the office on a casual Friday; if they are ripped or baggy, leave them at home to wear while painting the house.

Obviously, if you plan on sightseeing and extensive walking (which is the best way to really see a city), it’s important to bring comfortable shoes, though this does not necessarily translate to sneakers. While living in France, I remarked that almost everyone from the age of fifteen up wore loafers or proper shoes rather than sneakers. There, nicer restaurants and bars will not allow people in sneakers to enter. Packing one pair of black and one pair of brown shoes will likely be all you need for your travels.

If you follow these simple guidelines, you will have little reason to fear being targeted or labeled as an unwelcome tourist and anything that can diminish the prevalence or necessity of fanny packs is a very good thing.

A Blazer for Every Occasion

The blazer is one of those iconic staple items that virtually every man, regardless of age or profession, has at least one of in their closet. Whether it is the standard, blue, prep school blazer or something more intricate, a blazer is a must-have object that is as versatile as it is diverse.

There is no substitute for a blazer in situations that demand a dressier or even more chic attire. European, slim cuts are much preferable to boxy, American sport coats, which unfortunately proliferate all throughout politicians’ circles and middle management. The best attributes are darted wastes, side vents and a two-button maximum.

Easily the most conservative variety are blue sport coats, which often come standard with gold buttons. While there is a fair amount of dissent as to the stylishness and aesthetic value of gold buttons, I maintain that they are both ugly as well as puerile due to their association with young students and “family style” sit-down dinners at boarding school. I believe the only acceptable place for a gold button blazer is if you are channeling John F. Kennedy on a yachting trip.
Versace Suit Jacket $1,195

The velvet blazer, besides having enjoyed a comeback as the trendy item du jour, is a great item to wear out for a night on the town. Pair it with dark, slim jeans and patent leather shoes and you have one of the most stylish looks of the day. This particular blazer has all the trademarks of a modern sport coat. The fitted waste, the single button closure, peak lapels and satin trimming are all fashionable elements that one should look for in a ‘going-out’ blazer.
Two a.m. velvet blazer $135

The corduroy blazer instantly provides an air of academia to its wearer and is easier to dress down than up. Because it looks great with almost any pair of jeans, it’s the ideal jacket to throw on during the weekend with sneakers or loafers. Finding one that is fitted with either one or two buttons is important for counteracting the stuffiness that is inherent in the fabric.
Barney’s Co-op sport coat $119

When summer comes around (though that’s now a sadly distant thought), a seersucker blazer is both a stylish and preppy alternative to other styles. Seersucker, being rumpled, is intrinsically casual so it’s a cool look with jeans and a crisp white dress shirt or can be worn with a t-shirt for a younger and more informal feel.
Juicy Couture Seersucker Blazer $325

“Black is the New Black”

Black has always been the most iconic color in terms of classic sophistication and so it’s of little surprise that the hue of choice for brooding intellectuals is once again back in fashion. Living in New York means that at least half of my wardrobe is either black or gray. It is a given that in the case that in most cities and professional settings, the de rigueur color is black. Beyond this though, black is also the vehicle for many fashion statements as well as the patron color for creative types.

Samuel Beckett, the acclaimed expatriated writer, most exemplifies the essence of what the color black is supposed to convey. Spending his time in cafés, writing and pondering the philosophical questions of his day, he was a man of ideas and his dark clothes helped to create a tangible identity that complimented his literary persona.

The problem with black comes in its abuse, too much will have you looking like a stage-hand and inappropriate, disjointed pieces will send the message either that you are going through a period of angst or are in mourning. If neither of these describes your situation, it is always safe to add some other neutral colors to the mix, principally white or gray to avoid the probable confusion.

Wearing black pants with a black dress shirt and then a different colored sweater is a look that is basically fail-safe and easy adaptable for just about any social milieu. This solves the problem of black over-kill and can be either casual when worn without a tie or dressier with one, either being likely appropriate for the office. The other completely viable option is to wear a white dress shirt with a black sweater overtop.
Sweater and jeans from Dolce and Gabbana.

Mixing black with gray and white tailored pieces is a refined look that is appropriate in any setting. In this example, the black serves a more formal purpose rather than being a fashion statement. When wearing elements of black such as a cardigan or sweater, you will most likely also need to wear black shoes to make the outfit cohesive.
Cardigan and pants from Armani Collezioni.

A black turtleneck is a great piece that expresses sophistication and intelligence. It is easy to imagine Beckett receiving guests in the bar-lobby of a Parisian hotel after having finished an espresso and a carton of Camels. As opposed to the other outfits, which incorporate several other elements such as shirts and ties, you don’t run the risk of black overkill. Corduroy pants have an old-world feel that compliment and complete an intellectual writer look in a way that jeans absolutely could not. Pairing the sweater with gray trousers and black shoes is a possibility that will make the outfit less brooding and more trendy.
Cable Knit Sweater from Alexander McQueen.