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.

An Exercise in Etro

Following the last post on Italian house Etro, here is some pictorial analysis of my fascination.

As much as Etro’s originality and quality can inspire, it is often the catwalk combinations that galvanise me. Take the first image above – a pale grey suit with purple waistcoat and coordinating tie, shirt, handkerchief. Now, as a whole this is too much. Some people might be able to get away with it – perhaps Italian eccentrics who happen to be heir to an automobile fortune. I can’t.

But like much that is thrown down the runway, it is not supposed to be copied. It is supposed to inspire. I have a sweater in a dark purple from Reiss. Up till now I have only worn it with navy suits or jackets. Perhaps I will try it with a pale grey – even brown, which this suit seems to tend towards.

Equally, I would have thought the colour too dark to be worn with brown shoes; yet it works well here. And the twist of the yellow belt: perhaps too much, but it does remind me of the contrasting colours (one primary colour’s contrast is the mix of the other two – so, yellow’s is purple).

The handkerchief is too showy and I don’t like the pattern. I don’t particularly like the tie or shirt either, certainly not together. But a similar suit tone with a purple sweater, perhaps over a blue-and-white striped shirt? That could work. And yellow would be good as an accent, in a handkerchief or even a belt as here.

The image and its colours inspire in a way that is rare in menswear.

The second image above points out how well rusty reds work with brown, though I’d never go for that tie or shirt.

The third is all about combinations of pattern. The suit, sweater, shirt, tie and handkerchief all have different patterns. But they work because the wide stripes of the sweater (and its strong outline) separate the suit and shirt/tie. Equally, the tie and shirt are a similar enough density of pattern to fit well together and to slip into the background. The colours (except for that yellow belt again) are not that extraordinary, but the patterns take it to another level. I wouldn’t wear it all, but it inspires.

The next image shows how well bright colours can go together if they are balanced (either the tie or the trousers on their own would stand out too much).

The penultimate combination demonstrates balancing the strong pattern of a suit with plain, background colours elsewhere.

And the yellow sweater just seems to work here. Perhaps it’s the implied yellow in the green-tinge trousers and vest, I’m not sure.

During this same season, Fall 2007, Calvin Klein was displaying grey tonic suits, with the occasional bright yellow. Armani had quilted vests and collarless shirts, but was basically black and blue. Both seem not only dull but unsophisticated compared to the density of colour at an Etro show.

Have a flick through the previous few years’ Fall collections at Etro. Try and ignore 2007’s floppy yellow hat. The rest might just inspire you.

Favourite Looks from the Spring 2008 Collections

Though the joys of spring are still a long way away, the fever is already in the air. Chunky knits lie unwanted in the bargain bins of the High Street; despite the continuing cold, overcoats are steadily being replaced with raincoats; gentlemen brave the mid-January streets without scarves or hats: now that 2008 has started it seems half of us can’t wait until the first quarter of it is bally well over. And there is an awful lot to look forward to. In November and December, the barren trees in St James and The Green Parks merely offered ghostly reminders of that forgotten summer; a summer that seemed to be from another lifetime, but with the ringing in of the New Year, and the squeaking of a fresh calendar, once more we look to the ‘universal favourite’ of seasons.

The shiny new collections are now flowing into shops, feeding our spring appetites and it’s a refreshing change from the overcoats and scarves that have been bulging from the shelves since October. It’s always rather nice to have something to look forward to so here are my four favourite outfits from the spring 2008 collections.


The subtle elegance of this outfit is what draws me to it. While there are certainly more fantastical creations around for the coming season, there is a healthy, appealing crispness to this combination. Firstly, the trousers, cut at a perfect length, are of a lovely Bordeaux vintage red. Bright red trousers will be everywhere this spring, doubtless worn with navy blazers, and while such a look is of perennial appeal, this calmer and more patrician tone offers individuality. The patent loafers, looking rather Stemar, are one of the most versatile designs available; suits, chinos and denim are all suitable. The icing-on-the-cake of this ensemble is what covers the torso; the subtle Seychelles-sand roll neck and the off-white two-button jacket look simple enough at first glance, but it’s the lovely contrast of texture: while the jumper is a soft item, rippling like brandy cream, the jacket is clearly of a stiff but fine cotton with a good shape. The proverbial cherry is the cherry coloured pocket square, breaking the monotony of the white jacket.


Unconventional colours are a rather large hit with designers this season. This is a perfect example; the jacket material has an interesting 1970s-motel-room-lampshade quality, which is lifted by the detail around the lapels, and the complementary Dijon mustard striped shirt sets a smart background for the playful bow-tie and corsage. The lower half is sober enough; café latte straight leg tailored trousers, but the really delightful touch is the dual toned egg yolk and chocolate shoes.

Ralph Lauren

This particular outfit is rather traditional in silhouette and delivery but it manages to avoid the staidness normally associated with these aristocratic concoctions. The beautifully cut lime coloured trousers are a strong feature and serve to freshen the traditionalistic blazer, shirt and cravat. The blazer itself works a returning trend; double-breasted clothing and the cravat is more Missoni than Turnbull & Asser which helps to modernise the ensemble.


One of the things I admire about the erratic DSquared is the ability to team casual pieces with more formal and luxe items. These black trousers, with their stiff, matt sheen are normally seen with sharp two button jackets, but the Italian designers have matched them with a casual short sleeved zipped polo shirt with black detailing. Underneath, a white shirt with a black tie keeps the overall look a sharp one.

The Urban Adventurer

I’ve noticed a lot more urban adventures out there this winter. They’re not out climbing glaciers or trekking the Appalachian Trail. Nope – they are just going to work. These guys look like they’re in the process of summiting K2, or in Washington’s case, Capitol Hill. You’ve probably seen them too; out driving their sport edition Range Rover (spotless), carrying their laptop to work in an expedition quality back pack and weathering the weather in a Patagonia blizzard-proof parka.

Now, I don’t want to pick a fight with anyone. I’ve said at least a dozen times that classic, preppy styles center around the idea of repurposing functional clothing for daily life. I mean, who do you think started the trend of wearing foul weather gear to the office anyway?

Most people follow this train of thought in some way. The difference here is that too often men who yearn to be manly men turn themselves in to affected parodies of their heroes.  Everyone role plays a little bit; I like messenger bags, but I’m no bike messenger. Some wear military fashions yet have never so much as scraped a knee, or sport team jerseys that barely fit over their couch potato paunch.

These looks are usually a desire to connect with a cherished role model or organization. It’s a search for identity and belonging; aspirational but not overblown.

Yet when it comes to the couture mountain man look, moderation seems to go out the window. Even if you really are a transcontinental hiker, please don’t wear your Fortress Peak GTX hiking boots to the office. It’s tacky.

When worn in moderation, I think the outdoors look is classic, fresh and emotionally fulfilling. One feels a little more independent, perhaps a bit lone wolf about life. While I do agree with my fellow contributor Winston Chesterfield, that strapping on a back pack while wearing a business suit is tantamount to sartorial blasphemy, the pairing of a technical jacket with selected business attire is really quite pleasing.

Basic rules of proportion hold true: your outer coat should cover any suit or sport jacket underneath and avoid any outsized puffy jackets. A mountaineering jacket may be rugged and functional, but its scale and overall feel should match your other clothing.

If done well, the look says you are at home in both the outdoors and the corner office. It should not look gimmicky or forced. If you are wearing a bespoke cashmere Brioni and alligator slip ins, leave the parka at home.

“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.