Be a Man

In the late 1960s and ’70s,it was a quirky French designer who thought it worth his time to take a close look at the lives of everyday men and women and incorporate their design sensibilities into the world of haute couture.

Written by Paromita Chakrabarti | Published:January 10, 2009 3:00 am

Ditch the lace and those pretty flounces. It’s time to infuse a shot of testosterone in your wardrobe

In the late 1960s and ’70s,it was a quirky French designer who thought it worth his time to take a close look at the lives of everyday men and women and incorporate their design sensibilities into the world of haute couture. The student revolutions and the Beatnik movement of France found their way into the studio of Yves Saint Laurent,and soon he created a style — then iconoclastic ,now classic — out of it: the tuxedo jacket for women,in an era when women were still wearing gowns. YSL’s line of thought,of affording women the same ease and comfort in dressing as men,seems to be on its way back next season.

Spring-summer 2009 is all about donning the male gear,albeit in a more sophisticated avatar. At the last Paris Fashion Week,designer Stella McCartney highlighted military jackets and jumpsuits,while John Galliano’s admiral jackets have been a talking point with fashionistas around the world. If androgyny was a byproduct of the metrosexual trend in global fashion,masculinity is all set to return to the woman’s wardrobe.

Over two decades back,when Anita Dongre was studying design at SNDT,Mumbai,dhotis were an essential in her wardrobe. “But every time I wore it,it would raise eyebrows because people identified it with ethnic male gear,” says the designer. Yet,when Dongre was working on the spring-summer 2009 line for her label IInterpret,she decided to stick to her old favourite and give it a makeover by using anti-crease fabrics and stitching it up for convenience. “A touch of masculinity works wonders for the urban fashionista,even though,personally,I consider the dhoti to be more feminine because of its heavy dependence on drapes,” she shrugs.

Designer Prashant Verma,whose collection “Point of Man” relies heavily on influences such as Stanley Kubrick,Federico Fellini and Nietzsche,says “It’s a result of the economic crisis. Now is the time to dress tough,and be prepared for any eventuality. Spring-summer 2009 is for a starker,more existential look,” he says. The look is sharper,more structured,with the palette bordering on muted.

“Over the years,there has been a marked change in the urban social dynamics. Women have subverted many of the archetypal male roles and carried them off with great aplomb. This change is being reflected in the way they dress as well,” says Nil,of the Kolkata-based designer duo Dev n Nil. In fact,when the duo came up with their first resortwear collection for men last season,they were pleasantly surprised to find that many of the designs were being snapped up by their female clientele. “A lot of women were ordering structured jackets,tapered trousers and kurtas that we finally brought the same designs out in a collection for them,” he says.

So what does the masculine style story entail? Designers tell us that the storyboard for the next season is high on garage gear like jumpsuits and overalls,parkas,biker jackets,knitted shorts,flared denims,cigarette pants,duffel coats,cargo pants and a palette that works around khakis,olives,browns and other neutral colours. Masculine detailing is also a prominent feature. When newbie Mumbai designer Kunal Rawat showcased his first collection for women at the Lakme Fashion Week last season,the clothes came detailed with rivets,metallic zippers,and even had equestrian jodhpurs.

Likewise,Atsu Sekhose worked his way around jumpsuits,making them into drawstring dungarees fitted with transparent jackets with collars and cuffs. He has even created wraparound gilets — sleeveless jackets resembling waistcoats,another riding essential. “The whole look is meant to be classy,so that it is fit for even an evening out,” he says. So take your pick now. After all,why should boys have all the fun?

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