His, Hers, Ours…

Numerous indispensable and eternal wardrobe staples were shown on runways (and in informal presentations) during the course of the menswear 2016 collections (which formally ended in New York last Thursday). Among them: the trouser suit; the pussycat bow blouse; the rope soled espadrille; the pea jacket; the trench coat; le smoking; and the safari jacket. They are not only unisex (I continually found myself looking at the shows, thinking, “I would totally wear that”); unsurprisingly, they were also signatures of the late great Yves Saint Laurent, a designer credited for having “first brought the discussion of gender to the fashion table”. FYI, in case you’re wondering, yes, pussycat bow blouses are now unisex thanks in good part to Gucci’s Alessandro Michele, who has been proposing them for both the guys and the gals.

 YSL Style Is Eternal Exhibition

Coincidentally a retrospective, “Yves Saint Laurent: Style Is Eternal”, opened on July 11th and runs through October 25th at the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, North East England (thebowesmuseum.org.uk). The exhibition is fittingly divided into 4 main themes: Art, Spectaculaire, Transparency, Masculin/Feminin. In the words of Pierre Bergé: “If Chanel gave women their freedom, it was Saint Laurent who empowered them”, by making use of traditional male dress codes.

Yves Saint Laurent Le Smoking
Photographed by  Helmut Newton, Paris 1975

There’s no question that YSL’s impressive body of work resulted in some of the most iconic images in fashion. Who could forget the Helmut Newton photograph that ran in French Vogue, 1975, featuring an androgynous woman, standing in a dimly lit Parisian alley, with her hair slicked back, holding a cigarette, dressed in a black tuxedo, and entwined with a model wearing only black stilettos?

Veruschka wearing the iconic Yves Saint Laurent safari jacket
 photographed by Franco Rubartelli for Vogue 

Or the one of resplendent Verushka wearing YSL’s lace up safari tunic, photographed by Franco Rubartelli for French Vogue in 1968? This particular article of clothing was so closely identified with the designer (who first presented it in his 1968 spring collection), the house even created a perfume, ‘Saharienne’, which was dedicated to the “homonymous famous safari jacket”.

Balmain Resort 2016
Photo: Style.com

And it could not hold more appeal at the moment, given the season, or the current relaxed yet pulled together mood and vibe that permeated many of the menswear collections. The way Michael Kors sees it, “People in the city are dressing down and they’re more polished on vacation” he recounted to Style.com’s Nicole Phelps. Like ‘le smoking’, ‘la saharienne’ never loses its appeal for customers (both men and women) or designers, who are always inspired by the romantic notion of safari, and all that it symbolizes (although the way each interprets it may vary greatly). To wit, Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing tapped into safari’s idea of discovery and traversing the globe, putting his own high style, unabashedly sexy spin on the spring 2016 menswear collection he showed in Paris last month. He even included a few of his safari themed womenswear pieces from resort 2016 on the runway, to further emphasize the point.

Belstaff spring 2016 menswear

In London, Fred Dyhr, Vice President of men’s design for Belstaff, (a luxury brand with a strong recognizable British Heritage), paid homage to the British Armed Forces in North America in the 1970’s, thereby re-imagining the house’s iconic moto jackets in a safari -esque way.

Michael Kors menswear spring 2016
Photo: Style.com

Here in New York, Michael Kors’s relaxed “Island” collection (played out in a signature neutral palette of ivory, sand, khaki, navy, and black) included some handsome knitwear, stellar trench coats, well-tailored blazers, cargo pants, and one fabulous belted safari jacket.

Greg Lauren menswear collection
Photo: Style.com

Greg Lauren’s second menswear collection (the painter and designer is Ralph’s nephew) was a study in artistic individuality, and he focused on handmade tattered linen and hand distressed suede and leather to create a vintage, artsy, nomadic vibe. It all looked well-worn and lived in, down to the jackets, some of which resembled deconstructed safari jackets.

Jeffrey Rudes menswear collection
Photo: Style.com

For his minimal and elegant freshman menswear collection, Jeffrey Rudes (you might know him as the “J” in the popular J. Brand) focused on clean lines, and slim, tailored, close to the body pants and jackets. His take on a traditional safari jacket (his was made of tan suede), was notable.

Rare YSL lace up safari tunic offered by Jennifer  Kobrin on 1st dibs

Naturally, there are some good safari pieces available right now. If you’re after the real deal, 1st dibs dealer (www.1stdibs.com) Jennifer Kobrin is selling a rare, vintage YSL lace up khaki safari tunic from 1968 ($895) as well as a 1980’s Azzedine Alaia khaki safari style 1 piece ($550). Although, for the price, you can’t beat Ralph Lauren’s Denim & Supply (link to jacket) belted cargo jacket in marine olive, $185, or Banana Republic’s Heritage belted safari jacket in khaki, $150 (link to jacket). Made of a cotton and linen blend, it is guaranteed to wrinkle somewhat, which is an added plus based on what I’ve been seeing. Many designers, including Greg Lauren, made a statement with rumpled, wrinkled pieces. So I guess you can say, wrinkles are the new black!


Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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