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September 19, 2012updated Feb 20, 2013

Men’s Runway Report: In Touch with Texture

By Chris Boyle

Bottega Veneta / Dior HommeRick Owens / Costume NationalParis, France – Reported by Jessica Michault for Elite Traveler, the private jet lifestyle magazine

Captivating to the eye, this season’s mix of fabrics featuring different patterns, finishes and colors has also created the sort of textural play that makes it hard not to cop a feel.

This fall menswear is turning all touchy-feely. Not to say that the industry is getting in touch with its feminine side—the feel-good factor is a function of the fabrics designers are choosing this season. Of course, the use of ultra-soft cashmere blends, super-fine knitwear and buttery leathers is to be expected; the real novelty is the way designers are combining the textiles in one ensemble.

One designer who has always been fascinated by the sartorial tension created by the textural mix of materials is Ennio Capasa, the man behind the brand Costume National. He has made a name for himself and his company with a ceaseless pursuit of new construction techniques and state-of-the-art fabric innovations. This is a man who likes to bond his fabrics together, coat cloth so that it appears extraterrestrial and splice together textiles in unusual ways. Capasa’s hybrid approach extends to the silhouettes of his ensembles: A trench coat billows out with a blouson back, a classic blazer is cut with leather shoulders bonded onto a charcoal gray wool base and a cutaway evening jacket features knit sleeves.

Capasa isn’t the only designer this season interested in updating classic wardrobe staples by juxtaposing fabrics with varying textures. At Dirk Bikkembergs, Hamish Morrow, the new menswear designer, is trying to bring a certain level of elegance to a brand that is known primarily for its form-fitting sportswear. One example was the fusion of fabrics in a button-up cotton shirt that features panels of nylon in the front, with each textile touting its own distinctive color. At Bottega Veneta, this color-coded technique was used to great effect on traditional men’s suiting, while it gave a sporty edge to the long double-breasted outerwear at the Dior Homme show.

A more subtle way to get the textural message across was in the finish of the fabrics themselves; indeed, the mixing of matte and shiny materials spoke to a number of designers. But this sort of combination took a backseat to say the cut of a lean top at Rick Owens, the shape of the lapels of an Yves Saint Laurent fitted jacket or the soft line of a pullover at Calvin Klein Collection.

It was at the Comme des Garçons show that the trend took a turn toward the absurd or the avant-garde (depending on whom you ask). Designer Rei Kawakubo not only mixed textiles throughout her show, she also combined swatches of fabrics in divergent patterns and prints on the same outfit. Her suit jackets, more often than not paired with a kilt, were crafted from a veritable kaleidoscope of fabrics, so that no two sleeves, lapels, fronts or backs were cut from the same material. It made for a collection that underlined, in a highly provocative way, how powerful the textural mix trend can be.

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