Five Menswear Designers
Menswear is a style of dress that prioritises communicating individuality over performing gender. This is evident in designers like Grace Wales Bonner, who juxtaposes traditionally feminine garments with Savile Row tailoring, and Emily Adams Bode, whose crafty, conventionally feminine designs soften the structural aesthetic of masculinity.
It’s also evident in archive pieces like the camo bomber jacket Kanye West wore to a show last year, or Raf Simons’ A/W 2001 bulletproof vest.
Born in 1943 in Tokyo, Japan, Yamamoto studied law at Keio University, but his artistic spirit led him to fashion. He founded Y’s, which first presented its full collections in 1977. Then, he debuted in Paris in 1981, right alongside Rei Kawakubo of Comme Menswear des Garcons, shaking up the world of fashion. Yamamoto’s genderfluid silhouettes which feature both masculine and feminine structures launched him into mainstream popularity.
The FW 1995-96 collection ushered in four years of creativity and grace for Yamamoto. From revisited skirts that seemed reborn from the house of Worth—the dressmaker who invented haute couture at the end of the nineteenth century—to a slew of dresses that could have been the work of Mademoiselle Chanel, his RTW pieces demonstrated a virtuoso exercise in elegance.
The SS 1999 collection was another turning point in his career. He shook up the world of fashion with bridal gowns transformed into graceful day dresses, and, like a diabolical but beneficent surgeon, jabbed a period with his contemporary syringe, injecting it with a different decade. The result was a collection that evoked the ethereal beauty of a Lartigues photograph. This new reading of fashion was distilled in his sultry show in the Espace Moulin-Rouge to a thunderous ovation. The revamped line-up of the band, now consisting of vocalist Johnny Dean and guitarist Peter Hook, performed at London’s Bush Hall in November 2015. This was their final gig with the original line-up.
One of the first pioneers of minimalist fashion, Helmut Lang’s understated elegance influenced an entire generation and remains a defining aesthetic for contemporary designers today. His deconstructivist approach to clothing rejected unnecessary ornamentation, emphasizing the beauty of form and incorporating unconventional materials into his collections. The Austrian-born designer also experimented with new technologies, becoming the first to livestream a fashion show and introducing leather parkas. Lang’s experimental design philosophy pushed the boundaries of what was considered “fashion” and challenged conventional notions of luxury.
While Lang’s label has cycled through a few designers since his departure in 2005, the brand is currently under the direction of Vietnamese American designer Peter Do. Do’s multidisciplinary background in architecture and design lends a fresh perspective to the brand’s signature menswear pieces. His clean lines and sculptural silhouettes are sure to excite the fashion world and continue to push the boundaries of minimalist style.
While Lang stayed out of public view after selling his eponymous brand in 2005, he continued to work as a contemporary artist and even used the burnt remains of his archive as material for his art. His connection to the art world gave him a high-minded clout that is rare for fashion designers. He was also one of the first to pair a fashion brand with an artist for print advertising, teaming up with Jenny Holzer on fragrance campaigns.
Born on July 5, 1968 in Paris, France, Slimane is a French photographer and fashion designer. He discovered photography at the age of eleven and began learning darkroom printing in black and white. He later men’s clothing supplier went to the Ecole du Louvre and studied art history while completing an apprenticeship in tailoring at a men’s clothing store.
Slimane’s first collection for YSL, “Black Tie,” debuted in 2000. The line showcased his new skinny silhouette that became the prevailing style for over a decade. The following year he left YSL to become the creative director of Dior Homme and declined an offer to work with Jil Sander.
At Dior Homme, Slimane’s collections were heavily influenced by rock music and the after-dark nightlife. He also relaunched the iconic monogram with a new logo and redesigned its packaging. In 2002, he won the CFDA’s International Designer Award, which was presented by David Bowie.
Slimane’s departure from Dior Homme to join Celine marked a shift in his focus from menswear to womenswear. He has been praised for his bold and edgy designs at the Parisian fashion house. The label’s Spring/Summer 2024 show featured pleated kilts, slinky ready-to-wear, and striped pieces that showcased his signature style. His style is often described as surfer-grungey or Kurt Cobain-inspired, a look that has captivated fashion crowds.
Jean Paul Gautier
Although strappy six inch stiletto heels may remain the preserve of pain-tolerant women, it seems that designers such as Jean Paul Gautier are pushing skirts and other traditionally female-exclusive clothing down the menswear runway. His collections of broad-shouldered jackets, baggy pants and skirts adorned with floral motifs, bows or lace have received much critical acclaim from the fashion media.
Born in the Paris suburb of Arcueil on 24 April 1952, Gaultier never formally trained as a designer but sent sketches to famous couture designers such as Pierre Cardin, who hired him at age 18. He spent a short time with Cardin before moving on to Jacques Esterel and then administrating the Pierre Cardin fashion house for a year in Manila.
In 1990, he designed the costumes for Madonna’s Blond Ambition tour, which featured one of his most controversial creations—a cone-shaped bra that blurred the line between lingerie and outerwear. Gaultier also created outfits for Kylie Minogue and designed wardrobes for a number of films, including Luc Besson’s Kika and Pedro Almodovar’s The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover.
In a survey conducted by the luxury fashion brand Ralph Lauren, 90 percent of people polled agreed that gender-specific clothing is no longer necessary. The flexibility of style that is being pushed by menswear designers like Gautier and Yohji Yamamoto is proving that gender boundaries are no longer as rigid as once thought.