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Hedonistic and Zen Qualities Pull Men’s Fashion In Opposite Directions

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Globalization, gardening and Hollywood hedonism are among the diverse sources of inspiration that will inject newness into men’s fashion for Spring/Summer 2021.

As part of its “Fear into Fuel” webinar series, Fashion Snoops vice president and creative director of men’s wear Michael Fisher dissecteded four themes pushing men’s fashion into new directions for the season. Though the stories were fleshed out before COVID-19 struck, each theme captures an emotion stirred up by the pandemic—be it a yearning for nature, a thirst for pleasure, or the desire to find peace and solace.

And together, they represent the sweeping shift from streetwear and sport, to refinement and tailoring that so many experts from the men’s space are projecting.

“We feel really strongly that when this is done, there’s going to be a huge return to dressing up and looking polished and buttoned-up,” Fisher said. Men, he added, will want to look like they’re ready to take on the world.

Here’s a closer look at how the themes are expressed through color, fabric, print and silhouettes.

Elysian

In Elysian, Fashion Snoops explore the idea of ultimate paradise and bliss. “It’s the perfect moment for this trend story to come to life,” Fisher said.

Though gardening has been in Fashion Snoops’ zeitgeist for months, interest in the hobby is speeding up as people begin apartment herb gardens and find solace in the outdoors. “We think that when this is all over, we’re going to have all this pent-up creativity, and we’re going to use that creativity both around the inside of our house, and outside of our house,” he said.

The trend story fixates on the notion of upcycling through a “green-tinted lens,” Fisher said, while taking a modern approach to design. “This is resulting in a fashion that is lightweight, flexible, eco-friendly, and basic that celebrates Mother Nature as much as being inspired by it,” he said. Materials like chambray backed with jersey, fancy knits that resemble overgrown vegetation, crisp poplin and waffle knits exude this feeling of “eco luxury,” while crafted collars, leather-trim pockets and functional closures pulled from the outdoor category add character.

The story’s earthy color is rich with green—an essential S/S ’21 color for all categories—spanning from fungi and moss to shades of green with an artificial quality. In the palette, Fisher said “eco brights” are grounded with true browns and “off-kilter” fashion accents that are more acidic.

These colors come together in a myriad of organic-inspired prints. Uneven applications of dye offer a seasonal update for camouflage. Graphics of fruit, leaves and vegetable are applied to frosted, translucent materials, which Fisher noted are ideal for summer layering. “Illuminated foliage” with a photo-real quality enliven outerwear and woven shirts. And botanic imprints update florals in men’s wear. “It’s a very organic and subtle way to do press florals,” he said. “The colors are tonal [and] Earth driven.”

Elysian is a prime opportunity for denim to shine.

“I think this is great moment for denim because we’re looking at a return to basics,” Fisher said. Look for items like twisted seam work pants made with rigid overdyed denim, cargo coveralls with a loose-straight silhouette and reinforced knees, and knee-length utility shorts. And oversized denim botanist coats offer an alternative to Trucker jackets. Try it with a two-tone plaid weave and with contrasting chain stitching.”

Other emerging trends in this story include the “garden blazer” that combines oversized utility pockets with refined cotton/linen blends; raw linen shirt jackets that add texture to layered looks; crisp cropped chinos; and “crafty” tank tops with a netting-inspired surface and thick piping along the edge.

Crave

Fashion Snoops packages drama, extravagance and glamour into one S/S ’21 story called Crave. The story is inspired by a man who escapes to Hollywood in search for his big break. “He’s obsessed with fame, fortune and splashy nightlife,” Fisher said.

The result is a fashion theme that offers a “new wave of masculinity” with garments that are soft, revealing, edgey and arousing. “This is about an emerging sensuality in men’s wear that is showing up in everything from translucent layers and mesh surfaces, to a growing acceptance of brighter colors, more feminine touches and more directional proportions,” Fisher said.

It’s a feast for the senses, he added, which is what consumers are craving right now. “There is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, and now that this is all happening in our society, we really need to lean into the things that bring us happiness,” Fisher said.

Crave sums up this mood in a “juicy” and vivid color palette that Fisher likened to delicious cocktails. Bright pink, orange and tech-infused green are grounded by masculine charcoals and shades of brown with a red or purple cast.

And prints mirror this boldness. “You don’t need to be traditional in any way shape or form for Spring/Summer 21,” he said. Stripes are uneven, typography makes a statement and graphics smack of narcissism—think paparazzi-inspired prints and other motifs based on “distorted visions of success.”

Materials emphasize the story’s focus on sensuality. Sheer fabrics serve as an alternative to woven cotton. Sporty elements like mesh look new on more tailored silhouettes. Dark lace plays with gender, while stretch fabrications are essential for body-conscious garments. Leather is plush yet lightweight, but the trend also calls for glossy PVC surfaces. Details like soft pleats, lacing effects and asymmetrical closures add elegance, Fisher noted.

Key garments for commercial fashion include a zip blazer in a loose fit, graphic T-shirts with nightclub-inspired graphics and the Harrington jacket updated in pinstripe suiting fabric. Bomber jackets rendered with a satin surface, club cardigans with an open mesh knit, photo-real woven shirts and double-breasted party suits in “old school banker stripes” are among the emerging trends to watch, Fisher said.

And Crave brings out the excess side of denim. “There’s so much sexy stuff you can do with denim here,” he said. Jean shorts with a leather-like coating pop in saturated colors. Two-tone distressed layered jeans trick the eye. “Poolside denim” plays with dye treatments that mimic the iconic David Hockney-designed pool at the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel. The Trucker jacket gets a makeover for evening with paint or bleach splashes on black denim, while a well-worn Western shirt with pronounced fading and pointed yokes offers an effortless, classic Hollywood vibe.

Flux

In Flux, Fashion Snoops examines the next phase of athleisure and how comfort and “Zen design” can be injected into classic men’s wear. The story, Fisher said, responds to a world in a constant state of unsteadiness, offering ultra-lightweight materials that feel like second skin, quiet complexity, luminescent surfaces and colors that burst with energy.

“Think monk meets athlete styling,” he described.

The “techno Zen” color palette is based on relaxation. Peach, lilac, sage green and golden yellow are balanced with taupe. “Then we ramp up the energy a little bit,” Fisher said, with mid cobalt blue, yellow, charcoal, navy and peacock turquoise.

This energy takes shape in prints and patterns like dimensional stripes with linear fluidity and chevron stripes. Prints take on a more meditative state with intensified pigments and creamy surfaces, and applications that mimic gentle paint strokes. “This is how you can do new things with traditional checks and plaids,” Fisher said. “This is whole new way to do it that’s very poetic and romantic.”

Materials play a key role in Flux’s tranquil vibe. Lightweight knits are luminescent, nylons are quilted, wovens are sheer, twills are shiny and jacquards are sporty, Fisher described. And suiting has stretch with antimicrobial qualities, which are poised to take on greater importance with post-COVID-19 consumers. Meanwhile, design details like cutouts, adjustable funnel necks and convertible sleeves speak to the athleisure side of Flux.

T-shirts in soft, marled colorways, track pants with a tailored silhouette and lab jackets made with breathable, waterproof fabrics—which Fisher said are designed for office-leisure-travel wear—are among the key commercial items. More directional garments include the “Flex suit” made with stretchy nylon fabric, sweater tees made with ultra-lightweight merino wool or cotton and monochrome geometric prints and elongated woven tanks with split sides that mimic a dress shirt.

In denim, Flex calls for utility suits embellished with ties and sleek denim coordinates, like a belted jacket and wide-leg jeans made with matching mid-weight overdyed denim. The kimono, Fisher noted, is picking up momentum as Western brands translate the silhouette as a shirt jacket or add a robe neck to the garment. And worker jackets are refreshed with acid-wash effects and blocks of color at the cuffs and collar.

Habitus

From a research perspective, Fashion Snoops has seen a collision of cultures. “We are huge proponents of globalism. We can learn so much from other cultures,” Fisher said. As the world grows smaller, he said it’s time to shed culture norms and create a new global tapestry.

This is carried out in Habitus, a trend story that fuses together African craft, American casualness and European precision and applies it to dressed-up classics with a utility approach. The result is fashion that can’t be placed in any one era or region of the world. It’s borderless and timeless.

Gray-infused blues, sandy colors, red and browns are a foundation for Habitus’ focus on craft. Chambray, crochet knit and woven leather add texture, while suede collars, threadbare fringe and crafty cutouts—like decorative scenes on denim—give designers a wealth of freedom for creativity. Key prints include minimal markings, tribal inspirations, stamping effects and woven tapestries.

For denim, Habitus is expressed through lightweight geo-print jeans, loose-fitting denim trench coats and twisted cargo jeans that are washed out, pieced and tapered.

Habitus is an easy way for brands to update commercial items, Fisher said. The trench coat is refreshed with all over checks or leather piping. Slim, short-sleeve shirts are a canvas for micro prints, and the jacquard cardigan looks new with a subtle shawl collar and horn buttons.

More directional items include embellished blazers made with silky blends that have a lustrous surface, relaxed sweaters with an open basket weave and fancy camp shirts made with crisp cotton poplin with a hint of stretch. Printed pants live here, ideally as tapered silhouettes with an all over tribal print in wearable colorways, as well as knit tees with micro cutouts along the seams.

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