THIS IS GOING to be a cold, harsh, smoggy (if you live in Delhi) and largely cashless winter. Except for Donald Trump supporters, the rest of the world has relatively little to cheer about this season, so it’s befitting that the jackets, at least, should light up your eyes. Winter 2016 runways promised enough drama to last through the chill. From metallic, spacey blazers in New York, to jackets being worn inside out in Milan, to hems left unfinished in Delhi, there was never a dull moment. And the stories! Take for instance the psychedelic prints and the supersaturated jackets at Moschino’s agitprop fall 2016 collection that was designed in collaboration with London-based artists Gilbert & George. Jeremy Scott, creative director of Moschino, hit upon the vivid concept over tea with the duo who are known for their propagandist, graphic art. He wanted his collection to pay homage to their provocative images; they, in turn, offered him the images themselves. And thus, the two-dimensional, cartoon-like sheen to the pop-coloured menswear, a sense of painted clothing, or clothes in a painting, if you like.
Here’s another. A pair of Salvatore Ferragamo oxfords worn by American artist Andy Warhol were bought back by the Italian design house after his death, complete with random paint splatters on them. This priceless pair served as the inspiration for their winter 2016 footwear collection, designed by creative director Massimiliano Giornetti. So this season, you can wear a hand-painted, replicated slice of history along with Ferragamo’s single-breasted tweed-effect top coat in wool, silk and cashmere. Nothing like a legend to add class.
It’s not so easy to group Indian winter trends in the same category as their Western counterparts, mostly because winter in India is synonymous with the festive season—think Diwali, weddings, Christmas, weddings, New Year, and did I mention weddings?—and designers must play to the galleries as well. “You can sense that designers are aligned to their own sensibilities in summer, but to the market demands in winter,” points out image consultant and TV host Neeraj Gaba, who dabbles with quirky silhouettes in his personal style. He notes that the one thing that unites both Indian and Western style this winter is the anti-fit phenomenon, with layering and accessories being used to add versatility to both formal and casual jackets.
Delhi-based fashion designer Dhruv Kapoor, whose famously experimental clients even ask for mutations on his women’s wear, agrees: “‘Trend’ for me is a dirty word. It boils down to who you are and what you want to project. Our brand is working on soft structure and a lot of shoulder. The current favourites are oversize coats in fine suiting, probably in Prince of Wales checks (or glen checks) and excessive shoulder pads.” He shares that he always has a couple of ‘boom’ pieces, which normally start selling a season later, once the market has figured how to style them differently after browsing celebrity looks and magazines.
If the sheer ingenuity of the designs isn’t enough, it’s the stories behind the inspirations that make this season of jackets all the more interesting. You may have to change your old ways of viewing the world, though, because the boundaries have been pushed to places you may not expect.
SUITS & BLAZERS
BUSINESS wear has a decidedly ‘business-unusual’ vibe this season. Many international designers went easy on the trouser fits, experimenting with textures and colours you are unlikely to have ever seen in a boardroom before. The more conservative collections feature sharp, slim silhouettes and a healthy obsession for checks. Ralph Lauren’s formal business looks under ‘Purple Label’ feature strong-shouldered, single-breasted jackets in 100 per cent wool. If you’re looking to make a real power statement, the three-piece slim herringbone suit comes in a wool-and-cashmere blend developed especially for the Italian label. Versace showed a zany, space-inspired lineup on the menswear runway but its in-store collection is more toned down, featuring Italian-made slim fits with traditional tailoring.
Designer Gaurav Jai Gupta, whose label Akaaro is known for his ‘India Modern’ sensibility, finds that many customers are now looking for day clothes that are an extension of their personality. His autumn-winter 2016 ‘Mumuksha ‘collection features unlikely pairing such as a tussar-silk engineered shirt with a stainless steel merino wool jacket. He has used stainless steel, in fact, in a lot of his fabrics: “I like the structure, the play of it. It has an interesting drape quality,” he says. His customers go for classic, versatile pieces that they can pair with different accessories depending on the kind of look they want. “The charcoal blazer from the collection, for instance, will have a completely different appeal with white sneakers versus with black oxfords,” he says.
THE one jacket style that has consistently been taken up by every serious menswear designer this season is the bomber. A term used for a short jacket that is tightly gathered at the waist and cuffs with elasticated bands, a bomber typically has a zipped front and is perfect for casual daywear. With ‘athleisure’ being the buzzword for a while now, the bomber jacket is a must- have in every urban dweller’s wardrobe. And worry not if you are a fastidious formal dresser, this season’s designers will make sure you have exactly the look you want.
In Paris, Dries Van Noten—who had to wait 15 years before he got the permission to hold his winter 2016 fashion show in Palais Garnier, home of the Paris Opera—came up with a pinstriped bomber jacket for those who prefer a more sophisticated look even for a stroll about town. In Milan, Bottega Veneta offered a supple, crinkled lambskin version for the tall and lanky; creative head Tomas Maier’s tone-on-tone three- pocket style blouson defines luxe this winter. Indeed, leather was a favourite addition to this otherwise rugged outerwear: the British label Burberry even added leather trims to its otherwise relaxed polyamide classic flying jackets in block-coloured and checks variants. Fabrics have also been played around with and you can expect unlikely sensations under your fingers. At Louis Vuitton, a vintage shearling zipped blouson made with multiple pockets has a military feel. The other French luxury major, Hermès, has a zipped high-collar jacket in 100 per cent cashmere, with two slanted zip front pockets: you won’t be able to get your hands off it.
EMBROIDERIES and brocades are on top of the Indian mind when it comes to occasion wear or party dressing. Traditional silhouettes like bandhgalas and kurtas are essential for weddings and festive occasions, and Indian designers have left no stone unturned. Rohit Bal’s couture 2016 show ‘Kehkashan’ was inspired by Russian aristocracy and the Netflix series Tudors. His velvet, short bandhgalas and long embroidered coats in black or white worn with heavy kundan necklaces and headpieces were meant to showcase his love for Kashmir along with the madness of King Henry VIII and the decadence of the czars. A similar opulence was on display at Balmain’s fall-winter 2016 show in Paris, where you would find military-inspired regalia with all of Olivier Rousteing’s aggressive genius. The navy blue cotton blazer with a shawl collar, gold decorative buttons, three welt pockets and buttoned cuffs will ensure all eyes are on you this wedding season.
Designers want you to experiment with colours too. Indian biggies Manish Malhotra and Varun Bahl came up with bright red, heavily embroidered pieces in their couture collections for this season. The hue was also a key theme in international ramps and red-and-black checks are a thing now. Gucci’s new artistic director Alessandro Michele played with colours on his suits and jackets, so you can wear a heritage red tartan suit for Christmas. Also check out Dior Homme’s winter 2016 sleek two-button fitted jacket with red-and-black micro checks in virgin wool. The French luxury fashion label also has a blue blazer made with spray fabric dye that gives it a ‘self-textured’ look, a trend that’s firmly in place, even in India. Ashish Soni, one of India’s top names in menswear, says his all-over self-textured suits are flying off the shelves this season; Ranveer Singh wore one for Karan Johar’s talk show Koffee with Karan recently. “I’ve been using silk-velvet as my choice of fabric because it goes both with the ‘festive’ needs of this season, and is also lightweight, soft and malleable enough for those parts of India that don’t have cold weather,” he says. The Nehru jacket, he adds, has become a style statement for all ages and all seasons now that our Prime Minister has made it a fashion favourite—customers buy at least two in different colours, Soni says.
Though patented in 1939 by Eddie Bauer, the puffer jacket took many decades to reach its fashionable new heights—you could in fact call 2016 the year of the puffer jacket considering how many designers have included it in their collections from West to East. With a signature quilted design to keep the down insulation or synthetic fibres in place, puffer jackets offer both warmth and lightness, so they are the perfect choice for active, outdoorsy people or just those who jet-set around the world a lot. This season, it’s not just the functionality of this garment that will catch your eye but the sheer beauty of it, from high-shine textures to shearling or leather touches.
Swiss label Bally will have you nice and cozy in an exquisite bright teal down parka. Made in Italy with lamb nappa treated with a waterproof finish and trimmed with murmasky fur on the hood, it’s the stuff stylish winters are made of. Head over to Burberry if you’re looking for natty warmth: their winter 2016 collection is about jackets in all shapes and sizes—there are 27 variants on the puffers alone. India’s Dhruv Kapoor finds them to be one of his top-selling items this winter. Metallic sheens are also big this year— from Calvin Klein Collection’s gold parkas to Astrid Andersen’s shearling-collared ones in copper.
But if trendy chic is the top criteria, Ermenegildo Zegna is your go-to store. A navy shirt blouson with ultralight nylon filling and a front panel in tonal mélange wool, to waxed wool quilted jackets, you’ll be surprised to see what an Italian icon of men’s luxury fashion can do with puffers.
There’s no fixed rule for the overcoat this year. It can go from shiny to sober faster than you can unbutton it. At his massive 93-look Los Angeles winter 2016 show, his last for Saint Laurent, Hedi Slimane showed a double-breasted, A-line coat with gold cording above the cuffs and a wide, pick-stitched peak lapel that would look as good indoors as outdoors. If you want to make an impression at the next board meeting, try on a continental double-breasted long coat in mohair wool or cashmere from Italian menswear couture house Brioni—which is formal suiting at its very best. The other Italian menswear label that well- suited men usually have in their wardrobes, Canali, also has a similar long, sleek silhouette that speaks business: the double-breasted wool-alpaca coat with applied flap pockets can be worn over both casual and formal wear.
For more fashionable looks outside of the workplace, Etro’s unstructured coat crafted from bouclé in a blue-white mélange is unlined for a comfortable fit. Fendi has a huge oeuvre of overcoats, from sane checks to crazy-cool fur numbers with those perpetually frowning ‘Fendi eyes’ at the elbows. French label Givenchy has a black leather trench coat with fringes on the back for men with a penchant for late-night sojourns—think Kanye West with a lace-clad Kim Kardashian on his arm. If you want to play it safe with greys and blacks, Valentino is where to go: the cabochon single-breasted wool coat has a black-and-white herringbone pattern and is embellished with studs on the yoke—a perfect combination of festive and winter.