This season, a handful of the industry’s most exciting womenswear designers made their menswear debuts. Though the collections they showed were wildly different, what stood out as a unifying factor was how fully fleshed out their visions were, and the comprehensiveness of their narratives and world-building. These were bold, directional collections that added new dimensions to the discourse on men’s fashion, gender and fluidity. In rounding out their brand offerings with the addition of menswear, they all borrowed from and expanded on their womenswear language—be it Peter Do’s soulful minimalism, Simone Rocha’s dreamlike softness, or Nicola Brognano’s brand of brash-and-flash at Blumarine.
In the few short years since he launched his label in 2018, Peter Do has shot to fashion stardom, quickly becoming one of the major draws at New York Fashion Week. Of course, any acolyte of Phoebe Philo would have their post-Céline moves closely watched, but Do actually has the goods to warrant the attention. His clothes are defined by a sense of modularity and adaptability—pieces
can be often worn or transformed in different ways thanks to clever, thoughtful construction. Classic men’s tailoring is usually the starting point of Do’s work, though in his hands, it has been reworked and rethought—his tailoring is sharp but not stiff, commanding but not overbearing. In the vein of Yohji Yamamoto, his work is poetic and powerful in equal measure.
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The Peter Do universe has finally come full circle. The brand started with men’s tailoring reinvented for women; now, it is offering up a new look at menswear through that inverted lens. At the spring/summer 2023 show, many of the defining features of Do’s womenswear were transplanted into the men’s lineup—most notably, his signature four-piece suit (jacket, shirt, skirt and trousers) which can be worn in a multitude of configurations. Many of the looks had their backs sliced open, fastened only by thin belts or straps—a gesture that telegraphed an unexpected sense of tenderness. Other Do mainstays that made the jump across the gender (non)-divide included shirts that can be worn like regular button-downs or wrapped obi-like at the waist; sweaters cut like capes; sheer, panelled trousers; long, flowing shirtdresses—all perched atop his distinctively angular platform boots. It was a confident outing that proved what staunch Do fans (of all genders) have always known— his beautifully cut clothes work regardless of the sex of the body inhabiting them.
If Do’s jump-off point is masculine tailoring, Simone Rocha starts from the opposite end of the spectrum. Since starting her label more than a decade ago, Rocha has hewed to a hyper-specific vision of femininity—one composed of clouds of tulle and taffeta, ribbons and pearls, puff sleeves and bubble skirts, intricate embroideries and delicate embellishments. Though her aesthetic is soft, it is also strong—her clothes catch the eye, take up space, and envelop the wearer. They are dreamy, but never twee nor infantile. Rocha regularly casts older models to walk her show long before it was an industry standard—and the women look as good as the girls in her clothes, if not more so.
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For spring/summer 2023, Rocha expanded the universe of her brand with the addition of menswear. It was a compelling debut that brought a new kind of softness to the realm of men’s fashion—one distinct from the retro maximalism of Alessandro Michele’s Gucci, the kooky, artsy appeal of Jonathan Anderson’s LOEWE, or the sexed-up antics of Ludovic de Saint Sernin. Like the inverse of how she makes the ultra-femme looks intimidating, here, Rocha has given classical menswear codes a sense of fragility. Bomber jackets came with bell sleeves; tailoring was worn with tulle veils and skirts; there were apron dresses, lavishly smocked shirts, extravagant silk ruffles, and embellished Mary Janes. Conversely, there was a new toughness to her womenswear—courtesy of thick parachute straps and flight harnesses, military khakis and sturdy nylons. Taken as a whole, the men’s and women’s collections rounded out the Simone Rocha world with new contours and depths.
At Blumarine, Nicola Brognano is on a hot streak, having revived the House with his unapologetic homages to the Y2K styles of Paris, Britney, Lindsay and co. For spring/summer 2023, he continued mining that aesthetic but diversified its reach by showing a few men’s looks. More of a taster than a full collection, they nevertheless succeeded in showing how his vision of sleazy, sexy, sparkly glamour can work for both genders. Men and women alike wore his distressed, low-slung jeans— some with fluttering wisps of chiffon, others studded and bedazzled—and his cropped skin-tight tops encrusted with rhinestone butterflies, flowers and crosses. Pop stars like Dua Lipa and Ariana Grande have already been flocking to the brand for Brognano’s in-your-face styles—now one can imagine the likes of Troye Sivan and Lil Nas X doing the same.
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Though the work of all three aforementioned designers couldn’t be more aesthetically different, a similar attitude defined their collections. Whether it’s an elegantly tailored skirt suit or a sumptuous bubble of tulle, their convictions in what is beautiful to them hold resolutely firm—regardless of whether it is shown on a man or a woman. We’ve always known that clothes don’t have to be gendered; these designers’ decision to show them on both genders just drives the point home.