Trendspotting: Menswear's on a mountain high
Are mountains having a moment? It sure feels like it, based on the recently wrapped menswear shows in Milan, Paris and New York City, which served up climbing ropes and carabiners alongside the clothes and found inspiration in the mountain climbers of Yosemite's Half Dome, Europe's Alpine inhabitants, and the Himalayan landscape.
The approach to the summit may have actually started back with the presentation of the spring and summer 2011 collections -- where Daiki Suzuki's final collection for Woolrich Woolen Mills was inspired by the mountains of Yosemite National Park -- but the ascent has unquestionably quickened with the most recent round of shows.
In Milan, Etro's collection was full of Tyrolean inspired woven jackets, headgear and embroidery detailing, and the show notes referenced Tibetan summits, Himalayan folklore, and Thomas Mann's novel "The Magic Mountain."
By New York, the references had become more explicit; N. Hoolywood's collection, inspired by the late 19th-century and early 20th-century climbers who tried to scale Half Dome, included ice axes and climbing ropes accessorizing safari jackets, tweed and khaki knee pants and topped off with Tyrolean hats.
The Remade in Switzerland Christopher Raeburn for Victorinox capsule collection, which debuted during New York Fashion Week, may have taken its inspiration from an Army surplus horseshoe nail (which, come to think of it, kind of looks like a miniature mountain-climbing piton), but pieces like the thick, wool Swiss army blankets repurposed into scarves and the parkas that roll up like sleeping bags felt like just the kind of clothes the Swiss army might actually use while staging an assault on the Matterhorn.
Timo Weiland's homage to British colonial life -- a collection that included men's and women's clothes -- interspersed the naval-influenced flare legs and peacoats with an abstract design inspired by the snow-covered desert landscape and the animals of the Himalayan range.
The Gant by Michael Bastian men's and women's collection did explicitly reference the mountains -- the Green Mountains of Vermont -- in a humorous cold-weather collection that was loosely based on the idea of a cross-country ski gang called the Green Mountain Avengers.
Band of Outsiders' first runway-style show opened with a half-dozen male models being lowered onto the runway in mountain-climbing harnesses, and the mountain motif continued throughout the men's and women's collection with nylon climbing rope belts, wool blanket coats and ponchos, fingerless gloves and climbing boots.
It's still too early in the women's ready-to-wear cycle to know if menswear's mountain high will find its way across the great divide into women's wear, though the last three brands mentioned above include women's wear, and a recent article (subscription required) in the fashion trade paper WWD noted that a mountain-inspired outerwear trend on the Tokyo streets -- colorful layers of sweaters, patterned tights worn under skirts, paired with hiking boots, backpacks and high-tech jackets -- has given rise to the creation of a new term: yama gaaru, which translates as "mountain girls." (The Japan Times' Japan Pulse blog has a great thumbnail introduction to the trend -- which seems to have been gathering steam through most of 2010 -- here).
If the mountain motif continues to gain momentum, expect the hills to be alive -- with the sound of cash registers.
-- Adam Tschorn
Photos: Labels showing mountain-inspired collections for fall-winter 2011 included (at top from left) Etro, Adam Kimmel and Gant by Michael Bastian, and the Band of Outsiders show even opened with models being lowered to the runway in mountain-climbing harnesses (center). Credit: Peter Stigter & Jonas Gustavsson / For The Times. N. Hoolywood's collection (at bottom) was inspired by the early mountain climbers of Yosemite's Half Dome. Credit: N. Hoolywood.