by Eugene Rabkin

"Florence, Italy – Perhaps it is a sign of the times that it has taken an artist to tell the fashion world that ideas – as opposed to product – in fashion, particularly in menswear, still matter. Because as of late menswear has been suffering for the lack of ideas and the prevalence of product. There are very few menswear designers left who put ideas on the catwalk – people like Jun Takahashi of Undercover, Takahiro Miyashita of the Soloist, and Raf Simons. Yesterday at Pitti Uomo, the men’s trade fair in Florence, Sterling Ruby did the same with the debut of his rather convolutedly named line S.R. STUDIO. LA.CA. The results were mixed, but the daring was there and for a first collection it was more than satisfying. Perhaps it helped that I did not have high hopes for this, and I was pleasantly surprised. Another factor in Ruby’s favor was that the night before Claire Waight Keller of Givenchy threw a bunch of product at us without much conviction behind it and certainly without an overarching idea, regardless of what the show notes said.

Here is the thing that vexes menswear critics today – we have nothing against product. Product is indispensable to menswear. We are the geeks who turn the jackets inside out to examine the seamwork and delight ourselves in the knowledge that our denim is of the selvage kind. But why as of late must product take the center stage on the catwalk, crowding out ideas? Has men’s fashion become that enslaved to corporate interests and the desires of clueless millennial consumers who want nothing more but a dumb hoodie with the right logo on it? Ricardo Tisci, who arguably started the product craze, could masterfully show product on the catwalk, but it would buttress an idea. But even he has dispensed with ideas in favor of product at his new position at Burberry."

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