Menswear Is Having A Pop Culture Love Affair

Music, movies, and television have taken over men's fashion shows

Jan 27, 2016 at 10:44 AM ET

For the past couple of seasons, Rick Owen’s menswear runway shows have featured some kind of gimmick. Last January, it was visible penis. In October, it was models wearing each other as human backpacks. The latter is hard to account for, but the former might be a reference to an old Leigh Bowery photo. This season was no exception; every few models looked like monsters, with faces painted white with black around the eyes, a direct reference to the 1960 French-Italian horror film Eyes Without A Face. Owens may have his own shtick that changes season-to-season, but his show was indicative of love for pop culture shared by all of the fashion world. This season, the menswear shows in London, Paris, and Milan have included a multitude of film, television, art, and other cultural references.

Take Raf Simons. In his first solo show since leaving Dior, his work referenced a mixed bag of pop horror and ’80s movies. The New York Times reports that Raf’s touchstones included Nightmare on Elm Street, the Edvard Munch paintingThe Scream, the ’80s brat pack classic The Breakfast Club, and, of course some Twin Peaks for added measure. (AlwaysTwin Peaks.)

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But while Simon’s nod to the cult series might be more explicit—his show featured the voice of the composer of that Twin Peaks‘ score booming out over loudspeakers—Dazed Digital says that at Gucci, the connection to the David Lynch classic existed more in just mood and feeling. The dichotomy between Gucci’s and Raf Simons’ Twin Peaks references exemplifies how designers deal with their influences. Some designers are subtle, leaving references open to interpretation, and some are more overt.

Antonio Marras, who paid clear tribute to the spaghetti westerns of the 1970s in his fall/winter 2016 show, is among those who traffic in the obvious. His collection featured broad brimmed hats, high-fashion bandanas, mismatched plaids, and jackets that could be described as haute couture cowboy. The audience even sat on bales of hay. Per Vogue:

Yet Marras’s Texas was not of the sophisticated Richard Prince–inspired variety. This was Texas in its raucous, Italianate version: that is, the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns of the ’70s that were hilarious, loud, almost cartoonish affairs—yet so believable that they inspired Quentin Tarantino several times. Marras found out that quite a few of those tacky B-movies had been filmed in a desolate village in remote, rural Sardinia.

Giorgio Armani was pretty on-the-nose, too, with a collection directly inspired by New York author and Beat generation icon William S. Burroughs. Business of Fashion reported:

Quite what one of the most successful fashion designers in the world could have in common with the man who wrote “Naked Lunch” was a tease, less evident in outfit than attitude. Armani has always had an affection for cultural outriders and eccentrics.

Then there’s Kenzo’s Paris show, which featured a choir clad in red robes singing Janet Jackson’s 1989 hit “Rhythm Nation.” They entered chanting the song’s opening words, “we are a nation with no geographical boundaries, bound together through our beliefs. We are like-minded people, sharing a common vision,” expressing themes of unity and peace—hardly coincidental considering the show’s proximity to the Paris attacks in November.

The rest of the pop culture references are more vague but no less present. Models in Julien David’s show all walked the runway coifed with hair that looked like it was plucked straight out of the Japanese cartoon “Dragon Ball Z.” DSquared2’s Japanese-inspired collection also seemed to show a little love for anime.

Over at Versace, the set and collection were both space-themed, but whether they were making references to Star Trek or Star Wars (sorry, nerds!) is open to interpretation. If you’re a Drake fan, the set may have looked more like the “Hotline Bling” video than anything else.

There are a few other references worth mentioning: Soulland’s show was partially inspired by screw music, a super slow Texas rap style created under the influence of codeine-laced cough syrup. If that’s not your speed, there was always Russian designer Gosha Rubchinskiy, whose show had a distinctly punk vibe.

Clearly, fashion and pop culture are impossible separate. One informs the other, but sometimeslike this season in particular—the connection is a lot more apparent.

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