“Random.” New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, nestled in a seat at the Polo Bar, was remarking on the front-row presence of R. Kelly at the Ovadia & Sons show earlier that day. It was a review that could have applied to many of the couplings as the first-ever New York men’s fashion week kicked off. Look at Public School, where buyer turned street-style sensation Nick Wooster, jeweler-about-town Waris, and musician Twin Shadow rubbed elbows while modeling in front of a police lineup. The usual suspects, these weren’t. When an effusive Jenna Lyons came over to congratulate co-designer Maxwell Osborne, he revealed that they thought about casting her as well. Of the mix, he said, “I mean, they’re friends of the brand and we also wanted to go really diverse while we did it. So it was fun.”
Rag & Bone, too, forwent a typical runway show with models, and opted for a video where parkour players gamboled and showed off the brand’s athletic-inspired pieces. “This season skews a bit more on the sport side, the way we’ve shown it here,” acknowledged co-designer David Neville, who said this video was a sequel of sorts to one from last season that featured a Mikhail Baryshnikov–Lil Buck dance-off. “We wanted to continue that idea of movement and sport, but still in a very urban context,” Neville said.
While the scene was eclectic, with NBA stars, ex-boy-banders, and members of the Instagram-famous fraternity overlapping harmoniously, the clothes stuck to safer territory. Designers were exploring all-American classics of various kinds — like Rag & Bone’s ripstop parkour gear or Public School’s black, white, and navy streetwear looks, all styled with sneakers. For Italo Zucchelli, the men’s creative director at Calvin Klein, preparing for spring 2016 meant taking a survey of American workwear, “the khaki colors, the jeans, the military [looks]. The idea was to take these references and do something new with it.” Something new, in this case, could mean a denim-on-denim look where both pieces were actually jacquard printed to look like jeans, or pieces with removable Velcro pockets that allowed for a modular effect, or even hiking sandals styled with socks. Was Zucchelli familiar with the term “Texas tuxedo”? Yes, he was, he said, grinning. “Some people say Canadian tuxedo. I like the kitschiness of that in a way, there’s something that’s alluring to me.” Call it an Italian’s take on the combo beloved of cowboys and early-’00s Britney and Justin.
Further afield, in a mirrored box that looked spit-shined, Thom Browne’s equally polished models showed off 28 classic suits tailored in the designer’s favored ankle-baring fashion. There was a twist, though. Each suit, he explained, was made in a different gray fabric — giving the lie to the Sloan Wilson cliché of sameness. (As for how he pulled off this tricky feat: “I own my own tailoring facility now,” Browne explained backstage.) With its vaguely ‘50s office setting — complete with a silver-plated typewriter — the show might have put the designer’s fans in mind of his Pitti installation for fall 2009, where retro office automatons shuffled through their tasks.
And what could be more all-American than an athlete? The sporting set — Cruz and Wade, who are official CFDA ambassadors for the week, but also Andre Iguodala, Nick Young, and Formula One racer Lewis Hamilton — were the ball’s real belles. Last night at the Polo Bar, Cruz was fêted by Esquire and a group of admiring designers including John Varvatos and Timo Weiland. Browne was also having a bit of a fanboy moment, courtesy of a marquee guest at his show. “I just met Dwyane Wade,” he confided. Does he have many athlete fans? “I don’t know if they’re fans of mine,” the designer said, “but I’m definitely a fan of theirs.”