Fall looks bright for men Fashion: With pink polos, violet vests and red and orange madras swimtrunks, designers for men's clothes seem to be taking their cues from peacocks.

July 30, 1998|By Mary Corey | Mary Corey,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- John Bartlett, the favorite son of men's fashion, unveiled his vision for spring 1999 earlier this week and it's filled with military influences, matted hairstyles and pink leather.

His much-anticipated show played on a talent he's demonstrated before -- his ability to emulate and alter male icons. This season he tried to take those a step further, mixing his images of sailors, bikers and surfers in playful, unpredictable ways.

Bartlett's colors grew in intensity during the show, hitting an eye-popping crescendo when models appeared in pink polos and monogrammed pants followed by lilac paratrooper shirts and finally green floral padded vests with belted trousers.

It looked like the Preppy Handbook as interpreted by the Village People.

Bold color was only one of the trends to emerge during the men's spring fashion shows, which began Monday and end tonight. The love affair with Army and Navy attire, strong in menswear this summer, continues for next year with cargo pants and field shirts.

And some designers want men to (literally) shine this spring, whether it's in the metallic thread of their Tommy Hilfiger damask suit or the sheen coming off their Nicole Farhi rubberized linen trousers.

But the constant buzz has been about dressing the "real man." For his show, Hilfiger chose not to use professional models, opening the runway instead to waiters, welders and actors. Liz Claiborne actually set up its show on a Manhattan sidewalk, recruiting three men (two lawyers and an entrepeneur) to first wear their own clothes and then have a Claiborne fashion makeover.

Goodbye button down and Dockers, hello silk blend jacket and Lycra T-shirt.

"We really wanted to show the average guy," said Krissy Blakeway, Claiborne design director. "We've done everything else. Let's try and dress the consumer."

The liquor company Johnnie Walker recruited respected menswear designer Jeffrey Banks for its first clothing line. "I tried to make clothes a man could understand, clothes that didn't intimidate him," Banks said.

Judging from the setting created at the clubby Trustees Room of the New York Public Library, the average Johnnie Walker man smokes cigars, golfs and likes rugby sweaters, quilted hunting jackets and corduroy caps with the little Johnnie Walker man emblazoned on them.

Today's man, Banks added proudly, is not afraid of red.

Designers also hope he's not afraid of silver, gold and bronze.

Maurice Malone -- best known for designing boxers with condom pockets -- trimmed his low-slung denim shorts in metallic fabrics and gave a similar luster to his T-shirts.

Shimmer got even more of an endorsement from Hilfiger who showed sequins, bronze tie-dye and iridescent shirts.

One of his most engaging models was Alan Cumming, an actor who recently won a Tony award for "Cabaret." Whether he was sent down the runway in cargo clamdiggers or a linen suit, he seemed to charm the audience, which included celebrities Sean "Puffy" Combs, Lou Reed and Deborah Harry.

This season Hilfiger selected clothing from his sportswear, jean, athletic and menswear lines to demonstrate how seemingly contrasting elements can work together. While looks such as a plaid wool jacket and track pants worked, others seemed destined to be worn only by the most stylish club kid.

And some things -- like a fuchsia silk dress shirt and red and orange madras swimtrunks -- aren't meant to be anywhere near each other. The look cried out -- "Don't try this at home" -- and even the intern who walked down the runway wearing it had trouble keeping a straight face.

But during a week when men wore embroidered pants, violet vests and leather drawstring pants, who knows? Perhaps Hilfiger was intentionally having some fun with the outer fashion limits.

Pub Date: 7/30/98

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