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Men's Paris fashions blur gender boundaries

The French menswear collections ended on Sunday in a sea of sequins, silk and all things pink, challenging the adage that boys will be boys.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The French menswear collections ended on Sunday in a sea of sequins, silk and all things pink, challenging the adage that boys will be boys.

Fine fabrics like silk, gazar and crepe de Chine crept into the male wardrobe for spring-summer 2009 as Paris designers increasingly blurred gender boundaries.

“The most striking thing is the amount of crossover from women's collections that seems to be happening,” Michael Roberts, fashion director of Vanity Fair magazine, told The Associated Press.

“A little bit of that goes a long way as far as I'm concerned. I just find it a little bit annoying that I'm supposed to be here for a week watching men's shows, and I keep having to pinch myself to remind myself that I'm not in the women's pret-a-porter,” he added.

Case in point: the Dior Homme show, where models paraded in gold-sequined pants with bright jewel appliques, or a metallic bomber jacket in this season's ubiquitous fuchsia pink.

Admittedly, these were merely footnotes to a collection based on intricately constructed jackets, some featuring slits that allowed a glimpse of white shirt, others with pleats in the back that caught the wind like a sail.

The label's designer, Kris Van Assche, bristled at the suggestion that he was bringing feminine elements to Dior's sober aesthetic.

“For me, it's not at all about making menswear more feminine,“ he told the AP. “The whole job is to use these traditions like embroidery and all that, but to make it in a very masculine way.”

However, Van Assche, who is known for his romantic sense of elegance, veered from his signature path with the presence of club-kid gear, coupled with a thumping soundtrack by hip French electronic duo Justice.

The danger is that it may confuse editors and buyers, who still have no clear idea of the Belgian designer's overall vision for the label he overtook three seasons ago.

If anyone can be credited with kickstarting the feminine trend in menswear, it is French label Lanvin, which created a minor sensation last year with its jogging suit made from purple duchess satin.

Lucas Ossendrijver, who designs the menswear line under artistic director Alber Elbaz, reverted to technical fabrics with a crisper feel this season, but kept the foppish details like ruched seams on trousers and jacket backs.

A black silk puff-sleeved blouse was worn over a T-shirt encrusted with black beads, while accessories included lace-up sandals and crinkly straw hats laden with thick ribbons.

“It's clothes you want to have, clothes you want to keep,” Ossendrijver told the AP.

Even at Paul Smith, the British label famed for providing classics-with-a-twist, the model who opened the show was strikingly androgynous, his silky hair flowing well past shoulder length.

Highlights of the show included striped suits whose lapels were spliced to create a herringbone effect, but a seemingly endless sequence of baggy, faded jeans rolled above the ankle looked curiously out of touch.