Pharrell for LV and De Sarno for Gucci: Best looks from the menswear autumn/winter shows

In response to the shifting mood, designers lean into staple items

Pharrell Williams looked to the American Midwest for his autumn/winter 2024 collection for Louis Vuitton. Reuters
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Pharrell Williams kicked off men’s fashion week in Paris on Tuesday with a blistering show for Louis Vuitton, themed around the American Midwest.

Echoing the main theme coming out of the now-finished shows in Milan – reworking the familiar – Williams upscaled cowboy clothing with meandering embroidery and Louis Vuitton's Damier check.

Elsewhere, Giorgio Armani harked back to the silhouette that established his reputation, while at Gucci, new creative director Sabato de Sarno offered his first men’s collection.

With so much social, financial and environmental insecurity surrounding us all, the message coming from Milan, and now Paris, is about leaning into what we know, rather than venturing into flashy new ideas or tricky directions. The clearest iteration of this arrived via every man's wardrobe staple – the suit.

Here are the highlights of the men's shows in Milan and Paris so far.

Louis Vuitton

Williams's Americana-themed collection was a powerful statement, highlighting Native American culture, as well as highlighting the contributions of enslaved African Americans. Working with members of the Dakota and Lakota tribes, he sent out embroidered looks in double denim, cowboy shirts, bootleg trousers and cowboy boots, while also tapping into a wider mood and a craving for stability and familiarity.

One model carried a boot made in collaboration with Timberland, in a glass-sided carrycase. In times of uncertainty, we look for portable assets that, unlike houses or pensions, can be carried with us if we have to suddenly move. With trainers and collaborations often fetching high prices at auctions, perhaps Williams is suggesting we put our money into those.

Armani

In Milan, Giorgio Armani circled back to the same roomy-cut suit he created in the 1970s that helped establish his reputation. Loose and laid-back, it revolutionised men's dressing at the time. The message seems to be loud and clear that, once again, we crave an alternative to rigid, closed thinking.

A genius at discreet details, Armani offered more styling suggestions than new ideas. But this is no bad thing. Jackets arrived opened and relaxed or buttoned high at the neck, and worn with everything from crew neck T-shirts and polo shirts to polo necks. Noticeably absent was a shirt or tie, shifting the focus instead to layering different tones of grey for a casual, effortless mood.

Armani has always been about stepping away from rules, and this is a lesson we can all learn from, especially now.

Dolce & Gabbana

Undisputed masters of tailoring, suits at Dolce & Gabbana were razor-sharp, either nipped into the waist or left boxy and cropped to the hip.

In a dressy collection, these strict lines were softened with pussy bows looped at the neck, or with shirts left open to the stomach, in a way that felt elegant and sophisticated. Focused on refined details, it was best summed up as the skillful handling of how differing black materials were paired. Glossy satin was worn with lightweight wool, high sheen leather was contrasted with muted chalk stripe suiting, and lace trim was paired with papery taffeta. Even the shoes were patent leather, tied with a sheer bow.

By playing textures against one another, the designers showed us how to wear head-to-toe black in a way that is crisp and immaculate.

Prada

At Prada, it was all about the slim silhouette, with stovepipe trousers worn either with fitted polo necks or slim-cut shirts and skinny ties. This was then given a twist via a clashing belt of interlocking triangles, the Prada motif, worn slung low on the hips.

Suits, meanwhile, were oversized, hanging off the shoulders, while overcoats were equally forgiving, varying in length from below the knee to mid-calf. Jackets appeared in practical tweed and peacoats were in glossy leather, both materials that age well, in a clear nod to longevity over fast-moving trends.

The best takeaway was definitely the coloured swimming caps worn as beanies, in tomato red, purple, moss green and white.

Gucci

De Sarno first men’s collection too was a salute to the sheer beauty of men's tailoring. Simple lightweight knitted tops were worn with straight-cut trousers that were either chopped through at the ankle, or puddled on the floor, while long line jackets, both with and without sleeves, hung down to the ankles.

Classic white shirts where scaled up and given extra-stiff collars and cuffs for a new emphasis, while bombers were dressed up in satin or eel skin. De Sarno drew a lot of criticism for his debut show last September that felt too pared back. Now, with uncertainty looming over global economies brought on by expanding conflicts, his doubling down on elevated classics that will stand the test of time feels bang on the money.

Fendi

Fendi took its inspiration from an unlikely source for menswear, Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, with creative director Silvia Venturini Fendi calling her style “divine”. Interestingly, the princess is well-known for recycling her wardrobe, stepping out in pieces first worn decades earlier.

Here, Fendi looked to the core pieces that make up the royal wardrobe. Dubbed it Balmoral chic, the clothes had the unfussy, outdoorsy vibe of the Scottish estate the UK royals use to retreat from public life. Waxed jackets, pleated kilt-like skirts, tweed jackets and long socks were worn with Wellington boots.

While hardly the stuff of fashion daydreams, such practical, hardworking clothes are timeless, many hardy enough to bequeath to grandchildren.

Updated: January 18, 2024, 2:48 AM