An Early Spring Fling



New York has hit a peak with a slew of new and creative young designers on the menswear scene. They have managed to turn a once somewhat predictable spectacle into serious competition for the Milan and Paris fashion weeks. Even our trusty favorites and more established labels have taken risks in a climate that used to be renowned for the preppy and safe.

You'll see the best of the fresh designs -- and the hottest male models -- in upcoming issues of Out. But after attending a week's worth of Spring/Summer shows we couldn't wait that long to give you a peek at our favorite eye-catching looks, what we can't wait to run out and buy, and what you should be saving for now in order to properly stock your 2009 wardrobe.

Michael Bastian: While thumbing through the Michael Bastian Spring collection look book, it's easy to recognize the signature style that follows through from one season to the next. There have been mutterings throughout the industry that Michael Bastian is the next Ralph Lauren (though gaining such a title is pretty far off), but the comparison isn't totally absurd given that RL is known for his continually timeless classics that transcend season to season, year to year, era to era -- and considering the fact that Bastian once worked for the brand. Bastian's menswear also maintains a similar American venerability, though it's more rooted in contemporary cuts, fabrics and styles. For Spring, there's seersucker, there's plaid, there's khaki and great knits and there's the inherent mixture of casual and formal -- like blazers with shorts -- that typify the Bastian label. And he works at both ends of the spectrum, with both full tailored suits and bathing suits and hoodies effortlessly accomplishing the same degree of balanced style. What we also love about Bastian's collections is the dedication to punches of color, this season's choices being salmon pink, red and yellow -- all daring, but also fun and smart. Among our other favorite surprises from the Spring collections was a Fair isle cardigan and a suede safari jacket -- just for kicks, it seems -- that we can't wait to get our hands on.

Thom Browne: The one word we're taking away from Thom Browne's Spring show? Grass. Despite all the other sensory stimuli often happening at a Thom Browne show, this season's overriding aesthetic was one of freshly cut backyard, and a strip of lawn actually served as the runway at Exit Art Studios. Once we saw the collection we understood why and were amused by the appropriate timing of Browne's channeling of Wimbeldon tennis, given that the U.S. Open had just finished in New York. Models wore head and armbands, tennis shorts and sporty polos, and, if the style itself wasn't tennis themed, the pattern was, with suits and trench coats bearing crossed-racket decals. However, the tennis motif didn't last the length of the collection. In fact, there was a noticeable progression of styles that started with the court, segued into the more typical cropped school-boy grays and blues, then into whites and seersucker, climaxing with plaids and finally culminating in more formal black evening wear. Everything seemed to be moving along quite as you would expect, with only the single odd appearance of a pair of low sagging pants to raise a few eyebrows -- that is until the tutus came out (see above). Most were short and detachable, which was a relief, but the final full-length tulle bridal skirt was so daunting we have to admit we were slightly uncomfortable, which was perhaps the intention. But what's a Thom Browne show without a little bit of discomfort and some light tongue in cheekiness? Especially when all of it is paraded to Julie Andrew's The Sound of Music.