Big Mood: Large and Baggy Is Now Fashion’s Dominant Silhouette
On Thursday, at his Spring/Summer 2020 show, Bottega Veneta designer Daniel Lee showed some of the biggest outfits I have ever seen in my entire life.
There was a huge short suit in a kinda hospital blue; a billowy pajama-cut denim suit; giant khaki shorts with a sizable ribbed knit; a leather anorak with colossal trousers; and tough guy-sized trench coats, in khaki over an oversized jumpsuit with shorts, and in black over swampy leather boxing shorts and a silky blouse. Most of the male models were wearing yanked-down knee socks with slippers in Bottega’s signature woven leather—like a rich guy who rolled out of bed five minutes ago for brunch at the restaurant downstairs. It emphasized the tininess of the models—and in turn, made the clothing look even bigger. In the maybe-futile search for something to replace Phoebe Philo’s Celine, people have been keeping a close on Bottega designer Lee, who was previously Philo’s ready-to-wear designer, and is in his second season at the Kering-owned luxury behemoth. But his work is not freaky and intimate like his former boss’s; instead, his stuff announces itself as luxury with a more global kind of gloss. It’s Big Fashion—figuratively, and literally.
We were in awe at the size of these lads way back in early 2018, but clothing, especially tailored clothing, just seems to be getting bigger and bigger every season, and shows no sign of stopping. Last week in London, Margaret Howell showed similarly huge silhouettes, including a number of khaki trousers that had the clarity of a new slab of granite—which she’s always done, but suddenly her timelessness looks timely, too. Look back at the bigwigs (sorrrrry!) of the Spring 2020 menswear collections: Prada? Big. Vuitton? Big. Dior? Big! Combined with Balenciaga’s long-held obsession with general hugeness, the prevalence of the juiced-up silhouette has become such that anything right-sized, to say nothing of the skinny suit, is starting to look a little, well, funny.
At the root of all this is the endless quest for the fountain of youth, a new customer base to catapult brands into the 21st century. Starting in 2017, fashion designers began to see promise in “big suits.” Kris Van Assche, then at Dior, put out a tailoring-heavy collection with loose, cropped trousers; he told reporters he wanted to make a suit for young guys, because “people are talking a lot about how young men don’t like wearing tailoring now.” Kim Jones had put his finger on the same thing a few days earlier in his landmark collaboration between Louis Vuitton, where he was then men’s artistic director, and Supreme. There was so much noise around those accessories that you might forget that the terrific clothes were skateboarder-sized, which is your “real” size times about 1.5.
Not to sound like a broken Kraftwerk record, but it really started with youth whisperer Raf Simons. He showed appealingly huge puddles of fabric all the way back in Spring 2016—a divergence from his previous signature reliance on starve-yourself-skinny suiting. That collection was inspired by the way the very old relate to the very young—like the way old guys look in a suit they’ve had for years, the way it hangs oversized on a frame that aging has shrunk down to teenager-size. Simons is one of those genuine creators of trends that crystalize into agendas for the rest of the fashion world—he does it and it reverberates, even if you can’t quite see the conspiratorial lines of red yarn in the way that, like, everyone from Zara to rag & bone yanks from Hedi Slimane. Simons was putting guys in skinny suits years before Slimane smartened it up and made it sexy at Yves Saint Laurent and then Dior Homme—suiting, of all things, might determine what’s truly cool.
Anyways: jumbo fashion has been knocked from its suiting perch to permeate clothing trends more widely, a reality most recently explored on Euphoria, the sleek teen drama (trauma?) that looks like a Drake video directed by Marilyn Minter. All the cool kids are in large stuff—like Zendaya’s antiheroine Rue in her boxy Stussy work shirts, and her lovable drug dealer Fezco in a big ole Supreme sweater—while the evil jock is stuck in skinny jeans. (Do I even have to tell you that the costume designer is Beach Bum’s Heidi Bivens?) Big is loose and cool and wild. Tight and tiny means trouble.
Which brings us to Slimane, the man who codified the skinny silhouette into legend. Even he’s loosened up, though it feels no less directional. You look at one of his Celine shows, including both of his standalone menswear collections thus far, and it’s boom-boom-boom, with crisply drapey look after crisply drapey look that hammers home the new message: skinny is so last decade.