A Wrap Up of Arab Influence

Spring/Summer 2011 Men’s Fashion Week.
It began with a Jordanian and ended with an Emirati. Men’s Fashion Week in Paris not only had Arab designers for the opening and closing shows, but throughout the week, the Middle East held a strong and incessant presence.Whether it was with the thobe-referenced collars of Hermes, or the flowing, drapery of Dior, the influence and intentional desire to allure the Arabian man was inherent in most collections.
Rad Horani, Jordanian-born, Parisian-based designer, launched the first day of Fashion Week with a unique presentation in the form of an art exhibition rather than a traditional runway show. Entitled, TRANCLASSIC, his designs were monochromatic — implementing only black — and were classic pieces that worked to complement the main star of the show — a single transformable jacket that was displayed on mannequins, like wearable art, in ten different variations.
The shows in between were surprisingly very conservative with most utilizing a non-seasonal palette of black and white. John Galliano’s show was theatrical, as can always be expected by the showman. Referencing the fashions of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton — the comedy kings of the silent film era — his suits played on proportions, creating deliberate tension and a modern twist on classics.
Dior Homme’s Kris Van Assche showcased asymmetrical drapery in the similarly subdued palette and had people fantasizing contemporary films, such as the ever-popular “Twilight” sagas. Van Assche had interesting interpretations for next year’s Spring/Summer that albeit were modern, were still very modest.
Véronique Nichanian of Hermes was able to embody the house’s bespoke leisure heritage through her usage of fine suede and play on its classic prints. The collection was very summer-home — very Cannes, the Hamptons. We finally got to see color, although still very subtle in manifestation of cool neutrals. A rich green was injected for a cool and chic edge. The result was a seamless collection of contemporary summer classics.
Qasimi Homme’s show, by Emirati designer Khalid Qasimi, was entitled “The Empty Quarter,” a tribute to the designer’s Middle Eastern roots. With the unveiling of geometrical prints for the first time, Qasimi dissected Arabesque patterns to create original prints that are quintessentially his. His disappearing lapels on suits, high collars, and slit pockets, were references to traditional Middle Eastern wear. The headbands were a contemporary interpretation of the black guttra in various neutral colors. His hidden hoods were also a favorite, and once opened, undeniably reflected the triangular shape of the shomagh.
This season displayed many dichromatic palettes of black and white. The market has shown that people, particularly men, are buying less. In an economy still in shock over the recent recession, consumers are spending smarter and splurging less. Furthermore, men are putting less of their income into fashion. This may be an explanation as to why the designs on the runways appear to be modest, attempting to create classic pieces instead of experimental, cutting-edge designs we often anticipate viewing.
The appeal to Arabs may also have the same reasoning. With designers studying their market and researching their buyers, some non-Arab designers may be designing for the Arab clientele because they have shown stronger stability in the market. Hence, the conservative proportions and subdued color palettes. Men want timeless classics that will last. Thus, the overall undertone of Spring/Summer 2011 appeared to be classic, conventional and appealing to the man who embodies them both: the Arab man.