Consuelo Castiglioni's collections for men pose a curious problem. If her womenswear is a movable feast of color, texture, and provoking intelligence, her men's equivalent has often seemed like the sartorial equivalent of watching paint dry. And dry is so often the word that comes to mind when one reflects on the resolutely low-key nature of clothes whose tonal changes and shifts in silhouette can be measured in micro-ticks, rather than the electric jolts that power the women's collections. Fall 2013 didn't upend that state of affairs, but it did introduce a gratifying wild card in the form of art director Dean Langley, who is working on a photo book about the collection that will be privately published by the Castiglionis in a month or two.
Langley's vision for the project is a severe, monochromatic distillation of the post-punk seventies. "No Wave" is his own reference point. Maybe it was a professional awareness on Consuelo's part of seeing things through another's eyes that brought a sharper, stronger edge to the clothes. Coat hems were unfinished; trouser hems adjusted with straps, like a combat pant. There was an industrial feel to the metal closings on a leather jacket or the duvet layer that zipped off a gray flannel jacket. An exploded floral pattern on a pair of trousers could almost have been one of Paul Simonon's bleach splatters for The Clash. But there were also the signature touches of surreality that make Marni so special. An item as classic-conventional as a parka turned to reveal a back panel of rich nutria, like the beast within was now without. An equally classic oxford cloth shirt was infected with gray knit, as a long vertical band or as half-sleeves.
It was, said Consuelo, the first time that a music element had been incorporated into the clothing, inevitable when you're collaborating with an English art director of a certain age. So the clothes had a beat. And, if it wasn't quite the rhythmic throb of rebellion that the designer fancied, it still put a little no wave lead in Marni's pencil for fall.