Men's

Palomo Spain's Gender Bending Fashion Borrowing

By tapping the far past, the budding brand moves menswear and its rigid codes into the future.
Reading time 3 minutes

Alejandro Gómez Palomo only launched his menswear brand, Palomo Spain, in 2015. But last Tuesday he became the most important designer at Paris Fashion Week with his Fall 2018 collection, entitled “Hunting.”

A take on hunting apparel, the brilliantly modern collection drew heavily from the past—specifically the 16th and 17th centuries, and earlier. Slashed doublets and sleeves, trunk hose (yes, those voluminous shorts have a real name), boots with turned over tops, and capes, all exquisitely rendered in vibrant silks and brocades, making the models look as though they stepped out of a painting.

 

The collection exists in a world in which the great male renunciation—a term for the point in the late 18th century in which men turned away from ostentatious ways of dressing—never occurred. It completely rethinks our modern notion of masculinity, strangely, by bringing back details from the past. It highlights just how fluid fashion has been throughout history and across cultures, with silhouettes, fabrics, and colors flipping back and forth as visual definitions of what it means to look like a "man" or a "woman." And if this isn’t evidence of how gendered clothing is a social construct, I don’t know what is.

Palomo pushes things further by adding in some sex appeal. It’s not that men aren’t naked on the runway. There is usually at least one shirtless model in any given season, and no one has dared shown a penis on the runway since Rick Owens’ Fall 2015 collection. But Palomo’s bare bellybuttons and shoulders, and thigh-high boots that show off some leg showcase the male body in a way we aren’t used to seeing—that is, they are sexualized in a female way.

But the cherry on top his perfect takedown of sartorial “norms” is the inclusion of traditionally feminine items. Palomo has long been including skirts and dresses in his collections, and Fall ’18 is no different, with theme-specific off-the-shoulder bodices, and a chainmail gown for good measure. It’s not exactly drag, as his garments are not women’s clothes being worn by men—they are deliberately men’s clothes, from a menswear brand. Gender-bending “borrowed from the boys” garments have long been a part of women’s fashion. We’ve become accustomed to seeing women in suits and more masculine styles, so why not the other way around?

 

While Palomo has been honing his aesthetic for the past few years, the timing of “Hunting” could not be better, as it feels as though we’re on the brink of radical shift in men’s fashion. The past few years has seen the industry slowing gaining in prominence, and with that, an increased eye on what men wear. The Pitti Uomo menswear shows are now a major destination for street style photographers hoping to nab a shot of the “Pitti Peacocks”—the extremely dapper dandies that attend the shows. Skate and streetwear brands have developed intense followings, especially amongst young men who wouldn’t necessarily have been a target fashion demographic in decades past. Meanwhile, a new generation of rappers with a public appreciation of contemporary (and sometimes conceptual) designers has seen designer like Raf Simons and Martin Margiela go from having a cult fashion following, to becoming mainstream names. If there was ever a time for style conscious men to be the new norm, and for gender specific clothing to end, it will be soon—if not now already.

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