What also made sense was Ackermann's title: Opium. He's not hawking perfume, he's setting the scene.
With a womenswear line known for sensual, attenuated androgyny - the gender confusion even extending to bias-cut slithers of silk-satin that somehow manage to be oddly asexual - we assumed we had the general gist Haider Ackermann would be offering for his inaugural menswear outing for S/S 2011. Guess again. In fact, guessing was one thing we didn't have to do: Ackermann handily provided us with a hefty, hardbacked Carnet de Voyage, taking us through the images that inflamed his creative fire this season. This, it seems, is one of fashion's favourite new trends (think of it as an elaborate gift with purchase) but it's one that proves genuinely useful. How else could we have realised that when Ackermann thinks about 'his' man, he's thinking Rimbaud, Oscar Wilde and Emperor Hailie Selassie? He's also thinking about Tilda Swinton and Mona Von Bismarck - but as he intended this collection as 'a wardrobe for men… and women', perhaps that makes more sense than you'd think.
What also made sense was Ackermann's title: Opium. He's not hawking perfume, he's setting the scene. Thus the deserted palazzo, the chandelier-strung courtyard, a bacchanalian feast of plenty beforehand and, indeed, those images of decadence and exoticism straight from nineteenth-century Symbolism. If you're looking for a wardrobe for a latter-day Des Essientes, Ackermann is offering it, heaving with bead-smothered silks, jewel-coloured velvets, patchworked brocade and silken slippers embroidered with peacock-feathers for good measure. It was a neat move on Ackermann's part, particularly when the swathed silhouettes and scissored tailoring he offers for women are already offered eloquently enough for men.
When Ackermann proposed garments for women, they tended to fit with the Turkish Harem theme, deshabille satin and chiffon slipping seductively off the shoulders and pooling around more of those flat slippers. Granted, there were shades of early Dries Van Noten, and even airs of Dolce e Gabbana's 1990s shows - looser silhouettes, exotic fabrics, ethnic embroidery, mish-mashing of cultural references - indeed all the old Haute Hippie cliches of the well-worn silk route. But it's been a while since we've seen these ideas, especially on a mens catwalk and particularly expressed with such fervour - those embroidery-encrusted jackets and patched jacquards, for all their artful distress, will cost more than a pretty penny, and seem to run decidedly counter to fashion's thrust towards minimalism, and last season's feel for shearling-swathed survival in these hard times. It will be interesting to see if Ackermann's nomadic mood is an escape route others will flock down to find refuge, or simply an interesting cul-de-sac for a select cadre ready to toke up and drop out in a pair of four-grand dhoti trousers.