Military - that perpetual obsession of menswear designers past, present and future had got Rodolfo Paglialunga - Jil Sander’s creative director as of April 2014 - going for A/W 16. He opened his show with a sweeping khaki green coat that seemed to be back-to-front. It was strapped across the torso, but buttoned down the back. At first glance, we could have been looking at a clean, chic funnel-neck dress. It was created to look deliberately as if it had been put together wrong. The message? Paglialunga was in the mood to mix things up. He wanted to make it clear that he was not willing to bow to the confines and traditions of menswear, or for that matter minimalism or military.
In that vein, it seemed that Paglialunga was not only looking at army garb, but also some of the many, many subcultures who have appropriated military-wear. There was a Mod-ish feel to some of the slimmer silhouettes, especially the super snug trouser, which broke up the sportier looks. The boxiness that one associates with Jil Sander was replaced by a more linear feel - jackets flowed, tailoring was snug and strap details accentuated the length of the torso. A squarer shape did come through in the sweaters - riffs on the military classics that have littered runways for years - which had exaggerated epaulettes.
There was something fetishistic about this collection, especially given the prevalence of leather and those straps. Leather, at Jil Sander. One couldn't help but remember Raf Simons’ sensual and wicked A/W 12 ‘black leather’ show for the house. That was dark. Freaky even. One thought of outsiders, nightlife and Patrick Bateman. Paglialunga’s take was dark but had none of the knowing wit - it lacked a certain subversive punch. But he seems to be a dry designer. In some ways that suits Jil Sander. The stiffness feels somehow fresh given what’s happening elsewhere in fashion.
Indeed, as the masculinity leaves menswear on neighbouring runways and blokes become boys, girls and everything in between, in lace, frills, florals and fluff, Paglialunga seems to be staking a claim for the role as the man's designer - the man’s man. There was no romance here. No nuance. The heavy soundtrack - a repetitive beat that felt almost like gun's firing - accentuated the atmosphere. It suited a collection that hammered home the same note.