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Essay

Essay: Bringing Sexy Back

by Ryan Cahill on 20 July 2018

With more fashion houses experimenting with sex-centred silhouettes and designs, Ryan Cahill explores Milan S/S 19 Menswear.

With more fashion houses experimenting with sex-centred silhouettes and designs, Ryan Cahill explores Milan S/S 19 Menswear.

Black and navy padded coats and thick bootcut trousers make way for vibrantly patterned ultra-short shorts, while open collar shirts reveal unsubtle hints of chiselled muscle. It’s 2018, sex sells, and the designers showcasing their S/S 19 collections know it.

There’s no denying that uptight 'old money' fashion houses have been long overdue a major kick up the backside when it comes to reclaiming the idea of male sensuality. It’s pretty much impossible to ignore the super-charged, overtly sexual landscape that we’re now living in, where you can only attain a four-digit Instagram following if you’re posing in your underwear (or less), and when reality shows like Love Island are diluting the nation’s prudish and taboo approach to sex and sensuality. The next generation of fashion’s big spenders, spawn of the rich and famous who went through puberty with Kendall and Kylie, and their hyper-pumped boyfriends are the new consumer looking for something a little more daring. Where once a Juicy Couture tracksuit was the purest form of social currency, a high-cut Fendi Signature swimsuit has misplaced it.

To bookmark the evolution of our sexual selves, Prada’s S/S 19 Menswear collection served up some sultry summer looks - those short shorts. 'They’re like mini-skirts,' Miuccia described them backstage after the show, nodding to a genderless approach the industry is finally gravitating towards.

The fact that Mrs. Prada, the queen of intellectual dressing, has decided to opt for something a little bit more sexual is proof enough that change is in the water. It’s inevitable that, in the next few seasons, more of the major men’s fashion houses will swerve towards the less-is-more aesthetic. While daring the boys to bare their gams, the collection retained the elegance and exuberance that is synonymous with Prada as a brand. The mini-shorts were teamed with sophisticated roll-necks and blazers – because, well, it’s Prada. There’s a very fine line between sexiness and trashiness, and Miuccia knows how to walk it.

Prada S/S 19 Image by Jason Lloyd-Evans for The FT

Dipping his toe in the muddy waters of temptation, Roberto Cavalli Junior put his own spin on racy apparel. For the S/S 19 collection of his fresh brand Triple RRR, Cavalli Junior unveiled shirts depicting archive imagery of his father, worn by models who reclined with exposed torsos dazzling in the Milanese afternoon summer sun. It was quite a joyful moment, watching fashion editors and bloggers circulating the space looking to get the best image for their insta stories. Were they focusing on the clothes or the semi-dressed models? Who knows. Fact is, the skimpiest models summoned the biggest crowds.

There’s no denying the awakening of the hot lad isn’t a coincidence. In the aftermath of major sexual abuse accusations swerving the fashion industry, there seems to emerge a new found resilience.

Elsewhere on the schedule, N°21 and Les Hommes also had suggestions of homoerotic undertones. The former opted for a more subversive embodiment of sexiness, calling upon single-sleeve sweaters and off-the-shoulder shirts to create a sexualised preppy character. Les Hommes instead adopted a more conventional masculine approach, using leather jacket and distressed sweaters to push their sexualised agenda. For these contemporary brands creating a collection that balances wearability and sexuality seems to come more easily. It’s probable that they have a heightened awareness of what it means to be sexy in 2018, compared to their colleagues at the helm of big traditional teams. Perhaps financial directors are still afraid of nudity? Possessing an acute awareness of what it means to be sexy today is no bad thing; knowledge comes at a price and when there is such a fine line between sexiness and vulgarity, it’s important to recognise when enough is enough.

There’s no denying the awakening of the hot lad isn’t a coincidence. In the aftermath of major sexual abuse accusations swerving the fashion industry, there seems to emerge a new found resilience. Instead of covering up and going down the modest route, designers seem to be taking this moment to reclaim the male body. Is this a wise move or just further proof that people within the industry lack tact? Do they suffer a long-standing condition of social amnesia? Only time will tell. It’s safe to say that S/S 19 will be one hot season, but hopefully with fewer creepy photographers, editors, and creative directors being in charge of capturing the moment.

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