In recent times, the historically female-dominated world of haute couture has become more inclusive, welcoming men who are willing to break away from the traditional black tuxedo and embrace outfits adorned with feathers, sequins, and intricate embroidery.
Couture week in Paris has seen an unprecedented number of male looks. It’s a sign of the times in the rarified realm of haute couture. “Red carpets today are as much about what the men are wearing as the women,” said luxury expert Serge Carreira.
Stars such as Billy Porter and Timothee Chalamet have been pushing boundaries with their outfits, and the fashion industry is meeting the new demand.
“More and more men are allowing themselves to be fancy. It’s the return of the culture of the 18th century, when kings and male aristocrats weren’t afraid to dress up and be flamboyant,” Pierre Alexandre M’Pele, editor of GQ France, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
While ready-to-wear collections have become increasingly unisex, couture has remained an almost exclusively female domain, concentrated on evening dresses, vertiginous heels and bridal gowns.
However, that is changing. Both genders were present for the debut live shows of U.S. designer Thom Browne and France’s Charles de Vilmorin this week in Paris.
Browne offered souped-up versions of his trademark grey suits and futuristic coats.
De Vilmorin had a unisex wardrobe for people who care little for gender divides in clothing. “It’s not a desire to do things differently… it’s extremely natural for me,” the 26-year-old told AFP.
On Tuesday, India’s Rahul Mishra presented male models in sequined suits with a white train.
“They were not made with that intent, but when we came here, we fit them onto the boys and they looked amazing,” he told AFP, adding that he had used men on his catwalks in India, but never before in Paris.
Lebanon’s George Hobeika also presented male looks, while Holland’s Ronald van der Kemp is one of the few that has been doing it for a while, going back to his debut in 2014, saying it comes from his love of “eccentric people.”
“Men want to dress in haute couture,” said French couturier Julien Fournie. “Those with purchasing power go to London to have a tuxedo or bespoke suits made, which remain classic. But they want fantasy, embroidery, very elaborate leather pieces.”
Could a full week of men’s haute couture shows be on the horizon? “We’re not there yet, but in a few years, why not?” said M’Pele.
Italy’s Dolce & Gabanna already makes couture lines for both sexes, he pointed out. We might not see many of these guys in the street, M’Pele added, but that is hardly surprising.
“They have much more extravagant lives than ours.”