It’s a question that every facet of the menswear industry – when it isn’t eternally scratching its head at how to tackle the streetwear phenomenon – is preoccupied with: how to make suits relevant in an age where they are less and less integral to a man’s everyday wardrobe?
And for Hugo Boss, a brand that built its name on the strength of its suiting prowess, it’s even more pertinent. Which is why, at the house’s autumn/winter 2019 Boss show against the glacial backdrop of New York’s Hudson River, chief brand officer Ingo Wilts took it back to that other era where suiting was redefined and reformatted; the 1980s.
The camel, fawn and dove tones that defined that period were applied to Boss’s sharp, pristine suits, but where the ’80s offered a silhouette in soft-focus, Wilts’ interpretation was narrow and lean; more dynamic and less languid to keep the sedate shades from looking sleepy.
Caramel coats, tufted, boxy, teddy-bear shearling jackets and heavy duty leather anoraks in latte shades were a substantial answer to the winds whipping in from the Eastern Seaboard as America shivered in the arctic blasts of Storm Maya.
For the Hugo Boss man who wants to venture beyond those (admittedly rather soothing) nude and non-tones, the house upped the ante with a shocking pink double-breasted suit; Roxie Music-era Bryan Ferry with a glossy Manhattan makeover. Those retina-scalding pinks segued into outerwear and knitwear in zinging coral.
Boss’s menswear MO has always been a certain spirited, on-the-go vim; a ready-to-wear alternative for the customer who doesn’t have the ceremony or inclination for Savile Row. That was evident in the slick, urban leathers, not just in outerwear but on a suit too.
Boss would never venture into the murky arena of streetwear proper – its younger range Hugo takes care of that nicely – but Wilts nodded to the appetite for it in his own restrained, discreet way. Softly padded coats were worn with elastic-waisted joggers and hoodies, while tech fabric parkas had mountaineering toggle cords as drawstrings.
The designer also applied a minimal hand to the most dress-up (and sometimes overly decorous) facet of a man’s wardrobe; eveningwear. Wilts took the template of a pastel prom tuxedo and pared it back, with soft cappuccino-hued and pale periwinkle variants with contrasting satin lapels worn with casual, open shirts.
The currents of menswear are shifting into more considered sartorial waters as the tide goes out on streetwear. The January men’s shows marked a return to form in the most literal sense of the word; a sense of uprightness and propriety against slouching shapes and sportswear frills.
And it’s a sign of Hugo Boss’s conviction that throughout it all, the house has maintained a steady presence in the world of tailoring. The paint box might be plundered for different tones, but the structure and message remain the same. And in stormy terrain, sometimes you need that kind of anchor to stay the course.