Maybe it lives in the odd bits of off-kilter humor in the repetitive pipe-smoking bulldog embroidered on a navy tie. Perhaps it resides in the appropriately attuned five iron tie bar on the overworked finance guy who loves to hit the green on the weekends. It may even reside in the psychedelic 'Bemberg-esque' lining of a sublime bespoke peak lapel sport coat. For all the contrasting thread buttonholes and dabs of jovial little prints living on the insides of cuffs and collar stands, joy and expression exist. Exists it does in the fact that, more than ever before, men are discovering that whimsy can be that touch that either 'customized loafer defiantly' or 'technicolor sock cheekily' speaks character.
Be it subtle or be it blatant, whimsy is a modern man way of expressing himself. The more subtle can be seen in today's tailored clothing with its cleverly skewed familiar menswear patterns. The less subtle can be seen in the odd pairings of clashing textures and and perverse color stories that call for a new kind of matching. This past fashion week in New York City I had the pleasure of delving back into my childhood to uncover that hidden within the recesses of my mind was the whimsical way in which characters and animation could become a modern fellow's symbolic snappy bowtie.
Bobby Abley, that mirthful talented Brit, has been inspired by the carefree verve of Disney's "The Jungle Book" for Fall/Winter 2015. Of course one can look at the playful characters the adorning shirt fronts and jacket backs, the lively banana and leafy prints and see a romp through classic animation. However, what Abley has a knack for is pulling you in with the cultish familiar and infusing his love of pushing the envelope in regards to sportswear shapes and menswear proportions. Hardly overwrought and definitely impacting are the ways in which Abley merges the playfulness of the prints with the cleverness of the silhouettes for an almost harmonious balance of skin deep and what lies beneath the surface. The cinched trousers hems, the abbreviated shirtings, the blocking and textural effects of garments that seemed almost outlined like drawings and the unification of the collection by the inclusion of pieces were very linear while subconsciously hinting at strength, sport, proportion and intelligent optics.
This collection told a story that could easily be celebrated by being worn in all its sportswear glory or pared down with crisp abbreviated trousers and minimal color to add a touch of verve. The important thing to note is that talented designers with messages can have more to suggest than just tongue-in-cheek under collars and charismatic hardware. To find an insightful way to appeal to a man's sense of memory and youth while remaining true to his growing need for a voice in fashion is a talent. What better way to do that than through whimsy. After all, weren't we all the more interesting when we were too busy finding our fun?