Could you rock the kaftan?

Relaxed, long-line silhouettes are bringing a new mood to menswear, says Simon Chilvers

At ease, gentlemen… Loewe cotton sailor tunic, £1,100, and cotton shorts, £495
At ease, gentlemen… Loewe cotton sailor tunic, £1,100, and cotton shorts, £495

A sailor-neck Loewe tunic worn over a pair of super-wide black trousers. Djellaba-style Jil Sander kaftans in striped linen worn over matching pants. A long, belted black Saint Laurent top with an embellished neckline. Voluminous below-the-knee shirting under suiting at Fendi. And embroidered long tunics in lightweight layered looks at Valentino.

Saint Laurent silk-mix shirt with beaded neckline, £1,225, from matchesfashion.com
Saint Laurent silk-mix shirt with beaded neckline, £1,225, from matchesfashion.com
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One of the key silhouettes from the spring/summer 2020 men’s collections is a relaxed, long-line style that lends itself perfectly to wearing at home; kaftans are the loungewear equivalent of cashmere tracksuits when the mercury starts to climb. Add to that tunics worn with wide trousers, billowing shirts and embroidery with a homespun feel, and here are clothes that are comfortable yet look presentable on a video call or the weekly grocery run.

Jil Sander spring/summer 2020
Jil Sander spring/summer 2020
Etro spring/summer 2020
Etro spring/summer 2020

“This bohemian sensibility is nostalgic and recalls the laid-back vibes of Ibiza, Bali and LA,” says Fiona Firth, managing director at Mr Porter. Retailers such as Mr Porter and MatchesFashion look to emerging and established brands to encapsulate the mood. “Labels such as Loewe and Rochas are creating a relaxed, undone image in luxurious fabrications,” says Damien Paul, MatchesFashion’s head of menswear.

Fendi long silk shirt, £1,150
Fendi long silk shirt, £1,150
Bode spring/summer 2020
Bode spring/summer 2020

Saint Laurent’s creative director Anthony Vaccarello said inspiration for his current collection came out of a conversation with Mick Jagger. “We talked about his relationship with Yves Saint Laurent in the ’70s and [he was] showing me pictures of him in Marrakech with Yves, who was very inspired by that period,” the designer recalled at his spring/summer 2020 show. The collection winds a path between rock ’n’ roll and bohemia.

Lanvin silk tunic shirt, £1,150, from matchesfashion.com
Lanvin silk tunic shirt, £1,150, from matchesfashion.com
Louis Vuitton spring/summer 2020
Louis Vuitton spring/summer 2020

At Loewe, Jonathan Anderson’s approach was less about the vista of rock and more about the “romantic” and “a sense of youthful nomadic-ness”. This could be seen in the combination of jumbo chevron knits worn over super-long shirts with sandals; swingy striped kaftan tops over matching calf-length trousers; and tonal pastel layers. He also tuned into the brand’s heritage. “Loewe’s big moment was in the ’70s and I wanted to go back to that moment when the brand became something,” he said after his spring/summer 2020 show.

Valentino x Roger Dean shirt, £725
Valentino x Roger Dean shirt, £725
On left, Loewe Paula’s Ibiza linen top, £595, and raffia and calf leather Slit bag, POA. On right, Loewe Paula’s Ibiza linen Mao collar shirt, £625, raffia and calfskin Balloon bag, £1,900, and acetate sunglasses, £280
On left, Loewe Paula’s Ibiza linen top, £595, and raffia and calf leather Slit bag, POA. On right, Loewe Paula’s Ibiza linen Mao collar shirt, £625, raffia and calfskin Balloon bag, £1,900, and acetate sunglasses, £280

Silvia Venturini Fendi took inspiration from the garden: “The collection conveys a breezy attitude with an emphasis on functionality and utility done in the Fendi way,” she says. “I wanted to keep the pieces light yet tailored, with each one being easy to wear and practical. This was a great way to incorporate the tunic – they have a certain lightness and air that makes everything weightless and fresher.”

Palmer/Harding mandarin collar twill shirt, £340, from matchesfashion.com
Palmer/Harding mandarin collar twill shirt, £340, from matchesfashion.com
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Federico Curradi, the designer bringing Rochas back into the fashion conversation, showed a collection brimming with leisurely details – oversized untucked shirting and rippling trousers, all in an earthy soft palette. “I wanted to capture the spirit of the Parisian artist,” he said. This extended to embroidery pieces inspired by a destroyed wall the designer came across in Paris, while the jewellery that finished some of the looks was formed from ceramics handmade in Florence. “For me, bohemian is something progressive – it feels like the future in a way,” he says.

This latest spin on the haute hippie is also focused on investing in special pieces. Some of the clothes feel like heirlooms. Brands such as New York’s Bode and London’s By Walid look closely to vintage, a sensibility that values timelessness as much as ease. CFDA award-winner Emily Adams Bode, who launched her label in 2016, has garnered buzz for her use of vintage, antique and dead-stock fabrics. Bode’s current collection was inspired by her familial ties to a wagon workshop in Ohio, and specifically a commission from the Ringling Brothers Circus. She spent time at the Ringling Museum of Art in Florida unearthing photographs that documented “how the performers lived, the graphics on the wagons, the entire workshop”.

The opening look of the Bode show was a yellow robe-style duster in a cotton sateen reproduction of a 1920s fabric bought in Paris. Embellishment, embroidery and patchwork are all integral to the overall look of the label. “Patchwork is part of the foundation of the brand, so to me it’s always important to include some aspect of it, whether that be a historic piece or a reproduction,” says Bode.

Another label backing the kaftan is Marrakshi Life, set up in 2013 by former fashion photographer Randall Bachner, who fell in love with the light, pace and energy of Marrakech craftsmanship after a trip to the city. Now based there, he works with a weaver and a tailor to create handwoven garments. “The story is pretty organic – we began creating unisex clothes, generous in size and always comfortable, working only with the fabrics we hand-weave,” explains Bachner. A palette of 1970s sherbet colours, inspired by the desert and the Marrakech palm trees, was central to his current collection, which includes oversized shirting in six different multicolour scarf weavings. “Men are looking for more options, especially in the silhouettes,” says Bachner of the kaftan’s appeal. “I think there is a move towards more comfortable clothes that have a handmade vibe and story.” 

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