Valentino F/W 2016

Pearly Kings as Posh Punkers in Dodge City

In a men’s runway season deluged in appliqués, many of ethnic and tribal origin, it’s telling that the greatest source – in both Paris and Milan – comes from a unique urban European tradition. London’s Pearly Men.

“What we loved – besides the beauty of the patterns – was the whole sense of community that this design represented. To me Henry Croft is a great hero,” said Pier Paolo Piccioli, standing beside design partner Maria Grazia Chiuri.

Black is back
Black is back

PPP as he is often nicknamed, was referring to the historic founder of the Pearly Men. Croft was an orphan street sweeper who took the original working man’s tradition of sewing mother of pearl buttons onto their work clothes to turn it into a decorative art to help attract money for charity. Semiotically, this rich visual signifier was at the heart of a great collection, where the graphic pearly patterns exploded over cowboy shirts and Rocky Mountain sheriff’s jackets. Continuing the idea with jade appliques on backpacks all the way to the latest example of their incredibly successful Rock Stud footwear. The show’s finale was a whole series of plaid shirts, Navajo blanket coats and hiking boots combinations, as Piccioli and Chiuri took the Lumbersexual movement to an unexpected new couture Level.

Luxury military: a fur lined parka
Luxury military: a fur lined parka

Though in that Italian way of blending the diametrically opposed shamelessly, they also mixed in a large dash of Punk rock. To wit – a fab trio of suits with matching check suits. Johnny Rotten goes to Harvard to study foreign policy. Ironically, despite the mass of color, the overriding memory was all the opening black – most notably the uptown anarchist donkey jackets and dusters. A supreme example of the range and guts of this design duo; who now have few rivals in fashion. Yep, they are that good.

English inspiration seen via Italian eyes
English inspiration seen via Italian eyes