Menswear at New York Fashion Week plays it safe but also takes risks

NEW YORK, Sept 9 Mon Sep 9, 2013 7:00am EDT

NEW YORK, Sept 9 (Reuters) - Menswear at New York Fashion Week played it safe with colors, sticking to pared-down neutrals, but styles and cuts ran the gamut from classic sportswear to ethereal androgyny.

Often overlooked at the bi-annual extravaganza of mostly womenswear, menswear even stole some looks from the women's shows in New York, where Duckie Brown put slim knee-length skirts over mens' trousers and lace at the cuffs and hem of a mens' black collarless jacket.

The adventurous collection by New York-based Steven Cox and Daniel Silver toyed with the boundaries between masculine and feminine as well with what they called a "white long halter sweatshirt." It resembled a dress, albeit on a male model's beefy shoulders.

Nevertheless, most of the Duckie Brown collection, nearly all in plain black, white, navy and khaki, was staunchly utilitarian, ascetic and at times seemed pointedly unflattering.

Silhouettes were stridently awkward and boxy, as in plain polo tops with gaping sleeves, a long white jacket that could have served as a lab coat and a jute apron stamped with black printing like a sack of coffee beans.

Nautica's Black Sail menswear line was a more conventional mix of unambiguously rugged anoraks, windbreakers, hooded tops and crew-neck sweaters.

Shorts of nylon and shiny rubberized cotton were snugly cut close to the thighs, and the sweaters were mostly Nautica's trademark chunky cable knits.

The palette was neutral - blues, whites, blacks and grays - brightened with an occasional solid block of dazzling yellow or pinkish red.

South Korean designer Son Jung Wan employed what she called the "chalky whites and earth tone colors of the sun-drenched Sahara Desert" in her menswear collection.

She tweaked the imagination with peek-through, loose-knit sweaters, a perforated leather vest and sheer fabric held together with metal beading that resembled staples.

Richard Chai's menswear featured casual, loosely tailored suits in seersucker cotton, some with exaggeratedly wide-leg trousers.

Again, his collection was largely monochromatic, with a restrained use of plaid and stripes. The only vivid color passing muster for him this season was a rich, rusty cognac used in a twill cotton, single-breasted blazer with narrow lapels, paired with matching Bermuda shorts.

Of broadest appeal might be his collarless, snug leather motorcycle jackets, classically shaped but with distinctive detailing.

While others were cautious with their palettes, Kenneth Cole departed from his signature black and white. In a collection inspired by 1980s Harlem chic, Cole showed menswear in bright orange and vivid greens.

(Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg and Chris Michaud, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Nick Zieminski)

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