Martyn Bal, who trained with an emphasis on tailoring rather than the more conceptual excesses that are usually associated with Dutch fashion schools has been something of a secluded talent waiting to reveal himself. Steadily building up a strong reputation for his work at some of the world’s most respected luxury fashion labels, last year saw him take over the helm of Versace menswear in addition to steadily building his own label.
As had been noted of Bal’s first collection, his love for the 1980’s was once again evident, here coming through in the choices of a metallic blue-grey palette and textile patterns for the suits, some of which even feature nipped double-breasted jackets worthy of a Spandau Ballet concert at the height of their fame. And, of course, there is always that undertow of pop culture with Matryn Bal: long sleek coats conjuring up mods about to straddle a scooter and make off for some legendary rock concert. The greyscale metallic and black palette is here and there accentuated with bright bursts of deep blue, rich burgundy or ox blood, all are, indeed, fully in keeping with a love of the 1980’s and the styling choices of rock subcultures.
But, in this collection, there is a strong sense of the futuristic. One might even say of retro-futuristic. In the heavily textured belted jackets or the shimmering suits with textiles that seem to be pixelating, one can’t help think of Ridley Scott’s 1980’s vision of a dystopian future, ‘Blade Runner.’
As with any designer worth remembering, Bal ensured a number of leitmotifs – little reoccurring set pieces- snaking through the AW11 collection. In this case, the most notable of these is the belted coat or jacket. Not the loosely tied style of the trench coat or kimono cardigans that have cropped up in menswear collections in recent years, but a more tightly fitted belt, including a natty double belt with utility pouch. This at once pulls in the silhouette giving an even more fitted shape – and perhaps also reminding us of the high-waisted penchant of many 1980’s men’s fashions- that is in keeping with Bal’s own aesthetic that favours a very fitted, lean look.
Here, the belt also takes the style out of the ordinary, away from the classic staples of the male wardrobe at which Bal is so consummate a tailor, and gives it that little futuristic twist. Belted up, the Versace man is ready for action in the real metropolis of some cyberpunk reality whilst never loosing the suave style of a contemporary man-about-town.