i will assume i am on the right side of that statement.
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Went to a wedding in Orange County yesterday, black tie optional. There was a girl wearing a beige/tan dress with inside-out darts and exposed zippers. I told my wife, "looks like Margiela, but it can't be. what are the chances? must just be something similar." All the persian women from the bride's side were giving the girl dirty looks all night long, like wtf is your dress on inside out or something. Later on, my wife asked the girl what the dress was, and it was Margiela! I don't know who was more excited, her for having someone recognize it for what it was, or me for having recognized it (or at least guessing correctly). Yeah, I'm a huge nerd.
I think you have hit the nail right on the head and yet completely dented it in the process instead of hammering it into place.
The art of designing classic menswear today is to capture the essence of classic looks while keeping them contemporary and relevant. That is to say, without making it look like a copy of the classic Bogart look from Casablanca, or the Cary Grant look from North by Northwest, or whatever your favourite classic film is--which, of course, would make it period costume like you correctly point out.
This is so easy to say, and yet so hard to do. I think some designers have some masters working on this and are quite successful. Ralph Lauren's Purple Label, Oxxford, and few others immediately pop to mind. The trick, I think, is to keep some elements that distinguish the classic look and make it instantly recognisable, while updating a carefully chosen set of other elements...eg. length, looseless, shoulder shape, etc.
It is walking a tightrope to be sure. American designers are also more successful at this than Italian designers--who prefer to remain faithful to making the human body beautiful in clothing, rather than aspiring to a classic look which has proven itself, and hence, is approved in fashion society. It's the zeroth order difference between the Italian designers and the English/American designers of classic menswear.
It is also an art that only a master can be successful at. Any idiot can take a garbage bag, wrap it around you with an asymmetrical opening, rolled up pants and extra long sleeves and call it "fashion". Other idiots at Barneys will also agree to hawk it for you It has neither aesthetics, nor time-proven tradition and hence recognition and status. On a few rare occasions, this radicalism is also artistically successful, and more often in womenswear than menswear. But the overwhelming majority of it is garbage.
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