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The Alfred Dunhill spring/summer 2010 collection was shown Saturday on a rotating dais stacked with polished aluminum suitcases and beneath an immense photo of the full moon so detailed that its craters could be easily discerned. As a set piece it was simple and straightforward, instantly evoking the nostalgia of the Art Deco period and luxury travel and at the same time -- and 40 years last week since man first set foot on the moon -- underscoring the idea of using technology to push the boundaries.
Although attempts to infuse new life into legacy brands like Alfred Dunhill (which dates to 1893 and whose clients have included the prince of Wales, Winston Churchill and Truman Capote) can often blow up on the launchpad, under creative director Kim Jones, the British label managed to pull off the equivalent of a lunar landing, sending out one of my favorite collections of the week.
Jones, who had been Twittering in the run-up to the show, called it "faded futurism," and used the opportunity to update some off the brand's signature pieces in new materials. Some of the pens clipped to jacket pockets were made of what the show notes described as "meteorite and black diamonds," and overnight bags were constructed out of scratch-proof carbon fiber print leather.
But it was the clothes that sent me over the moon -- sport coats and suits in charcoal grays and a wide range of blues from pale (let's call it "lunar") to midnight, with checks, microchecks, stripes and solids in both color palettes.
Epaulets and silver buttons gave some navy pieces a military flavor (a perennial touchstone for men's collections), with olive drab hacking jackets and khaki-hued safari blazers helping round out the image of the Dunhill man as prepared to take on any task with aplomb. After seeing this collection, it's easy to understand why the label had been rumored early on to succeed Brioni as James Bond's tailor. (That honor, at least for "Quantum of Solace," ultimately went to Tom Ford.)
Prints and patterns have been a recurring motif this week at the Paris shows, but few designers have pulled it off as subtly and elegantly as Jones, who mined the brand's archive for Art Deco prints to translate into shirting fabrics and ties. My favorite was a vintage "wing mirror" print that hark back to the early days of the label when it catered to the man who drove that newfangled machine called the automobile.
With the spring/summer collection, Jones has served up what is often missing from today's men's wear: masculine, multipurpose pieces with subtle, stylish details. Throw in the brand's century-plus back story (we men love a good back story) and you've got classy without cartoonish.
Dunhill done right. One giant step for mankind.
-- Adam Tschorn
Photos: Alfred Dunhill spring/summer 2010 men's runway show. Credit: Jonas Gustavsson. Video by Adam Tschorn.