Sci-fi inspiration

Nihaal, a 14-year-old from India, emailed me three of his sketches, asking me what I thought of them and also requesting for some sources for a new sci-fi collection he was working on. He said he was thinking on the lines of new shapes and silhouettes.

The fastenings of his first drawing remind me of Jean Paul Gaultier's Fall 2009 show, which features these contraptions with trousers and coats.

The hat and sunglasses combination meanwhile brings me back to Hedi Slimane's Dior Homme collection for Spring 2006.

What's interesting, of course, is the combination of these two sources, plus the exaggeratedly baggy pants, which almost look like two skirts. Overall, this outfit seems like a cross between The Matrix and Men in Black - it has that techno edge of a futuristic uniform but but worn by a mercenary MC Hammer.

Getting into the details, I like the fact that there is no collar (inverted? Chinese collar with no partition?). The fastenings or the belts look promising. What exactly ties them? Are those chain buckles? The use of hardware (hooks, studs, etc.) may be a good accent. Is he wearing an armband?

The top looks good because of the contrast. Are those two tanks on top of a shirt? If so, differences in the materials used would have added depth. On the other hand, I'm sure it's interesting if the top came in only one piece - a challenge for construction and detailing (seams, stitch). (More on the trousers below.)

This next sketch intially made me think of a futuristic priest, because of the dangling rosary from what I presume is a vest. The necklace, though it doesn't have a crucifix, amplifies the effect. So does the high, stiff collar. Loose robes have been replaced by strong geometric lines.

But what makes the outfit interesting is the long shirt peeking below the top - very on trend with the men's Fall 2009 collections. The pendant of the necklace I find intriguing. How would a crucifix look if it were rendered geometrically? Or is it the Sacred Heart?

The famous (secular) Lego heart brooch by Dee and Ricky

I would ask Nihaal, though, if he's sure he wants the hem of the trousers cuffed, instead of tapered, simply straight, or pleated as it is - as the traditional cuffing runs astray from the mood of the top. Maybe another type of detailing would be good in place. Repeat the dark material from the cardigan to form the hem?

These jackets and cardigans from Fendi's Spring 2009 collection were the first items I thought of when I saw Nihaal's second outfit. They configure different polygons in a way also found in the art of ancient Latin Amercian Indians.

On the topic of patterns, may I suggest to Nihaal that he consider other possibilities, just in case he gets interested in psychedelic but still futuristic designs. These "lung" shirts from the Spring 2009 collection of Miharayasuhiro are more corporal than spiritual or symbolical. After all, is the heart the only part of the body that's sacred?

If the first two sketches reminded me of a detective and a priest, this third one makes me think of a medical intern. For a future state penitentiary hospital, perhaps? The impression comes from the use of lines resembling an orderly's uniform and the use of barbed wire (?) as outfit accessory.

What I want to concentrate on in this look are the loose, skirt-like trousers, since they have seen a recent resurgence.

Comme des Garçons comes up with a cropped, layered version for its Fall 2009 collection. The suppleness of the fabric allows the layers to move much in the same way as nineteenth century dresses. Nihaal is smart to have paired his trousers with, if I'm not mistaken, a waistcoat, so that the volume of the pants is countered by a slim top silhouette.

For these next two outfits from the same show, Rei Kawakubo lets the men wear actual skirts, which, except for the layers, do not look much different from the cropped trousers. This is so because of the length and the close-fitting cut. As you can see, rendered so, these skirts do not at all look bad on men with thicker calves. (Though I am not so sure about the animal print flats.)

The fall collection was only a sequel to the Spring 2009 pieces of Comme des Garçons, which also featured cropped and loose trousers, together with longer skirts. Notice that cut even higher, the pants - now shorts - look very edgy worn on top of leggings (still popular for Fall 2009). I can imagine helmetted motorcycle men wearing them - in leather, of course!

Another baggy alternative are harem pants. These pieces came from Hedi Slimane's Fall 2007 collection for Dior Homme.

Slimane masterfully shows how this type of trousers can be identified with youthful and rebellious street wear.

Hedi Slimane also made skirts at an earlier date. These images come from his online photo diary. This first picture shows skirts that flounce sharply near the hem.

These last two images (am not certain if they come from the same collection as above) show skaters wearing skirts with closely folded pleats that converge at the waist. They are meant to display the maximum volume possible.

Both kinds of skirts come to me as masculine - due to fabric and construction that allow movement that is not at all foppish.

It is a brave thing for Nihaal to include this gender-bending piece in his sketches, but for his last outfit, there may be too much detail for the trousers to achieve full effect.

With regard to Nihaal's question on sketches, the only thing I can say on the subject is that the simpler the sketch, the better. For me, Yves Saint Laurent's drawings are very effective because each line expresses something - informs on not only the cut of a dress, but also on the possible fabrics that allow such folds and creases. This technique, I'm sure, can also be applied to menswear.

More sci-fi references
Space odyssey
The man who fell to earth
Gareth Pugh: Skin, fur, and scales
Shrug-off: Z Zegna vs Prada
Science nonfiction: Street shapes