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Patterns are back! Did they even go away? More than merely a current trend or style meme, patterns are an essential piece of the color narrative in menswear FW2017. The best collections use patterns as another color, weaving several garments of different colors together for each color story.
No longer a riot of color, using pattern for pattern’s sake, the entire outfit is carefully thought out. Color-blocking is a key component, with patterns relying on their constituent colors for simultaneous contrast. Asymmetrical details are popular, with a shoulder or border of contrasting value.
With patterns, Etro has more colors at its disposal than single-color blocking would offer. Etro uses the hues and values in the patterns as brushstrokes, with each outfit a different painting – mostly low intensity colors with small areas of more saturated hues. Often one strong hue contrasts against achromatic or low intensity hues, chosen for their hue relationships. In the cover image, the bomber jacket combines complementary and adjacent contrasts for the blue pants, which have three analogous blues. You don’t notice that hound’s-tooth shirt, which becomes another analogous blue. In the next image, the coat’s soft greens and the shirt’s barely visible analogous yellows enhance the stronger greens in the pants. In Etro’s vest, the black grounds strengthen the yellow’s analogous contrast against the greens. On the right, orange - the one intense hue, contrasts against low intensity greens and blue.
Another Etro trick: small patterns of low intensity colors with similar values. Viewed from a slight distance, they become one optical hue. Two patterns together create a richness impossible with a solid color.
A small quantity of pattern in strategic locations contrasts against the opposite value, such as the waistline of Etro’s coat, or a border at center front, always with a pop of hue. Georgio Armani also creates subtle hue contrasts this way, in its signature blues.
No. 21 uses plaid and hound’s-tooth to form a gradient transition from black jacket to black or gray bottoms.
Dsquared2 is perhaps the master of pattern with pattern, where the patterns sublimate to their colors. We see how the white trimmed dotted black jacket contrasts well with the red and blue plaid shirt, never noticing that they are two contrasting patterns. The pants and shirt in the middle image blend together because they share value, intensity, and pattern size. Even the three patterns on the right soften and allow the red sweater to stand out. The men’s clothes allow the red to pop against a similarity of value and low intensity.
Women’s clothes walked within the menswear show in Milan, and didn’t look out of place, indicating that men and women have gotten closer together with patterns they want to wear. Plaids and hound’s-tooth are unisex in appeal, but small florals work for all, too. Nothing screams male or female, yet still the combinations are more daring than they might have been only a few years ago. We are making progress in the movement toward equality of the sexes! At least in clothing.