Old school patterns such as plaids and camouflage can be so… old school. But they don’t have to be. Several design elements inherent to plaids can be altered for a completely different look.
1. The 3 elements of color: hue, value and intensity. These are three separate tools, enough to create an infinite variety of alterations. They can be used toward a range of goals from softness to high contrast; toward a range of styles from traditional to off-beat.
2. Size of the lines and boxes in the plaid.
3. Proportions and shapes of the garments, and quantities of the plaids.
4. Using plaids together: vary the above factors and see what you come up with.
Playing around with proportions and using different value and intensity contrasts can freshen up the same old plaids. FW2017 menswear demonstrates how to move them in several directions.
Plaids are a key pattern at Haider Ackermann (in the cover image), with mid-to-low intensity and bold value contrasts. With skinny pants a different plaid from the shirt and in contrasting values, it’s fit for a young rogue.
Valentino likes plaid, too, but with more traditional sensibility. With one plaid per outfit in coat-sized quantities, it’s for 1972 old school chums, but the coats’ strong shoulders and knee lengths look very 2017.
Young slim legs but traditional jacket cuts keep Paul Smith conservative and ready for the office, even with contrasting plaids. Because of the lack of intensity contrasts, these plaids are almost like a solid color, used to good effect with the dark green coat over light green pants.
Lanvin’s plaids are something Valentino’s guy might remember fondly from the time before he started working. Low value contrasts and casual cuts make these plaids what you want to wear at home every day.
Cut to Kenzo to remind us how to play with plaids – just use strong value and hue contrasts with unexpected layering, and your target market becomes younger and hipper.
Georgio Armani limits his plaids to tiny boxes – is it technically a plaid? Still, it’s very elegant and casual.
Missoni has a unique sense of color and contrast that sets it apart. The jacket has a bit of unexpected relatively higher intensity red and blue amid gray and brown. The blue stripe in the coat’s plaid is very pale, but it shines against the browns. Next to that image, the yellow shirt makes the almost-invisible yellow visible in the plaid pants. The dark red sweater highlights the orange in the pants.
Don’t let a pattern fool you; it’s not typecast into any one personality. Using the elements of design and color to create contrasts can change the game and design the gamut from suave and elegant all the way to rebellious, and even hip. Think: value, intensity, and proportion, and don’t forget the hue!
Feel free to check out my textbook called Color: How to Use It by Marcie Cooperman, published by Pearson.