Fashion has debts racked up with all of the other fields of the arts. It borrows inspiration ceaselessly from wherever it can find it: painting, sculpture, architecture, photography. Each season’s collection of show notes is like a library of cultural references.

The menswear shows for the spring 2013 season inhaled the air of particular cities, time travelled to eras past, looked into the souls of cultural giants and got engrossed in timeless books and iconic films. But no collection was about being literal in recreating costume or dressing up as characters: instead they were about loosely capturing the mood of the thing they were channeling. Today we’ll look at 5 menswear collections that were inspired by film and literature specifically to see what was playing on designers’ minds and TV screens for spring 2013, and how that translated to the runway.

Alexander McQueen: Death In Venice and The Picture of Dorian Gray

For McQueen’s spring 2013 collection Sarah Burton was constructing a study of male vanity, inspired in part by two pieces of literature: Death In Venice and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Of the former she drew “the romance of the distinguished early Twentieth Century traveller”; from the latter, “Fin de siècle elegance”.

Presumably she was aware of the darker theme: the obsession with youthful male beauty and inevitablity of decay, a common thread running through both and, arguably, a dark debt that only heightens the appeal of her decadent collection.

mcqueen dorian gray
Alexander McQueen men’s S/S ’13; The Picture of Dorian Gray: Penguin Reader book cover

Belstaff: The Motorcycle Diaries

To say Belstaff were inspired by the film The Motorcycle Diaries isn’t entirely accurate, if you count that the film was inspired by a motorcycle journey Che Guevara took across Latin America whilst apparently wearing one of the brand’s original 1950s jackets. So really Che inspired the film, and a revival of the jacket, and eventually the film’s soundtrack provided the backdrop to Belstaff’s spring 2013 show. Still, Belstaff’s efforts not only add to our film-inspired collection tally, they also offer up a luxury alternative to those Che Guevara screenprinted tees.

Belstaff and The Motorcycle Diaries
Belstaff men’s S/S ’13; scene from The Motorcycle Diaries

BILLTORNADE: Jean-Luc Godard

Designers Bella Saakova and Francis Ronez were channeling that retro-chic ‘it’ factor that Jean-Luc Godard’s protagonists somehow managed to embody in his 1960s films. The BILLTORNADE runway had bare ankles and brogues, spring trenchcoats and tailoring aplenty, but that Jean-Paul Belmondo look of flat caps and fedoras was replaced, for the modern Parisian male, with a clean white baseball cap. Retro-chic, yes – but only an inkling.

Billtornade and Jean-Luc Godard
Bill Tornade men’s S/S ’12; Jean-Paul Belmondo in Breathless

Roccobarocco: The Tailor of Panama

Roccobarocco was tipping colourful panama hats (in the plural) to the John Boorman-directed interpretation of John Le Carre’s book. The collection was a lightweight assemblage of linen and cotton, a spectrum of sandy neutrals, denim blues and peacockish brights. It spoke visually of fan blades overhead cutting the hot night air, of cigar smoke and liquor and eyes watching quietly from the shadow of a straw brim. But it did all this after a modern – at times flamboyant – overhaul.

Again, Roccobarocco were channeling a mood – not recreating cinematic moments in their entirety.

Roccobarocco and The Tailor of Panama
Roccobarocco men’s S/S ’12; promo still from The Tailor of Panama

Versace: Rocky

Last but not least (unless you’re measuring on an intellectual scale) was Versace’s spring 2013 collection. Donatella described the look as “part Rocky, part Elvis and part Mr. T” and it’s doubtful that any fashion editor in the front row could have summed it up better. Spectacles of Las Vegas proportions are the Versace specialty, and adorning the perfectly-cast models with ornate boxers belts had the Rocky part well covered.

Versace and Rocky
Versace men’s S/S ’13; Sylvester Stallone in Rocky

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