Around the World in Utility Wear
With its current death grip on the fashion world, utility wear has proven that not every trend has to be fledgling and fleeting. Cargo pockets, ripstop, utility vests and puffer jackets have been lasting trends over the past five years, with origins that date back even further to wartime.
With recent iterations including Warcore and Gorpcore, utility is bringing fashion back into the realm of practicality with leading luxury fashion houses innovating with prints, cuts and materials.
Utility wear has taken on an omnipresence across the globe. This is how some of the fashion capitals of the world are dictating an identity of their own, and styling utility wear with their own distinct accent.
We begin in one of the most fashionable places in the world. A city built up on the expectation of industry – it wasn’t until very recently that fashion became the industry that would define Milano.
On the runways, Fendi made its mark with its SS24 menswear show. Blending elements of a workwear-inspired uniform into the collection, Silvia Venturini treated workwear warmly. Using neutral tones and simple lines, she payed homage to craftsmanship and practical occupations. Literal “tooling” was incorporated into the collection; a monogrammed work belt held a hammer amongst other leather-working hardware – in the “Hardware Store” sense. It’s all very confusing when fashion stops playing pretend and steps into the real world for a moment.
That’s what utility wear offers that many other trends don’t – the opportunity to make real use of each garment to its full potential.
On the streets, attendees at Milan Fashion Week opted for clean cut fits in monochromal colourways. Fashionistas maintained an even skin to fabric ratio by pairing an oversized bomber with a skirt, or a crop top with heavier outerwear. Tailored blazers with cargo pants evened out the look to something worthy of the cappuccino colour-graded streets of Italy.
On the other side of the pond in China, Shanghai Fashion Week attendees embraced overfilled ripstop puffer jackets in dark colours. Black dominated the utility street style captured. Japanese designer, Junya Watanabe's influence across Asia has a lot to do with the pared-back yet amped up style Chinese streetwear embraces. Similarly, the Sacai x Carhartt collaboration displayed the eternal relevance of the broad shouldered, oversized silhouette that was perfected in Japan. Korean designer, Juun J's impact was also on display. With a penchant for futuristic looks that wouldn't be out of place in Dune, post-apocalyptic style depends on a layered DIY fit with excess fabric, hoods and wide cuts for ease of movement.
Back in Europe, things were kept traditional. Beige trench coats were out in force on the streets of Copenhagen, as well as quilted puffer jackets and trenches in alternative patterns.
To combat the drizzly weather, utility-wear-cum-gorpcore was out in force seen in beanies, boonie hats, and jackets with generous pocketing. Baggy-on-baggy was achieved with oversized button-ups and cargo pants with a bumbag slung over the shoulder. Cherry-picking your favourite elements of utility wear and merging them with other trends makes for a distinctly Danish look.
French label, Études, kept matching utility sets front and centre in neutral monochrome colourways and a focus on functional cargo pockets. Louis Vuitton embraced utility with oversized garments with patchwork detailing in unexpected fabrications. Merging utility to elements of gorpcore, they paid homage to nature in a print that resembled a canopy of trees.
On the streets, the monochrome theme got its encore in matching sets, with people opting for traditional proportions and fail-safe combinations rather than extreme experimentation, maintaining a modern, yet classically French look.
New York, USA
New York fashion week is idealised for its ubiquity. Distinct in its indistinction, New York is perhaps the world's most loved, coveted, pursued melting pot.
This year, the motley fits on the streets featured utilitywear heavily, as a practical way to evade the chill. Big city favourite, The North Face, abounded as usual. Polar zip-up fleeces and bomber jackets also provided coverage while maintaining individual flair.
Influenced more by the wider world of design than any particular American designer, New Yorkers took notes from an array of international talent including the colourful and gender-defying collections of Dsquared2 and Martine Rose, and the acid washed lo-fi haze of Mihara Yasuhiro.