The great thing about packing for fashion week is that you can never be overdressed. All that street-peacocking behaviour means that, hey, if you want to throw on a madras jacket over a tunic, then go for your life. There's bound to be some free spirit upstaging you in a man-skirt and fluoro yellow raincoat (Vetements, of course). But, as a result, the worst thing about packing for fashion week is the inevitable need to edit down your options. Limited luggage space, like sugar, is the devil.
Having just packed for my upcoming trip to Milan and Paris, consider this my top five rules for looking fly for fashion week. It's a combination of foundational menswear principles, mixed in with some attention-seeking tips-and-tricks. Personal heuristics for you to adopt, tweak, or dismiss as you please. Why? Because, as with all things fa-shun, it's always about attitude and understanding your own personal style.
1. You can never have enough white shirts There's a reason why you find this piece of advice in every 'top ten rules of menswear' or 'basic rules of men's fashion' listicle worth their weight in salt. There's something very gentlemanly and sophisticated about wearing white to the skin; especially if you're sporting a healthy tan. Pair it with a thin black tie (knotted four-in-hand) it forms a handsome — some would even say 'virile' — blank canvas for your suit, jacket or coat.
How many do I bring? Pack at least one white shirt for every two days of your trip. So, given that Milan and Paris fashion week is collectively 10 days, I'm bringing five. Excessive? You need spares for sweaty days, evening soirées, and those dangerous, sauce-heavy, pasta dishes.
2. For Milan fashion week, pack a bright suit When visiting the epicentre of men's fashion, a well-tailored suit is a must. It's almost like a sartorial passport for fashion week entry. And with all of the world's most-celebrated dandies converging in one city for five days, if you want to stand out, you better bring your A-game. But 'bright' doesn't necessarily mean a hallucinogenic acid-trip, unless you're that way inclined. Rather, it's just something more adventurous than the staple trinity of black, grey and navy. Good fit goes without saying (and deserves a separate story in itself), but importantly, it's all about how you wear it. Topped with a hat? Sure. Styled with a neckerchief? Heck yes. Buddy, it's about you doing you.
Recommendations? Since we're talking about Milan, show your support for Italian menswear and try on something Ermenegildo Zegna for the classicists (especially something from Stefano Pilati's couture collection), Gucci for the extra-brave (androgyny is the new black), or Prada for the cult fashion-insider (yes, Miuccia makes suits, people).
3. For Paris fashion week, stash a statement coat For anyone that has visited the City of Lights, you'll notice that every stylish Parisien lives and dies in a dramatic long coat. Why? Billowing like a cape, it's tantamount to imbuing its wearer with super powers. Kick-ass super style powers, that is. And lads, we're talking really long — go for something at least knee-length; three-quarters is best, and full-length only if you don't mind the dry-cleaning bill.
Recommendations? Trench coats for the cautiously creative (Etro have some covetable creations this fall/winter 2016), punchy peacoats for the joyous (think: Paul Smith and Dries Van Noten), and embroidered creations for the artist (hello, Valentino!).
4. When it comes to footwear, comfort trumps style Because you're literally running all around town to hit five to ten shows, presentations, and re-see appointments each day. And that's not even including shopping detours, food stops, and sprints to the bathroom (on the rare occassion you find the time between shows). Listen, your new Church's may be drop-dead gorgeous, but if you haven't broken them in — I don't care how good the craftmanship is, or that it's fully lined with supple calfskin — you're feet are going to suffer. And after you've taped your feet with all the bandaids you can muster (with the occassional strip flying off the back of your heel mid-step), you'll still develop blisters. Not worth it.
Recommendations? Still pack stylish kicks, but make sure they're not brand-spanking new. The essentials: Black Oxfords to anchor suits, brown brogues for workwear ensembles (think: field jackets), white sneakers for denim days, and a pair of penny loafers for good measure (sans socks during spring/summer).
5. Don't underestimate the power of white With everyone dressed like a rainbow, wearing a full-white ensemble allows you to cut through the Skittles party, while looking crispy AF to boot. Clean, serene, and in control. Just watch the layering — too much and you'll look like the Michelin man. Note: This principle doesn't apply to all-black ensembles to the same degree. Sure, it's the quintessential fashion outfit, but tackled without creative attention to shape, silhouette and texture, and you'll look like the show's PR rep.