The moment we were perhaps all waiting for, Anthony Vaccarello’s first menswear show and return to the men’s schedule did not disappoint. After showing his menswear collections against dramatic backdrops in the desert of Morocco and an LA shoreline for recent seasons, Anthony came back to the brand’s Parisian roots and showed an expertly crafted collection that had both men and women swooning for its subversively romantic looks. Speaking of a ‘reciprocity’ between feminine and masculine, Anthony styled his male models in sequinned, long tube knits, sheer and silk pussy-bow blouses and torso-revealing drapes with fleshy cutouts in abundance. A ‘sequel’ to his womenswear collection shown under the glistening light of the Eiffel Tower last September (always a true Paris moment, as the show is timed to catch when the twinkling lights go on!), Anthony's latest collection was a stroke of gender-blurring genius.

Anthony’s collection got us thinking about female designers doing the same. As the curtain dropped this Sunday on yet another eventful men’s fashion week, we saw the rising stars and design veterans step into the spotlight and take to the jam-packed menswear schedule this season. In an industry that has typically been run by men (but the tides are turning there - see Saint Laurent’s highly successful CEO, Francesca Bellettini), for Autumn/Winter 2023 female fashion designers had their say on menswear, creating standout collections intertwined with tropes of femininity. In cut, detail and finishing these women toyed with tradition and proposed a new sartorial offering for men and - in many cases - women with looks made to disrupt the system.

Martine Rose
With men’s fashion week in London on the back burner until June, Croydon-born designer Martine Rose upped sticks to Florence, as a guest designer at Pitti Uomo. Martine’s eponymous fashion brand is recognised for shaking up the schedule in London with idiosyncratic collections rooted in Britsh subculture and drawn from her experiences and interest in rave, hip-hop and punk scenes. This season, Martine paid homage to Italy’s underground, honouring her adopted home in the best way she knew how. Straight from the dance floors of British discotheques of the 1980s and early ’90s, Martine’s collection was inspired by Italo house music. With perms, fringing, shoulder pads, leather and metallics en mass, the collection, soundtracked by thumping house music, was a glimmering first offering outside of London from the menswear maverick.

Bianca Saunders 
For relative newcomer Bianca Saunders (ANDAM’s 2021 winner), whose tailoring has also been a talking point in the London menswear scene over the past few years, Paris was an opportunity to showcase her flair internationally. For Autumn/Winter 2023, Bianca’s suiting was fastening-free, soft and fluid, rendered in wool and satin and cut with a feminine edge. Her signature pared-back aesthetic was countered with psychedelic prints and distorted stills from legendary Jamaican comedian and playwright Oliver Samuels' ‘80s Blouse and Skirt series. Her foray into accessories included a minimalist, rectangular handbag and some sexy square-toe slip-ones; worn and desired by all.

Grace Wales Bonner 
Grace Wales Bonner’s inaugural show in Paris has been a long time coming. After showing in Florence last season and having to display her AW22 collection in her London studio after British-French Covid restrictions were announced, the designer has hit the ground running. Fresh from her British Fashion Award Win for Independent Brand last December, her A/W23 collection paid homage to black icons in Paris. Referencing 1920s dancehall star Josephine Baker and American writer James Baldwin alongside the famously wealthy Maharaja and Maharani of Indore, Wales Bonner presented a collection of contrasts as she does best. Gilded tunics and oversized wool jackets embellished with signature cowrie shells and Swarovski crystals, ran alongside oversized varsity jumpers and the new official kit for Jamaica’s national football team. Her formal introduction of womenswear in her collections has everyone satisfied.

Marine Serre
Another maverick on the Paris fashion schedule, Marine Serre presented a Co-ed collection in Paris, in a show space dominated by three giant towers of deadstock fabric. A masterclass in upcycling, the designer repurposed discarded tote bags, denim and scarves to create a collection that can feel more luxury than some of what the Megabrands put out. Denim strips were intricately sewn into slightly conical, crescent moon bra-inserts (the crescent moon being Marine Serre’s signature that everyone across the globe can be seen wearing her iconic bodysuits) and stitched together to create figure-forming garments; tote bags and old pullovers were patchworked and motorcycling gear was given a new lease of high fashion life when sliced up and sewn. Marine presented a tapestry of colour, shape and texture (quite literally, using old couch tapestries to sew one-off, nipped-in waisted coats as seen on 1980s supermodel Waris Dirie) and the result created a meaningful collection that was an ode to the art of repair and craft.