When the dust of menswear month clears, a handful of hero pieces stand apart. These are the items that linger in the memory to define a season: the year of the Raf Simons bomber; the Hedi Slimane skinny suit; the Bottega Veneta reversible trench. Holy Grail pieces that top every fashion director’s call-in sheet. And every fast-fashion brand’s mood board.
So no surprise they’re also the garments that disappear from stores almost before they arrive. And if they don’t sell out, it’s only because of price tags that would make an oil heir gasp. But even if your budget won’t stretch to the designer original, buy right and you can still snare affordable, ‘inspired by’ takes on grails.
Hero Piece: Vetements DHL T-Shirt
Ignore, for a moment, the difficulties of a cotton tee, a piece of working class uniform, retailing for close to what its wearers get paid in a day.
Focus instead on the fact that, since Gosha Rubchinskiy wore one down Vetements’ SS16 runway, the £185 shirt has been tougher to track down than fashion’s sense of perspective. Grab one and Instagram likes are guaranteed.
The Imitation: The Original DHL Tee
The trouble with in-the-know spins on existing logo tees is that, if you don’t actually change them in any way, then people can just pick up the original.
Steer legit and grab the courier’s official version from eBay (£9.99). If you need that figure-hugging Vetements fit, a hot wash is the budget move.
Available at eBay, priced £9.99.
Hero Piece: Gucci Printed Shirt
Alessandro Michele’s more-is-more approach to prints has reignited Gucci’s star, turning a sleeping giant into fashion’s supernova almost overnight.
The Michele look is bohemian and androgynous, reworking past decades’ styles – like the Hawaiian shirt – in modern fits and fabrics.
The Imitation: Beyond Retro Hawaiian Shirt
Michele is inspired by 1970s menswear, so forget the stereotypes and pick up a piece that might have appeared on his moodboard.
Second-hand store Beyond Retro has a brilliant selection of printed shirts, and this vintage red Hawaiian number even nails the grail piece’s colour palette.
Available at Beyond Retro, priced £22.
Hero Piece: Saint Laurent Camo Jacket
Hedi Slimane’s status at Saint Laurent was forged from an alloy of punk and youth culture. His runways are riddled with rock stars and their progeny, who sport skinny-fitting clothes that sell out at speeds that belie four-figure price tags.
One of SS16’s biggest successes was a patched-up camo jacket, which looked like army surplus but cost almost as much as Trident.
The Imitation: Reclaimed Vintage Camo Jacket
Reclaimed Vintage scours the globe to source rare fabrics and designs for its collection of reworked and authentic vintage clothing. There’s an authenticity to this camo jacket, which has been reclaimed from surplus and renewed with the addition of army patches.
Just make sure to drop a size for that signature Slimane fit.
Available at ASOS, priced £45.50.
Hero Piece: Givenchy Pool Slides
We’re still stumped about how pool slides transitioned from gym shower verruca-avoider to the fashion front row. But SS16’s simplest piece is also its most prevalent. Particularly Givenchy’s logoed-up version, despite a £180 price tag.
The Imitation: adidas Pool Slides
If it’s logos you want – and on something this basic, it definitely is – the Three Stripes has your back.
The signature design details are all there – black and white colourway, an exaggerated foot strap – but if the trend does only last a season, you’ve not broken the bank.
Available at ASOS, priced £25.
Hero Piece: Louis Vuitton Souvenir Jacket
Louis Vuitton’s SS16 show was one of the season’s most celebrated. The collection was a love letter to the Far East, most notably in LV’s luxe take on the embroidered souvenir jackets – or sukajans – US soldiers commissioned to mark tours of duty in the 1960s and 1970s.
Only, in Vuitton world, that remortgage-your-house logo nestles alongside all the chinoiserie.
The Imitation: An Original Souvenir Jacket
Runway sukajans have influenced a legion of high street copies, but for something with more authenticity, steer vintage.
Designer versions are inspired by military originals, and one that actually marked active duty has more resonance than even the real grail piece. And at a 10th of the price.
Available at japanloverme-store.com, priced $200.