(CNN)Fashion is never only one thing: It exists with total plurality. In the same season you'll see extravagant and minimal, sharp and voluminous tailoring, prints and blocks.
Men's Fashion Week: Designers step into a strange new world
1 of 19
2 of 19
3 of 19
4 of 19
5 of 19
6 of 19
7 of 19
8 of 19
9 of 19
10 of 19
11 of 19
12 of 19
13 of 19
14 of 19
15 of 19
16 of 19
17 of 19
18 of 19
19 of 19
This lack of definitiveness makes it hard to distill the major themes of any one season, or determine what they mean. Add to that the rolling calendar of fashion weeks and the sheer amount of contributing designers and what's hot becomes even more impossible to decipher.
But there are always flashpoints you can pick up on, and certain motifs and references that push through all the industry furore to influence the wider culture. These trends trickle down and diffuse through our malls and high streets.
Here are some of the highlights of the season:
With the curtain drawing on the latest menswear season that ends each time in New York, it's clear that the specter of Donald Trump still looms large over the proceedings state-side. New York-based designer Julian Woodhouse offered up his take on the Trump campaign's "Make America Great Again" hat, adapting the slogan to "Making Menswear Great Again. But Really Tho." The "alt-right" doesn't seem to have taken much notice, but fashion editors certainly did.
Under the Manhattan Bridge, Raf Simons presented a collection full of macs, rain hats and umbrellas, all set against the backdrop of a dystopian Chinatown straight out of a John Carpenter film. Was this perhaps a meditation on the impact of climate change?
A few weeks ago in Paris, the most hyped event of the season was the Balenciaga show. The brands creative director, Demna Gvasalia, has taken his shows in all sorts of strange directions.
His latest collection, staged in the city's Bois de Boulogne park, was apparently inspired by affluent office dads on their days off, and saw real families clad in hoodies, drainpipe trousers and boxy blazers.
This season a number of designers reached beyond the remit of traditional fashion. Hot on the heels of the Balenciaga bicycle, which went on sale in June, comes the Gucci Décor collection, revealed just yesterday. If you're looking for something some wheel bit more street cred, Supreme released a motorbike last month too.
While men's fashion week was once the preserve of hyperstressed journalists with Moleskines, and box-jawed models in sharp suits and chunky knits, a more youthful, vibe infiltrated many of the shows. Nothing quite sums this up like 18-year-old Canadian singer Shawn Mendes closing the Emporio Armani show in Milan wearing one of the label's new smart watches.
Versace took a youthful turn this season too, reappropriating their classic '90s silk shirts and jackets, alongside baby pink color block combos and preppy jumpers. This was nostalgia with a cultural studies degree.
Craig Green, the perennial star of London's menswear scene, created one of his best collections yet, looking towards children's television and spaghetti westerns to create a series of much applauded, multicolored ponchos.
But London has long had a reputation for being an incubator for young, precocious talent, and much of the fuss this season was dedicated to nu-romantic designer Charles Jeffrey's latest collection. He didn't disappoint, going fifth-gear baroque, with frills, ruffs, frocks, face paint and a fetching toilet roll handbag.
But for sheer weirdness you couldn't do better than Rottingdean Bazaar, who's gross-out streetwear utilized such unappreciated materials as balloons, matches, dried pasta and a mask made of bent scissors (not one to wear through airport security.)
It's refreshing to see so many designers eschewing doom-and-gloom realism for optimistic fun. In these turbulent times, we'll take all the hopefulness we can get.