BOYS, BOYS, BOYS: London welcomes first ever Menswear Fashion Week
Already a permanent feature of the Paris, Milan and New York Fashion diary, London welcomed its first ever Menswear Fashion Week. The 3-day initiative that ran from the 15th to the 17th of June is a London first and will hopeful become a bi-annual event with global appeal among the media and buyers.
British fashion is all about creativity and craft, fusing tradition with innovation and nurturing fresh talent. With young superstars from Christopher Kane to Jonathan Saunders, from Richard Nicoll to J.W. Anderson putting London back on the international fashion map, it was about time British menswear reaped some of the fruits of that hard work. And what better time to lay the cornerstone for the new establishment, than the summer of Olympics, Jubilee and everything British.
The extravaganza kicked-off Thursday evening with HRH The Prince of Wales hosting the opening reception at St James’s Palace and declaring his amazement over his sudden fashion icon status. Sir Phillip Green was rubbing shoulders with Tom Ford, Dame Vivienne Westwood and the man who has brought new life to the quintessentially British brand Burberry, Christopher Bailey. Tommy Hilfriger hosted a celeb studded drink reception at The Scotch around the corner afterwards, marking a rather dazed morning for those attending the early AM shows.
First up was Lou Dalton‘s modern take on classic tailoring, followed by Topman Design‘s Beach Boys offering. The waves there were certainly high as were the expectations for Gordon Richardson’s collection for the label. Printed shirts teamed with modern tailoring carried the flag high for cool with a touch of humour, that will no doubt be adapted on streets in and out of East End. ‘Surf’ was also the word at Martine Rose, albeit in a far more avant-garde reference to Californication. Neoprene got new freshness in the shape of structured tops and jackets in contrasting blacks and yellows; paired with flared blue denims, the look was laid back and relaxed, with the ‘corner-shop robber’ stocking face-masks adding and odd yet bizarrely appealing tough quirk to the look.
There were certainly similar tones of nostalgia in the air at Hackett, but the outcome could not have been more different. Paying nod to the silver screen hit of the year, Baz Luhrmann’s highly anticipated ‘The Great Gatzby’, the collection featured Jay Gatzby’s wardrobe staples reworked into a modern collection. ‘Modern’ in the sense that it is new, because everything we saw on the stage was more or less literal outtake of the 1920s dandy wardrobe. From three piece suits to dinner jackets, golf-hats and walking canes to bowlers and decent Windsor ties, not a foot was put wrong. The cacophony of prints that ranged from floral to paisley to pinstripe and check, added nonchalance to this already pretty perfect soup of pastel leisure.
Saturday morning got off to another early, yet promising start in the shape of a collection inspired by Arab Spring and ’68 Paris riots from the knitwear ‘lunatics’ at Sibling. Never a brand for the conventional, yet passionately loved by those who love a bit of ‘waky’ in their wardrobes, Sibling is valued for taking knitwear out of its usual conservative constraints and giving it an urban avant-garde edge. The brand’s menswear collection was no disappointment for the fans and followers. Think space galaxy warriors in huge face masks, dressed in gold lurex with a touch crisp white preppy chique. Sounds crazy?! Well, that’s Sibling for you! Having said that, the collection can be broken down to wearable separates with unique detailing – something even someone outside that cast of Rocky Horror Picture Show could wear!
The vibes at E Tautz were far more classic, though his take on the matters is definitely relaxed. The collection by Savile Row wunderkind Patrick Grant paid tribute to the romantic character of the world traveller Wilfred Thesiger. The collection was a 21st Century take on what his suitcase would contain on an urban safari from the poolsides of Miami to the sleek hotel bars in Manhattan, from London’s East end to the art-biennales in Berlin.
Meanwhile, Katie Eary in a way returned to the vibes set by the Topman’s show the day before. She, too had a dose of California cool injected to her collection, but it was the style of skaters she channelled, rather than that of the boys in the waves. The patterns were opulent, the colour pallet daringly golden, the whole shebang could not have been more bling even without the super-hot beach-babes in close-to-nothing bikinis ‘accessorising’ the menswear. Yet the pieces definitely had appeal (at least to the female viewer) and somehow I have a feeling they will wind up in some West End ‘Gansta’s’ wardrobe for those blurry nights at Annabel’s!
Next up was MAN – one of the star events of the London menswear fashion scene. The initiative launched some 15 years ago in collaboration between Fashion East and Topman to nurture young design talent. Shaun Samson‘s offering in the helm was perhaps one of the most promising of the season – a cute and ever dorky tribute to the 90s grunge and internet memes. The kitten printed tees, calf length skater pants with metallic embellishment and long haired painfully young-looking models came across fresh and unique. Agi&Sam, showing on the same catwalk, delivered to the same level, opting for orient inspired handcrafted prints in the form of Wester dress, complete with a moustache, briefcase and Birkestock’n'sock combo. Those who dare, wear! Third one up was Astrid Andersen‘s sport-luxe cocktail, inspired by the basketball players and Vegas boxers. To make things more interesting outside the ball court, she added lace and mesh without making it look even slightly out of place. Go figure!
Jonathan Saunders, the star of the London fashion sky, everyone’s favourite Scot since Alexander McQueen and an overall loveable boy brought his signature style of colour and pattern to his menswear collection. We all know and love him for that from his womenswear line, but now, with the freshly launched London Menswear Fashion Week, his influence his set to break new grounds in the global market. The collection was typically Saunders in the very best way – there were colourful sleek knits, which could be best described as ‘lovely’ and tailored separates as well as smart shirts that pulled together one heck of a spring look for the modern, down to earth, yet fashion forward male.
Matthew Miller‘s take on menswear Spring/Summer 2013 was sleek, modern and wearable. His man certainly loves a bit of vanity and most definitely quality, but is above all a man, who lives a fast paced life in the city. He does not care much for retro or vintage, but he likes his Scotch on the rocks and his women blond; his jets private, his postcodes exclusive and his meals 5 star.
James Long, the last show of the day, provided, what could well be most ‘together’ collection of the 3-day extravaganza. His grey-black-white colour scheme had certain nonchalance, that I had not come across in any other collection until now. His simple white shirts got new life with the addition of modest art deco embroidery; the relaxed loose fitting trousers came knee length and the brogues and sandals worn with socks were the fitting finishing touch to the laid back luxe collection. He also had wearable sweaters with unique embroidery and patterns, leather trimmed football jackets and somewhat oriental well cut waistcoat like tops. It’s a simple formula, really – simplicity, quality, attention to detail and above all, tying it all together with bang-on styling.
Sunday, the third and final day of the first ever London Menswear Fashion Week kicked off with J.W. Anderson. Having done nothing, but lay golden eggs with his last few womenswear collections, developing new language with his very unique style and technique, and becoming one of the main attractions of London Fashion Week, the expectations prior to the show were naturally high. And J.W. Anderson is not one to disappoint! The complexity of his designs lays in the structure and pattern, served in a simple fuss-free colour pallet. The androgynous boys of his show were sporting uniquely cut jackets, t-shirts with goofy patters, lace tops and bell-bottoms(!). His look is not for everyone, but for those who love his unique modernity, be it in menswear or womenswear, there is nothing else that quite compares.
Meanwhile Margaret Howell stuck to her guns of classic menswear in muted shades, well cut separates and sleek minimal tailoring. Her boys go to Eton, love a Sunday in the park reading George Orwell and cut a good looking healthy figure in the midst of all those dandies, rockers and surfers we have seen prancing around the catwalks. A somewhat safe option, but for those who love a classic piece, these ones just keeps on giving.
Presenting his first ever menswear collection, for Richard Nicoll, this was indeed a special weekend. Nicoll – and we do love his soft minimalist austerity – did not steer off his usual path of less-is-more, and we are thankful to him for that. If I was a boy, I would be a Nicoll boy. It’s simple, fresh, easy and wearable, but in no means boring. His subtle colour pallet had surprises in the shade of mustards and duck egg blue; his clean shirt’n'pants combos have variety in the form of a one-piece and his unpretentious cottons and leathers have a stonewashed denim counterpart with suede detailing. He makes it look so simple, and that is the key to mastering menswear. Keep it simple, keep in clean and keep it smart, but don’t underestimate the boys and their vanity – they also love the interesting, unique, a little bit kooky and sometimes, a little bit silly stuff.
Christopher Shannon channelled James Pearson-Howes series ‘British Folk’ that brings out a rather unconventional side of Britishness with his exploration of the darker, more obscure side of this culture. From idiots to drunkards, Shannon certainly had a certain ‘abnormality’ to his dishevelled models, and the clever detailing of the separates clearly referred to these influences. At the same time, however, the pieces in the collection themselves were rather simple – ranging from elasticated neon shorts to crisp whites shirts and T-shirts. With a few exceptions (the fringe jacket and shorts/skirt to name two), it was simple, wearable and most importantly, it was fun.
The London menswear lines certainly have variety, character and appeal for the international press and buyers. The key looks ranged from California Cool circa 1986 to Great Gatzby; from modern minimalist to classic understated; from carousel of crazy to colourfully classic. The designers masterfully summed up the essence of London and it’s place in the fashion world – it is a place with hundreds of years of crafting traditions, that simultaneously boasts an overwhelming level of innovation, creativity and fresh talent. Nowhere else in the world are street and catwalk so closely bound and nowhere else in the world do the young feel so eager about the ‘old’. The designers have tremendously proved themselves over the past few days and it only remains to hope the next Menswear Fashion Week is a short season of 6 months away.
(Images: via style.com)