I’ve only come back to wearing blue jeans very recently, I’ve had a thing about black denim for quite a few years now, which has seen me go through various cuts of Acne Jeans and more recently, versions from Robert James on the L.E.S. in New York, whose black denims are blacker than black.
Interestingly, my first port of call on my return to the blue denim fold was to find a pair of Levi’s 501‘s, the looser cut (albeit in the newly-tapered ‘CT’ version), higher waist and general sense of deja vu creating a perfect counterbalance to more obviously contemporary pieces, like my beloved Common Projects low tops and Gucci knitwear and blouse-y shirts.
I say interestingly, because tonight I’m off to the opening of “The 501® Jean: Stories of an Original”, a three-part documentary film celebrating the 501® and its place in cultural history. With contributions from countercultural types like Henry Rollins and Lee Ranaldo, as well as US menswear heads like Scott Schuman and Mark McNairy, I’m looking forward to learning more about these iconic jeans, and suspecting that it might even lead to a spate of rare denim-buying. In other denim-related news, I picked up a copy of Denim Dudes at the (excellent) Gucci museum in Florence recently which is also feeding my newly-returned love of this faded, abused indigo fabric and the passion it creates.
Having grabbed the headlines with his Grindr-hosted live stream, there was little that JW Andersen would do to raise eyebrows any further, given that his designs are already renowned for their off kilter, gender defying singularity. Looks including satin pyjamas in pastel colours and a cropped floral quilted jacket worn with knitted trousers, all accessorised with chokers, were in keeping with Anderson’s determined approach to exploring clothing that is typically defined as female. But there were also more whimsical, cartoon-like features: a snail silhouette appeared as a motif, tracksuit pockets in the form of clouds. Whatever accusations of being too out-there might be thrown at Anderson, a look back at last Autumn Winter’s cropped shearling jackets, ’70s ski wear and horizontal blocked stripes should be enough to demonstrate that he is often prescient in his menswear, however outlandish it may appear at first glance. By this time next year we may not be wearing silky PJ’s on the street, but details like the oversized, distressed cardigans and embellished camel outerwear may yet prove to be defining.
For AW16 James Long was inspired by ‘local heroes,’ the gang of friends he relies on for inspiration and support, which for him means some of London’s leading designers and creatives. But this was no self-conscious fashion love-in, the tone was relaxed if elegantly so. Grosgrain ribbon continued to embellish garments (matching riding boots with bold stripes were custom made by Christian Louboutin). Denim is always a feature of Long’s collections, here featuring unique tie-dye treatments and obligatory shearling details. A poppy print looked suitably louche as a floaty silk shirt and a longer, version with a cinched waist. Overall there was a sense that these were clothes you could pull together to make up an outfit without too much thought, a decadent dressing-up box for friends at play.
Kim Jones in conversation with Lou Stoppard
Stepping off the fashion-show/presentation treadmill on Sunday morning, it was a pleasure to hear Kim Jones in conversation with Lou Stoppard, at The Century Club. Jones appeared at ease and was typically forthcoming about life inside the luxury powerhouse of Louis Vuitton, the travel that fuels his creative process (“I’ve been to Japan around 70 times, I try to go at least 6 times a year, it’s the most mature market for fashion in the world”), his passion for teamwork and there were also fascinating insights into his working relationships with the likes of Lee McQueen and Marc Jacobs. Hopefully talks like this will become a regular feature of LC:M especially if guest speakers are of this stature, a reminder of what makes London so special.
Baartmans and Siegel
There’s been a gradual ramping up of ’70s influences in recent Baartmans and Siegel collections, and with AW16 the full glamour of disco era New York, and in particular, Spanish Harlem with all its swagger and strut, was unleashed. Camel outerwear was fit for church on Sunday way uptown, complete with exquisite fur collars in tonal shades of brown, bombers and duffels were lined with animal print fur, suggesting that luxury can be on the inside too. Soft tailoring was exemplified by wide-leg pinstripe grey trousers, cinched at the waist to demonstrate their generous proportions. Whatever the reference points, this remained a Baartmans and Siegel collection, signature details like the wool jogging pants, the easy combinability of the separates and the overall sense of easy going luxury being instantly identifiable.
Another jumping off point from the show-presentation mill, Paul Smith’s installation this morning at the rear of the Royal Academy of Arts was made especially poignant by the centrality of a certain Mr Bowie as an influence, whose death had just been announced to a shocked world. It’s no secret that Paul Smith is a collector: of cameras, robot toys, books, paintings and other paraphernalia, and the occasional piece of Bowie memorabilit. A recreation of sections of his archive provided a fascinating visual insight into his world, the installation bearing the hashtag “youcanfindinspirationinanything” was both an explanation of the designer’s world view and perhaps a cheeky nod to the tribes of editors of various kinds attending the event.
Liam Hodges show featured revved up boys in his signature utility wear in an homage to the boy racer, where go-faster stripes extended to razor hair lines and hazard yellow dye jobs.
Bringing the formal runway shows to an end, Bobby Abley’s AW16 attempted to blast some Rio sunshine and riotous Carioca energy to gloomy London. The Rio theme was expressed with carnival feathers on backpacks, the colours of the Brazilian flag on everything and a print which echoed the curvaceous lines of the pavement tiles that run alongside the beach in Rio, appropriately best seen on a sarong.
Tourne de Transmission
Taking over St. George’s church in Bloomsbury once again, Tourne de Transmission continued the brand’s exploration of cross-cultural clothing traditions from ikat kimonos, to the robe-like silhouette that is central to the collection. Dedicated to Barry Kamen, who styled the brands initial SS16 presentation and who died last year, the jewellery in the show was created by Judy Blame, Kamen’s contemporary from the Buffalo movement of the ’80s.
Day 2 of London Collections: Men is typically the busiest of the whole long weekend and AW16 was no exception, here are some personal highlights from a packed day of shows and presentations.
Charged with the unenviable 9.30 Saturday morning slot, E.Tautz nevertheless offered us some warming nostalgia to counteract the leaden skies outside on The Strand with a collection inspired by Patrick Grant’s youthful experiences growing up and going out in Edinburgh. Reflecting that city’s sombre elegance, the colour palette was largely shades of charcoal and sandstone. Wide-legged pleated trousers were layered with bombers featuring oversized epaulettes and capacious double-breasted coats. These soft, roomy shapes emphasised the youthful form of the models and in a sense, the indolent innocence of youth itself.
Agi & Sam
Gone are the days when an Agi & Sam collection meant cacophonous print and the very particular type of attention reserved for those identified as ‘the next big thing’. In its place is a more mature, considered and ultimately more satisfying approach to fashion from the pair. Monochrome looks, utilitarian details and asymmetry are the new order of the day best expressed here in the drab olive green that is emerging as one of the champion colours of the season.
It’s always a great sign when a designer seeks to truly produce every aspect of their presentation, music is usually a given, but the lush runway carpet at Astrid Anderson featuring the brand’s distinctive graphics, spoke volumes about Andersen’s added attention to detail, with overtones of luxury houses such as Versace. The strongest looks here featured bouclé tweed sourced from Linton, Chanel’s historic supplier, in the form of overalls and basketball shorts but there was also strong knitwear in shades of aqua and quilted hoodies in (you guessed it) drab olive green.
YMC’s show reverberated (literally) to the live sounds of Parallelogram, a specifically commissioned live band playing wigged out, Middle Eastern psych sounds as backdrop to a collection full of references to ’70s counter culture, from the array of hippie deluxe hats, to the clogs (featuring Vibram soles as a nod to contemporary practicality) and ponchos. As ever, the looks were wearable with inventive fabrication such as the ingenious wool seersucker, certainly a first for me.
For AW16 Lou Dalton returned to her beloved Shetland islands in a collection filled with rugged details, from the glossy black vinyl of the opening pieces (redolent of the slippery depths of the North Sea), to the chunky weight of the knitwear, voluminous outerwear and even the quirky styling touch of the fisherman’s ID tags worn as earrings. Undoubtedly the strongest statement in the collection, however, was the use of a bold red plaid on a camel background appearing on oversized MA1’s with dropped shoulders and in an extraordinary overcoat complete with padding inspired by lifejackets. Lou has always excelled in outerwear, particularly when there’s an heart-filling story behind the pieces, and this collection with its grittily romantic origins is a great example.
Many designers aspire to be conceptual and too often show notes are full of lofty aspirations – intangible references that are hard to discern in the end results. With Matthew Miller however, his intention as a designer is always deadly clear, and deadly elegant. For AW16, Miller’s purpose was to reclaim the term Nouveau Riche as a wry statement on this generation’s cultural plundering of previous eras. Sleek tailoring was disrupted by hand painted oil on canvas armbands, signature biker and bomber shapes appeared with utilitarian details in stark, startlingly beautiful monochromes. The foppish shapes and fabrics of history from velvet to exquisite hand-stitched leather gloves and extravagant fringing were worn with the heartless irony of a modern brigand, running riot.
Like fashion anthropologists, Casely-Hayford’s reverence for British subculture goes deep into its subject and comes out making those influences both evident and as if seen for the first time. Here, vivid psychedelic pattern and patchwork denim spoke of Britain’s love affair with mind-expanding self exploration, in lesser hands this would seem like dressing up, but Casely-Hayford are never so crass. Riffs on the MA1 jacket showed that item is still ripe for experimentation while extreme fishtails took the Mod parka to trippy new lengths. New this season was a collaboration with Sperry (famous for their classic ‘topsider’ boating shoe) who produced the chunky creeper-style shoes, another item with strong subcultural connotations.
The anticipation of a Sibling show is like nothing else at LC:M. As Saturday night’s theme came into focus: the fierceness of Ms. Grace Jones, the heady spirit of New York’s ’80s scene and its iconic artist Michel Basquiat, there was electricity in the atmosphere; this was a natural fit. It’s also a great opportunity to tread with great Sibling-shaped paw prints over yet another set of alpha-male mores, this time the world of boxing, filtered through reference to the classic image of Basquiat in boxing shorts and gloves with his white-haired mentor, Andy Warhol. With a colour palette inspired by Grace Jones’s album covers and ‘the feeling and look of Basquiat’, translated as his signature baggy pleated trousers (the artist may have bought his from Flip on 8th Street, Jack Sunnucks suggests in his deliciously detailed press release for the collection) and cropped wide suit jackets. The Sibling handwriting of Fair Isle found inspiration in Basquiat’s chaotic painting style while referencing his personal dress code in the knitted jackets with drop shoulders and chevron tie belts and the aforementioned trousers, here recreated in luxury Dormeuil fabric. Not to forget the boxing theme, this was explored in the high-waisted boxer shorts with iconic Sibling leopard print, a knitted lace boxing gown and of course knitted boxing gloves, a play on gender norms that is typically Sibling. Such knockabout provocation “the clash of female and male, Disco vs. Hip Hop, hard vs. soft” is integral to Sibling, Sunnucks reminds us, and long may this dynamic propel us forward through more stories told through the unlikely power of knitwear.
Speaking later in the weekend, Kim Jones talked about the importance of being true to yourself, and it is clear that is just such an outlook that he values in protege Edward Crutchley, who showed his AW16 collection in an intimate salon environment hosted by Jones himself on Saturday night. Crutchley is a Yorkshireman and true to his Yorkshire roots, there was a sense of authenticity and intrinsic value in his work: the loose fluidity of the outerwear, the use of an agrarian colour palette against rich navy blue and the no-nonsense appeal of dungarees and homespun knitwear. Against a backdrop of photographs by David Crutchley, the designer’s dad, of the family’s native Dales, the designer demonstrated the flair with unique textiles that has taken him to Louis Vuitton in Paris to advise on textiles for Kim Jones. Shawls were embellished with embroidery rich with personal meaning (including reference to Yorkshire’s spirit animal the ferret), knitwear possessed tactile intricacy and the apparently familiar was reimagined as the quintessential English oak leaf appeared in a reworked camo print. Central to Crutchley’s work, is an ethnographic level of interest in artisanship, which takes him to far flung destinations such as Bali and Japan to work with the finest craftspeople, represented here in collaborations with British milliners Lock & Co and in the use of silver badges by Toye, Kenning and Spencer (who hold a Royal Warrant from Her Majesty The Queen). In a world where fashion ideas are so often disposable there is a sense of grounded appreciation of the truly beautiful in Crutchley’s work which makes him a very welcome addition to the LC:M schedule.
LC:M is back again, and feels bigger and more sprawling this time with attendees being expected to navigate three official locations as well as the off-schedule curveballs in Soho and beyond. What used to feel like a celebration of menswear is now very much a corporate machine but London is doing very well at maintaining the voices of smaller-scale independent designers.
Offically, LC:M started on Friday, but it felt like it started Thursday night with Matthew Miller’s SS16 Goodhood launch event in Shoreditch. and the opening of Mad About the Boy, the exhibition curated by Lou Stoppard at the London College of Fashion’s gallery space in town .
LCF continued it’s fanfare to the onset of the weekend, with the MA show in the City of London on Friday morning, expertly edited by Anders Sølvsten there was an exceptional range of talent on show this season from the menswear postgrads.
Alexis Housden’s floaty sheers was just one of many outstanding collections at LCF MA show
The Topman Design show now bears the torch of opening LC:M and is always a heavily-attended event, the invited audience this season including an excited-looking Bryanboy. The collection itself had so many influences going on it was hard to keep up, from glam rock suits and louche crushed velvet to 90s distressed denim, but the show served it’s purpose of whetting the appetite for what’s to come over the weekend.
Nasir Mazhar’s collection featured complex layers of black on black with touches of 90s rave gear, but sexed up and made ultra body-conscious. What is so notable about Mazhar is his deft touch with the details such as the delicate use of feathers on the front of a sweatshirt and the specially packaged soundtrack CD by Murlo.
Wales Bonner’s collection, which opened MAN, was another spellbinding reminder of her ability to create not only beautiful clothing but also moments of true grace. Bonner has the power of a great filmmaker to set a tone through image, music and idea that wraps her work into a complete sensual experience. From the, now signature, sharp ‘70s outlines and diamante accessories to the oiled-up faces and hair festooned with gold and sliver leaf to the exotic Kora string instrument on show, there was no element of her vision that wasn’t painstakingly executed.
Rory Parnell-Moody’s MAN collection meanwhile didn’t divert too far from his ecclesiastical fascinations but T-shirts with lettering spelling out NANCY BOY made his vision seem somehow less theatrical and the tension in his work more real-world.
After last season’s rollicking nightclub-in-a-fashion-show recreation of his Loverboy night, it was clear that Charles Jeffrey would have to work hard at creating a big show, and he did it with a huge Gary Card-designed set, Day-Glo club kid models and his spin on tailoring, disrupted Aran sweaters and prodigious use of colour.
Craig Green brought the majesty again with carefully orchestrated waves of colour and exploration of oversized lacing, washed quilting and use of straps and fastenings, his work continuing to walk the borders of utility and a fine art/artisan approach to detail. The use of leather this season added a layer of tactile interest.
CMMN SWDN ‘70s themed presentation at the Alison Jacques studio in Soho, was a welcome break from the bigger venues. This sense of welcome extended to the collection itself, which featured cosy fabrics inspired by domestic interiors, including rich colour, tactile surfaces such as velvet and suede, and a sharp silhouette of cropped, boxy jackets and high-waisted jeans. Like the European city you’re yet to know fully but can’t wait to brag to your friends about discovering, there is great sophistication here.
Saturday looks set to be the most event packed day of the LC:M long weekend so hold fire for the next installment as some Sharpened Lead favourites like Lou Dalton, Matthew Miller and Sibling come out to play.
Mad About The Boy, curated by Showstudio alumnus Lou Stoppard, opens on 8 January exploring fashion’s obsession with youth, focuses on the way ideas of the teenage boy are constructed through definitive collections and fashion images. Inspired by designers’ fascination with youth culture, Mad About The Boy will examine the motifs and parallels within fashion’s treatment of youth.
The exhibition will collate the work of designers and image-makers including: Raf Simons, J W Anderson, Nick Knight, Larry Clark, Jason Evans, Kim Jones, Meadham Kirchhoff, Tyrone Lebon, Nasir Mazhar, Martine Rose, Gosha Rubchinskiy, Christopher Shannon, Judy Blame, Undercover, Patrick Robyn and more.
Notions of the young male as rebel and iconic rule breaker will be exemplified by a series of fantastical tableaux designed by Tony Hornecker: including a school toilet defaced with graffiti and flyers, to fully immerse the visitor in the identity of the teenage boy. And most notably of all, there will also be a recreation of Meadham Kirchhoff’s memorable SS 2013 Menswear presentation, which placed louche boys in lurid sportswear and intricately designed textiles within a flower strewn squat environment that had many a fashion editor reaching for the smelling salts.
Of the exhibition, curator Lou Stoppard says: ‘The fluidity and possibility of the teenage years seems to unite fashion’s obsession with the boy: sparked, perhaps by a strange belief in the precious genius of youth – of a time of perceived infinite opportunity, spontaneity and creative freedom. Designers young and old return to the same themes, constructing, rehashing and shaping the dream male, season in season out.’
Audio recordings of designers and photographers discussing their thoughts on the topic will be included alongside editorials, films and selected looks from seminal collections. Mad About The Boy presents the relationship between fashion and youth as an ever-evolving narrative.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a full programme of events, talks, workshops and masterclasses which will be announced in early January 2016.
Fashion Space Gallery, London College of Fashion, 20 John Prince’s Street, London, W1G 0BJ
Entrance is free
Friday 8 January – Saturday 2 April 2016
Marsèll – how a tough-looking capsule collection for Mr Porter got me excited about Italian-made shoes all over again
It’s been a good old while, and fittingly my return to blogging is on the subject of shoes, a subject in which I have a perennial interest and am always happy to be associated with.
Mr Porter bravely declared itself the home of the world’s best shoes recently, and a well-lubricated event at their Westfield HQ demonstrated their handle on high-end footwear, from the trad to the defiantly un-trad (hello Rick Owens futurist trainers). Among the exclusives on offer (an impressive list: Grenson, Officine Creative, Filling Pieces, Neil Barrett, Christopher Kane and more) I came across the Marsèll brand for the first time, specifically in the form of an impressive pair of black boots, featuring a distinguished contrast between two very differently-treated leathers. Workwear is definitely the wrong word here, though the polished toe cap detail suggests serious resilience, equally the word distressed fails to convey the full sense of artisanal luxury of the weathered main body of the boot. Overall, I was reminded of the sturdy footwear of Dirk Bikkembergs whose stridently bulky boots with their distinctive wrap around laces threaded through the heel were much sought after in the 90’s. Below, co-founder of the Milan-based brand, Mirko Rizzi tells us a bit more about Marsèll’s singular approach to design.
Tell us about the capsule you did for MR PORTER?
We decided to focus on the concept of the combat boot. To achieve a capsule with a strong and aggressive attitude a preponderance of black and dark grey is evident in the colour palette, this together with the weathered and worn-in leathers employed results in the singular Marsèll signature style.
What were the influences or inspiration for this MR PORTER exclusive capsule
We started with a request from Mr Porter to develop an aggressive and strong collection inspired by the concept of the combat boots and took it from there.
Why did you partner with MR PORTER on this capsule?
We see in Mr Porter a great partner and we believe it is one of the best e-commerce platforms out there for men’s footwear. It was also interesting to work so closely with a retailer on developing a particular facet of our aesthetic and growing it into a full capsule. We enjoyed the
possibility of re-interpreting one of the historical models from the Marsèll archive exclusively for Mr Porter, to create this capsule.
Is there a specific design philosophy you follow as a brand?
Tradition lies at the base of our creative and production process, a process that welcomes influences and inspiration and contamination from all areas of contemporary cultural life. We are designers but we do not reject or ignore artisanal tradition and rules but rather embrace them to
reinterpret them in an independent and personal way. We think that the resulting modern aesthetic is personal to Marsèll and gives the collection its unique flavor and is its defining characteristic.
Most brands have a particular facet to their shoes that is identifiable as unique to that
brand – what is yours?
The finishing, the deconstructed and imprecise aspect, the androgynous and unisex style are what identify a Marsèll shoe.
What does the future hold for Marsèll?
Many, many projects in the pipeline, watch this space!
Postscript: speaking of spaces, the Marsèll showroom in Milan also functions as a unique exhibition space. Called Marsèlleria, it looks like somewhere to definitely check out next time you are in the city, and adds to the mystique of Marsèll as another Italian brand with a belief in design as something that really matters.
The capsule collection exclusively for Mr Porter (top image is the boots that started it all for me):
Other beauties from the current Marsèll range for Mr Porter: