With all the emphasis on London, Milan and Paris in fashion, as with the current round of menswear shows, its not surprising that some of Europe’s lesser-known fashion spots are often overlooked even outside of fashion weeks. On a recent trip to Warsaw however, the Polish capital’s fashion scene was revealed to me, and I left the city very impressed with its sense of style.
From bespoke tailoring houses like Zaremba (which remained a favourite during the Communist era by stashing outlawed “bourgeois” fabrics for clients, thus circumventing state-dictated outlets), to newly graduated fashion talent and more established independent designers, Warsaw has a surprising diversity of fashion both old and new.My visit coincided with the graduation of Warsaw Art Academy’s first ever Fashion Diploma students, a talented bunch including womenswear designer Kasia Skórzyńska, whose vivid prints, inspired by the films of Wong Kar Wai, showed accomplishment and international appeal (in fact, she’s already interned with London designer Richard Nicoll and has shown in Beijing). Also in early June, outside of any official week or season, national fashion hero designer Robert Kupisz drew an impressive crowd to a vast warehouse space across the river from the city centre, the majority of whom had also responded to the dress code he had issued: denim. A soundtrack of classic English punk referred to the designer’s own youth and the stirrings of the Polish uprising. Deliberately commercial and relaxed in style, the soft denims and especially the oversized flannel shirts push Kupisz’s design into more high fashion territory through tactile fabric treatments and proportion.
Another of Warsaw’s most established designers is Ania Kuczynska whose beautiful boutique at Mokotowska features minimal though supremely elegant designs for men and women, accessories (including a unisex best-selling bag inspired by a trip to Shanghai, over 3,000 of which were sold last year) and housewares. Kuczynska’s aesthetic is very distinctive with her design signature, revealing often mystical yet subtle inspirations, evident whether you are looking at a beautifully draped shirt or pair of trousers, a simple bag or a gorgeous ceramic plate.
Some of the most covetable designs I encountered were by Mariusz Przybylski, a designer with an appealing minimal aesthetic offering clothes at Zara-level price points but designed by the man himself and produced in Poland (in a factory known for producing for brands such as Burberry), beautifully cut and using high-quality materials. His pared back separates for men and women (this season’s menswear included light wool/moleskin cotton biker jackets, chunky cotton knits and texturised sweatshirts and joggers) is best experienced at his boutique, located in one of the chicest neighborhoods in Warsaw to stroll in.
As with many cities, Warsaw’s fashion community forms a branch of its wider artistic network; many of the graduate designers cited films as their main inspiration and the overlap of the visual arts with fashion within Warsaw is obvious with many options for seeing film and art. While I was there The Zachęta National Gallery of Art had an exhibition of work by legendary Polish graphic designer and poster artist Henryk Tomaszewski whose designs have featured in menswear by Comme des Garcons.
If you find yourself on a weekend break in Warsaw, besides eating outdoors at one of the city’s outside eating spots (residents are well provided for, given the city’s long hot summers) I recommend checking out the city’s fashion boutiques and independent stores. You may not yet associate Warsaw with fashion but there is a sense of growing excitement within the city about this aspect of design, building on the city’s history of producing fine artists and filmmakers.
There’s a lot to be distracted about at a Sibling show. If its not the foot stomping soundtrack there’s the smorgasbord of models (and the hottest models at LC:M always seem to do the Sibling show), a front row full of fashion legends and the wild styling and sense of theatrics which altogether create a visual spectacle perfectly pitched for Instagram sensation. This season sky-high hair, fringing and the general intent to provoke and push taste boundaries created more noise than ever. Beneath the spectacle however are some fine fashion details, as you’d expect from the trio with their collective fashion heritage. This season for me it was the footwear and the denims that invited a closer look. For SS15 Sibling have worked with Robert Clergerie Homme, the venerable label now under the helm of Roland Mouret and the result is an interpretation of the classic Delbie boot in both black and natural canvas. Sibling SS15 is all about youth tribes and the canvas boots perfectly complimented the denim pieces with their geometric punctures, the crocheted track suits and skull motifs. At once summer-ready and rebel-friendly the use of canvas is a great touch making them appear very versatile while the leather toe caps on the boots instantly suggest high-end. With this collaboration and another season of great denim pieces, Sibling are proving they have a lot more to offer than knitwear while retaining their reputation for the most
fun to be had at LC:M.
London Collections: Men ended last night in buoyant mood as the capital’s menswear industry rides high on a wave of seemingly ever-growing interest in men’s fashion. The London menswear showcase is now firmly on the map for American and Asian buyers visiting on their way to the European shows and there was more to see than ever and more people here to see it. I posted my initial impressions at the start of the week over on my Guardian page, but here are my thoughts from the remaining 2 days.
On Monday evening Richard Nicoll showed his trademark simple unfussy separates in refreshing whites, gingham check and with clashing patterns in red, yellow and blue colourways. Classic low profile Adidas lace-ups were accessorised by the inimitable Judy Blame. In fact styling was often a highlight of the week in itself: the beautiful floral garlands off-setting Matthew Miller’s pinstripe collection being another example (as mentioned on Monday), and Luke Day’s masterly tweaking of the James Long collection into colorful, beribboned perfection.
A spirit of adventure was evident across many shows; Kit Neale’s presentation took to the air with prints including airline safety info graphics on a set made to look like a (literal) runway.
Shaun Samson’s boy scouts at the Fashion East installations wore signature colour-blocked wool shorts and oversized T-shirts reminiscent of American heritage blankets, complete with matching camp beds and pillows.
This embracing of the great outdoors was also present at E.Tautz, in a collection celebrating the British seaside. Designer Patrick Grant presented clothes for men for all seasons, from light raincoats to voluminous shorts, deckchair stripes and oversized denims. While the denim and shorts suggested the proportions of more elegant eras as opposed to the recent insistence on skinny, the approach was thoroughly modern rather than nostalgic.
Baartmans and Siegel’s collection on Tuesday also had something of the scouting adventurer about it, with light practical jackets and shorts suits in navy and deep forest green.
Wrapping up this theme, Burberry took the notion of adventure one step further in a collection inspired by Bruce Chatwin’s travel writing.
One of the key things that separates London from its rivals in Florence, Paris and Milan is its strong countercultural heritage, particularly in the fields of art and popular music. A menswear season here never goes by without a head nod to one musical subculture, youth cult or another; and at times it felt like they were all being referenced at once this season. Of note for particular rock and roll swagger were Casely-Hayford who once again presented sharp tailoring with streetwear references and Sir Tom Baker’s show at The 100 Club (Adam Ant and John Cooper Clarke performed afterwards).
On a different level was Sibling’s rollicking, high-energy show on Tuesday morning, one of the most anticipated shows each season. The Sibling collection was inspired by youth cults and the camaraderie of finding like minds and alternative family as a young clubber. Beneath the wild gothic fringing and Sigue Sigue Sputnik hair were some solid denim pieces; classic denim jackets and jeans with artfully distressed details, delicate lace panels within the knitwear and some very desirable boots (a collaboration with Robert Clergerie Homme by Roland Mouret) were sent stomping down the runway.
Sportswear continues to be a huge influence in London menswear, and not only from those designers who make it a staple (Christopher Shannon, Lou Dalton, Nasir Mazhar and Astrid Andersen being examples). At Paul Smith’s presentation of shoes at the Hauser & Wirth gallery on Savile Row, a selection featured sports mesh paneling, intersecting the contours of traditional men’s Oxford shoes.
Besides these gung-ho themes of adventure and rebellion there also examples of introspection in the collections over the last two days; J.W. Anderson featured bucolic landscape tapestries on oversized T-shirts and Craig Green sent his collection, featuring soft pastel blues and quilting reminiscent of Samurai padding, down the runway to the lilting strains of no less than Enya.
Last week I caught up with menswear designer Kit Neale in his studio. Originally known for his prints, as a designer Kit’s range is becoming known for perfectly proportioned casual wear such as jean jackets and bombers, and last season brought surprise in the form of beautiful jacquard fabrics alongside the signature prints. I was looking forward to seeing what Kit has in store for us in SS15.
Moving on from explorations of London’s less celebrated quarters (Autumn/Winter was inspired by the decaying Elephant & Castle shopping centre) next summer stretches those horizons slightly, “it’s Kit Neale goes on holiday” Kit explained, “I got sick of people asking what part of London we were going to do next” he added, “…Waterloo?” Central to the Kit Neale aesthetic is a strong sense of Britishness, complete with our famous sense of humour. Whether the motifs come from formica caffs, fishy seaside menus or vegetables from his dad’s allotment, the Kit Neale brand has a strong sense of place and identity. Therefore, the Kit Neale version of foreign travel has more of an air of Carry On Abroad about it than the swish of luxury travel. Think sunburned Brits abroad and the rituals of budget airline travel. What is unique about Kit’s work however, is that the underlying humour does nothing to diminish the quality of the clothes: the fabrics and construction are always impressive and tactile and the characters involved always tell a great narrative. Inspired this time by some frankly weird waxy figures depicting archetypal holidaymakers (picked up in a Brooklyn flea market), SS15′s story may have moved on from South London but remains essentially Kit Neale.
Kit Neale SS15 will be presented later this morning, however, here is a sneak glimpse of some of the inspirations and moodboards for this collection.
In just three days time London Collections:Men will launch the SS15 season. Having grown from a single day to three packed ones with the speed of a monstrous puppy on hormones, the menswear industry’s attention will be on London’s bi-annual menswear showcase from Sunday onwards, as young design talent, established designers and a whole load of dressed up people draw stares from the regular folk of Covent Garden and the electronic eyes of a million Instagram accounts at once. With the invites still rolling in, I take a moment to assess what’s really exciting me so far.
1. Sibling Sibling’s invites simply get better as the trio’s renown grows. After last season’s working class man homage, this wonderful invite featuring a gravity-defying Gothic quiff taps into the deep grain of London counterculture from which Cozette, Sid and Joe derive such pleasure. Take me to The Batcave!
2. Lou Dalton One of London’s most cherished menswear designers, Lou understands what so many of us want to wear while challenging our preconceptions about her work. I’m establishing quite a collection of her part-Blue Peter badge part-gymkhana rosette invites, produced in a fresh colour way each season. The duck egg blue for SS15 suggests the perfect balance of rusticity and urban polish in her work.
3. Casely-Hayford The emergence of Casely-Hayford as a multigenerational menswear powerhouse has brought me great pleasure. The complex negative image and ink spatters on their flyer suggests their delicately considered approach and I’m very excited to see the follow up to their storming runway debut together.
4.Paul Smith My physical invite’s in the post! But still, I am very excited about attending a Paul Smith presentation for the first time. I love his use of bold colour, print and the sense of bohemian heritage he brings to British menswear.
5. Kit Neale Kit’s work seduced me with its sheer energy a few seasons back at Fashion East. Since then I look forward to the dose of wit it brings to the sometimes serious business of London fashion, and increasingly, the way the brand fuses high end materials and technique with LOL humour.
These are just a handful (or given the scale of some of them, armful) of the exciting invites to come through my door, with many more still to come, keep an eye on my Instagram where I might post a few more over the next few days.
Last night I attended a talk with Meadham Kirchhoff at Bath in Fashion, the annual fashion event that takes place over several days in the city of Bath. In fact, only Benjamin Kirchhoff (the French half of Meadham Kirchhoff), without his more flamboyant, other half Edward Meadham, was present to talk to Sarah Mower, the contributing editor to US Vogue, but as it turned out his solitary presence was still impressive.
So why was I there? Basically the Meadham Kirchhoff menswear show for SS13 has had the greatest impact on me in the whole time I have been attending menswear shows and I was keen to hear something in person from (at least one of) the minds that created it. Something about the subversiveness of that presentation: the experience was like gatecrashing a squat full of impossibly beautiful young men, revelling in squalor while wearing the most exotic clothes, had a big impact on me. Since then, I’ve been a Meadham Kirchhoff fan, (fan being a word that Kirchhoff proudly uses while talking about the “girls” who celebrate their work). Last season Meadham Kirchhoff didn’t present at LC:M, their focus feels very much on womenswear and the army of young, female fashion students attending last night would attest to this, and rightly so. But I remain a fan, a solitary fashion male here at this event, yet hopeful that their vision of menswear will return, while in the knowledge that gender is just another tool that the designers use to provoke and question.
Beginning with a film of the Meadham Kirchhoff retrospective show at the V&A in London, a chatty Sarah Mower drew out the stoically confident Kirchhoff on his childhood in Chad, Africa, his disjointed relationship with France and French popular culture, and the creative haven he eventually found in London, surrounded by the close group of friends he made at St Martin’s, including his lover and business partner, Edward Meadham. “We’ll never stop being accused of being miserable” he says, a sentiment in contrast to the playful, candy-coloured world we have just seen on the screen above his head, but this reticence and contrariness is as strong part of the Meadham Kirchhoff public persona. The designers’ messages are loud and clearly stated: “Express yourself. Empower yourself. Fuck the culture that tells you you can’t” he stipulates. “You might grow out of the fluff and the dyed hair”, Kirchhoff says, “but don’t progress too quickly”. And while his ambition as a menswear student was to create “something you could see hanging in a shop”, there is a strong counter-cultural and DIY aspect to Meadham Kirchoff’s worldview: “You can go to a charity shop and make your own Meadham Kirchoff look” he suggests, “I would love to see it twisted, I’m dying to, but I’ve never seen it” he challenges.
Asked about his personal style, Kirchoff cites the past, especially the 1970s, “not Glam”, he specifies, “but what did people actually wear?” “Dad clothes have always had an influence” he says. 1980s Armani, Issey Miyake are also mentioned. He tells a story about a recent trip to France where he was confronted about the voluminous coat he was wearing, appalled that anyone would question what anyone would wear so directly, Kirchhoff tells us to celebrate the permissiveness of London: “I have never been attacked there for anything I’ve been wearing, or who I was snogging along the street” he declares. Wearing black jeans, high end luxury trainers, cropped hair, earrings and the kind of billowing raincoat that apparently makes most other Frenchmen see red, Benjamin Kirchhoff comes across as someone at peace with himself “it’s a reaction to how I look”, he suggests.
The Meadham Kirchhoff vision is a precious thing, remote (they have no social media presence, and “barely a website” he proudly states). Asked about this avoidance of social media, Kirchhoff suggests that the current obsession with sharing everything, all of the time is built on “insecurity”. “We are comfortable in our skins” he says, “we only do what we want, but we can sleep at night”. Asked about the gratification of designing, “there’s not much” he retorts, “but what media that exists around us is created by the girls themselves, and that’s touching” he says, “it’s part of us but we didn’t create it.”