Following a press launch last night, the exhibition North, exploring the depiction of Northern England in art, photography and fashion collections has just opened in, appropriately enough, Liverpool. Curated by Lou Stoppard and Adam Murray, the exhibition includes iconic imagery by such celebrants of the Northern aesthetic as Raf Simons alongside profiles of Northern-born image makers such as Alasdair McLellan, Simon Foxton and Christopher Shannon, demonstrating that the impact of Northern England on our visual culture goes far beyond the familiar tropes.
Earlier today, I visited Duckie Brown at their studio in the West Village to talk about their bold move in representing a single look for SS17. In a nod to the troubled economic and political times we’re living through, the Duckie’s felt it was “a good moment” to pause, and made an active decision not to show this season (having shown the line twice a year for the last thirteen years). The resulting one look is a triumph; a Haiku poem in khaki, navy and white. The look itself is being shared with fashion editors who would normally attend their show as an exquisitely-produced monochrome poster and in the form of a film ‘The Essential Duckie.”
While Daniel Silver gave me his take on the challenges facing the fashion industry globally as the role of the traditional fashion show and the nature of selling fashion garments itself continues to shapeshift, co-designer Steven Cox talked me through the process of paring back a collection to a single look. As ever with Cox, the starting point was quite tactile and experiential: a combination of the influence of his wearing tight running gear as he trained for a recent marathon, a reference image of the slim outline of a British skinhead and an archive Duckie Brown blazer, which had been produced entirely in jersey. Having explored and pioneered oversized fashion shapes, for SS17 The Duckies wanted to pare things back, including the proportions of the garments themselves.
Duckie Brown SS17 consists of a pair of apparently traditional khakis (produced in collaboration with their Brooklyn manufacturer), where the waist has been raised nine and a half inches above the usual waist height, a simple white polo shirt: “100% polyester” Cox affirms unapologetically, “it’s the same fabric that Kawakubo uses for Comme”, and a super-slimline, softly tailored blazer in navy. Describing the transformation noted in their model when he put on the ensemble at the shoot, Cox mimes a traditional couture pose – hand on sinuous hip. Cox was fascinated by how the form of the clothes could inspire such a shift in physical attitude, from local basketball court to classical fashion outline.
Having titled their summer collection The Essential Duckie, the Duckies really have gone back to basics here – the design process touching on many of their trademarks; the exploration of form and shape, an awareness of fashion in context (including delving into their own extensive brand archive) and a wry nod to traditional American menswear, referenced in the polo shirt, khakis and blazer.
Having shown just six looks last season, and now just a single look, the future is yet to be determined: “do we show just half a look next season?” quips Cox, “or thousands of looks?”
Whatever the outcome, it’s clear that New York’s most expectation-defying menswear designers are likely to respond to the changing times by simultaneously embracing that change while still keeping us guessing.
Events for London Collections: Men SS17 got underway this evening on a bookish note, with the launch of a special ‘menswear library’ at the E.Tautz store in Mayfair. The exhibition, curated by Showstudio’s Lou Stoppard, is a special collaboration with Claire de Rouen, one of London’s most cherished art, fashion and photography bookstores. “You can tell so much about someone from their book collection and their favourite title”, commented Stoppard, “it was a real pleasure to chat to some of my favourite men in fashion about the menswear-related titles that they love.”
The eclectic range of photography titles on display (many being limited editions), spans topics from David Bowie (perhaps inevitably this year), to Disco and includes not one but two works by Wolfgang Tillmans. The books have been chosen by menswear influencers and commentators including Julian Ganio of Fantastic Man magazine, Gordon Richardson of Topman, Charlie Porter of the Financial Times, Stoppard herself and Patrick Grant, owner and creative director of E.Tautz, whose store hosts the exhibition.
Grant is well known for the meticulous research he puts into his collections, evident in the notes presented at the shows in the format of an inky newssheet, making the collaboration feel like a natural fit.
The odds are against the cerebral tone of this event being sustained as the week of LC:M SS17 progresses, but it was a perfectly paced opener, celebrating the quieter, more contemplative side of the fashion business, the flipside to all the noise and spectacle to come.
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.