I set out with intentions to document New York Fashion Week: Men’s in painstaking detail but there’s simply too much happening, and with weather veering from intense sunshine to tropical showers and humidity, dashing between shows and presentations around town has become a time-consuming challenge. But enough of the excuses, here are some highlights from the last couple of days. Some of these collections deserve posts in their own right and I will be returning to favourites once the pace of events slows down after the final events end later today, here and over at STREETS magazine so check back in for updates.
No attention to detail was spared at Robert Geller: from the weathered boardwalk runway setting the scene squarely by the seashore, to the personalised notepads on the seats and accessories from open-toe socks and special edition sandals to knitted cummerbunds. We’ve seen colour spectrums and sunset-inspired colours this week, but Robert’s fading sun tones were of a softer, more Nordic variety; inevitably including the greys and subtle purples of Northern skies alongside rich golds. Shapes were relaxed but never less than elegant, individual looks suggesting easy combinations within a very cohesive collection.
Having long been a voice for independent menswear in New York, this was a moment for Duckie Brown, and they didn’t fail to dazzle us with the sheer beauty and artistry of what they can create with cut, pattern and cloth. Backstage, Steven shrugged off praise by declaring the creations to be “just jeans and T-shirts”, emphasising the simplicity of the shapes we’d just seen, but given the materials involved, the results were anything but pedestrian. Gauze T-shirts, flowing trousers extravagantly gathered at the waist and oversized suiting in yet more wafting materials, most strikingly in a vivid, Chartreuse yellow, provided one of the most bewitching collections of NYFW: Men’s.
Calvin Klein Collection
Italo Zucchelli’s collection for Calvin Klein, presented from a Garment District studio space, evidenced what is possible when you’re at the helm of a giant fashion brand. Fabrications were nothing less than incredible, from coated denim, to variations on sheer, the clothing here was like the costumes from a particularly cool contemporary Sci-fi film, but always understated and wearable. A cool to the touch – dare I even say “damp feeling” padded T-shirt would have been perfect for the muggy heat outside. A new spin on double-denim was provided by a denim sweatshirt and jeans combo. The socks and sandals trend was also taken up a notch by specially-designed socks featuring graphic panels under strappy nylon sandals.
Thaddeus O’Neil brought an entirely different, surf-y crowd into Skylight studios to experience his latest riff on the surfing hobo, this time with a vampire spin. Relaxed leisurewear never looked so high-end, with easy-going shapes, drapes, and luxury fabrications. In fact, the entire production felt distinctive with a specific sub-tribe of beefy models walking the collection, like a band of pirates with perfect beach hair.
Given that it was inspired by typographic pioneers, N.Hoolywood’s collection could have been awash with print, but as ever, there was careful restraint in Daisuke Obana’s approach to his subject. Where lettering did appear, it’s effect was subtle, and the pared back space on West 31st street provided a perfect backdrop for monochrome urban looks, given added attitude by the street-cast models.
Tim Coppens is one of the justly-celebrated stars of New York’s menswear scene. His European take on classic American leisure wear evokes the rhythm of the city’s streets with details always worthy of attention but never detracting from the whole. A case in point being the beading details lifting classic Van’s to high-fashion, the graffiti art inspired prints and riffs on classic Americana such as varsity jackets (complete with TC lettering) in unexpected colourways and fabrics. Coppens take on military-inspired trousers with a relaxed fit echoed shapes seen elsewhere this week, but never so perfect.
Alexandre Plokhov [images pending]
Plokhov’s show lived up to his theatrical, more goth than Gotham City reputation, as the throbbing soundtrack, blood-red lighting and dry ice established a thrilling atmosphere in the opening moments of his runway show. Starting inevitably with all-black looks, the luxury tailored sportswear was eventually diversified into navy, red and even lemon yellow. The way the slim cut of his elegant tailored sportswear fits the body is utterly contemporary.
Stuart Vevers’ remarkable transformation of the Coach brand was given another chance to shine this morning, with a presentation at the Coach showroom by the Hudson. Inspired by classic American eccentrics such as Hunter S. Thompson, trippy psychedelic patterns, bold colours and patchworked luxury fabrics add a counter-cultural aspect to the notion of luxury itself, and has made this once-staid American brand into something immensely covetable. From leather accessories to the must have animal print and coloured shearling sneakers and sliders, these pieces will be favourites with fashion editors next Spring/Summer.
Maybe it was the glorious, midsummer sunshine or the excitement of finally having it’s own menswear week, but New York’s designers showed their softer side yesterday. For seasons now the story here has been uncompromisingly black and white; tough urban streetwear and Gotham menace had become the order of the day for New York menswear. However, as Industria Superstudios opened its doors for the second half of the opening showcase yesterday, the sunshine outdoors was reflected in yet more colour-soaked presentations. I can say very quickly that the standout collection for me was Fingers Crossed. Inspired by the vivid colour of Nick Cooper’s photographs of sunsets, designer Ryu Hayama literally lined up a colour spectrum going from deep golden yellow, through rich reds and into deepest black. Styled with mismatched socks worn with Birkenstocks, shapes were soft and flowing, wide cropped trousers and long tunic shapes had a folksy, hippie element, but grounded in a very metropolitan notion of colour and layering. There were prints mixed in to the golden end of the spectrum, and throughout, shiny fabrics contrasted with matt, layers were artfully arranged to reveal contrasting shapes and textures.
Elsewhere, Kenneth Ning’s collection featured Moorish geometric prints in strong colours from deep turquoise to, again, strong golden yellow. The collection felt young, fresh and modern and the face masks gave a nod to London’s cavalier approach to presentation styling.
Carlos Campos’ collection was similarly sun kissed, inspired by the romantic figure of the Forastero, “the outsider” in Campos’ native Honduras, sleek yet soft tailoring evoking a quiet sense of confidence. A palette of greens accented with camel and red and featuring tropical print and camouflage conveyed a sense of time and place. The belted suiting in particular had a timeless, rakish aspect to it that took us out of urban Manhattan into the even longer shadows of a Latin American afternoon.
I’m going to break here as the second day is about to start and the pace of the schedule is ramping up. Expect more reports from the fashion trenches in steamy New York.
After years of attending New York Fashion Week as one of a tiny cohort of European-based press, picking my way through the slim pickings of menswear shows in the main schedule, I’m here in the city to celebrate the city’s first ever menswear week; four days of men’s fashion and nothing else. The paint on the official hoarding was literally still wet when I turned up to collect my press pass this morning, but a buzzing showcase of emerging menswear labels at Industria studios helped to get things off to a more promising start.
An early favourite is the Boyswear collection by Jackson McKeehan. Provocatively titled The Manson Family Singers, McKeehan’s debut collection took an anarchic and thoroughly unexpected mix of references: everyone’s favourite late 60’s homicidal cult, and The Sound of Music (demonstrated with droll nods to Tyrolean costume) and somehow made a great collection out of it. Prints designed by McKeehan himself: botanical florals (one seemed to reference Manson family member Squeaky Fromme’s famous tapestry designs) and trippily-vivid graphics, lent a countercultural visual flair to the collection, underpinned by a very contemporary awareness of cut and proportion. Not everyone seemed to get it, a well-known New York menswear face was heard to ask “who are The Manson Family?” and was visibly perturbed to be casually told (by McKeehan himself) “they were serial killers in the ’60s.” McKeehan is a brand new talent and I like his style. He clearly has a wicked sense of humour if this irreverent mixture of references is anything to go by, and yet, there was a delicacy to the pieces, showing that equally, there is a serious approach to fashion happening too.
David Hart’s tailoring was similarly colourful, but in a completely different realm, suggesting louche Euro playboys in generously-proportioned tailored separates and bold graphics. Jonathan Saunders’ bold approach to colour came to mind, but whereas Saunders cut is razor sharp, here shapes were softer, as if designed for tropical climates.
Featuring yet more vivid colour, Garcia Velez’s sporty collection was based on a colour bed of deep blues, with colour spectrums used as accents on extended hems and slip-on pumps in a very youthful yet refined collection.
Elsewhere, Cadet’s presentation was the most testosterone-focused of the morning, with buff models in military-inspired pieces flexing their pecs along to a live drums and vocals soundtrack. The jumpsuit was particularly successful, modelled in the main lineup by a solitary girl, and upstairs by a guy, demonstrating its versatility.
Showing off-schedule in Chinatown, Opening Cermony’s SS16 collection, was inspired at once by adolescent nonchalance and teenage fixations. Stripes were broken, to evoke the effect of crumpled, abandoned clothing, trousers were capacious and occasionally featured double-waistbands (referencing commonly-sighted teen boxer shorts, worn visibly above a loose trousers waistband). Sub-cultural male uniforms were referenced and distorted, so that the idea of the ultimate concert, represented by interchangeable velcro’d patches, defied expectations by featuring the names of classical composers in place of countercultural rock bands.
So far, so diverse. As the week ramps up and some of the bigger players on the mainstream menswear scene come out to play it will be interesting to see how this mix of emerging talent and established influencers balances out.
While the habitués of Charles Jeffrey’s club night, Loverboy, twirled away onstage at his Fashion East presentation yesterday, I managed to find a quiet corner with the designer to discuss how fashion and nightlife coexist in his world.
CC: So tell me about Loverboy…
CJ: The club started as my birthday party last year, and it was just a really fun way for me to play. But then it turned into a way to fund my Masters [Charles has an MA in Menswear from St. Martins] the money that was coming in through the door was actually paying for my rent and my fabrics. I nearly dropped out of the Masters because of the money. For me it was a project that allowed me to be super free, creatively I was working with a lot of my friends who came to the night and we were shooting campaigns for the night as promotional material. We were working with each other, this group of people, and it solidified our existence at this time, we were recording ourselves, showing ourselves off in moments.
CC: What gave you the idea of bringing these two aspects of your life together for Fashion East?
CJ: With this project I really wanted to bring the club night together, along with the clothing that I had done on my Masters.
CC: So the people on the stage, are they people who would normally come to Loverboy?
CJ: Yes, all of them are people who have been going to the club for the past 10 months. A lot of them are my friends as well; I just kind of owed it to them, putting them on a pedestal, a three-foot pedestal, to showcase them and the work I wanted to propose as well. So that was the concept, for me. Seeing it together for the first time is almost like a kind of cathartic process, because just imagining it in my head was… “How is this going to come together?” Walking around the room today, and seeing everything is weird, it’s amazing.
CC: In terms of the clothes, there’s a lot of paint splattered materials, almost like artist’s canvases, how did that come about?
CJ: I’ve been doing a lot of illustration and printmaking. Before, with my BA, I wish I’d done fashion print really, the course I took was more marketing based, so when I was doing my MA I found myself making a lot of textiles and printing, things like that. Working in this way was like showcasing this energy, this sort of nonchalance to wearing clothes, that sort of colour, immediacy, all of these elements were things that I wanted to showcase.
CC: As part of the presentation you have people stepping out of the crowd and being still, kind of creating a freeze frame… What is the intention there?
CJ: It was a tactical move to separate the clothing from the dancers, to present a curated form of fashion as well as an amalgamation of what I’m about. Otherwise there would be no proposal for a product. As much as that pains me, within the industry, you always have to have some kind of proposal for menswear, and I do have a proposal of how I want things to be. But we’ve also dissipated that slightly, by having the art denim pieces worn on the dancers too. Alongside my fittings from the show, I had all the dancers come in for fittings too and I had to approve all of their looks before they came on the stage.
CC: So some people are wearing their own clothes? Does that worry you at all as a designer? It’s a bit of a loss of control; it’s not your whole vision…
CJ: Essentially, what I wanted to communicate was a whole universe within this project and this presentation. So, to do that I had to have these characters being part of the clothing presentation as well, ‘cos a lot of the projects that we’re doing now, it’s this idea about putting each individual person onto a pedestal. I think for future projects I really want to start looking at each individual person as references, we’re doing a lot of photography in the club, just people being in that space. There are people with such amazing ways of wearing things, people that I will be looking at for future, showing people that universe as much as my own design process.
CC: It’s been quite a while since there’s been a club/fashion thing that’s been so merged; they have existed quite separately recently…
CJ: Yeah, yeah. When I first moved to London I just caught the tail end of clubs like Ponystep. I never got the chance to go to Boombox but I used to look at that on MySpace as a kid up in Scotland and be really like “I want to go down there!” And being there in London when I was so young, I remember getting goose bumps, seeing the queue of these amazing looking people at Hoxton Bar & Grill. And then there was a period of time when it was completely lost and nothing was going on, and everyone was wearing streetwear and had long hair, and it was “what the hell’s going on”? So, with this, at least there’s the idea of just being theatrical, and just showing yourself off to be seen.
CC: Who’s DJ-ing? The music’s great!
CJ: His name is Salvador, Sega Bodega. I’ve known him since he was 16, so it makes perfect sense that we’re working together now. And his girlfriend’s on the stage, she’s one of the models, so it’s less industry-looking.
CC: It feels quite fun, and light-hearted, a lot of the shows have had really heavy music, lots of dark hip hop
CJ: We collaborated, his sets usually are quite dark, so I sent him quite a lot of the songs that I would play, and we worked on that together. We’ve had all of the 10 playlists from the last 10 months of Loverboy. It needs that lightness, it’s still quite early in the morning after all, we started quite dark but it’s going to build into something. By the time it’s half an hour before it finishes we’re going to ask for a swagger, we’re going to ask for the models to get involved, and for it to be this kind of end of night experience. I might even get on the stage!
In the best tradition of LC:M, the fourth and final day exemplified the diversity of London’s showcase of menswear talent, from the Paul Smith event held on Savile Row to the hedonistic, polysexual world of Charles Jeffrey at Fashion East’s takeover of the ICA.
The day started with the reliably high taste values of E.Tautz. The collection this time was partially concerned with the concept of leisure time and the emergence of specific clothing to enjoy one’s leisure time in post War Britain. Patrick’s inspirations can often be read as being quite sombre, but the results are always extremely elegant, and, increasingly, particularly for summer, casual. Graphic print T-shirts, wide-legged raw denims and neat shorts had the easy-going grace of last summer’s British seaside-influenced collection with a more varied, modernistic appeal.
After putting his lightweight A Suit To Travel In last season to the test with the help of a troupe of super-agile acrobats, Paul Smith presented a sequel in the form of two stunt cyclists who performed a series of jaw-dropping feats on two wheels (and sometimes on just one) while wearing summer variations of the suit, thus amply demonstrating it’s ability to withstand the trials of travel and physical exertion. Ever the exemplary host, Sir Paul, equally, left his audience with no doubts as to his prowess as a salesman and designer.
Fashion East – Charles Jeffrey
There could be no greater contrast than leaving the Paul Smith event on Savile Row and entering Charles Jeffrey’s presentation downstairs at the ICA for Fashion East. Charles had stated that he wanted to bring the world of the club night he runs, Loverboy, into the arena of the fashion presentation, and stepping into the darkened space I had the same sense of having stumbled into something by accident as I had at Meadham Kirchhoff’s now legendary ‘squat’ presentation several seasons ago: part voyeurism, part urge to join the party.
On a three-foot platform, the euphoric dancers twirled, sashayed and postured to the sounds of the live DJ, Sega Bodega. So what of the clothes? While elaborately paint-splattered jeans were as free spirited as the occasion, there was also an unexpected reverence for the sartorial, with Savile Row-produced boating blazers, ‘school boy’ shorts and an electric blue cashmere overcoat demonstrating Charles’s love of the peacock aspects of the British tradition.
It’s been a while since fashion and club culture have been presented in such proximity, but by providing a platform for the beguiling night creatures of his universe to exhibit themselves, Charles is part of a tradition from the recent past (Boombox, Ponystep) to the more distant and classic (Kashpoint, Smashing, Taboo, The Batcave, The Blitz), while creating an unforgettable way to showcase his work as a designer. A passing Princess Julia introduced us and I was lucky enough to sit down and have a chat with Charles while the party raged on, read that here, or press on to more highlights from Day 4.
Fashion East – Wales Bonner
Some have described Wales Bonner’s presentation at The ICA for Fashion East as being the ‘Heaven’ to Charles Jeffrey’s bacchanalian ‘Hell’ at ground level. Recent graduate Wales Bonner has earned a reputation not only for producing beautiful clothes but also for fulfilling a very exacting vision of how they should be presented, with the attention to detail of an auteur film director.
Like Charles Jeffrey, there was a whole world here, but nothing could be more distinct from the discotheque atmosphere on the ground floor than the atmosphere recreated of a languid afternoon in the cool interior of an Indian palace, complete with bucolic indoor lily pond, exquisite antique Indian furniture and the delicate fragrance of incense. Inspired by the journey of Malik Ambar from destitution in East Africa to the life of a royal ruler in West India, the story presented was of transformation and diasporic experience.
Since her initial presentation, Ebonics, held in January at Fashion East, Wales Bonner has become known for presentations resonant with the dialogue around representations of the black male. Given the Indian setting, cottons, silks and linens felt like natural choices. Nehru collars, pleated shorts and wide-legged trousers gave a sense of time and place, like looking at vintage photographs, these languid items were offset with Wales Bonner’s signature effeminate flourishes from silk scarves to diamante, cowrie shells and embroidery, but there was also visual discordance provided by the high-waisted jeans, snug vests and fitted T-shirts.
Wales Bonner has achieved a great deal in very little time and the visions she creates leave you reeling with a sense of beauty.
Tourne de Transmission
My last glimpse of London Collections: Men, SS16 was at Graeme Gaughan’s brand Tourne de Transmission’s presentation at St. George’s Church, a little way down the road from the main LC:M venue. Inspired by Colombia’s Kogi tribe, the collection, which here benefited from the Buffalo styling touch of Barry Kamen, featured soft, easy-going layers in crisp creams and black. Styled up with Kamen’s original collection of hats, the pieces had an organic feel, and the clean palette lent itself to easy combination and relaxed summertime dressing.
This morning, James Long presented his collection for next spring/summer in London Collections: Men’s most capacious venues, The Old Sorting Office. The show notes talked about James finding inspiration in people who seem “natural” in their clothing, free spirits for whom blending in is rarely an option. Moments after the boys trooped backstage in their bohemian layers, I grabbed a few minutes with James to discuss his inspirations further.
What were your inspirations for this collection?
JL: It was very much about Brighton and the pavilion, originally owned by the Prince Regent, which was squatted for ten years, so it was all about that decadence. The original interior designers had an idea of India, an idea of China, it wasn’t real, they hadn’t been to these places so it was kind of an imaginary idea of what those places were. All of the references were chopped up, confused they weren’t accurate or correct, there was kind illusion mixed in and I loved that idea. So, the knits were based on the wallpaper with the illusion and then that led to the languid feel, with robes and a little bit of tailoring but in a ruined, distressed, dressed down way.
When was it squatted?
JL: 80’s-90’s, it’s the only palace that isn’t owned by the Queen, because Queen Victoria didn’t want anything to do with it because the Prince Regent was so decadent and spent so much money there. I love that idea of all the craziness within the rooms. Then there was another idea of people feeling like they’re blending in but they’re really not, that’s something that I want to celebrate in fashion, not feeling like you have to blend in at all. I think you can wear these pieces very simply with a lack of self-consciousness and those are the people who really inspire me, who really have true style. Out of the capitals now, the capital is so saturated with photography on style, to go to somewhere like Brighton, it’s just completely free, and I got excited again by how people were putting clothes together and so I wanted to relay that within my collection.
Were you inspired at all by the squatters themselves?
JL: It wasn’t the squatters, it was more that that was the era when I was going out, sort of walking along the beach after going to a club, I remember putting on a robe on top of an outfit, its that feeling of thinking your blending in but you’re not at all but it has some form of true style for me, its not conscious in a way. It wasn’t the squatters, it was just the idea of this building that was run down, that was fully decadent, that had bankrupted the royals, all of the patchworks of the ruins came from that idea but giving it my kind of feeling.
Are there any pieces or techniques that stand out for you?
JL: I love the woven fabric, I felt that we put all of the drawings that James Davison’s did for me that were very free as well and we put all of those colours into the weave, and we put the gold in and I felt that I picked everything out into the palette and wove it into the fabric, I wanted it to flow through the whole collection. And the paisley, Chinese, baroque I wanted people to not know what that was really, not to patronise but I didn’t want it to be immediately identifiable because that was about the imaginary idea of how China was or how India was, so it was me allowing myself to be free.
You always have such a colourful front row; to what extent do your friends influence what you do?
JL: They’re kind of my witches! They’re my people, they’re the ones who are trying to blend in but doing really badly!