Hot on the heels of the announced line up for MAN SS16, and the 10th anniversary celebrations thereof, comes news of the designers to be featured at Fashion East’s installations at LC:M in a couple of weeks’ time. Keeping things tight seems to be the order of the day, and just as MAN this season is honed down to just two designers in place of the usual three, Fashion East is also pared back to two designers sharing the exhibit space: Grace Wales Bonner and Charles Jeffrey. Then recent graduate Wales Bonner created waves of excitement at Fashion East last season with her stunning Ebonics installation, full of Jazz-Era references and nuanced allusions to black male sexuality, which led to her being invited to present at the V&A’s prestigious Fashion in Motion series. The talent of co-billed designer Charles Jeffery has likewise been recognised by the V&A, in his case via their series of late night events, a nod to the appeal of his monthly club night, LOVERBOY. Jeffrey, who graduated from CSM this year, is also an illustrator and his work brings with it the energy and freedom of expression of the artist’s studio. Fashion East will take over spaces within the ICA for SS16, a venue which has hosted events that proved to change the course of cultural history, from early punk gatherings to COUM Transmissions‘ legendary Prostitution exhibition.
Next week a new exhibition opens at the BOZAR centre for fine arts in Brussels, exploring the rise of Belgian fashion designers and their huge influence on the international fashion scene. Presumably the ‘unexpected’ in the exhibition title comes from the fact that at least in other regards, Belgium remains something of an enigma in Europe; Brussels bringing to mind bureaucratic officialdom rather than world class design, and, in the main, Belgian culture being less readily identifiable than that of some of its European neighbours. But as last year’s Dries Van Noten exhibition and the recent Dior film profiling Raf Simons indicates, there is much more to this little country than reputation might allow.
What is clear is that the impact of the “Antwerp 6” designers with their iconoclastic, punkish energy continues to reverberate to this day. Perhaps by taking a closer look at the work of around 100 designers in this exhibition with its stated aim of “taking a closer look at the DNA of Belgian fashion” we can all become a bit clearer on why this otherwise mild mannered country has made such a definite stamp on the map of international fashion. If you still need convincing, perhaps the list of featured designers will do the trick: Raf Simons, Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester, Walter Van Beirendonck, Olivier Theyskens, Veronique Branquinho, Dirk Van Saene, Diane von Fürstenberg, Marina Yee, Anthony Vaccarello, AF Vandevorst, Haider Ackermann, Bruno Pieters, Kris Van Assche and Elvis Pompilio; an impressive list from any country.
Previous visitors to MOMU in Antwerp (currently showing the Dries Van Noten exhibition on home turf) will attest to the fact that the Belgians already do a great job of bigging up their famous fashion offspring and while Brussels may be overlooked in favour of the modish associations of its rival city, there is plenty to admire in the handsome boulevards, multicultural neighbourhoods and Belle Époque buildings of the Belgian capital this summer. In fact, BOZAR has joined forces with MAD Brussels to organise the Summer of Fashion festival with events including a fashion walk that has been specially mapped out from trendy Rue Dansaert to the Brussels fashion school La Cambre, a reading by Diane von Furstenberg, photos of Vivienne Westwood by Juergen Teller, a cinema weekend on the theme of fashion documentaries and the installation Bellissima featuring Italian fashion from 1945 to 1968. All of which sounds like more than enough justification to book your Eurostar break now, for a culture-packed weekend balancing fashion events with browsing the fleamarket and soaking up the ambience at some of the city’s grand cafes.
The Belgians- An Unexpected Fashion Story opens on 5 June.
A decade ago Fashion East’s Lulu Kennedy and Topman came together to create London’s first support scheme for new menswear design. The list of talent nurtured by the initiative since then is nothing less than a roll call of some of the most discussed and critically acclaimed designers of this generation: from J.W. Anderson and Christopher Shannon to James Long, Martine Rose, Matthew Miller, Shaun Samson, Agi & Sam, Astrid Andersen and Craig Green.
What’s more, the judging panel (featuring leading journalists and editors including Tim Blanks and Ben Reardon, alongside Gordon Richardson of Topman and Lulu Kennedy herself) has lost none of it’s flair for identifying genuinely exciting new voices in fashion.
For SS16, the panel has selected just two designers: Liam Hodges, known for his lyrical celebration of working class heroes, from market stall traders to Morris Men and Rory Parnell-Moody, whose cerebral designs take inspiration from such extremes as rioters and the dramatic form of ecclesiastical garments. Taking up the third plinth in the usual triumvirate of menswear virtuosity this season will be the screening of a specially commissioned MAN TURNS 10 celebratory film.
The MAN show takes place on Friday, 12 June.
On Wednesday evening Westminster University’s BA Fashion students showed their graduate collections. The course is led by Andrew Groves who himself is part of the living fabric of London’s fashion story and the sterling presence on the front row (Cozette McCreery from Sibling, Princess Julia, Hilary Alexander, Charlie Porter among many others) the seriousness with which this course is taken by the industry. But the evening belonged to the young designers who impressed with accomplished collections demonstrating unique starting points and some fascinating shared zeitgeists. I tried to squeeze it into a top 10 but there was too much to fit in. I look forward to a season of discovering new fashion talent in London.
All photos courtesy of Chris Moore.
1. Chloe McGeehan impressed with vibrant colours and sculptured draping which artfully avoided swamping the models.
2. Craig Green was clearly an influence on Lucy James’s menswear but the work explored some interesting textures through painterly treatments and degraded fabrics.
3. Roberta Einer’s work introduced an element of folksy detail, part Rajasthan part Hundertwasser with a good dose of Goldfrapp-enhanced glam rock thrown in for good measure.
4. Georgia Mottershead’s work evoked vintage US mail bags and the form and functionality of American fit-for-purpose workwear
5. Kate Brittain had the high-fashion knitwear expert to my right exclaiming the techniques on show, featuring crochet and leather in flamenco ruffles.
6. Daniel McKinley’s work explored the tension between the roughness of workwear and vivid painted surfaces with some elegant outlines.
7. Samuel Best’s menswear was also about contrasts here between loose flowing shapes and degraded, shredded fabrics.
8. One of the more avant-garde offerings, Matt Witcombe’s work explored padding, scaled up proportions and the boundaries between surfaces.
9. Robert Newman’s was one of the most accomplished menswear collections featuring a gorgeous colour palette, folky motifs, print and elaborate fastenings.
10. Charlotte Scott’s menswear vision brought Cubist shapes and a Pop Art sensibility to life while playing games with flat planes, and perspective. Another very strong colour palette.
11. Robyn Priestly shook things up and had the front row buzzing with her uncompromising blend of lace, boxing boots and flowing ecclesiastical robes, in all-white.
Mr Porter launches Exclusives collection with Japanese brands Blackmeans, Beams Plus, Beams T, Remi Relief and Neighborhood.
One of the highlights of The Selby’s ingenious fashion book, Fashionable Selby last year (which took a look at the live/work spaces inhabited by some of the world’s most intriguing fashion creatives), was discovering Blackmeans, three Tokyo designers, for whom original, customised hardcore punk biker jackets provide endless visual inspiration. I was therefore delighted to discover this band of badass creatives included in Mr Porter, the global menswear online retail hub’s batch of designer collaborations with some of Japan’s most exclusive, cult brands. Launching tomorrow, (except for the Blackmeans pieces that will be live from Friday) the Exclusives collaborations include Blackmeans alongside Neighborhood, Beams Plus, Beams T and Remi Relief. It’s no secret that Japanese men take their fashion seriously, and these brands represent some of the country’s prominent style tribes, from Beams Plus’s Palm Springs inspired Americana, to Neighborhood’s indigo-worshipping sportswear styles to Remi Relief, a Japanese take on surfwear. However, the noir aesthetic of Blackmeans, with their reverentially authentic studded bikers and graphics evoking Crass, Discharge and Black Flag era hardcore graphics wins the Sharpened Lead vote for coolest brand in the pack.
Cursors poised now, I’ll see you in the digital queue, elbows at the ready. Remember, the Blackmeans pieces will be available from Friday.
Below, images from Fashionable Selby and then a selection of items from Blackmeans, Neighborhood, Remi Relief and Beams Plus to whet the appetite.
Visiting New York for fashion week a few years ago, Public School were one of the brands I came across, and enthused about to a then largely disinterested audience in the UK, still hyped up on the success of London C0llections: Men at drawing the fashion world’s attention to menswear and the emergence of homegrown talent in particular. I continued to cover the brand’s presentations for The Guardian, which usually took place at Milk Studios where other New York menswear hopefuls such as Rochambeau, staged concurrent presentations on the Sunday night of fashion week, providing focus in a city where menswear is illiberally sprinkled across the week’s schedule. From the first, designers Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow stuck to a clear formula; a refined version of New York’s no-fuss streetwear, in the form of MA1s, biker jackets and mesh layers in strong monochromes. Gradually, the presentations got busier as the buzz around the brand built.
Fast forward a year and the brand won the CFDA award for menswear, graduating to a fully-fledged runway show along the way. Their Spring/Summer show last September was a packed house, attended by the likes of Anna Wintour and streamed online to the uninvited. It featured a live performance by Twin Shadow, personifying the brand in iconic white-on-white stage gear. In another breakthrough, Public School is one of the very few New York designers being stocked by both Mr Porter and Matches here in the UK. Despite a name that doesn’t translate well in the topsy-turvy terms of the British education system (they’re hardly old Etonians), it seems the brand is finding success here as well. Which brings us to the peak of the story, with Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow recently being appointed as creative directors of DKNY. As Donna Karan’s youth focused line, initially inspired by her daughter Gaby, the iconic brand had already taken steps to revitalise itself through a collaboration with Opening Ceremony, including an ad campaign featuring the likes of Kim Ann Foxman and Cara Delevigne, representing today’s equivalent of the brand’s ’90’s heyday. From the outset, Osborne and Chow have been celebrated as local boys, their streetwear inspiration drawn from the very streets they grew up on, their denim proudly produced in-State. A perfect match you might say, with Manhattan stretched before them as a giant billboard in waiting. But New York today is not the city it was, like London, its gentrification is the subject of passionate debate as cash-strapped creatives feel pushed out to make room for commodified versions of its grittier past. In this climate, it will be interesting to see how successfully the designers can apply their tough, minimal edge to the over-familiar, over-branded DKNY and how compelling the NY in DKNY proves to be.
Previous coverage of Public School:
And from The Guardian: