I have to confess that the Pitti/Milan leg of the current triathlon of menswear that is the European menswear shows was a bit of a blur. After seeing SO many shows and presentations at LC:M this season, the Italian shows whizzed by with the haste of a Vespa slash-and-grab chase. Now Paris is midway through, and it feels like a good moment to pause and reflect on what’s been shown since London and to focus in on some of the most beautiful details. If there’a anything that feels like a common thread here, its a desire for futurism, a desire to see what the future might look like even if that involves elements of the past reimagined.
1. The Nemeth fabric at Louis Vuitton
I am a huge fan of Kim Jones. From his graduate collection celebrating the personal style of the black, urban, gay subculture that created house music, to his private collection of the works of Vivienne Westwood and Leigh Bowery it’s clear that Kim is a true fan himself. But Jones’s status as a collector doesn’t make him a museum curator rehashing ideas, but rather, his detailed knowledge and reverence for the detail of fashion (and its overlap with music and art) allows him to showcase genuinely beautiful design with all the weight that a powerhouse like Louis Vuitton affords him. This season his attention was focused on the work of Christopher Nemeth, the designer’s designer. I am old enough to remember seeing Nemeth’s designs in i-D at firsthand, and the physical presence of The House of Beauty in Culture, long before Dalston was even a gleam in an estate-agent’s eye, and so the name Nemeth has a real resonance for me as cipher for genuine originality. For AW15, Jones has taken a particular Nemeth print (featuring a scaled up view of the frayed ends of woven threads) and repeated it across coats, sweatshirts and jackets in a variety of materials (the most incredible of which looks like the pattern is actually cut into the pile of the material).
2. New outlines at Raf Simons
In a similar sense to Kim Jones, Raf Simon’s work is often rooted in the past, which, ironically makes it feel all the more modern. It’s also similarly rooted in his youthful experiences and reverence for the subcultural worlds (mostly musical in Simon’s case), that gave his youthful self a sense of belonging. Everyone seems focused on Simon’s scrawled-on long white coats this season, a logical next step away from his collaboration with artist Sterling Ruby, in terms of the hand-drawn aspect and the random yet meaningful decoration. But what impressed me most is the overall outline, like the trouser shape which has hints of retro but in a form that is strange and very new. This particular outline is also a wonderful vehicle for demonstrating how the Adidas Sam Smith low-profile shoe is still a great match with the new outlines being explored by Simons, the bunched-up generosity of fabric drawing the eye after so many years of skinny trouser shapes.
3. Maison Margiela’s 1970s reboot
If there has to be a 1970s fashion revival, may it be like this one. In the hands of the Margiela design team some of the most notorious accents of the ’70s were made palatable; from swishy trousers (here in the form of roomy, high-waisted trousers) to gaping shirts over sheer fabrics, shiny vinyl and even a predilection for glitter, all somehow reappropriated and reformed in true Margiela style into something that looks contemporay and indeed covetable.
4. Futuristic layering at Rick Owens
The visibility of the model’s genitals at Rick Owen’s AW15 shows seems to be gaining column inches (pun fully intended) by the minute, which is a shame as it seems to have attracted interest in his work for all the wrong reasons and there was genuine beauty to be seen in this collection. Never one to shy away from publicity or frank discussions about sex and sexuality, Owens clearly took a risk with those crotch-level portholes but I’m sure even he is bored by the controversy by now. Before the dicks came out there were luxurious peacoats, worn with typical Owens disregard for convention over shorts, and tunics with embroidered panels that were enigmatic and otherworldly like the wardrobe of a sleek, high-end Sci Fi movie. Some of the pieces in this collection are as refined and luxurious as anything Owens has produced to date, just remember to shift your gaze above crotch level.
5. The rolled-back cuffs at Pradaa
After the dick-flashing at Rick Owens such a subtle detail at Prada feels like rather a prim detail to focus on, but Prada AW15 was a very pared-back affair, focusing on the rediscovery of Prada’s early-00s-signature black nylon within the strict boundaries of uniform, and therefore this subtle detail was significant within the context of a very controlled whole. I was impressed by layering up of those black nylon pieces and the grey on grey tailoring, but it was this subtle detail that caught my eye, a simple gesture that brought a touch of idiosyncrasy to this slick, regulated collection.
All images courtesy of Style.com
Bang in the middle of LC:M, Mr Porter held an event on Savile Row, featuring the collection that the luxury online retailer has produced for the film Kingsman, starring Colin Firth. The film had its world premiere on Wednesday night, with the cast, Take That and um, me in attendance. What was remarkable about the Mr Porter tie-in was how integral clothing and thus the collection (designed by Hollywood costume designer Ariane Phillips, who worked with Tom Ford on A Single Man) was to the film. In fact, the Kingsman spy HQ (actually a make over of the Huntsman store at 11 Savile Row, and used as the venue for Sunday night’s presentation of the collection) is at the very core of the story.
In the film, a suit, and in particular a bespoke Savile Row suit, is declared to be “a modern gentleman’s armour”. So far, so standard sartorial values. But while the suiting was beautiful, especially the navy pinstripe one worn by Taron Egerton in the film, transforming him from a trackie-wearing rough diamond (albeit an under-the-radar Jeremy Scott tracksuit wearer) into a suave gentleman, suiting wasn’t the only fashion success story in the film. As ever, my interest was focused on the quirkier elements. First up the glasses, worn by Firth, Egerton and iconic specs-wearer Michael Caine caught my attention. It turns out that the design, called, inevitably, Kingsman, are by by Cutler and Gross, designed through consultation between the film’s director Matthew Vaughan, and Cutler and Gross’s design director, Marie Wilkinson. The strong aviator shape is seen being worn by Colin Firth in tortoiseshell and in black by Taron Egerton. While Colin Firth requires no props to evoke elegance, the transformation in Taron Egerton is quite remarkable, though his buff physique might be more tricky to achieve.
Secondly, with Lou Dalton’s AW15 collection still on my mind, the tailored boiler suits the spy candidates wear during their competitive training sequence really caught my eye and I’m delighted to see that one such example is available to buy (though it was the large checked version I was smitten by). It turns out the correct term for this item is a siren suit, their original purpose being to provide a layer of warmth as you headed into the air raid shelter as the siren sounded. Apparently, Winston Churchill wore a pintstripe version so the style does have some heritage, a fact that would be an ideal riposte to the haters no doubt currently trolling LC:M image galleries everywhere. To end on a high note however, the Kingsman collection presents a very interesting proposition, bringing fashion and film into tangible proximity. The correspondence between the two in film history is already endless, and the idea of making film costume tangible in terms of fashion merchandising brings up all sorts of exciting possibilities, not least my personal dream team partnership of Prada and Wes Anderson.
Shop the full collection here
Kingsman opens at cinemas in the UK from next weekend
I’m not sure I really believe in trends any more, neither do I want to facilitate the easy dilution of designers’ ideas through tidy generalisations. But call it collective consciousness, cultural synergy or simply a reaction to what’s gone before and inevitably, themes emerge after four days of menswear shows. Here are some of those I noted while attending dozens of shows across the full four days of London Collections:Men.
The colour pink
It would be a natural assumption to make that Sibling’s all pink collection was a starting point for this one (especially if there’s any doubt in your mind that such a theme exists at all) but actually, I’d first noted the use of dusky pink in Lou Dalton’s collection, on short printed scarves, a pink sweater and the on the shaggy inner lining of a coat. Furthermore, Casely-Hayford injected an unexpectedly vibrant note of colour in their Sunday night show, while steering the colour wheel towards cerise. I’m not saying that this time next year we’ll all be dressing like Percy Pigs but an accent colour is always required in drab winter and right now, the prospects for pink being that colour are looking rosy.
Shaggy, knitted mohair, teddy bear
I’ve already mentioned the beautiful shaggy under-layer in that Lou Dalton coat, but a similar texture was also seen at Kit Neale in a soft blue car coat and vibrant orange top and Sibling’s firework display of a show included knitted goat hair as the ultimate incarnation of shagginess. Perhaps its the underlying trend (sorry), or at least cultural reference point, of the 1970s in fashion right now, that has made a shaggy outer layer feel so appealing. From the superficial reproductions at Hunter Gather to the scarily accurate at Topman Design, and the more elevated and subtle evocations at J.W Anderson, the fashion lens is turned on the ’70s right now, perhaps out of interest in a more spontaneous, less self conscious time. The car coat seems like the most obvious vehicle for ’70s shagginess (aside from the option of furry collars and accessories) an enduringly bohemian way of keeping warm, even if you’re not Citizen Smith.
While we’re on the subject of shagginess, there was a definite enthusiasm for shearling in the menswear shows, seen everywhere from Tom Ford to Burberry Prorsum but most ingeniously at James Long, where shearling collars added a sense of luxury and daring adventure to more utilitarian items and also at Belstaff, where the material felt most decadent, particularly on a white shearling jacket and as trimming on biker boots. Sheepskin producers the world over will be very happy about this development, their flocks less so.
Last season James Long’s collection featured distressed denim pieces embellished with ribbon details, a countercultural response to the idea of ‘make-do-and-mend’ by actually adding ornamental detail. This season his denim jackets were more elaborate still, suggesting a grab-and-run raid on haberdashersV.V.Rouleaux by a band of young bohemians. Elsewhere, embellishment was more precise, such as the patchwork appliqué lettering at Kit Neale and the use of grosgrain ribbon as a luxe take on sporty stripes at Baartmans & Siegel. On a tangent from this, Matthew Miller continued to explore the potential of his exquisite choice in fabrics with fringing on otherwise minimal, androgynous tunic tops and Edward Crutchley at Fashion East demonstrated his expertise with Far Eastern-themed embroidery (this new talent also produces fabrics for Louis Vuitton).
Volume, layers and disproportion
For the last few seasons there has been an interest in mismatched layers, often achieved through long skirt-like T-shirts worn under bomber jackets or apron-like flaps over more conventional trousers. As an overall outline, there is still an interest in breaking the convention of neatly arranged layers but at the London shows the shapes were less predictable somehow, from James Long’s shawl/kaftan asymmetry, to Craig Green’s multiplicity of layers like Japanese armour padding and Lou Dalton’s layering up of tone-on-tone Blackwatch with removable gilets and pleating and padding on the reverse of coats adding unexpected volume at the rear. At Agi & Sam pieces were reconfigurable with velcro strips, adding their weight to a movement towards a less easily defined outline, neither slim nor wide but essentially unpredictable.
The new looser, wider trouser
Slimline trousers seem to have been with us forever, and while no one is suggesting a return to straight-legged nothingness, the next area to explore in trouser shapes is the oversized and loose. Whether the style resembles the proverbial Oxford Bags and the loose flannel pants worn by the Bright Young Things in the 1920s (Gordon Richardson of Topman was spotted in the most perfect pair of pale grey wool trousers on Day 1 of LCM), or is a more avant grade take on roominess (think Craig Green again or Martine Rose who has been a pioneer in the capacious trouser) there is more room to move. One impact of this is that trousers are allowed to bunch and fall over the shoe front, a look particularly suited to a minimal trainer and finally drawing a line under the cropped trouser. Exemplars of capaciousness at LC:M were E.Tautz’s striped wool and flannel options, and the beautiful soft tailoring of Thien Trang Bui who presented at London College of Fashion’s MA menswear show on Friday.
So, the fourth and longest ever London Collections: Men just ended and the fashion set already have their eyes trained on Florence, Milan and Paris (those that aren’t scouring the Internet for pics and opinions of Galliano’s return at Maison Margiela, that is). It’s a sad fact that after months of hard work on the part of designers, a collection either makes the headlines or it doesn’t, and even then, interest is fleeting as there is always another show, another city, another designer to focus on, especially in these super-fast days of Instagram gratification. I’m therefore cautious to be seen to be drawing too much of a definite line under anything, as there are still fuller stories to be told, images to be savoured and opinions to be reassessed and considered. But, from a very personal perspective here are my highlights from the fourth day at London Collections: Men AW15.
I’ve reviewed every E.Tautz show since I was first introduced to the brand about five ago and I’m still amazed how with every collection Patrick Grant maintains the same level of refined elegance with unwavering attention to tone and detail. While the scale of the production is now too big to receive the benefit of Mr Grant’s much-missed verbal walkthrough, the beautifully presented printed ‘newspaper’displayed on show seats now provides a sneak preview of what’s to come. This time, grainy black and white photography of Northern working class communities by John Bulmer with quotes from Douglas Dunn’s Terry Street set a sombre tone for the collection, while the soundtrack incongruously blended full-bodied Etonian spoken English with thudding Acid techno. The sombre mood was continued with capacious tailoring in moody greys, evoking the casual grace and everyday elegance of a forgotten England, where tailored clothing was the norm and personal presentation was as important as a gritty acceptance of reality. There is always a visual klaxon in an E.Tautz collection and this time it was the shoes: studded, wooden-soled clogs, some with monkstrap fastenings fusing two worlds with their nod to traditional Northern workwear and the red flash of their Louboutin soles. The roomy pleated trousers were a huge hit for me, period and yet contemporary in their proportions, in striped wool and flannel. Roll-neck knitwear, car coats and oversized pockets were other striking elements of the collection. There’s a seriousness to the experience of seeing an E.Tautz collection for the first time, which I appreciate and a certain mood which lingers long after the show is over.
It was perhaps fitting that Patrick Grant was among the crowd moving between the two venues of London Collections: Men for the next and much anticipated show of the morning: Craig Green. Green shares with Grant a preciseness of vision, nothing is left to chance and the music and pacing of their shows feels strictly controlled but with the intended outcome of a deep emotional resonance. In only his second individual runway show, Green’s staging already feels very seasoned, a stirring, filmic soundtrack establishing an emotional backdrop to a collection that seemed to explore extremes of revelation and restraint. Slim, body-hugging outlines were contrasted with signature complex layering, like soft armour. Surface detail and decoration were minimal but profound, the edges of jersey pieces drawn together with the rawness and taut energy of a surgical suture. Pared back to black, white and vivid red this was clothing with a sense of purpose, an esoteric uniform.
My third highlight of the day was very different in tone but no less affecting for that. Inside the Hauser and Wirth gallery, Paul Smith’s presentation utilised the skills of some very athletic acrobats who put his ‘a suit to travel in’ through full 360 degree mobility testing, with acrobatic feats worthy of the circus. The eponymous, beautifully cut navy suit (worn by male and female performers alike) matched with a minimal taupe trainer redefined work travel attire, suitable for every occasion and demonstrably resilient. It takes a lot to distract the fashion crowd from their social media devices but Mr Smith achieved it today with typical idiosyncrasy.
By the third day, London Collections: Men began to feel like a marathon with another busy day of shows and presentations across the gamut of menswear; from edgy, emerging talent to mega brands and some of London’s most established designers. Again, I’m limiting myself to one image from each of the shows that felt like stand-outs for me yesterday, but my bulging hard drive is evidence that there is a lot of exciting menswear still to share over the coming days.
Baartmans and Siegel
Athough they only graduated to an on-schedule runway show this season, Baartmans and Siegel are already established as a reliable source of impeccably-made tailored sportswear with the very best fabric and finish. Grosgrain ribbon added a sporty element, a typically luxe take on go-faster stripes. Fur, as ever, was very evident as trim on high-end parkas, and now signature Baartmans and Siegel outlines such as jogging pants and bombers felt elegantly relaxed. A favourite piece for me was the long belted coat with a black fur collar, a classically European silhouette with a very contemporary slim outline.
Returning to his earthy roots, James Long’s AW15 collection featured utilitarian shapes elevated by luxury details such sheepskin collars at the same time as continuing his exploration of distressed denim embellished with ribbon and trim from last season. At the core of James Long’s designs is a very bohemian spirit, as the kaftan details, raw edges and eclectic mix of fabrics demonstrate. Favourite pieces for me included the denim jacket with extravagant trimmings on the back (like a run-in with a habadashery department) and the denim jacket with sheepskin patch pockets and collar. One of the most colourful front rows in London and an infectious soundtrack proves that James Long knows his audience well and presentation of his ideas is currently pitch-perfect.
Taking place in an underground car-park by Westminster Abbey Belstaff’s presentation was one of the best executed at LCM so far. With the credibility of a film set, a 50s transport caff was perfectly evoked complete with real bikers astride powerful machines in vintage leathers outside and stunning young men capable of causing havoc sprawled suggestively across leather booths and shiny chrome inside. With some of the best casting, probably anywhere, there were classic model faces here, both familiar and new. Shearling on jackets and boots, most strikingly in white and some very strong, cowl necked knitwear, defied expectations of black leather and waxed cotton and showed the diversity of Belstaff’s current offering.
In a completely different dimension (and postcode) Common’s presentation drew on another kind of subversion; Manchester’s immersion in house music in the Hacienda era, complete with Mancunian voiceover and always-evocative classic house beats. The most impressive pieces in the collection fused denim and pinstripe in a highly-technical collision of these opposites. Elements of streetwear uniforms such as biker jackets and the hazard orange of MA1 jacket linings reinforced the influence of youthful counterculture.
The father and son design duo Casely-Hayford are almost so dependable that their work can appear understated as it so unfailingly good. Last night look after look demonstrated their fluency in understanding the nuances of streetwear and current design obsessions, with oversized check, fabric collisions, volume and texture all making appearances. Vibrant hot pink and long hooded cardigans were some of the most striking pieces on offer in one of the most covetable collections of the weekend.
Day two at London Collections: Men has been quite phenomenal, picking up the pace with shows spanning morning to late evening and showcasing the range of menswear talent in London. As this is a highlights piece, I’ve decided to try and limit myself to one image per designer, a bit challenging to be honest, as I’ve seen so many beautiful things today.
As a fashion commentator, there is a risk of covering the same designers over and over, particularly when you get to know them and their their work intimately. Lou Dalton is a mainstay across all my fashion writing, a touchstone for what I refer to when people ask me what defines good menswear in London currently, and I make no apology for that. This morning’s show was one of her best ever, ramped up by some incredible fabrics and ongoing references to a certain very British way of dressing; blue-collar, with a hint of post-punk attitude reimagined in luxury fabrics. Initial impressions were of black, black and more black (never a criticism in my eyes) but pastel printed short scarves, tied with rough boy insouciance, Blackwatch tartan, bleach prints and a subtle hints of dusky pink including (shaggy textured mohair) disproved this. I fear my personal order list from this collection is going to be quite major.
Each of the designers here deserves a separate mention, especially Shaun Samson who held a runway show in the basement of Rook & Raven, the venue for today’s Fashion East installations in W1. I associate Fashion East with a certain kind of anarchic energy, but also with undisputed raw talent and today’s offerings were no exception.
First up, Shaun Samson’s show was packed with eager fans keen to see the Californian’s work on this side of the Atlantic again. Pitched against a soundtrack of California Dreaming, Samson explored his native Americana infused with trademark twists and turns to the familiar story; the structure of checked lumberjack shirts was defined and trimmed and looks were styled with fur scarves and denim aprons proclaiming typically subversive messages.
Grace Wales Bonner
A recent St Martin’s graduate, Grace Wales Bonner’s appearance at Fashion East prove the initiative’s ongoing status as a premier incubator of fashion talent. If there is one word to describe Bonner’s take on perceptions of the black male it is ‘louche’, as her languid, oversized phone toting, bewigged models would no doubt agree.
If there was one designer who shone at Fashion East today in terms of sheer polish and accomplishment it was Edward Crutchley, whose collection, featuring powerful samurai shapes and embroidery details made familiar through elegant sportswear shapes such as baseball jackets.
Agi & Sam
Inspired by aspirational fashion designs by a young Agi, Agi & Sam’s AW15 collection fused generous boxy shapes, apparently reconfigurable with velcro fastenings, and extraordinary abstract colour details. Had I not seen the show notes I would have assumed that the inspiration was the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat; the painterly colour splashes, vibrant contrasts and sense of freedom with shape and form seemed a likely explanation, though a child’s perspective makes equal sense. Fashion underpinned by concepts tends to be mistrusted but who wouldn’t want to wear such painterly, satisfying colour?
Miller is another mainstay in my seasonal highlights, his Kvadrat-heavy collection this time last year was very convincing and this collection was similarly impressive. Matthew manages to draw a taught line between pared-back minimalism and punk subversion. His now signature biker jackets looked fresh in berry tones and long hems ended in fringing with no sense of excess or fuss.
For AW15 shoe designer Diego Vanassibara has extended his range of shoes featuring exotic wood components to include more rugged details such as pebbled leather with a colour palette inspired by stormy weather; from solid black to moody greys. With stockists now including Dover Street Market, Diego’s star is definitely ascending, whatever the weather.
It’s hard to comment on Sibling without mentioning the unparalleled atmosphere at their shows; the punk soundtrack is now a given, as are the ear-to-ear grins of the attendees and no show in London has such a build-up to it or sense of fun. Taking inspiration from teen obsessions and embryonic aspirations, Sibling AW15 is pink, all pink, a typically provocative stance, but beneath the shock-factor, as ever, was a very considered approach to knitwear. Padded biker jackets were fused with knitted cuffs, there really was an Argyll cardigan draping those pert pecs and the trio continued to explore traditional knitting formats such as Fair isle and cable made outrageous through atypical vibrant colour. Sibling has given men’s knitwear sex appeal, for which we should be eternally grateful.