The London Collections: Men, it’s a tribal affair

Posted on 31st May, by Colin Chapman in London Collections: Men. No Comments

With just two weeks to go, I thought I’d share some of my hopes and excitement about the newly extended menswear ‘week’ in London. Leading men’s fashion editors like New York Times’ T Magazine’s Bruce Pask are coming to town, to attend not only the shows but a rather glittering array of parties and launches, hosted by the likes of Prince Charles and Tom FordMenswear day: London Fashion Week‘s little brother has come of age it seems, and the eyes of the world will be bearing down on us, or at least those who care anything about fashion for men.

With mens fashion featured for a full week, including an intensive 3-day weekend of menswear only events, the spread is wider than the singular Menswear Day of the last few seasons. In true London style, however, the designers seem to fall into distinct camps or tribes. For those less familiar with the tribal nature of London’s fashion scene, here’s a quick anthropological guide to the main bands to look out for:

The Classicists
Without meaning to imply a lack of innovation, there’s a classic grain running through some of the designers showing during the Collections. From the haute ‘sportswear’ and soft tailoring of E.Tautz, to Margaret Howell‘s elegant take on workwear and Nicole Farhi‘s Francophone slant on English bohemianism this pack will never show clothes that will scare the horses. No skulls, neon, or skirts on boys are likely to happen here. What you will see is beautifully crafted clothes presented by people who care very deeply for what they do, whilst still offering the occasional surprise.

The Game Changers
With all-important NewGen Men funding already secured by some, the likes of Lou Dalton, Sibling, Martine Rose and  Christopher Shannon, are too well established already to be really  thought of as new kids on the block, perhaps more in-betweeners. Whilst they may not yet be household names, celebrity endorsement is strong in this camp, (Jake Shears wore Martine Rose on the Graham Norton show last week, Noel Fielding seems to live in his trademark Sibling panda sweaters) and their collections speak of decades of experience in the industry and confidence in their vision of menswear.

New blood
Agi and Sam, Kit Neale (not on the catwalk but hopefully presenting as part of Fashion East) and Shaun Samson are symbolic of an altogether more anarchic bunch and are therefore less easy to categorise. With youthful disregard for the established rules of menswear past, this edgy lot are what visitors (especially from across the Atlantic) should be tuning into if they want to see what makes London different. Currently fuelling the appetite for bold, adventurous print between them. Expect: colour, buzz and that an energy that makes your heart beat faster.

The Womenswear heroes
A number of designers who are more often shouted about in the field of womenswear will be showing at the men’s collections – Jonathan Saunders, Richard Nicoll, JW Anderson, Christopher Kane and Meadham Kirchoff are all regularly splashed over the pages (both glossy and digital) of women’s fashion media, perhaps demonstrating how young British womenswear designers are already seen as big news by the rest of the world. This is a set of consummate designers who will hopefully bring the colour and theatricality more typical of the women’s shows to the men’s Collections events. Note: boys in skirts are a distinct possibility.

Rogues and outsiders
As ever in London, there are some outside players, a rogue element perhaps best demonstrated by A Child of The Jago. With a heritage linking them to some of London’s mose revered fashion tribes, The Jago summon up a real sense of London punk spirit in their (as yet, few) shows drawing in a starry crowd plucked from London’s colourful underground, with Dame Viviennein pride of place out front.
Token visitor
Equally out on a limb, but less roguish by nature perhaps, is Thom Browne who will be presenting at Harrods. The setting in one of London’s most iconic department stores will perhaps limit the extreme theatricality he is known for, but I’m really pleased to see at least one foreign import wanting to show menswear here. This is one event I’m particularly excited about, and I’m hoping that Knightsbridge will feel very different after being exposed to his avant garde worldview.This was never intended to be a comprehensive list, and there are names missing if not whole ‘tribes’ but if anything, I wanted to remind people of the diversity of menswear in this city. Not just high end, not just suiting, and not just a load of noisy, fashion school anarchism, London menswear is all of this and more. Here we go…
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