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London Collections: Men ended last night in buoyant mood as the capital’s menswear industry rides high on a wave of seemingly ever-growing interest in men’s fashion. The London menswear showcase is now firmly on the map for American and Asian buyers visiting on their way to the European shows and there was more to see than ever and more people here to see it. I posted my initial impressions at the start of the week over on my Guardian page, but here are my thoughts from the remaining 2 days.
On Monday evening Richard Nicoll showed his trademark simple unfussy separates in refreshing whites, gingham check and with clashing patterns in red, yellow and blue colourways. Classic low profile Adidas lace-ups were accessorised by the inimitable Judy Blame. In fact styling was often a highlight of the week in itself: the beautiful floral garlands off-setting Matthew Miller’s pinstripe collection being another example (as mentioned on Monday), and Luke Day’s masterly tweaking of the James Long collection into colorful, beribboned perfection.
A spirit of adventure was evident across many shows; Kit Neale’s presentation took to the air with prints including airline safety info graphics on a set made to look like a (literal) runway.
Shaun Samson’s boy scouts at the Fashion East installations wore signature colour-blocked wool shorts and oversized T-shirts reminiscent of American heritage blankets, complete with matching camp beds and pillows.
This embracing of the great outdoors was also present at E.Tautz, in a collection celebrating the British seaside. Designer Patrick Grant presented clothes for men for all seasons, from light raincoats to voluminous shorts, deckchair stripes and oversized denims. While the denim and shorts suggested the proportions of more elegant eras as opposed to the recent insistence on skinny, the approach was thoroughly modern rather than nostalgic.
Baartmans and Siegel’s collection on Tuesday also had something of the scouting adventurer about it, with light practical jackets and shorts suits in navy and deep forest green.
Wrapping up this theme, Burberry took the notion of adventure one step further in a collection inspired by Bruce Chatwin’s travel writing.
One of the key things that separates London from its rivals in Florence, Paris and Milan is its strong countercultural heritage, particularly in the fields of art and popular music. A menswear season here never goes by without a head nod to one musical subculture, youth cult or another; and at times it felt like they were all being referenced at once this season. Of note for particular rock and roll swagger were Casely-Hayford who once again presented sharp tailoring with streetwear references and Sir Tom Baker’s show at The 100 Club (Adam Ant and John Cooper Clarke performed afterwards).
On a different level was Sibling’s rollicking, high-energy show on Tuesday morning, one of the most anticipated shows each season. The Sibling collection was inspired by youth cults and the camaraderie of finding like minds and alternative family as a young clubber. Beneath the wild gothic fringing and Sigue Sigue Sputnik hair were some solid denim pieces; classic denim jackets and jeans with artfully distressed details, delicate lace panels within the knitwear and some very desirable boots (a collaboration with Robert Clergerie Homme by Roland Mouret) were sent stomping down the runway.
Sportswear continues to be a huge influence in London menswear, and not only from those designers who make it a staple (Christopher Shannon, Lou Dalton, Nasir Mazhar and Astrid Andersen being examples). At Paul Smith’s presentation of shoes at the Hauser & Wirth gallery on Savile Row, a selection featured sports mesh paneling, intersecting the contours of traditional men’s Oxford shoes.
Besides these gung-ho themes of adventure and rebellion there also examples of introspection in the collections over the last two days; J.W. Anderson featured bucolic landscape tapestries on oversized T-shirts and Craig Green sent his collection, featuring soft pastel blues and quilting reminiscent of Samurai padding, down the runway to the lilting strains of no less than Enya.