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A month of menswear kicks off tomorrow with London Collections: Men, now a four-day event. Back in the day (2011 to be precise, when it was still called Menswear Day), a handful of enthusiastic journos, buyers, bloggers and me squeezed into compact rooms at Somerset House to watch London’s menswear talent present their collections. The atmosphere crackled with expectation, alive with cherished dreams of recognition and just the very newness of it all, despite those cramped surroundings. These days its the schedule that’s packed, with headline talent such as Burberry on the agenda, and the full span of London’s menswear on display – from East London’s latest enfants terribles to big league brands and Savile Row tailoring houses.
Here are some of the shows I’m personally looking forward to.
Kit Neale is a great talent who I’ve supported, cheered on and (latterly) worn since first encountering his work astride a giant fibreglass creature at Fashion East. Having mastered the installation over recent seasons, Kit graduates to a fully-fledged runway show tomorrow and I’m very excited to see his colourful work in motion.
It’s been a joy watching Lou Dalton’s steady rise to recognition, her work has always been among the most coveted of this generation of London designers, always striking but wearable. Having bought several pieces every season for the last few years I can confirm it’s wearability, beautiful construction and potential to be a conversation starter. I can’t wait to see where she takes it next.
I love the undercurrent of subversion in Matthew Miller’s work, but there’s also a great subtlety to his designs which means that cut, luxurious finish and extraordinary fabric choices do the shouting in an always perfectly-edited collection of simmering intent and masterly construction.
Baartmans and Siegel
Baartmans and Siegel are many a London blogger and fashion editor’s go-to choice for luxurious tailored sportswear. Again, I can personally vouch for this as they’ve been dressing me for the last few seasons. The uncompromising pair use only the most tactile fabrics, always beautifully finished. Amber and Wouter are sensualists at heart and having maxed out the presentation format (think dry ice, choreographed line-up shifts and stirring soundtracks) I’m intrigued to see how they utilise their progression to a runway show.
After a mini-return with an installation at Fashion East last season I’m very much looking forward to seeing the Atlantic-spanning designer’s work on a larger canvas with a scheduled presentation at an off-programme venue. Renowned for his exaggerated street style silhouette and the incorporation of Native American fabrics in his work, Shaun’s work brings a bit of wide-screen L.A. to London.
I’ve mentioned Fashion East already in relation to both Shaun Samson and Kit Neale, and the installations there are the safest bet for finding the edgiest, most dangerous-feeling talent and one of the last traces of the less-polished, less “industry” feeling of the early LC:M’s.
There’s always a fashion darling (at least for a season or two) and Craig Green seems to have that debatable honour for now, bringing together the fashion in-crowd and critical acclaim. But this aside, Craig’s work shines with serious intent, a painterly approach to fabric and construction and the sheer drama of his show staging. Stories of editors weeping at the beauty of it all were slightly over-reported last season but nevertheless, he knows how to create atmosphere.
Speaking of atmosphere, Sibling’s shows have a reputation for creating the biggest buzz of the whole week: a foot-stomping soundtrack inevitably announcing the arrival of some of the hottest models in town in knitwear that pushes boundaries and all the right buttons. Nightlife and fashion have always worked in tandem and Sibling’s work displays a familiarity with the subtleties of late night subculture as confident as their way with knitwear.
Patrick Grant was the first designer I ever interviewed, and I have followed his rise as both highly-visible commentator on style and designer ever since. It has been a delight to see E.Tautz evolve beyond its impeccably smart roots to become a more thought-provoking contemporary brand, exploring outlines as diverse as the long kurta-length shirt and the wide-legged jean. Winter is very much an E.Tautz forte and I look forward to seeing some dramatic shapes from the former engineer and his team.
Lastly, always keen on an accessory and shoes in particular, I’m looking forward to finding out what shoe designer Diego Vanassibara has been up to and potentially meeting the next accessory designer du jour.
But also there are absences: Meadham Kirchhoff’s apparent demise means that my hopes of seeing their return to LC:M are dashed again, with the last glimpse of their genius (at least for now) being the mixed show they presented earlier this year, which included menswear pieces as provocative and anarchic as their SS13 presentation (which remains my favourite ever at LC:M). Omar Kashoura is also a much-missed presence, his swish elegance and virile bohemianism still leaves a gap and is testament that building a successful fashion brand often evades even the greatest talent.
If forced to pin my colours to the mast, I’d say my heart belongs to the rabble-rousing iconoclasts of British fashion, (and if ever there was a need for active resistance to conformity then it is now), but LC:M is also notable for the presence of the suited and booted and the presence of such brands as Richard James, Aquascutum, Hackett et al in the current lineup is evidence that the world was taking note as we crammed into those tiny rooms at Somerset House. Roll on the future.