Why there were so many women on the catwalks at London’s men’s fashion week

With big brands deserting London to show menswear alongside women’s fashions, young designers turned the tables and showed debut women’s collections with their men’s fashion

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 June, 2016, 5:31pm
UPDATED : Monday, 13 June, 2016, 5:30pm

It was billed as London Collections: Men, but some designers had other ideas. A whole bunch of girls on the catwalk greeted the world of men’s fashion eager to discover the latest in natty tailoring and street-style sportswear for spring 2017. To be fair, there were plenty of guys modelling too.

The presence of women models was a riposte by young designers to the big brands that are deserting the menswear season to present in September alongside the women’s shows rather than a nod to the gender-fluidity trend. These designers seized the opportunity to debut womenswear lines of their own.

Astrid Andersen, Sibling and Agi & Sam showed fashion that shares the same aesthetic as their menswear, while Casely-Hayford inaugurated a capsule collection of women’s tailoring to introduce its personal tailoring and bespoke business.

Danish designer Andersen has no qualms about dressing men subversively in black lace and sports mesh, so why couldn’t she do the same for women? “It seems like we are a proper brand now: we have had so many requests for women’s that it makes sense to do this,” said Andersen after her show.

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The collection will hit the stores in January and shares the same looks as the menswear: judo jackets, tracksuits, boxing champ scarves and sporty polo dresses (yes, the male model looked pretty cool wearing it too), with signature luxury details such as the lace and gilded fabrics. This merged- gender look has plenty of mileage in it.

Post show, Charlie Casely-Hayford, who works on the seasoned brand with his father Joe, explained their move in different terms. “We wanted to create a woman that is a partner to the man rather than a sister, but she is very independent and different to him too,” he said. Their collections for men and women share the same palette, clashing ikat and paisley prints, jacket shapes and ethnic jewellery, but there the similarities ended; the genders are quite separate.

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In the past, Craig Green has proved how well adapted his quilting and laced workmen’s jackets are to both men and women, while Nasir Mazar has regularly some finely toned bad-ass ladies to his masculine line-up. This time there were plenty of biker girls at Belstaff, leaning on bikes and rusty old motors alongside the Steve McQueen-inspired biker gear for the guys.

Sibling, meanwhile, has chosen this season to merge its men’s and women’s collections into one presentation, but is bucking the trend by showing it during the menswear shows.

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The season’s schedule was noticeably slimmed by the absence of Burberry, Dunhill, Gieves & Hawkes and Alexander McQueen. The latter is doing appointments in Milan as Sarah Burton is on maternity leave. Gieves & Hawkes has a new designer and the new collection wasn’t ready in time, while Burberry will be combining shows for its menswear and womenswear collections in September.

However, Burberry did host a party in London at which Christopher Bailey, its chief executive and creative director, said: “We are still supporting London Collections: Men. Menswear is still a very important part of our business and all the key menswear buyers are here looking at the collection ahead of September.”

London has been seen as a testing ground for other fashion capitals, as brands like Gucci, Tom Ford and Bottega Veneta have similarly announced they will merge their presentation of men’s and women’s collections into one show. The lack of major brands didn’t seem to make a noticeable dent in the attendance figures in London.

Eric Jennings, vice-president and fashion director of menswear for Saks Fifth Avenue, said he had been coming to London long before the big brands started staging big shows. “I always came here for the discovery, to see newness and see what’s happening in the market,” he says, and that wouldn’t going to stop. Meantime he will have a private presentation of the Burberry menswear, while the media will have to wait until September.

Despite the absence of some brands in London, J W Anderson was a big draw and confidently delivered, with a collection that seemingly reverted to childhood but in the most unsugary way. Long printed shirts resembling Wee Willie Winkie’s nightshirts, overstretched knitwear, wide trousers and trench coats with arty motifs, pop art and jigsaw prints were all worn with aviator glasses and mother’s handbag. While it didn’t propose a new silhouette or trend, those shirts are charmers.