London is a city that embraces diversity, whether it is the elegance and tradition of Savile Row or the edgy cool of Shoreditch. This means that dapper suits go head-to-head with lace and floral printed sportswear on the catwalk. Such is the energy in London that these boundaries sometimes get blurred.
That was evident in the white lace used in tailoring at Alexander McQueen, the flower print trousers and jacquard jackets at Tom Ford, and the pink hues at Richard James and Gieves & Hawkes. Shoreditch is certainly having an impact on Savile Row. Colour and pattern were the big stories of the spring-summer 2014 shows at London Collections: Men earlier this week.
Menswear is booming in London, and is estimated to be worth £10 billion (HK$121 billion) a year to the British economy. The event, which is in its third season, has become so powerful that it's lured back big British brands such as Burberry and Jimmy Choo from Milan.
Also present were Rag & Bone from New York, Xander Zhou from China, and Kay Kwok from Hong Kong, who trained in London and has an interesting take on digital printing on neoprene suits. Even Dolce & Gabbana was moved to present a special tailoring collection in its new Bond Street store, a stone's throw from the birthplace of men's fashion, Savile Row.
London mayor Boris Johnson launched a sartorial heritage map and history for the capital that recorded nuggets of information. One claimed that the first three-piece suit was made there in 1666, which, said Johnson, "Beau Brummell created as a reaction to all the flummery of French fashion." London also claims the brogue shoe, conceived in the 1700s, and the trench coat, which was created in 1914.
Beau Brummell, a noted dandy, would have felt at home with the retro elegance of the pastel and white fine wool tailoring sported by aristocratic-looking youths in a presentation at the famous Lord's cricket ground on Monday.
Savile Row tailors Anderson & Sheppard, Henry Poole, Richard James, and Kilgour, in partnership with the Woolmark Company, showed that there is more to the city than grey suits.
There were no grey suits on the catwalk at Alexander McQueen, even though the label recently launched a bespoke service in London. Sarah Burton loosened up the silhouette and created a more relaxed romantic look using white lace, black rose and skull prints, frayed jacquards for tailoring and loose frock coats.
Tom Ford said he was "definitely in the mood for flowers this season", and showed flower print cashmere-silk blend trousers with plain jackets and elegant floral jacquard evening jackets. If that felt a bit too flamboyant, there were pastel-hued hopsack jackets in what turned out to be a very bright collection.
Others present a different tailoring vibe: Spencer Hart's cool dude collection was inspired by soul singer James Brown, while Patrick Grant at E.Tautz injected colour (lime and green) and loosened up the silhouette with boxy tunics and long shirt tails.
Nick Tentis updated the '60s Mod trend (which was one of the earliest examples of a suit being subverted), showing narrow lapels and shorter hem lengths on trousers, which is a big trend in London this season.
Burberry's comeback to London was marked by a soft-structured collection inspired by artists and writers; David Hockney's off-colour mixes were notable. There was barely any tailoring, but lots of knitwear over shirts and ties, something that suits England's unpredictable summers.
Jonathan Saunders and Christopher Kane drew parallels with their women's cruise collections with colour being a predominant factor. Kane used a lot of linear computer graphics and Saunders started with traditional city boys looks and then digitised, warped and brightly coloured.
Men are not afraid of colour any more, says Saunders: "All my coloured sweaters, [and] the bright coloured bombers are flying out." It looks like the new collection will be doing the same.