Designers coalesce in melting pot for London Collections: Men
The leading men's labels unleashed their next spring-summer looks in London, writes Francesca Fearon
They say 250 languages are spoken in London, such is the cultural melting pot that is Britain today. That welcome extends to the growing number of menswear labels that head to the city to showcase their latest collections because there is such a creative buzz pulsating through the fashion community. Moschino (the Milanese fashion house with American in-your-face creative director Jeremy Scott), Sankuanz and Xander Zhou from China and fashion brand Tiger of Sweden are now rubbing shoulders with the kids from Shoreditch and the gentlemen of Savile Row in what is now the fifth season of London Collections: Men.
Scott, who says he is having the time of his life at Moschino, unleashed a summer collection that unashamedly poked fun at designer logos, including his own "Fauxschino". He plastered pop art over parkas, shorts, suits and girls' dresses (he presented part of his women's cruise collection at the same time).
London street culture is a big influence on his work, he says, although there was a heady dose of Vegas as well, because this was as brash, gaudy and crystal-studded as you can get.
Shangguan Zhe's idiosyncratic style was first revealed at Shanghai Fashion Week last year, and GQ China brought his Sankuanz label to the London catwalk. His aesthetic slips in easily with the city's subculture alongside designers such as Nasir Mazhar, Sibling, Astrid Andersen and Bobby Abley.
Collaborating with artist Tianzhuo Chen, Shangguan layered modern white sportswear featuring barbed wire, skeletons and lewd motifs inspired by Russian prison tattoos. This, however, was quite tame compared with the finale outfits that had models holding pairs of huge, grotesque papier mâché hands. Such a sensibility to provoke fits well with London's young edgy creatives such as Mazhar.
Mazhar draws inspiration from gangland culture with sweatpants and boxing shorts, gilets and lots of six-packs being flaunted in crisp cotton shirting fabrics and opulent lurex drills. Sibling was similarly subversive, creating a teenage goth-punk look, working denim with some attitude and hairy knitted unisex tops and leggings on guys and girls with Mohican haircuts and skeleton necklaces.
Christopher Shannon, winner of the inaugural BFC/GQ Fashion Fund, which is supported by Vertu, similarly riffs on angsty teenage culture for his summer collection. It perhaps recalls those awkward years spent with all the joss sticks, scrapbooks and stickers found in a teenage boy's bedroom - a time when any notion of winning a £150,000 (HK$1.98 million) grant would have been beyond his wildest dreams. All this paraphernalia is worked into prints on roomy, layered T-shirts, exaggerated nylon jackets and denim.
A number of designers took the opportunity to show their menswear collections alongside their women's cruise lines because they design them together. Richard Nicoll (sporty techno-cool patterned layers) and Jonathan Saunders (textured separates and bold stripes) are among them. Christopher Kane (yet to unveil his cruise line) was inspired by the sheaves-of-paper prints used in his women's autumn collection for his eye-poppingly graphic summer men's range. Others, like Katie Eary, dipped into womenswear by showing sexy catsuits alongside her men's Dallas Rodeo collection of denims pimped up with psychedelic shirts and T-shirts.
J.W. Anderson's menswear has traditionally been gender blurring, and it is no less so this season with pinstripe trousers and off-the-shoulder tops tied like the flouncy scarves of an Hermès customer. There were, however, some seemingly conventional jackets and fluid robe coats, which will be on his new e-commerce site next spring.
The potent tailoring heritage of Alexander McQueen means that Sarah Burton's collection combines the formality and skills of a Savile Row tailor, often with something sinister. Yet, this time it swirled with colour inspired by kabuki masks. McQueen's mix of tradition and avant-garde puts it in a strong position in London. The city is a volatile laboratory of experimentation.
But changes become more subtle as we leave the East End and trendy Shoreditch, and head west to Mayfair's Savile Row. Here John Ray (former Gucci menswear during the Tom Ford era) is revamping Dunhill with unstructured tailored cuts and a bit of sportswear for weekends. "I am not flipping it on its head, but I will be emphasising the Britishness," says Ray.
Gieves & Hawkes, Hardy Amies and Tom Ford (a London-based honorary Brit) were all highlighting sportswear. "I wanted to expand the casual element and show customers other ways of wearing tailoring, with knits and scarves and a Stormtech trench coat," explains Gieves & Hawkes' creative director Jason Basmajian, who is deftly blending casual with formal. His palette of coastal blues, from powder pale to stormy dark tones, highlights spring 2015's key colour trend.
Nearly every label was anchored in blue in one tone or another, sometimes as a jacket worn with navy or black trousers.
Hardy Amies similarlyopted for a blue palette, with patterns and textures inspired by Reagan-era White House decorator William Haines' interiors. Sportswear for Ford includes denim, which comes in three washes and three different styles. For the presentation, the usually impeccably suited Ford chose to wear jeans as well as show them. His came with fringed suede cowboy jackets, desert boots and fringed scarves.
Tailored denim featured notably in several collections: beautifully finished jackets worn with voluminous deckchair-striped trousers at E.Tautz's show, which reminisced about English coastal holidays.
Some of the best denim appeared at Burberry Prorsum, where Christopher Bailey has managed to combine his role as the company's new CEO with designing a bright, upbeat collection that pulsated with colour and ideas in the hot sunshine of Kensington Gardens. Denim jackets were layered under velvet jackets or trench coats and worn with colourful campaign hats and multicoloured sneakers. Vibrant knits were layered over T-shirts, which, like the portfolios and a couple of lightweight trenches, were printed with book covers. This all tapped into Bailey's inspiration, the world of travel writer Bruce Chatwin.