Gimme shelter: trenches and knits to the fore at London Men’s Fashion Week

Protection from the elements was the dominant theme of London autumn-winter menswear collections, and bottle green the go-to colour, for what some expect to be a wet and bitterly cold 2016 season

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 January, 2016, 2:46pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 January, 2016, 2:50pm

With Britain having been hit by record-breaking winter rainfall and severe flooding, it was hardly surprising that rainwear and other items of clothing to swaddle oneself up in was high on the list of designers’ priorities when the menswear autumn-winter 2016 fashion season opened in London.

Of course, Britain doesn’t have the infrastructure that we have in Hong Kong to cope with these extreme weather events, but a good raincoat from Burberry, Craig Green, E. Tautz or Xander Zhou is going to be an essential in both places.

A quality trench coat is the stock in trade of Burberry and Mackintosh; the latter has added a white version of its signature rubberised cotton raincoat and a second-world-war era army cape to its collection. Military influences prevailed at Burberry as well, with gabardine trench coats, army-style parkas and some ultra-smart dark cavalry-uniform outerwear – lots of spiffy red piping and gold buttons. This is the first Burberry collection to unify all its labels under one name, and also marked Chinese singer and actor Kris Wu’s catwalk debut.

Craig Green explored the idea of protection, taking his love of uniform and the utilitarian aesthetic and stepping it up a level by adding to his khaki coats and jackets face-concealing hoods of the kind you might, perhaps, expect for biological warfare.

Some took the shelter-and-protection theme to extremes. Belstaff shot their current ad campaign with the legendary polar explorer Ranulph Fiennes. The pessimists at Belstaff are predicting that, after El Nino’s torrential onslaught this winter, next winter we will be in the icy grips of El Nino’s frostier sister La Nina. Hence the fur trimmings on hi-tech parkas and their signature Speedmaster biker jacket, snug shearling jackets and some serious padding.

Splashing around in rainy London made Barbour’s famous waxed-cotton coats a necessity at times. Like Belstaff, they rolled out new technical fabrics to fend off the elements and, in another nod to the military theme, lined their coats with the Scottish Black Watch tartan. Stuart Vevers at Coach meanwhile embraced modern Americana, but among the Army surplus parkas, down jackets, lumberjack shirts and black leather shearling were some seriously warm teddy-fur fabrics.

They weren’t the only ones doing teddy fur – Lou Dalton had teddy fur trousers – and there were lots of warm fleecy fabrics too; however, they’re not going to be top of the Hong Kong businessman’s wish list unless he travels a lot. Both Dalton and 1205 did have some very desirable teddy fleece zip-up bombers in navy (at Dalton) and bottle green (at 1205).

Bottle green (in fact, a range of rich green tones from forest, to olive and army green) is the colour of the season and features in tailoring and sports casualwear.

Pringle of Scotland and Savile Row were in a relaxed mode with Dunhill, Gieves & Hawkes and E.Tautz creating a more laid-back ambience in super luxurious fabrics. Dunhill took over the Savile Club, one of London’s private gentlemen’s clubs, because, in the words of designer John Ray, “this collection had a feeling of being at home in a country house: putting weekend wear in the library, tailoring in the club room and at-home velvet smoking jackets in the ballroom”.

That same sense of relaxed formality was evident in the E. Tautz and Oliver Spencer collections, with layering, knitwear and a looser silhouette prevalent. Jason Basmajian’s swansong for Gieves & Hawkes before moving to Cerruti featured camel pea coats and double-breasted styles over luxurious cashmere knitwear. There were plenty of cable knits and overgrown sweaters around the collections, with more linear patterns teamed with tailored cropped trousers at Pringle, who showed at another of London’s famously impregnable gentlemen’s clubs, the Reform Club.

There is, however, an alternative side to London. Jeremy Scott’s collection for Moschino paid homage to punk and pop art with spray-painted day-glo colours, kilts and Doc Martens inspired by artists Gilbert & George. Alexander McQueen’s exquisitely tailored models in slick coats with butterfly and moth prints wore some savage safety-pin-and-chain face jewellery, while at Sean Suen models were daubed with graffiti and punctured with safety-pin piercings. Shiny black PVC, another punk favourite, came with shearling, crushed velvet and several gender-bending looks at Katie Eary. It was a collection eerily inspired by Lou Reed and David Bowie, shown on the morning that Bowie’s death was announced.

A surprising feature from London’s young avant-garde designers is gentleman’s silk pyjamas. They have become quite a trend in womenswear by designers such as Olivia von Halle, but now Katie Eary and J.W. Anderson are seeing its merits. Eary produced silk koi carp prints and graphic patterns, while J. W. Anderson showed satin pyjamas with snail motifs that are meant as day wear rather than for snuggling under the duvet.

Anderson, who recently scored a first as the only designer to be crowned best menswear and womenswear designer in the same year at the British Fashion Awards, has always toyed with gender-bending looks, a subject that has become more topical in recent months with the release of The Danish Girl. “Each season we push something,” he said after the show. “You have to allow yourself to get some things wrong.” But there didn’t seem to be a foot out of place this season.