London Fashion Week saw more young Chinese talents show with established British brands
Up-and-coming designers including Harry Xu, Wan Hung and Danshan showed off their spring/summer 2018 collections, with many challenging stereotypical ideas of masculinity
It is five years since London staged its very first men’s fashion week, featuring top-flight established brands such as Dunhill, Vivienne Westwood, Kent & Curwen and Belstaff, and rising stars including Craig Green, Charles Jeffrey and Astrid Andersen. London Fashion Week Men’s, held last weekend, saw a similar mix of established players and recent entrants unveil their spring/summer 2018 collections – ranging from the sartorial to luxe sports and leisurewear to hedonistic gender-fluid displays featuring performers and pantomime make-up (two labels: Vivienne Westwood and Charles Jeffrey Loverboy certainly stood out in this regard).
In recent seasons, London Fashion Week Men’s has enjoyed the presence of a growing number of young Chinese designers, many of whom have gone through the British art college system. GQ China has, over the past five years, given a platform at the shows to talents such as Xander Zhou. This season Pronounce, the design duo that showed at April’s Shanghai Fashion Week, will get their shot, together with Harry Xu, Wan Hung and Danshan.
Dan (full name Danxia Liu) and Shan (Shan Pengwong) – the two halves of Danshan – are old college friends from Central Saint Martins in London from a decade ago, who have gone back to education as the starting point for their third collection together.
“Our ideas are based on current ideas about masculinity,” Dan says.
Shan adds: “There is a stereotypical idea of how men should behave and we feel their emotional side has been neglected.” Their latest collection illustrates how school uniforms start to enforce gender differences.”
Harry Xu took a similar line with his latest concept, where Suzhou embroidery take centre stage on soft gowns contrasted by macho silhouettes in mirror effect acrylic. “I was playing on the idea that men can be very romantic – that beneath their masculine appearance there is a softness in their hearts,” says Xu.
London has a history of cross-dressing and gender fluidity that dates back to the club kids of the 1980s, when Blitz Kids evolved into the New Romantics. Vivienne Westwood and John Galliano were at the heart of the scene and their inheritor is Charles Jeffrey, who referenced history through pantomime dame crinolines, punk tartans, gay hussars and Byronic heroes in his Charles Jeffrey Loverboy brand’s collection. Beneath the make-up and stage antics were fun headline T-shirts, bright check tailoring and a strong range of arty knitwear.
Showing men’s and womenswear together gave Westwood an excuse to switch the clothes around. Circus performer male models wore dresses printed with her signature protest slogans and Brueghel paintings; others wore black corseted gowns. Gender stereotyping is not Westwood’s thing. Nevertheless, when she did get down to some tailoring there were slick dark suits and loosely structured styles scribbled with pack-of-cards prints.
Many of the London’s younger creatives are not constrained by stereotypes either. Astrid Andersen will happily dress her muscle-packed models in metallic lace and flowery silks, and she gets away with it because of her sports luxe boxing ring aesthetic. Velvet track trousers and hoodies, floral robes and bomber jackets were juxtaposed with traditional sporty ripstop coats and shorts.
Alex Mullins captured the feminine feeling of 1990s perfume adverts with flowery printed appliqués on loose-cut trousers and shirts.
The relaxed feeling towardxs gender continued with silhouettes and more voluminous shapes.
This relaxed mood carried through to the collections of fashion houses such as Dunhill and Kent & Curwen, with an emphasis on casual and sportswear. Mark Weston, the new creative director at Dunhill is trying to move Dunhill away from the nostalgic tailored look and is, “resetting the foundations of the brand,” he says.
Weston is also building up the outerwear and sportswear elements such as lightweight windbreakers, sporty blousons and ultra-fine mohair jackets. “It is about making it relevant for men today,” he says.
Kent & Curwen’s heritage is deeply rooted in university sportswear from the 1930s. So for spring 2018, creative director Daniel Kearns took inspiration from sports teams, using a mixture of retro sporty looks that echo the 1948 Summer Olympics in London emblazoned with crests and badges.