London Collections: Men - is this the end of the skinny suit?
More relaxed silhouettes were on show in the recent London menswear collections
Is the skinny suit's grip on menswear fashion starting to ease? That was the question many were asking as the new autumn-winter menswear collections rolled out in London from January 9 to 12. Designers unveiled increasingly looser and more relaxed silhouettes.
The trend that began 15 years ago, when Hedi Slimane arrived at Dior Homme and cut his first skinny androgynous suit, may be losing momentum. Designers are attempting looser cuts and a more laid-back styling. "A new easiness" was a comment frequently heard from designers.
Young, edgy designers such as Lou Dalton, Christopher Shannon and Craig Green created a baggier cut for their trousers and E. Tautz, designed by Patrick Grant, pushed that to extremes with a slouchy 1930s look for trousers, worn with either big sweaters or loose double-breasted jackets under long, robe-like coats.
Even established names such as Dunhill and Margaret Howell created more volume in their tailoring. In his first - widely praised - catwalk presentation for Dunhill, John Ray cited influence from the vibrant artistic spirit of Soho in the late '50s and '60s when artists such as Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon and playwright Joe Orton hung out in jazz clubs and private drinking dens.
Redolent of that era, models in geeky spectacles wore loose trousers with shirts and ties tucked under mohair sweaters. Shearling donkey jackets replaced the classic suit jacket.
When Ray showed a traditional tailored jacket, it was slipped over a rugby shirt.
Tom Ford was still championing skinny 1960s-style trousers in his collection, but he changed his jacket shape this season, with a softer shoulder and less fitted waist.
At Gieves & Hawkes, creative director Jason Basmajian spoke of "a relaxed, easy, casual look on the city", which he subtly worked with a tone-on-tone colour palette of black, navy or plum; there was a not a white shirt in sight.
There were a number of elegant topcoats, but mostly worn with a sweater and looser cut trousers.
Carlo Brandelli at Kilgour is always looking to reinvent the suit. New developments in his quest to streamline the look include stripping away elements such as a collar or a pocket flap, and highlighting darts with a contrasting colour.
While Tom Ford is heralding sneakers with eveningwear, Brandelli is introducing flannel sneakers to tone with his tailoring.
There was much less traditional formality all around for autumn. Aquascutum only showed three suits in the whole of its presentation, the rest comprised of highly desirable ski jackets and a raccoon-trimmed storm jacket.
Richard James showed casual weekend jackets or fringed shawls and sweaters, which are clearly becoming a major trend. At Hardy Amies, there was tailoring but a lot of it was mixed up with knitwear and sportswear, and created in a gentle palette inspired by Welsh mountain scenery.
There is also a hint of loosening up in Sarah Burton's collection for Alexander McQueen, where she turned a military jacket into a frock coat or a donkey jacket and cut her trousers wider, but also much shorter.
Words such as "honour", "truth" and "valour" featured on jackets and much of the tailoring came in poppy-patterned jacquards inspired by artist Paul Cummins' ceramic poppies on display at the Tower of London.
There was a lot of seductive knitwear around in London. At Pringle of Scotland, designer Massimo Nicosia continued his 3D experiments using the brand's signature argyle pattern in knit and shaved mink.
At the other end of the design spectrum was the adventurous bright pink knitwear of Sibling. Shocking pink school shorts and trousers were teamed with rowing blazers in knitted pink stripes and shaggy pink fur coats. To add to the nostalgic fun, models carried huge knitted pink teddy bears. Agi & Sam, meanwhile, deliberately played to the child in all of us with their painterly coats and Lego masks.
Indian mirror embroidery and sequins at Burberry Prorsum was a surprise in Christopher Bailey's textured collection. Paisleys, quilted fabrics, fringed shawls, corduroy jackets, shearling jackets and geeky glasses illustrated how Bailey likes to knock classics a little off-kilter, and the sequins certainly did that.
In just over three years, London's menswear shows have become an established part of the fashion calendar. The biggest attraction, says Grant Pearce, editorial director of GQ Asia, is the wide spectrum of creativity.
"That diversity is what is really interesting because it shows that men's fashion today is about your lifestyle and not about a trend or what you should and shouldn't wear," he says.
"Subtlety, textures, looser silhouettes and a bit more boho," summarises what Nelson Mui, men's fashion director of the Hudson Bay Company and Lord & Taylor, found in London.
Mui says the trend is "more sparkly for men. There are sequins at Burberry, jewels at Moschino: they are playing with a lot of different things that are unexpected and a little more female."