London Fashion Week Men’s: What a difference a location makes
A major change of location produced a major change in attitude, as London Fashion Week Men’s moved to East London this season. The positive effect was immediate.
Call it Brick Lane for boys; as a plethora of designers and brands produced some of their most memorable work to date over the weekend.
The opening day’s best show was John Lawrence Sullivan, the Tokyo-based house of Arashi Yanagawa named after the Irish-American boxer.
Inspired by goth and punk rock this was a rip-roaring display of dark glamor, staged inside a dingy railway underpass club. Backed up by new hipster London band Wild Daughter, whose lead singer James Jeanette, appearing in buccaneer boots, a faux alligator caban and black jockstrap, lead the attack.
It could have easily been a cliché, but instead it was a timely reworking of rocker chic – from the red tiger greatcoats and over-sized plaid cabans to the chenille tulip-sleeved sweaters and silver-fringed, black hyper-wide Perfectos.
Or take Edward Crutchley, whose polished vision of languid sartorial elegance with a large dose of brashness was inspired by the “maleficent and magnificent Grace Jones in A View to a Kill,” according to the designer.
Crutchley cuts with an easy hand, notably the clever elongated coats made like dressing deconstructed gowns with patch pockets.
At times it got too tricky. Does one ever really need trousers finished with pleats made of silver metal zips? But overall this was a great take on new tailoring. In a co-ed collection, Crutchley’s best single look was a superbly sculpted chalk-stripe mannish suit worn with a roll-neck sweater on a Jackie O-like female model. Moreover, nobody displayed British fabrics – like the beautiful cashmeres of Johnstons of Elgin – better than Crutchley.
The new locale even inspired visitors, like northern Italian label Iceberg, albeit the house’s British designer James Long was inspired this season by the Italian Alps.
Iceberg has always been a great purveyor of bright knits and clever sportswear, and its whole oeuvre now seems perfectly in synch with the key trend in contemporary menswear – athleisure.
Long packed his prints with crazy patterns: ski flags; alpine signage; Disney characters; famous downhill runs and sporting equipment. The runway was an enormous carpet of this assemblage. Then he cut the resulting materials into glamorous parkas; logo track-pants; excellent puffers and great après-ski pullovers. Posh punk-grunge in acid colors and Iceberg’s best shows in years.
Most shows were staged inside Truman Brewery, a 19th-century redbrick space near Spitalfields Market, though there was plenty of action in the surrounding streets, which when darkness fell and the London mist descended recalled Charles Dickens novels.
Belgian-born designer Angelo Van Mol staged one of the best presentations for Band of Outsiders, premiering a movie in Close Up, a video club and small theatre.
“I loved the movie First Man with Ryan Gosling. To me, the moon shots in the late sixties and early seventies represented a freer era and more open mentality. The fact that their heroes were exploring outer space meant people were more open to try new ideas, cuts and colors,” said the designer.
Pre-screening, the five models in the movie took it in turns to pose before a tiny TV screen showing grainy black and white footage of Neil Armstrong landing on the moon. But if the mood was nostalgic, the clothes felt contemporary, from the crisp mohair and fine wool plaid jackets to a great peacoat, finished with elastic baseball-knit cuffs and collar. The show also debuted womenswear for Band of Outsiders, many in the same spice orange dark plaids and bold Argyles of the men’s and including a marvelous go-go gal russet red and white tartan shaved pony-skin suit.
It was also a busy moment for Chinese designers, like Yushan Li and Jun Zhou, the two London-educated fashion talents behind Pronounce, which manages to be based in both Milan and Shanghai. Woolmark Prize nominees in 2017, Pronounce staged an impressive show.Their big trick – piping, used in fluorescent materials on Mao jackets; padded waistcoats; and peacoats, all of which looked very dandy.
On Sunday, another Chinese duo based abroad, Haoran Li and Siying Qu of Private Policy, whose headquarters are in Long Island City, presented their wares in the UK.
Somewhat bizarrely for a brand from China, where politics is the monopoly of Communist Party, Private Policy play with social and political themes in all their shows. They did again this season in a warning against the brutality of unfettered capitalism. This show was entitled Money v Human, and the runway was set up with cold desks finished with large wads of fake bank notes. The same bank notes packed into see-through harness and skullcaps and used as necklaces. Otherwise this was a collection of smart effective clothes from felt sweatshirts worn with check Chesterfields to oversized parkas accessorized with giant fringed logo scarves.
Sunday actually began with the UK’s hottest label, Kent & Curwen of David Beckham fame, presenting in a mansion on the city center embankment, but again the action moved east to the Truman Brewery, an area packed with concept stores, vintage shops, art galleries and cutting edge outposts for active sports labels like Adidas.
The area is located just north of the City of London, and Astrid Anderson staged her evening co-ed show in almost freezing plaza under a soaring glass skyscraper at Broadgate.
Did Astrid not get the memo from the British Fashion Council that London was a fur-free season? Clearly not, as she sent out several fur coats, notably an eye-popping big mink blazer in dappled blue and black and a marvelous ribbed fox coat in baby blue worn with patchwork-pattern ribbed leggings.
Finally, the largest crowd of the weekend packed out the brick brewery for Fashion East, Lulu Kennedy’s discovery show for three emerging designers.
Her trio this season: Robyn Lynch of Ireland; Nigerian-born Mowalola; and London-based Stefan Cooke.
Kennedy remains London’s best talent spotter and all three had plenty of ability. Lynch’s Irish influences – like Aran cable sweaters – mingled into practical work-wear and utilitarian pants in an astute debut. Cooke wowed with some novel fabrications – notably stretch articulated leather used in crinkly pants and taut tops. Though the biggest cheer went to Mowalola, whose outrageous, barely-there cutting, in your face-sexuality and disco-hooker aesthetic for women; and snazzy street tailoring in sleek high-color leathers mark her out as a very original talent. Definitely the new name to watch in London – Mowalola.
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