London Fashion Week Men's: Not-so-nostalgic nostalgia
One witnessed a stylistic re-examination of British history in this weekend’s London menswear season, under the shadow of Brexit and the rise of the far right. That, and the emergence of a great new series of young designers, where architecture was the common thread.
It was a weekend where the single most talked about media incident was the vicious attack on a lesbian couple on a London bus, which dominated headlines in broadsheets and tabloid newspapers.
A moment where nationalism is on the rise in many countries, as are attacks on the LGBT community. The response of fashion: a reconsideration of British Empire iconography with a questioning twist.
Take the most anticipated show of the season, Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, staged in that great depository of learning – the British Library on Euston Road – where the leitmotif was women’s military uniforms. Jeffery would know a thing or two about the military; his father was an officer in British regiment. The old man even attended his first show by his son, flying in from Dubai for the runway event, where Jeffrey junior marched down the catwalk reading Dylan Thomas.
“I think we have all been forced to think about politics. From Brexit, when and how will it ever end? To the whole rise of angry nationalism,” commented Jeffrey in his backstage.
Earlier on Saturday, Edward Crutchley re-examined the ‘80s, “the last time it wasn’t cool to be British.”
He evoked Thatcherite Britain, but once again subverted the idea with a multi-ethnic cast and ironic takes on country-house chintz.
At John Lawrence Sullivan, designer Arashi Yanagawa referenced synth music and punk rock, though he subverted it with heritage fabrics in synthetic fibers and by adding heavily chained finishes to all his rocker biker looks.
Even the great live music performance summed up his dark twist on nostalgia. A brilliant display in the underneath of a 19th century railway bridge from Dicepeople, a dark electro band, had the audience giving this designer a standing ovation.
Social architecture was the theme at a great show on Monday from A-Cold-Wall, whose founder and designer Samuel Ross later that evening went on to win the BFC/GQ Designer Menswear Fund supported by JD.com, the giant Chinese retailer.
Dylan Jones and Caroline Rush of the British Fashion Council presented the award in Annabel’s nightclub. Previous winners have included Craig Green, E. Tautz and Christopher Shannon. This year’s cash prize is for £150,000, and includes 12 months’ high-level mentoring. Ross beat out competition from Cottweiller, Edward Crutchley, Liam Hodges and Grace Wales Bonner.
Ross’clever show featured cement-hued sportswear worthy of being worn in a Tadao Ando building; and some excellent wrap coats and techy military garb – made in the same material as his invitation. It was a bizarre burnt sienna mask that several guests wore to the show.
At a BFC breakfast on Sunday inside the Truman Brewery, one could also discover some great new British brands. Like Papermen - a series of shirts and waistcoats all in cotton; unadorned and stripped back. From brilliantly cut shirts in 100% cotton to mat, to water-resistant vests with asymmetrical pockets. Or Roker, a “non-binary” footwear brand from Sunderland – named after the local football stadium - whose unisex platforms and heels have appeared in Loverboy, Art School and Richard Malone shows.
Two great statements that less is sometimes very much more.
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