It’s difficult not to talk about London without mentioning the elephant in the room – the somewhat condensed schedule. There’s a concern that without certain ‘big names’ the legitimacy of London Men’s is reduced, or that it may eventually succumb to a partnership with women’s fashion week. And so be it. Menswear isn’t going to disappear into the oblivion, it would merely be a repackaging or a healthy reflection of the new norm in gender neutral fashions anyway (if this so-called fashion-show marriage does in fact happen, this is speculation of course). In fact, we’ve seen incredible growth in the menswear market over the last 5 years, from suiting to sportswear, from hi to lo, and not only in bricks and mortar stores (like the new Kent & Curwen store to open in London this season) but in the ever-growing world of e-commerce.
And so, speaking to a fellow stylist in the industry, I was reminded to take a positive spin on this season’s LFWM, (tough for an eternal pessimist) in that at this size, it in fact allows for a greater platform and access for emerging talent and young designers alongside established brands. And that in many ways is what’s at the very heart of London’s heritage and long history with fashion, is it not?
Where else can claim to be the home of punk, the heart of rebellious fashion and creativity, yet in the same breath enjoy a heritage like that of Savile Row which has bespoken the wears of Kings, Lord’s and our nation’s leaders?
And it’s this contrast that makes London so fascinating, a continuous coterie of bubbling vision, emotion and reaction emanating from of some of the best fashion colleges, young designers and stylists in the world built on a history of mills, cloth makers, suit makers and a once flourishing manufacturing industry, and long may this all continue. So, with this sense of liberation from the business throngs of fashion and with a responsibility to the future of genuine creativity, LFWM kicked off the Men’s AW18 Fashion month. And once the vacuum left by the fashion mega stars was forgotten we were reminded of the great marriage of London fashion’s pillars of rebellion and conformity.
Take Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, whose cathartic show entertained with a furious energy. Entitled, ‘Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay’, his runway show brought together his expertise in design, fashion, tailoring and a genuine narrative of angst. Performers preceded the show shouting aloud the frustrations of his young life, then came the outspoken collection, which was his reprise, his mantra, “I’ll show them!” with colourful, oversized Scottish checks in fashionably skinny suits, pleated leather, billowing sweaters, it was a spectacle to say the least. It may not be the sartorial luxury we’re more likely to discuss here, but it’s message is key for LFWM. It was drama, it was fashion, but it was fashion with a resolute message of responsibility.
As messages go, in a tamer yet by no means less glowing show, unwavering designer Oliver Spencer didn’t disappoint. Brilliantly casted, as always, (special appearance by Esquire Fashion Director Catharine Hayward) and styled, also as always, by industry legend, William Gilchrist, Oliver’s AW18 message was one that reminded the industry that staying true to a vision, an identity and using fabric and form to create a silhouette synonymous with his house style will ensure longevity with a brand. One of the things I love most about Oliver Spencer’s designs, his jackets in particular, is their ability to hold their shape which when combined with his signature Judo Pant in a London city-scape palette of gold, burgundy and London-grey, creates a soft yet masculine, wearable look. His choice of fabrics was of course second to none. Shearling this season is still prevalent throughout many collections at LFWM, Daniel W. Fletcher, a humble smart designer, growing his brand steadily and loved by the industry, offered brilliant patched shearling jackets, proving the rough wool is still most definitely a thing. At Oliver Spencer, a simple shearling gilet and most notably a touch of ivory shearling on tweed coat collars looked divine. But this year, a number of designers including Oliver Spencer, Band of Outsiders – another brilliant collection shown on Spencer house ice rink – in particular have offered sumptuous velvet and an understated use of current fabric of the moment – corduroy, in perfect form – mustard corduroy on a field jacket anyone? Absolutely. Popped shearling collar on a tweed bomber? Oliver, you had me at mellow yellow.
DANIEL W FLETCHER
BAND OF OUTSIDERS
With accessories, I’m more than delighted to note the prevalence of hats, hats and more hats, a devotee myself – as much to finish a look as to hide a bad hair day. And on the eye-wear front it was a pleasure to see cult sunglasses brand, Kirk Originals with their entire collection made in England, honouring timeless, iconic shapes and vintage manufacturing processes.
Trends: Street Smarts – this season it’s all about drape, checks and louche luxe
It seems perfectly fitting that our self-effacing nation would shy away from the glitz and glamour (or rather the cost – and who can blame them?) of a runway show, but a number of key London designers still fortunately released a collection for the coming season. E. Tautz, under the guise of Patrick Grant, presented a collection that to me encompasses a look that perfectly embodies where London menswear is at the moment. It’s all about the drape, created with luxe, sumptuous fabrics. Billowing, lofty, oversized coats, layered over wide legged, pleated trousers or thick-striped tracksuit bottoms and another trend of checks, often not matching, dotted in there to add to the textured, visual contrasts. It’s smart but it’s urban, it’s for the weekend but also elements can be adopted over suiting for the weekday. Casely-Hayford too showing incredible grace with light, oversized top coats on louche high-wasted pleated trousers, creating that perfect combination of elegant yet nerdy luxe. Lou Dalton also displayed adorable cropped bomber jackets and loose trousers accessorised with belts and knitwear layers, more genius fabric work on that classic, current draped silhouette.
CASELY – HAYFORD
And if heritage through checks and tweed trends didn’t come through enough at LFWM, Vivienne Westwood, who although didn’t show, did present a collection replete with signature checks throughout. But it’s to Belstaff and Kent & Curwen we go for a collection awash with genuine affection for their heritage. It’s a consistent theme and sometime even a burden for historical brands or suiting and tailoring houses, to evolve its identity without losing its core DNA (just ask Jason Basmajian who had success at Gieves & Hawkes or Dunhill now who have struggled somewhat to smoothly evolve and modernise).
But as Belstaff this year celebrates the 70th Anniversary of the iconic four-pocket Trialmaster jacket, it showcased the incredible ability of Creative Director, Delphine Ninous to encompass the brand’s history. This year they have developed heat-mapping technology, incorporated 100% British made pieces, (in certain items) and all across just five key silhouettes (Trialmaster, parka, field jacket, biker and bomber) within the style vaults of Britain’s rebellious music subcultures. When I spoke to Belstaff CEO, Gavin Haig exclusively for thestyleism.com, he explained, “the biggest thing here is that we’re doing it the Belstaff way. We’re trying to be true to the DNA, true to the history, still be modern and relevant and that is the number one thing; be authentic… but then you can see the origins and the history in the new designs. So be true to your identity and that is now a modern, urban adventurer, and in the past, the 1950s adventurers. (On the Trialmaster)… The silhouette is exactly the same, the function is the same; it’s wind proof, it’s water proof, but today it’s lightweight, it’s flexible, you roll it up, you throw it in your locker. So, it’s about trying to match lifestyle. Also, what you’ll see us doing is trying to step back a little bit away from fashion, more to the iconic; iconic is timeless. We’re designing into the DNA of the brand but for today’s lifestyle.”
At British label, Kent & Curwen, under the direction of design visionary, Daniel Kearns, he’s not only brought this brand back to the forefront of British men’s fashion (and yes it helps to have an ambassador/investor in the form of David Beckham) but Daniel has had to and has very successfully delivered beautiful collections, wearable and exquisitely-made pieces entwined in the greater narrative of his vision. This season his collaboration with filmmaker and photographer Perry Ogden, sought inspiration from the muddy fields, tough streets, boxing arenas, art schools and musicians of British youth culture. There was a punk vibe, a feeling of rebellion and revival at the heart of this collection. Emerald green varsity jackets, cropped and popped-collared leather jackets and loose flowing trousers added to that feeling of British cool and creativity, reminding us all what London Fashion has always done so well; to create and inspire with a nod to its past, but with a vision for its future.
article by Sarah Ann Murray @sarah_ann_murray