Bobby Abley is shaping the way we think of menswear. The street style epidemic is well underway in taking over the runways and Abley’s collections are certainly a guiding force. The Scarborough, Ontario native graduated from Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication and has since taken his sharp and dark aesthetic to the London shows, where he seems to be pushing the boundaries a bit further thanks to the fashion capital's penchant for Saville Row tailoring. And we are not the only ones to have noticed. London's Topman-sponsored MAN show, which showcases the collections of three budding menswear talents each season and has had a hand in producing talents such as Astrid Andersen, James Long, Craig Green, and J.W. Anderson, has tapped Abley as the next big thing. In fact, Abley showed his third collection with the collective this past June.
Abley relies heavily on juxtaposition, using iconic cartoon characters to make a dark, eerie statement; think Mickey Mouse a la gothic. He has created what he affectionately calls the “Bobby Abley bear," of which he says: "I guess, is a trademark, whether it's on a T-shirt or featured really small within a print." And yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. His other signature: "A sort of signature shape. There's a specific silhouette of short that I always adapt into each collection, whether it's Spring/Summer or Autumn/Winter. It's this kind of boxy, oversized short. I'd really like that to be a signature piece eventually."
As a designer, Abley has a solid working knowledge of what it takes to create the sort of urban aesthetic his line thrives on, which will, it seems, allow him to evolve once the current iterations of street wear are a thing of the past. After working for Rankin, Alexander McQueen and Jeremy Scott, it’s no surprise that Abley derives the majority of his inspiration from a mixture of creepy and cool. Details take the bait in his shows. For instance, few other designers, if any, use dentist-like silver mouth guards to hold open the mouths of their models to make it look like their screaming. Top that look off barbed wire print and Mickey Mouse and Maleficent style hats, and "Dream On" knuckle tattoos, and you’ve got classic Abley.
The designer's latest show, Spring/Summer 2015, which he showed during London Collections: MEN in June, strays from Mickey Mouse and heads into Little Mermaid territory. Sea shell “bras” make an appearance on a neoprene tee shirt, and Ariel herself lands on a tee, as well. Distressed details like slashed shirts and shorts help to play along with Abley's deconstructive take on classic Disney details. Abley’s signature bear makes an appearance, too, and his other signature, his ultra-urban, modern aesthetic, which is also present throughout. Abley has a penchant for duality, for casting a curse on innately light, and fluffy motifs and turning them into the dark side of a fairytale. With Abley’s strong, statement collections there’s no doubt that there are many more statements to come.
GABRIELA LORRAINE is a fashion blogger and writer. She is a fashion merchandising and print journalism student at the University of South Carolina. For more from Gabriela, follow her on Twitter.