This season’s London Collections: Men delivered in every way what we’ve come to expect from the world’s newest fashion stage. The youthful energy, storied tailoring houses, and reigning established fashion brands that all call London home make for three of the most exciting days each season. While the vast majority of buyers' budgets are spent elsewhere (think: Milan, Pitti Uomo (the trade show that is currently underway in Florence) and Paris), LC:M is growing in size and significance, nonetheless. Once paired with the corresponding womenswear shows (in September and February), the bi-annual London mens "weeks" (they are actually three days in duration) are distinct events now, paired with Pitti and the Milan and Paris mens weeks.
From the recently wrapped LC:M, it is was rather obvious that 1 - the event can certainly stand on its own, in terms of talent and attention paid (hopefully, increased expenditures by stockists will follow, especially given the increasing focus on menswear by both houses and retailers, alike); and 2 - it could likely be stretched to a day or two more, given the increasingly full schedule. And judging by the relatively recent movement of big brands, such as Burberry, Tom Ford, etc., to London, the city's fashion scene is more influential than ever.
This year, the third year since the inception of London Collections: Men, we were most taken with labels that combined the vigor and innovation that is implicit in the London fashion scene and the storied tailoring for which the fashion capital is also known. This meant wearable suits with a decided edge or more masculine takes on forward-thinking design. Or, in the case of Nicomede Talavera (pictured below, courtesy of dazed), maybe something new entirely. While it is an enormously difficult task to narrow down the trio of days' events, here are a few of the collections that we have deemed to be notable contributions to the LC:M shows this season ...
J.W. Anderson, the current darling of the London fashion scene and beyond, presented his most accessible collection to date for S/S 2015. All told, Anderson presented no more than a handful of propositions for men, despite the 30+ looks that marched down the runway. To open and close the show, Anderson presented his characteristically artfully distorted visions for menswear. The first two looks, which stood by their lonesome and recalled his much more outre showing for F/W 2015, consisted of short, boxy tunic-like knitted tops covered in picturesque landscape imagery.
Beyond these two opening looks, Anderson explored new territory. Most noticeable were the more traditional takes on menswear, albeit with a distinct reference to the bygone generations of the 60’s and 70’s. This meant pattern matching of not only pants and shirts but his accessory du jour - the neckerchief. Some of the more colorful iterations of this look were standouts, if not for the styling itself, but for the subtle undertone towards more commercial and wearable offerings from the typically avant-garde leaning Anderson. Then there were the overcoats - full of volume and belted at the waist, these were Anderson’s most successful experiment in playing with classic men’s offerings. Most often found without lapels and with hints of cardigan-like appeal, these were the perfect mesh of Anderson’s typically out-there vision and clothes men need on a daily basis. Finally, for the two most stereotypically Anderson offerings, we were treated to cable-knit tank tops and tunics tied at the shoulder and waist, defying definition as neither a shirt or blouse but something totally unique. These might never be seen on the street, but the romanticism and skill with with they were delivered is what gives Anderson’s brand its DNA and was a reminder to everyone in attendance why we’ve been keeping such a close eye on him.
Forget the backstage discussions of #normcore, this collection was plainly brilliant. When so many young brands are screaming at the top of their lungs to be seen and heard and be different, this father-son design duo managed to put out one of the most exciting yet wearable collections in some time. All the essentials of today that young labels have been angling to perfect were present here and Casely-Hayford rarely missed the mark. From the subtle fabric mixing on their shirts to the volumized blazer and a cheeky take on a tuxedo in a brilliant shade of blue, everything that a young, style-conscious man might want was present.
Mixed in and underlayered were the essentials: a comfy cardigan, a wearable graphic t-shirt, a perfectly tailored blazer (available in a number of different and unique darkly-hued fabrics - clearly this duo has their eye on not only the initial presentation, but the details of each garment as well. A welcome surprise in a city dominated by graphic-heavy design). But what really grabbed the attention were the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) twists on traditional garments. The blazer-cum-trenchcoat towards the end of the show will have London youths and #menswear nerds alike green with envy, while the cardigan-cum-blazer gave the audience a taste of how far down that rabbit hole this pair was willing to go. And to close it off we were treated to a small handful of looks that had been doused with a liberal dose of gold lame’ - a move that captured the youthful rebellion and attitude that London fashion is known for with so much ease that it made attempts by larger houses (see Saint Laurent) feel almost contrived. Casely-Hayford is the real thing, and nearly every look they sent down the runway demonstrated that.
Our favorite of the three MAN designers (Bobby Abley coming in at a close second), Nicomede Talavera’s first outing under the MAN umbrella announced the arrival of a new avant-garde design talent to watch. In his show notes, Talavera mentioned how taken he was by the traditional Muslim garb he used to see men wearing outside the mosques of London. While aggressively borrowing from another culture can sometimes draw critical ire in the fashion world, Talavera did so with a mix of such genuine enthusiasm and his own design sensibilities that no one batted an eye. The red and white gingham with which Talavera was so enamored punctuated the collection in nearly every look; it was blown up, shrunken down, and sometimes cut into triangles attached to shirts (would we call them “shirts”??). Yet it never felt forced or unnecessary.
Of all the collections we loved this year at LC:M, this was the most avant-garde in the truest sense of the word. Talavera has an altogether unique idea for what men should wear and the attitude with with they should wear it. And while this means that it might not be the most accessible for the average customer, it also makes for some of the most exciting men’s fashion to come about in an era dominated by #menswear and discussions of the “classics". To that end, some of the garments defied traditional definitions - were they short-jumpsuits? Male dresses? Something new entirely? Truthfully, it didn’t matter - it was [mostly] eye catching and beautifully executed. Of course, with any new talent like this there are bound to be missteps - the sleeveless blazer with scarf-as-necktie could have probably been left out, but if that was the season’s largest flaw (Style.com took issue with the leather tabards), then, as a first collection, we think Talavera is on the right track.
Patrick Grant’s evolution from businessman to designer has been fascinating to watch. Under his direction, E. Tautz, the line that started as the more accessible younger sibling to the storied Savile Row tailoring house, Norton and Sons, he bought a few years ago, has evolved into one of the most exciting menswear lines to show in London. Over the past few seasons we’ve seen Grant dive into his role as a cutting edge designer, and this season was no different - that same energy and enthusiasm for what’s possible in men’s clothing is still very apparent, although it seems to have been tempered with some of the knowledge he’s gained from his day job running a Bespoke tailoring house. The results? A fully conceived and executed collection built around an experimental use of denim and deep shades of navy and indigo, punctuated by deck-chair stripes and the occasional hint of bronze or rust to shake things up.
There were suits of course (how could the owner of Norton and Sons ignore them entirely?) but here they were full of volume - a major trend at the LC:M shows this season - and came in broad stripes that eliminated any notion of wearing them to the office. That said, the double breasted blazer crafted in denim towards the end of the show might have been the perfect synthesis of Grant’s two worlds. But it wasn’t all brash design from Grant. There were still the perfectly executed pieces one might expect from someone with his vast knowledge of elegant tailoring, and the black suit paired with an air tie to kick off the last third of the collection was a perfect example. Ultimately, E. Tautz presented something for everyone who comes to LC:M; nods to the refined tailoring history of the city mixed with the current mood of bleeding edge silhouettes and color. Everyone should be pleased, included Mr. Grant himself, who’s grown into quite the accomplished designer in such a relatively short time.
Of all the young designers putting forward their vision for the future of men’s fashion at this season’s LC:M, it was Jonathan Saunders who managed to make it look easiest. In a season full of blown-up silhouettes and innovative takes on traditional items, Saunders mined the history of British fashion - namely, the Mods - and infused it with an explosive use of color. Rich and varying shades of blue and orange dominated the collection; in everything from bomber jackets (apparently a requisite to show at this year’s LC:M) to perfectly modern suits and knitwear. This meant a collection full of urgency, not just for the future but clothes begging to be worn right now. The speckled suits best exemplified this, as they managed to make an otherwise perfectly adequate male uniform look altogether new and exciting. The styling helped of course - the loosened tie and disheveled hair brought to mind the classic British cool of the Mod era, where the hippest men in town didn’t need oversize tunics to let you know they weren’t headed to a 9 to 5. The depth of the collection was easily apparent in the knitwear and accessories, which, while keeping with the tone of the rest of the collection, added an underlying notion of luxury to the otherwise starkly futuristic offerings. In an age where American designers are all too eager to look to their heritage and British designers are keen to invent a new one, it was refreshing to see a Brit take on their history and twist into something new and covetable.