By Thomas Shockman
Earlier this summer, London Collections: Men, the male equivalent to London Fashion Week, took place across the United Kingdom’s capital city. Sixty-two menswear brands showed collections over the course of three days, covering classic Savile Row tailoring to gender-bending avant-garde and everything in between. London has been growing in popularity as a location for menswear presentations since London Collections: Men had its inaugural showing in 2012, partially due to an influx of fresh new talent of recent graduates of Central Saint Martins and the Royal College of Art. Below are reviews of some of the strongest Spring/Summer collections that were debuted at London Collections: Men.
Travel and exploration could clearly be seen in Burberry’s runway fashion line, Prorsum. Christopher Bailey, the iconic house’s current Chief Creative and CEO, masterfully crafted the image of a classically influenced modern British gentleman setting out on a journey. Bailey portrayed the image by combining suiting with bright sneakers and outfitting models with travel-ready pocketed denim and suede jackets. Every look featured a soft felt hat, hung low over the eyes, adding an air of mystery to Bailey’s carefully crafted vision of a traveler. The plethora of nearly monochromatic looks precisely established elements of modern-day fashion. Bailey managed to take the idyllic view of the young British gentleman, bring him to modern day and scatter him across the rainbow. The result was a truly magnificent show.
The entire show can be seen here: http://www.style.com/slideshows/fashion-shows/spring-2015-menswear/burberry-prorsum/collection
Christopher Raeburn epitomizes the new definition of the British menswear designer. He is fiercely proud of his country, its place in the fashion industry and has an eye for taking preconceived notions and turning them on their heads. He takes both inspiration and fabric from the military of the past. His SS15 show featured a strong aviation motif. It started with very “in-your-face” prints of helicopters and airplanes, then shrank to more subdued influences of form and shape in the middle of the show, finally culminating to the final few looks of the show in which Raeburn sent models down the runway wearing the stand out pieces of the collection: repurposed and reworked MIG fighter pilot suits (style.com).
The entire show can be seen here: http://www.style.com/slideshows/fashion-shows/spring-2015-menswear/christopher-raeburn/collection
It is often remarked that JW Anderson’s men’s collections are simply previews of his upcoming women’s shows. This is because of his talent for gender-bending, for blurring the line between what makes men’s clothing for men and what makes a women’s clothing for women. His SS15 show was no exception. He sent models down the runway wearing such anomalies as a cropped cardigan with an astonishingly low neckline, a bright purple, cropped one-button blazer reminiscent of women’s business wear and a cable-knit spaghetti strap tank top. Anderson carefully built up his image of the ‘JW Anderson man’; and it had nothing to do with being a man. That’s exciting and is why JW Anderson is truly on the forward edge of mens fashion.
The entire show can be seen here: http://www.style.com/slideshows/fashion-shows/spring-2015-menswear/j-w-anderson/collection
Agi and Sam
Agi Mdumulla and Sam Cotton took loose, flat-falling garments and turned them into cohesive looks that remind one of a young boy in his older-brother’s hand me downs. In fact, what is most striking about Agi and Sam’s most recent collection is the simplicity of the garments. Most pieces are one color (a few have simple patterns) and have little embellishment. It is the unusual cut and styling of the pieces, the unconventional layering and the sense of movement in the clothing that truly stands out. Agi and Sam also displayed one of the best takes on the current “socks n’ sandals” trend, pairing stark white sandals with blue or white knee high socks. The standout item in the collection was the pleated wide-leg trousers with vertical tonal striping that showed up throughout the show in various colors.
The entire show can be seen here: http://www.style.com/slideshows/fashion-shows/spring-2015-menswear/agi-sam/collection
Gieves and Hawkes
No. 1 Savile Row is the address of Gieves and Hawkes and have been there since 1771. For a brand that has been tailoring sharp menswear since America was still a colony, Gieves and Hawkes’ SS15 show was luxuriously modern. The models were dressed elegantly, but not lavishly. They wore suits and fine knits, but they did not seem to be dressed up. The color palette in the show was extremely tasteful, featuring soft hues of white, grey, brown and blue mixed in with striking black, navy and teal. The standout pieces were the exquisitely tailored suits, something that should be expected from a house as historic as Gieves and Hawkes.
The entire show can be seen here: http://www.style.com/slideshows/fashion-shows/spring-2015-menswear/gieves-hawkes/collection/
If Gieves and Hawkes is historic and somewhat traditional, Craig Green is exciting and unabashedly novel. Looking at his newest collection, one might be tempted to ask, “Can you even consider this clothing?” Craig Green mixed art, architecture and clothing by sending his models down the runway wearing lopsided wooden structures reminiscent of sails. Other models had what looked like sheets of padded plastic tied haphazardly around them. It is almost as though someone who had no knowledge of what clothing is was asked to dress 25 young men in whatever material they could find and send them down a runway. It is exciting and it raises new questions to the fashion world about what exactly it means to wear clothing. Expect to be talking about Craig Green in a decade from now.
The entire show can be seen here: http://www.style.com/slideshows/fashion-shows/spring-2015-menswear/craig-green/collection
Another young designer, graduating from the Royal College of Art in 2010, is Astrid Andersen. Andersen is known for taking sportswear and making it luxurious and slightly feminine. She takes athletic and hip-hop inspired silhouettes and decks them out in bright velvets, layers them with sheer mesh and stamps them with her logos (drawing references to branding among athletic clothing like Nike and Under Armour). The result is a confident, sexualized, luxurious thug who doesn’t care what you think because he knows he’s sexy. The standout piece of this collection was a long flowing robe that looked like an exaggerated boxing robe. The skintight mesh pieces and the lace sweater were both superb and the use of the split toe Nike’s was an excellent stylistic choice.
The entire show can be seen here: http://www.style.com/slideshows/fashion-shows/spring-2015-menswear/astrid-andersen/collection
Similar to Andersen, Nasir Mazhar is another young British designer that draws heavily from the hip-hop and athletic silhouettes, so it’s tempting to throw him in the same boat as Andersen and look past the two as group, especially considering both designers’ tendencies to plaster their name all over their garments. But if Andersen’s man is a luxurious, sexy thug, Mazhar’s man is a thug-of-the-future-turned-fashionisto. He doesn’t care as much about luxury and instead focuses on looking flashy, futuristic, and cool. This is accentuated by glittery fabrics, excessive pockets, and what appear to be shimmery, sequined panels. The street influence comes into play with the baggy shorts and pants, Nike Air Force 1’s, and excessive branding. All in all, Andersen’s man and Mazhar’s man roll with different crews but have silent respect for each other.
The entire show can be seen here: http://www.style.com/slideshows/fashion-shows/spring-2015-menswear/nasir-mazhar/collection/
Margaret Howell make clothes for the man who is in to fashion but doesn’t care for looking like he’s into fashion. Her cuts are fairly traditional, her colors are simple, and the clothes don’t have any flashy details. This show, however, was a classic example of gestalt, the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Though each individual piece of clothing seems simple on paper, they come together to create a seamless vision of a young English man who is at the same time casual but refined, comfortable yet classy. He is effortless and he is naturally handsome. Howell’s creates a single clear image with her show, something that should garner great respect.
The entire show can be seen here: http://www.style.com/slideshows/fashion-shows/spring-2015-menswear/margaret-howell/collection
Sibling’s SS15 show was overwhelming. It was scary, it was a bit uncomfortable, it was definitely weird. Men were walking down the runway with giant mohawks, covered in tufts of fuzz, or stuffed inside spiky hooded sweaters. One look obscured the entire torso and head of the model in a giant red puffball. It is evident that the Sibling man is a punk but he’s the punk that even weird out the other punks. There is an unmatched sense of individuality in Sibling’s collection. The Sibling man picks his outfits without any regard for how he will be judged for wearing it, something that is quite noble.
The entire show can be seen here: http://www.style.com/slideshows/fashion-shows/spring-2015-menswear/sibling/collection/
London is a place of change right now. The historical tailoring brands of Savile Row are being forced out of relevancy if they refuse to update. Young talent, right out of school, are the ones being talked about by the fashion world. London Collections: Men proved that in this modern age, people are unwilling to accept a designers work unless they bring something new to the table. Whether that’s Christopher Bailey’s updated British traveler, Craig Green’s novel take on what it means for something to be clothing, or Astrid Anderson’s invention of the luxury thug, London is a fountain of youthful ideas. Milan, Paris and New York should be watching, because London is doing something right.