Topman got wet, Richard Nicoll got romantic, and Jonathan Saunders played with tracksuits. On Monday, London Collections: Men officially kicked off the autumn/winter 14 menswear shows. Anders Christian Madsen reports...
Talking about the weather is a thing best avoided. But considering the flood that met the London men’s show-goers on Monday morning, art couldn’t have imitated life much better than at Topman where a shower of theatre rain poured down over the murky models during the finale. “It’s ironic,” Gordon Richardson said. “I was on a beach in Mallorca when I dreamed up all of this.” If his powerful production was an exaggerated parallel to what, quite literally, went down outside the Old Sorting Offices, his collection was a similar take on the gloomy London winter wardrobe. Colossal cable knits looked pleasantly perverse next to embossed rubber tops, PVC trousers, and suggestive oversized overcoats. Set to the recital of a specially commissioned John Cooper Clarke poem, it was the kind of black, brutal poetry in motion that London fashion was known for years ago before it caught the colour bug, and it was a ravishing reunion. “We’re real clothes so our show can’t be a fantasy show,” Richardson said.
Reality seemed to kick in all around the London manscape on the first day of the autumn/winter 14 shows. Lou Dalton looked to her country upbringing as she presented her very sexy idea of “a young scally living in a caravan behind the farm, who has a bit of a lively night life,” as she summed up her bleached jeans and einheitsgrau shirts, which wouldn’t have looked out of place in a pre-1989 East Germany, either. With his muted colour scheme and “emotional anarchism” courtesy of the confessionary scribbles of anonymous men on scarves, Matthew Miller – who visited Berlin for the first time last year – also jumped on the socialist bandwagon of the olden German days. “I’ve always got German iconography on the walls, from graphics to furniture design,” he said. While Lee Roach wouldn’t necessarily agree with Miller’s ideas about “clothes for the everyman”, the four-word show notes for his stripped-down, slicked-back minimalist leather collection on “process, contradiction, utility, and intuition” easily read like a socialist battle song.
“I’m in a fighting mood,” Richard Nicoll declared after his unpredictably vivacious show, which managed to get even the wettest, weariest editors out of their first-day-of-shows daze. Oversized peacoats, boxy bombers and power coats had an architectural magnificence about them, which was only heightened by the acid pastels that ruled the collection – not to mention the addition of sculpted 70s shirt frills, which took the romance to a new level. “It was unrestrained. I just thought I’d do what I wanted to do as opposed to what I thought I should do,” Nicoll noted. At Astrid Andersen, the fighting spirit was a rather more spelled-out scenario. “I wanted the colours and the fabrics to feel quite sensitive and have that kind of feminine feel, but I wanted the guys to be more aggressive,” she said of her Only God Forgives-inspired “brutal elegance”, which was flawlessly portrayed in the contrasting nature of a starkly grey silken tracksuit.
It was a sentiment echoed at Jonathan Saunders, who’d been watching early-80s art films – as you do – and had chosen to tackle the “cheap tracksuits” of the era. Coining the resulting “balletic punk”, Saunders effortlessly imbued his graceful hybrids (the tracksuits, that is) with the free-spirited modernity and sumptuous elegance of his spring/summer 14 women’s collection. Making his debut at the Fashion East installations, Nicomede Talavera played his own riff on the 80s sports theme with a graphic multi-silhouette collection, which was really rather retro. Under London’s other menswear umbrella, Craig Green took his third and final bow at MAN with a series of heavy-duty kimono-like coats in the designer’s incredibly intricate spliced and diced, hand-painted patterns, worthy of a Persian emperor, and with a finale that had everyone singing Madonna’s Live To Tell for the rest of the day.