manic street preachers: sunday at london fashion week men's
The London men's shows experienced a 70s renaissance on Sunday as designers got nostalgic.
j.w.anderson autumn/winter 17
Last year they called it The Alessandro Michele Effect: the opulent jumble of historical references, which seemed to define every other runway following the designer's powerful takeover of Gucci in 2015. Anno 2017 that sense of hyper-referencing still lingered on the third day of autumn/winter 17 men's shows in London, but as both Wales Bonner and J.W.Anderson zoned in on two specific eras centuries apart, there was new meaning to the madness. It was the Renaissance and the 70s, eras mainly connected by their penchant for a bowl haircut, but beneath the surface also by a more profound sense of authenticity that felt of-the-moment to these designers. "It was about looking at the street in an elevated way, from different time periods," Grace Wales Bonner explained with typical downplayed precision after her show, which saw priestly and princely characters walking frantically around an island of speakers, a staging she likened to the Notting Hill Carnival. "I was thinking about Renaissance friars and the spiritual characters of that period, like these children that collect people's vanities, always wearing white. That was another idea of community—an abstract connection," she elaborated. "It came from this idea of a street preacher and how that person can transform their environment by what they say. The speakers were a way of using something in the public forum to transform it, and how that can bring a community together."
Wales Bonner's trademark fusion of cultures and epochs has been key to the success she's experienced in her short but applauded time in the spotlight. She emerged at the right time and place for it. In her meeting between the Renaissance and the 70s, she hit another nail on the head, emphasising the shared desire for something real and homespun between those two moments in time. Both were - in their very different ways - periods of enlightenment, of cultural rebellion and a yearning for artisanal intricacy—something illustrated nicely at J.W.Anderson in the morning where Renaissance tunics and 70s' crochet had a striking interactivity between them. And something about those qualities seems to resonate in the shattered post-2016 world in which we now find ourselves, searching for meaning and some sort of down-to-earth footing in the aftermath of a year of shockers. Was Wales Bonner less opulent than previous seasons? "I think so, in a way," she said. "It was more real, more humble, like the linens. And having something that's very rich in the approach of treating different languages and levels with the same kind of attention and thinking, whether it's from hundreds of years ago or found yesterday on a market. It's about giving different cultures similar value, and the whole thing to me was about celebrating diversity."
At Joseph, Mark Thomas and Louise Trotter looked to the 70s as well, in a collection that echoed a lot of the British eccentricity that decade excelled in, something that also found its way into Wales Bonner's take on that time. "Louise was moving house this season and found some old pictures of her folks in the 70s," Thomas said. The Joseph designers played with proportion, expanding and elongating the silhouette, while cropping trousers. Their very British fabrics - weighed to suit the trans-season agenda that's now a reality in fashion - combined colours in what Thomas called "odd combinations" such as mustard and ox blood, or an eccentric clashing of fair-isles with 70s checks. "I think we're looking back at our parents," he said, reflecting on the power of the 70s, a decade that's now had its firm grip on fashion for seasons. "It's nostalgic." Sibling dittoed that sentiment with a late-70s and early-80s spectacular that had its own share of Renaissance ruffs, albeit via Princess Diana's signature Shy Di collars. "Lee Scratch Perry, Princess Diana, Barbara Windsor and Gaudi," Cozette McCreery said, going through Sid Bryan's and her moodboard. "And also Judy," she added, referring to Judy Blame, who styled the show, which was based on Gaudi's colour scheme following the duo's recent trips to Barcelona and Park Güell. The collection marked Sibling's first fusion of their men's and women's shows and with that a new approach to production. "Everything becomes more real when you've got a realistic lead time to work too. You can actually consider things a lot more and not compromise all the time," Bryan said. "Doing tailoring actually allows you to do a complete grown-up look. Obviously it's full-on patterns and colour, but it means you can have a really complete look."
Text Anders Christian Madsen