“you’ve got to say something, otherwise it’s just clothes”: lfwm day one round-up
As the aftershocks of the UK’s general election youthquake were felt across Westminster and beyond, the opening day of London Fashion Week Men’s celebrated the power of the next generation.
Tourne de Transmission spring/summer 18
A fitting line from Leonard Cohen's Anthem opened Tourne de Transmission's press release, the first of the men's spring/summer 18 season: "There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in." After a year of Brexit, post-truths and deepened austerity, Tourne de Transmission was one of a number of London menswear designers hopeful of a better tomorrow. Beginning the morning after the election night before, the realisation that Britain's Generation Z had flexed its political muscle to real effect for the first time hinted that a crack had been struck.
"If you think about all the great changes that have happen in life, they very seldom come from people in power, they come from pressure on people in power," Jeremy Corbyn explained to JME during their exclusive conversation for i-D. As a new generation engaged themselves with British politics, the establishment felt pressure from a fresh angle. Although the initially shared 77% turnout figure for 18-24 year olds is unsubstantiated, pollsters and political commentators alike are in agreement that an energised and politically engaged youth has the power to change the future of the country. After an appetite for apathy and disengagement has been replaced by an insatiable hunger for action and change, London's menswear designers encouraged us all to question the information we're fed, to stand up for what we believe in and to make the most out of our youth.
"This collection is touching on what we've been fed, it's a reaction to the age of misinformation," Tourne de Transmission's Graeme Gaughan explained backstage. "From the government to the media, they tailor what we're told to fit their agendas. A lot of it is bollocks, but at last, we had a more positive result yesterday." Fashion has never been held accountable for politics, but we're living in an age where bowing out of the conversation is discouraged. "You've got to say something, otherwise it's just clothes," Gaughan added. "If you're not using your platform to say anything positive, then what's the point?" Frustrated by the prevalence of post-truths, fake news and spin, Gaughan wanted to touch on the lack of transparency within policy, politics and the media by adding layers of transparent materials to outerwear classics. Additionally, elements of interchangeable text can be changed as the wearer sees fit -- it's up to us to question what we're told. "Each piece will come with a kit and the customer can change the text as they want to. There's a subtlety to it because I don't want to ram it down people's throats, it's important for people to make their own minds up and they're beginning to. Yesterday showed that the younger generation aren't having it anymore, they're standing up and using their voice. This is just the start."
"We're making the noise, the youth vote is making itself heard," Liam Hodges agreed after his show, Unveiled Tomorrows. Reacting to the incessant noise of the modern world, Hodges is encouraging his tribe to find their own voice. "The struggle is learning from the noise that it's in our feeds and the battle is to originate not imitate," he added. Emblazoned across Hodges' garments, NOISE echoed throughout the collection, as did his teddy take on Edvard Munch's The Scream. "The screaming bear motif is for a generation that just wants to be cute but the shit they have to deal with is breaking them down. However, don't confuse its cuddly nature with weakness because these teddy bear have teeth!" As the youth tear Theresa May's Brexit mandate into shreds, Hodges unveiled the perfect mascot.
From two-steppers to zine makers, car-modifiers to anarchist scouts, Hodges' hyper-hybrid approach has collaged subcultures, championed DIY attitudes and stood separate from expectations. Soundtracked by Gaika's God Save The Roadmen and Integrity's Unveiled Tomorrow, Hodges' lads stepped up. "This collection is for the guy that needs a work flex, not just a tracksuit," he explained backstage. "I'm trying to make clothes that I want to wear when I'm older." Whilst Hodges created for a "work flex", Xander Zhou met business as he created his own otherworldly office, Supernatural, Extraterrestrial & Co. As he cut, copied and manipulated formal tailoring and fused it with utility workwear, the imagined "banter-free working environment" was the perfect playground for the Beijing-based designer to subvert expectations. This was the uniform of a brave new world.
Away from the office and back down on Earth, Berthold's spring/summer 18 collection was a study of masculinity and conflict. Sparked by a collection of photographs of child soldiers across Sierra Leone, Uganda, Liberia and Nigeria, Berthold explored the coming-of-age transition from boy to man and from the hopelessness of war to the joy of belonging. "I encountered these images of boy soldiers -- they have adulthood thrust upon them. So, it started somewhere dark but for now more than ever, it was important to take it somewhere much more positive. Same tribe, different generation." From oversized tailoring to graphic colour blocking, this was yet another collection that celebrated the optimism of brightness of youth.
Whilst this youthful optimism dominated the first day of London Fashion Week Men's, Phoebe English MAN served a reminder that there's still work to be done to support young men. "There is such a vast, real problem in our society in which men aren't encouraged or expected to speak about how they feel," she explained from a quiet corner of her pottery themed presentation. "It's unusual to ask a guy how they're feeling but we need to. Since I've been designing menswear, I've begun to look at men in a different way. There's a much broader reality that the one we're fed." Grounded in its focus of fabric, form and finishing, English uses her menswear to celebrate a wider spectrum of masculinities. "With this show, given that it's post-election, I thought it would be a weird morning so wanted to create a safe, appealing and optimistic environment. A number of my male friends do pottery and they tell me how much they love this quiet and relaxed practice -- it gives them a sense of escape and control." Thankfully, the need to escape was far less than it had been after previous elections but the desire for control was as important as ever.
Text Steve Salter
Photography Mitchell Sams