the great escape
Brexit casts its shadow over the first day of the spring/summer 17 men's shows in London where Craig Green, Astrid Andersen and Topman reflected on a sense of belonging - and a changing fashion system.
craig green spring/summer 17
In these times of Brexit debates, it would be totally forced to read into the flag wrap-suits in the spring/summer 17 Craig Green collection as some sentiment of nationality. Yet backstage on this first day of the London men's shows, he didn't talk about the cults or communal dressing that usually make up his frame of reference, but rather about "a sense of belonging". There was something religious about those eight hooded flag looks - the strongest new addition to the designer's repertoire - and the meeting between the elements made for an eerie atmosphere, which made you think of that idea of "belonging": the blurred lines between nationality and religion, and the big issues facing us all in Europe in a time when refugees from another part of the world are pouring in whilst Great Britain is busy trying to get out of the fellowship—the Union. It's going to be a heated summer in this part of the world, and didn't Green know it. "It's almost torturous to wrap someone in that much quilting in the summer," he said, referring to the signature Craig Green sumo-goes-cricketing jackets and trousers, which had been updated in a Middle Eastern print. "We did have these really heavy knits that we were going to wrap people into and make them really sweat, but then I thought it's almost like someone's ripped away from something," he noted, talking about the bare backs that featured in some looks.
Astrid Andersen, whose native Denmark is currently going through a Dexit debate of its own, was getting hot and bothered about something even closer to home: the fashion cycle and an industry on the brink of evolution, which has been on everyone's mind since an overworked Raf Simons upped and left at Dior and those irreverent Gvasalias at Vetements announced their own restructuring of the fashion system in January, which will see them merge their women's and men's collections into one big show to be presented on the haute couture schedule this July. Gucci followed suit and will turn co-ed come February next year, and in London Sibling will do the same starting this weekend. Translating into a brown and pastel blue colour palette on her trademark sporty-urban uniform, Andersen said she'd been struggling with the unnatural balance of that strange fashion reality where designers have to think about summer clothes in the middle of winter. "It's the balance betweens seasons and nature. This is how I have to work but you find yourself so out of synch with nature. We went to Toronto in February, to Niagara Falls, and I had to do this summer collection, which I knew is going to drop in December, and it sparked a lot of thoughts for me as to why we're not listening to nature."
Those words were poetry for an age of enlightenment in fashion where people like Demna and Guram Gvasalia are becoming the modern-day Rousseaus of the industry, ripping off their powdered wigs and making designers ask the question: why do we follow the rules of an ancient fashion system when you can just do what you want to do? Time will tell if the see-now-buy-now model - another revolutionary idea currently happening around the fashion landscape - will allow all designers to follow the rhythm of nature, but these desperate times also call for desperate measures. Andersen introduced womenswear to her collection and put a man in a dress, following that co-ed spirit spearheaded by Alessandro Michele at Gucci where everything has a gender-fluid air about it and every show is a boys-and-girls affair. "It's just business, isn't it? We want to become a proper brand now. We're out of NewGen so we really have to grow and mature. It seemed like the perfect season to do it," Andersen said. The winds of change were blowing at Topman as well in a collection that celebrated the British seaside and was inspired by Gordon Richardson's childhood on the Isle of Wright. "It's a flavour of things going on," he said. "This is a moment to cast a nostalgic eye on the UK."
Was it a statement on Brexit? "No, it just put me in a reflective mood: the things I loved growing up and what seems to make England great." He communicated it in tourist jumpers featuring the names of British seaside towns and in priceless sunburnt make-up looks, which weren't totally native to summer life on the English piers—but to Brits abroad, too. That concept was an interesting thought in the Brexit debate where a vote to leave will instantly make it more difficult for the Brits to have those summers abroad, at least going through the airport. "I'm remaining," Richardson said on the subject of the big question. "I've filled in my post to vote so I've made the statement." If Great Britain ends up leaving the EU, perhaps it's worth looking to Topman for some passport-free seaside travel advice within our borders.
Text Anders Christian Madsen
Photography Mitchell Sams