the great escape: london collections gets romantic
Romanticism hit the London men’s shows on Sunday as Alexander McQueen, J.W. Anderson and James Long dreamed of worlds far away.
Photography Jason Lloyd Evans
If the second day of the London men's shows dealt with the reality check of making it in business, the day that followed brought fashion back to its all-time favourite mindset: romanticism. "It's the romanticism in the idea of being lost at sea," Sarah Burton mused after her nautical Alexander McQueen show, which took that classic collection reference to the kind of dreamy, subversive heights that McQueen wrote the book on. Navigation prints and sea creatures splashed across naval tailoring build the frames around the fantasy of escapism, and more literally, perhaps the idea of getting lost for good.
At J.W. Anderson, getting lost at sea wasn't quite far enough. Jonathan Anderson sent his boy to outer space with all the alien "orbital" shapes and knick-knacks that come with the territory. A transparent nude top wrapped in white feathers had a retro-TV, greetings-earthlings-we-come-in-peace kind of quality about it, which was nice. The show was set to the best soundtrack of the week, courtesy of Michel Gaubert, who mixed Madonna and Björk's futuristic Bedtime Story with spoken word poetry by Robert Ashley. "He took himself seriously. Hotel rooms had lost their punch for him."
For the political designers of London, the lack of reactions to the UK election in the collections this week has been surprising, if not a little dull, but while Burton's collection definitely didn't have anything to do with British politics, it somehow captured that post-election mood of a lot of London's creative youth, which washed over social media. People fantasising about the leaving the country in search of something better, or perhaps just to find some peace and quiet from the aggressive debates and over-opinionatedness that became an everyday thing during those election weeks.
If Alexander McQueen provided that long lost serenity, James Long put it into a kind of context that the young male audience of LCM could relate to. "It was Brighton, walking home from the clubs, quite trashy," he said backstage. "At the Pavilion in Brighton there's all these trashy people outside, and inside it's grand, and when they designed that they designed it on ideas of making up India. Their vision of how they thought things should be." Long's romanticism was personal - he's spent a lot of time in Brighton - and totally relatable to young fantasists, who'll buy his clothes.
It was the dream of summertime frivolity with all the beach settings and sunrises that come with it, wrapped into ravy patterns, patchwork, and denim, and more than a few nods to the 90s, the decade that saw Long's first early-morning strolls home from a night out. "There was an idea of not blending in," he explained. "You know, when people think they're really blending in and no one's looking, but really, you're not blending in at all." In a way, he was describing the London fashion mentality on the whole: this urban bubble of ours where no one bats an eye even at wildest outfits, but everyone very much notices.
With his big black bows wrapped around models' waists, there was a chicness to Long's show, which sprung from the classic fashion idea of romanticism. It was there at Margaret Howell, too, not just in those little Parisian poet's scarves tied loosely around the neck but in the softness and relaxed cut of prim shirts and trousers, and even in the sandals worn with socks. It wasn't as alien or escapist as Anderson and Burton's romanticism, but the sentiment was definitely there.
Text Anders Christian Madsen
Photography Jason Lloyd Evans