man rings in its 10 year anniversary at spring/summer 16
Liam Hodges and Rory Parnell-Mooney kick off the 10th anniversary of MAN with pirate radio boys and cocksure teens.
liam hodges spring/summer 16
Believe it or not, it's been 10 years since Fashion East and Topman launched their menswear initiative, MAN. Churning out the likes of J.W. Anderson, Astrid Andersen, Christopher Shannon and Craig Green, MAN's alumni prove just how influential it's been in men's fashion. A video montage of Lulu Kennedy and MAN's previous champions opened the show and was greeted with well-deserved cheers for each of its speakers. "I remember one of them was Siv Stodal," Lulu Kennedy reminisces backstage of the very first season, "she was amazing. She was styled by Thom Murphy who was here today. It was good to have him back. We had Benjamin Kirchhoff first season, that's what their label was called, when they were just doing menswear. And Patrick Soderstam, he did a really full on show, I remember it standing out in my head. He had a girl on the runway, and I was like "Yes!" You never had girls on a men's runway and it gave me a little kick. It felt forbidden." Establishing Fashion East in 2000, Lulu Kennedy's dedication to the next generation of talent has been a driving force for London's fashion. Asking if she ever thought MAN, established in 2005, would come this far, she says; "I'm not that kind of person who ever thinks ahead, it would be good if I did plan things more, but I'm always so caught up in the moment, thinking about that show and that bunch of designers that I'm never like "my strategy for the next five years..." Things tend to just happen. Because the talent was good, there was never a problem, because there was always someone to show. The problem would be if there wasn't any talent. Then what do you do? I guess you have a season out." Really, a season out?! "Yeah, I wouldn't want to show people who weren't strong enough or ready. Luckily I think in menswear there's a real influx. It dips and wanes a bit in womenswear, but it comes in cycles it seems in my opinion."
This season the MAN runway showed off the wares of third timer Liam Hodges and sophomore Rory Parnell-Mooney. Rory's geometric shapes and clean cut tailoring were offset by provocative cut outs revealing chests and nipples, while thighs stomped down the runway as the boys were stripped to their underwear. Studying the work of Polish Russian painter Kazimir Malevich and contrasting ordered outer layers with chaotic fabrics underneath, the theme of his show was one of protest.
Meanwhile, Liam Hodges looked to pirate radio OG Tony Blackburn and the kids who are determined to put their views out there, even if that means squatting in an abandoned building and illegally broadcasting to whoever could pick up their airwaves. The first boy came out carrying an aerial, and black, white, teal and electric blue camouflage flooded over onto the bodies of the models, like they'd just returned from a gabba rave.
We caught up with the boys backstage...
Tell me about your inspirations...
It's a bit of a weird one. We started looking at Malevich and a lot of Russian art and this very structured, geometric, perfect exterior, and the idea of hiding a message of protest underneath it. That's what we tried to achieve across the whole collection. So we had a lot of perfect pieces, and the jewelry which was all very perfect, and then a huge amount of pleating, and loads of stuff that's really uncontrolled. There's a top that we literally had to stick pins in because it's completely uncontrolled, not stitched or anything. It was just trying to find that balance. The yellow stuff also comes from that idea, just painted on screen prints that, if you were to produce, would all be a little bit different, everything being uncontrolled.
What was it that made you want to have a message protest?
I suppose it was really looking at Malevich, and there's been a lot of stuff in the last six months that's really fucked me off, like the general election. It just really fucking annoys me that actually, people don't understand how connected they are to the way everything is run, you know? It's the same way Malevich wasn't actually allowed to paint loads of shit, and loads of his work was taken down and destroyed. That was a running theme for the season.
And all the boys in underwear... what was that about?
We wanted to do something a bit like, this very louche boy, who doesn't know his own sexuality. Or he does, but it's very hard reference to put together, because he's a bit like a flasher, but he's not. He's like a kid who answers the door to his mom's friends in his underwear and all his mom's friends fancy him, and it's weird but it's this bizarre sexuality where he doesn't know he's really amazing looking. We were kind of trying to achieve that. Throw on a jumper and walk around in your underwear. He's totally comfortable with his weird teen, awkward body you know.
Where did the pirate radio thing all stem from?
It was kind of trying to spread the brand message, trying to build my little world and how I feel about everything, and then thinking, how would my guy do that? How would they spread this new idea? In the airwaves.
What is your brand message?
For me it's kind of like, my life, my friends, what we want to do and how we think things could be better.
Just doing it even if it goes against convention...
Yeah, just trying to do it and seeing if it works.
Where did the football lads come in?
It was just kind of like your friends doing a pirate radio station, in summer going to play football in the park, take a boombox, put it on and just chill and have a good time.
Did gabba come into it at all?
Yeah, with the styling and some of the references, we looked at that.
And the body paint was quite ravy...
We wanted to make them look like they'd been up all night, like someone getting on the train in the morning and they've had a long night in Berghain, there's always people out of it and covered in paint and stuff. It's also supposed to be like a camouflage, for them to put up their radio station and stuff.
How did that translate in the clothes?
The last fabric was all this binary coded, modern camouflage. So we wrote out a message in 1s and 0s and then put print over that and that's the bit that's woven, and there's another fabric underneath.
Who was the rapper at the end?
Hector, he's a spoken word poet, he's amazing. We sat down and spoke about his work and my work and wrote it together.
What was the last line again?
"It suits us to be unsuitable." That kind of sums it up really.