these tongue-in-cheek brands are forging the future of london menswear
Featuring Art School, Rottingdean Bazaar, and Stefan Cooke, MAN fall/winter 18 was everything we could want and more from a showcase of the city's emerging menswear designers.
This article was originally published by i-D UK.
Art School were the opening act at this season’s MAN showcase of emerging talent. You can’t reduce such a diverse trio of designers easily — but the show soundtrack, a house-infused take on Pink Floyd’s "The Wall," with its refrain of “leave those kids alone” seemed to sum up the rebellious and defiant air.
For Eden Loweth, one half of the duo, it was all about change for them this season. “We really wanted to show a bit more skin this season,” Eden explained post-show. “We wanted to make it very sexy.” But it was sexiness tempered with softness: sheer fabrics, structured tailoring, Swarovski crystals, and colorful leathers.
Art School’s most life-giving moments this season came from the cast: a strong army of non-binary kids and alt-icons like Princess Julia. “It was all about character, it was all about lips and bodies and celebrating the people we surround ourselves with.”
Text Felix Petty
Oh, to be invited to tea by James Theseus Buck and Luke Brooks, the duo responsible for the label Rottingdean Bazaar. Their minds are just bloody excellent; keen observers of today's society, wry and sharp and really, really funny.
Their fall/winter 18 show opened up with a whistling and keen bird watcher, followed by Luke's dad followed by the artist Julie Verhoeven, followed by designer Liam Hodges (‘oh I had a massif laff doing it’), then Charity Shop Sue (if you haven’t watched this show, you must. Sue is a Nottingham/should be international icon) with Harrie Bradshaw (model, naughty boy, and Central Saint Martins student extraordinaire). And then of course, Naomi Campbell closed the show.
The designers use of the daily detritus of life is vivid — they make it relatable and elevated. The use of the Japanese technique, shibori, was used on what Luke called the "costumes." Each look took one person two to three days to make.
These costumes echoed footballs and dartboards as headpieces and had a hefty use of huge sequins. “It’s a bit crazy the way we work, it's literally just us two. Then this week we realized we could do with some help so set up studio in the Fashion East studios. Louise Gray really helped us with the shibori and we had amazing help from CSM students.”
And speaking of support, their local town of Rottingdean is nothing short of family. "The greengrocers, the post office... when we wanted to include the Rottingdean Newspaper and give it to the audience at the show, we rang the lady and she provided us with everything we needed."
This is their world, and it’s a wonderful bizarre and brilliant one. ”We try to find materials and objects that suggest an idea within themselves,” says James. “So for some of the costumes, we imagined a shrinking a crisp packet in the oven and found that really funny and a succinct idea,” Luke ads.
They laugh, we laugh, fashion laughs. THANK GOD. James and Luke are not just designers, they are powerful commentators on life and creativity and they remind us that fashion should be fun.
Text Bojana Kozarevic
Question everything because all is not what it seems in the sensory subverted world of Stefan Cooke. Building on his acclaimed CSM MA graduate collection and buoyed by his recent H&M Design Award win, Stefan continued to copy, paste, and manipulate men’s wardrobe staples. "The idea was to play with appearances and defy expected functions of garments,” Cooke explained backstage. “I’m drawn to clothes that are accessible and familiar to everyone.” Secondhand finds including a grungy mohair sweater, jeans, leather jacket, and trench coat were sourced from eBay before being photographed, digitally manipulated, and transposed onto refined synthetic fabrications. From trompe-l'œil trickery to clever cuts and silhouette shake-ups, eyes are duped and expectations eschewed.
As Stefan Cooke takes its first steps as a brand, the West Sussex-born talent is far from alone. Launching with his partner of six-years and fellow CSM-grad Jake Burt, Stefan Cooke promises to be a platform to collaborate with a growing collective of creatives. “I’m not interested in designing alone,” he explains, pulling both Burt and this season’s knitwear collaborator Kate Brittain that bit closer. “We want to grow together and involve more and more talent."
Text Steve Salter