london fashion week men’s: ones to watch
As it kicks off today, these are the designers to keep your eyes on!
vivienne westwood spring/summer 17. photography piczo
There's something satisfying about the way that the newly christened London Fashion Week Men's (formerly London Collections: Men's) falls at the beginning of January. What says fresh start more than the prospect of a whole new wardrobe? What better time to throw it all out and start again?
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The menswear industry is one in flux. There's been a quiet exodus from the schedule, with global powerhouses Gucci, Burberry, and Bottega Veneta (to name but a few) ditching menswear shows to present a unisex offering during womenswear week. It's begged the question: is a menswear month still feasible?
And that's not to mention that the shows begin against the backdrop of dire world events. This stands as the first full season since Brexit. Will Europe still be willing to bank on the designers that live and work in London? Then, of course, there's that dark shadow that remains from the election of Donald Trump (who will be inaugurated during the men's shows in Paris) currently looming over not just the United States, but the entire world.
That said, menswear should not be counted out just yet. Because, season after season, it has a canny knack of defining the womenswear that comes in the weeks afterwards. So, see this, perhaps, as a turning point. How will menswear designers make sense of the world around them? Can clothes become political weapons?
Vivienne Westwood would certainly say so, having for years turned her shows into as close to a political rally as a fashion show can be. She returns this menswear week to London from Milan, showing what is bound to be not just a homecoming, but also a powerful call to arms. Where better to do so than the city where it all began?
Elsewhere, London menswear looks to continue to be energized by the young; the creativity of London's art schools driving through many of the designers that show here. Designers that, from Friday, will each interpret what the world means to them, through clothes. Here are the ones to watch.
Grace Wales Bonner is a designer who, after only just a couple of years, has the sort of gravitas that a designer ten years her senior may struggle to achieve. Her first solo show last season was an intimate gathering of only the most powerful people in fashion and showcased her knack for storytelling. She presented a collection that was both an emotive elegy to the past and a hopeful look forward, told through the filter of her own mixed heritage. At the heart, though — and this is important — is clothing that men (and plenty of women) want to, and do, wear.
What, exactly, can we say about Craig Green that hasn't been said already? After winning the Fashion Award for Best Menswear Designer and giving Gaga a kiss on stage, and before that winning the BFC/GQ Designer Menswear Fund, Mr. Green is well and truly part of the new fashion establishment. Not that this, in any way, means he's defined by it — Craig has long marched to the beat of his own drum, his incomparable menswear providing a riff on workwear that lands perfectly between boundary-pushing and wholly wearable.
Martine Rose is another designer who has always done things her own way. For her last show proper, back in spring/summer 15, she chose to present just a single look. Subsequently, whilst working alongside Demna Gvasalia in a secretive consultancy role at Balenciaga, she hasn't shown her collections in a traditional setting, choosing instead to show via lookbook, video, or in a Parisian sales room. Which has, in fact, done nothing to dampen her appeal. If anything, it's heightened it — her T-shirt, with a single ring hanging from the hemline, was undoubtedly one of the pieces from last season. This time, she will present her collection in Seven Sisters market, far away from London's traditional show spaces.
Disproving the theory London is only about the young, at 75 years old the doyenne of London fashion, Dame Vivienne Westwood, is making a return to the city that birthed her brand. In the past decades, she has redefined the boundaries of fashion — ushering in an anarchic way of dressing, electrified by causes around the world. It's a boon to have her back from Milan, where she usually shows, closing out the week with a combined men's and women's show that's influence will extend far beyond London's city limits. Long live the reigning queen of British fashion.
Just a year ago, Kiko Kostadinov was virtually unknown, though he had achieved a cult buzz through an early collaboration with Stussy (stocked at in-the-know retailers like Machine A) while he was still finishing his MA at Central Saint Martins. But now, after an impeccable debut proper in London, where he presented a pernickety exploration of modern fabric — Tyvek, Bulgarian military fabrications — recreated by his deft hand into clean, modern workwear, he is now one of the most anticipated shows on the schedule. Something only bolstered by the fact that Kiko was, late last year, named as the Creative Director of a newly rebranded Mackintosh.
JOHN LAWRENCE SULLIVAN
John Lawrence Sullivan was a turn-of-the-century American boxer. Now though, his name doubles as a Japanese menswear brand, helmed by another former boxer, Arashi Yanagawa. Not that, as you might think, the sport plays much of a part in his designs. Instead, JOHN LAWRENCE SULLIVAN rides on a wave of awkward masculinity that has defined men's fashion of late — something that must be, at least in part, attributed down to the fact he works with Lotta Volkova, the stylist behind Balenciaga, Vetements and Gosha Rubchinskiy, amongst others. Think: warped tailoring (where the proportions are shrunken or expanded), military inflected separates, and slogan printed tees. It's his first time showing outside of Japan — Arashi chose the noise of London to launch his brand to the world.
And, talking of noise, is there a much noisier designer than the brilliant Charles Jeffrey? Meant in the best possible way, of course — his clothing has all the brashness and abandon of his LOVERBOY club night, referencing everything from the Blitz Kids to Madame Gres in the process. And, in his last season with Fashion East's MAN, the question is: where to next? Judging by his past year — somewhere stratospheric. He is joined by two designers that show for the second time as part of MAN: Per Götesson who last season showed amplified denim with a Scandi-bent, and Chinese-born Feng Chen Wang who impressed with roomy, romantic sportswear.
The incubator for many a prodigious talent that has emerged from London over the past decade, Fashion East, is back again with a fresh round of presentations to sit alongside its MAN catwalk show. This year, Rottingdean Bazaar, aka James Theseus Buck and Luke Brook, return after their much celebrated first outing. They laid flattened tights, bras, and balloons on to sweatshirts, as well as what they call 'Badge Taste', badges decorated with everything from pubes to an old cigarette. They are joined by another duo, Eden Loweth and Tom Barratt, who together make-up Art School — a brand that promises an exploration of queer culture and the non-binary body.
Text Jack Moss