working nine to five: london collections men tackles the suit
In an industry that makes businessmen out of designers, the London menswear set tackled conformity and the suits to go with it on the second day of LC:M. What a way to make a living.
matthew miller sping/summer 16
Growing up is hard to do. Only three years old, the London men's shows are still a kind of Neverland for its designers, whose raw and perhaps uncommercial creativity has been nurtured and encouraged within this safe haven. But outside the real world is lurking, and it's not particularly forgiving to young labels trying to make it in business. Just two weeks ago, Kris Van Assche announced the hiatus of his eponymous brand, reminding us of the challenges faced by designers - even when they're also the Artistic Director of Dior Homme. London designers, of course, are notoriously tenacious and on the second day of the shows, the fighting spirit ruled in Neverland.
"For the last three months, I've been writing business plans and doing stuff I was never trained for, so I felt like my head was going to explode," Matthew Miller said after his tailoring-centric show. "I didn't have any creative thoughts in my mind and I just felt like a businessman, so I felt the need to just fucking destroy that, that idea of the businessman and what I've become. It was quite cathartic in a way to start out with this really business look, but then bring in the texture and just fucking destroy it." And so he did, suit by suit, gradually messing more and more with the sacred elements of tailoring: the fabric turned into a sculptural double-bonded cotton with a metal alloy, the silhouette shape-shifted and the colors became brighter and less formal.
"There was this fighting spirit to do with athletes and mods. The whole thing about having that confidence, but also male bonding and how guys get into groups, whether it's a group of guys that plays darts and plays football together, or whether they're punks or they're mods or they're what have you," Cozette McCreery said backstage at the Sibling show where cheerleaders and quarterbacks weren't necessarily fighting the conformity of business life, but still appeared in the context of tailoring. The trio had enlisted master tailor Edward Sexton to create two suits for the collection, the bespoke and affluent values of which were cheekily - and, of course, rebelliously - contrasted by the type of American dreamboat muscle men, who wore them.
"I want each season to grow up, because I'm growing up as well. That's why we introduced the trench coat: to show people that the aesthetic can be pushed on to other things," Astrid Andersen said after her show, which marked her transition from Japanese references into Chinese as part of what she calls her Far East phase. Perhaps it was the culture of ambition and business-mindedness of the Chinese, which inspired Andersen to expand beyond her trademark streetwear, or maybe it was what she referred to as the 'sleekness' of China. "I don't want to say conservative, but maybe within that market it is." As far as business goes, Andersen's foray into the Chinese market is a pretty damned astute one.
Perhaps less flamboyant than some of her London menswear colleagues, Lou Dalton's collections have always featured the kind of garments needed to a run business. What was interesting about her show on Saturday morning was the underlying current of sex and nightclub debauchery. The models came out with slightly glossy faces in soft transparent coats, the combination of which quickly set a wonderfully seedy tone for an otherwise clean-cut collection. "It was the euphoric moment when you're in a club and you've been dancing. That the-end-of-the-night, sweaty kind of feeling. Circa 1988-92, which is kind of like my coming of age time," Dalton said backstage.
At Coach, Stuart Vevers probably doesn't have to think about his business plan that much, and the contrast between his elaborate skating ramp set at Lindley Hall and the naked runways at Victoria House and the Old Sorting Offices, where the independent designers show, could only be stark. "A lot of the ideas come from the movies I grew up watching in Doncaster. I get really excited about the idea of the American dream and freedom. It's new to me. I've never worked for an American brand in this capacity, so it's all about celebrating that," Vevers said after his psychedelic surfer show of trippy prints and sliders. "There's a bit of a cool old money Kennedys thing mixed with this counterculture." Coach is a contrast in the LCM landscape indeed, but one that shifts things up and of which there could easily be more.