As with its female counterpart, there is a funny discord between what you see on the catwalk at London Collections: Men (the elongated figures for one), and what you see on ‘the street’, whether that be in the literal street outside Victoria House and the people queuing to get in, or the semi-metaphorical street of anywhere not placed on such a pedestal.
Sartorially speaking, at London Fashion Week Marques’Almeida’s denim has been consistent with the former, while at LC:M this season there was a small but prominent number of J.W. Anderson’s skiwear inspired zippers visible. David Gandy aside, no one particularly dabbles with tweed in 2016 (or 15, 14, 13?), though suits are present, but it’s the sports-tech fabrics (this is London, it rains), that more often frequent the front row and the corresponding Instagram accounts.
That said, the same 70’s aesthetic that informed Anderson’s necklines was prevalent on plenty of the AW16 catwalk. Similarly, the visibility of male youth, the theme of Lou Stoppard’s new exhibition ‘Mad About The Boy’, was hard not to focus on throughout the four day event (opened in tandem with LC:M, perhaps it simply played on our minds more than usual).
In regards to themes, none were properly new this season, in so much as there are no new themes in fashion: for the most part trends are simply regurgitated, re-appropriated, reimagined, redefined and resold (and to some extent always have been), which explains, perhaps in part, why those whose casting was on point, made exceptional displays.
The standout? Hands down Nasir Mazhar. The energy from the DJ Murlo produced soundtrack (featuring Mr. G’s ‘Freakshow’), the wide breadth of different faces, reflecting the label’s physical surroundings in east London, those (female) hair dos by Roxane Attard (!), and the clean execution of it all.
Like Meadham Kirchhoff, Mazhar has often been a ‘season on season off’ type of designer (in regards to palette and aesthetic, veering between heavy goth boots and fresh Nike crepes, as opposed to in output), and in many ways this season married the two. Elsewhere he echoed the look of sometime model Larry B, exercising gender fluidity by placing his male line-up in halterneck and cutaway tops. It was fierce, and it was exciting.
Channeling all its energy into its Topman partnership (no installations this season), Fashion East proposed three designers with contrasting points of view, as per MAN’s founding intentions.
Grace Wales Bonner’s ‘Spirituals’ – “a meditation on black spirituality, a current that flows from the ancient past and carries us away on a journey to a future way out beyond the galaxies” – was a polite performance boasting courteous bows and Tunde Jegede playing a West African 12 string harp. Wales Bonner’s rich aesthetic, bestowed in historical references and absorbed by contemporary actors (as the models are, in such shows), amplified previous displays with the arrival of the new (catwalk) medium. And the aforementioned 70’s theme, tapped before by the designer, was emphasised here by way of leather bomber jackets, zip top ‘tracksuits’ and velvet flares.
For their parts her peers, Rory Parnell-Mooney and Charles Jeffrey’s Loverboy, looked to Placebo’s Brian Molko and the east London party scene, respectively.
On the same (but different) hype? Topman Design, whose lads donned less flares (than previous outings), more crushed velvet and dipped into Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton circa AW13 with silk dressing gowns; Christopher Shannon, who opted for a static presentation and went in hard for (admittedly) 80’s suburban Liverpool (doubling up as Bromley boy chic to some outsiders), hitting the high notes with a selection of zip top polo necks and a strong assortment of gingham and check boxer shorts.
At Lou Dalton – one of the finest palettes of the season on account of that pink/white/camel layering – zip jackets arrived almost as fleeces, whereas Katie Eary (also riffing on the silky bedroom thing) opted for crushed velvet zip tops under said silks.
The number of blokes in flares at LC:M? Nil to very few, but something will no doubt give, right? Higher up on the most spotted list were Craig Green’s wares. For AW16 the Dress of the Year designer continued to dabble with excessive straps, but arrived at a new aesthetic that forgo previous Japanese-cum-hospital gown vibes, instead displaying looks akin to vintage Vivienne Westwood with multiple buttons and new textures.
Also doing his own thing was Kent native Liam Hodges, whose debut solo show opened with a powerful flashmob; mechanic blue, bright yellow and black followed in his now trademark printed sweat pieces. Branded socks gifted on the front row announced the recent launch of his webstore.
And finally Xander Zhou, whose Monday morning show fell just hours after the news of David Bowie’s death broke. While the accompanying press notes, a rainbow of coloured sheets scattered across the benches, didn’t actually bear the late musician’s name, the key phrases listed – ‘ambiguity’, ‘sexual fluidity’ and ‘inclusiveness’ amongst them – were suggestive of a strong influence.
That the show, which featured a healthy selection of heavy coats, rainbow tagged trousers and metallic pointed boots, played out to “Heroes”, felt like confirmation rather than reactionary.