By Victor Schagerlund
Previous limitations of menswear were eroded during the latest edition of London’s fashion week for men as a new generation of designers took over the catwalk. It was these younger talents who stood out this season, challenging convention and redefining masculinity and menswear. Even the purveyors of classic menswear Burberry and Pringle of Scotland began to break out of the traditional masculine mould.
London fashion has long had a reputation for being rebellious – not only in terms of innovation, but it is also in the way that it is not afraid to neglect international trends. However at the same time, a deeply rooted tradition of conservative tailoring emerging from Savile Row exists alongside this London of controversy. A wonderful anecdote about a young Lee McQueen is fitting here, highlighting the constant juxtapositions of fashion that occur in our beloved capital – whilst interning at Anderson and Sheppard and sewing a suit for the Prince of Wales he is supposed to have hidden a patch reading ‘I am a cunt’ in the lining of the suit. Regardless of whether or not this is true, it does provide an apt metaphor for modern British menswear: rebellious, yet retaining its rich background of tradition and heritage.
The balance between legacy and progression has been Sarah Burton’s primary challenge ever since she took on the mantle of creative director at Alexander McQueen. This season, she dressed the boys as McQueen used to dress his girls: as Victorian punk rockers. The models were pale with carved in cheeks and decoratively pierced faces: like gothic heroes dressed up in their master’s clothes. Military jackets, waistcoats and starch suits were contrasted against sheer prints of flowers and moths. Even though they were subtle, the feminine and sensual touches created the ambiguous and gloomy mood that is typical of McQueen creations.
Jonathan Anderson became the topic of the week with his decision to live broadcast the show on the gay dating application Grindr. Anderson, progressive as he is, does not like to differentiate between the gay hook-up app and Instagram, viewing all social media as social media. Even though the collection was not as explicitly sexy as the marketing might suggest, some sexual allusions were still visible. For instance studded chokers and long coats paired with bare legs: perhaps an innovative attempt on Anderson’s behalf to trigger the imagination instead of the eye?
Grace Wales Bonner’s collection proved one of the most interesting and innovative of the week. The recent Central Saint Martins graduate was even granted the British Fashion Award. Her hallmark is slender, ladylike and sensual menswear, often modern adaptations of the slim waists, narrow shoulders and flared legs of the 1970s. Among the wide register of references used were Afro-American slave songs, Afrofuturism and Bollywood. Could it be that what masculine clothes entail is finally being reconsidered? Elegantly elongated, bejewelled and in deep hues, the clothes proved that menswear too can be moving, beautiful and conceptual.
Finally, Jeremy Scott collaborated with the English art duo Gilbert and George to further saturate and brighten up his already audacious style. The Moschino collection was as vivid, colourful and loud as ever. Scott’s clothes were aimed at people like Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele: a flamboyant audience who don’t take fashion or good taste too seriously. Humour and entertainment was therefore evident in the playful prints, and the neon and boxy shapes drew the raves of the 1990s to mind, as if the clothes were dancing in a weary warehouse high on MDMA. The instafamous supermodel Lucky Blue Smith both opened and closed the show, the perfect muse of Scott’s young and carefree fantasy.
Cover image: Adriano Cisani via whatastreet.tumblr.com