Saturday, 12 April 2014

Top 10 London: London Collections Men x Frank151

London, renowned for it’s sartorial sense of dress since, well time began, has had a lot to make up for in the past few years with the desperate need of a dedicated space to menswear – and just like that London Collections: Men was born. Three seasons in and many a skinny trousers later, I decided it was time to uncover the truth about what makes for innovative design in the place they hail as the original capital of menswear.

Truthfully speaking, there is no one particular truth to uncover. In fact what exists sits on two ends of a scale that balance fairly equally: A form of tailoring or a form of sports luxe with every creative and crazy that London designers are renowned for in between. As I exhaustedly made my way in and out of the shows that took place between the 16th – 18th June, and observed many crazy street style posers and bloggers, whilst became engrossed in the idea that London is renowned for tailoring as much as it for tea, I couldn’t help but think that London Collections still has a way to go. This does not however rid London of talent entirely, because when it is good, it is really good and there are challenges as to whether the other fashion capitals can do it better. With that said, I bring to you the ‘Top 10 London pick of the best’, focusing on the designers who are challenging the traditional ideals and pushing things forward for the modern man who is not adverse to change when it is for the greater fashion good.

Agi & Sam
There is no doubt that Agi & Sam – a London based duo – are two of the nicest dudes you will ever meet. Following a very recent and innovative collaboration with Topman, based on old football kits, it was no surprise to see that the two young and lively designers are continuing to push creative boundaries. For SS14, there was a strong focus on times past, the older gentleman, his routine in life and the attire that goes with it. Tweed tailoring met psychedelic prints and exaggerated silhouettes in the form of boxy shapes reminiscent of eighties power dressing, inspired by the furnishings of public transport. Blocks of bright colors in piercing blues, aqua, orange and pastel mints met pleated printed shorts with matching blazers and every piece had a narrative. In a sense everything was longer, from sleeve length through to shirts except the slim fit ankle grazing trousers. All in all, Agi & Sam fully deserve the standing ovation they received, using their youth and personalities to their advantage when it comes to their label.

Lou Dalton
"I come from a tailoring background and I like to turn it on its head". And that is exactly what Lou Dalton did when she opened London Collections: Men in its third season running. When it comes to true British style, the first thing that we are noticed for is our ruthless yet irresistible take on tailoring. It something we are incredibly stoic about so there is nothing more London than seeing a Gentleman rock a suit so suave it will no doubt make you look twice. Hats off to Dalton who presented a very grown up yet wearable minimalist wardrobe for SS14. What's more is, Dalton managed to successfully combine the worlds of smart and casual and bring in the element of ease and comfort that is often missing.

Initially inspiration arrived in the form of a young nomad who has finally found himself and a home. The collection, embodying a range of pastels was smart, giving us the streamlined appeal of tailoring without being entirely formal. Broad shoulders met boxy jackets and the return of the short suit highlighted summer's ease. Dalton's men were relaxed with confidence; their grungy aesthetic made for a modern man who embraces covetable essentials such as the beloved sweatshirt, jersey shorts and nylon hoodies.

Paul Smith
As you may have already gathered, London focuses on two different extremes on polar ends of the menswear scale. Savile row tailoring fighting for it’s rightful place in British society versus modern approaches in the form of sports luxury – a term that the fashion world has coined and used to death. At the Hauser & Wirth gallery on Savile Row, Paul Smith, renowned for his unconventional take on tailoring continue to do traditional in his very own untraditional way. The experimentation with a range of fabrics inspired by pinstripes resulted in a range of suits from dark block of colour through polka dots and adding colour into pinstripes. It was classic Paul Smith in only a way that he can do.

Astrid Anderson
Make way for the first independent Astrid Anderson show, where the pioneering label pushes the boundaries of what we know to be a modern sports-urban aesthetic (you will hear that a lot when it comes to describing British design). Behold the Greek God in all his glory as he takes to the modern day in a purist yet authoritative way – well that was at least the analogy I picked up from the typical Anderson track suit associated with sportswear yet combined with lace luxe cut-out paneling that even the most fashion forward man would squirm at a little. A twist in the tale is exactly what Anderson is all about and just when you think you have sportswear in a traditional way, out comes a range of velvet pieces in fifty shades of green. What you call men in tight bodysuits we call silhouettes densely exposing the male form at its finest, making it fully justifiable.

London is never afraid to be creative; namely referring to men in crop tops and avant garde installations that we have seen from other designers. Keeping it simple, YMC never steers to far from to its aesthetic of uniform inspired and relaxed tailoring blended with a minimal silhouette. Translation: everything was actually wearable. There is not a man who would not be able find a bond with one piece or another as the collection formed the perfect hybrid between smart and casual. Luxurious fabrics played base to oversized pinstripe and spot patterns and animal prints in reference to YMC’s inspiration from Punk, whilst classic navy and neutral tones in linens stayed in line with a quintessential British high summer. To finish off the look, oversized backpacks in navy and plum were not few and far between making for a summer accessory that is more functional and more masculine than the man bag.

Christopher Shannon
In celebration of the 90’s British club scene, the talented Christopher Shannon created what looked like a neon acid rave. If you can overlook the glitter bombed hairstyles in an array of bright colors and work your way past the PVC you will once again discover the genius of sportswear design that is Shannon – in a high end manner of course. This sports aesthetic focuses on layering items creating texture contrasts (PVC with denim) and giving the drawstring short a new life. Icy whites and greys soon turned to bright hues of well… every colour of the rainbow, and although Shannon’s retro collection may not be to everyone’s taste it is his development and perfection of his craft in the past few seasons that makes him one of London’s best. Note: not for the feint hearted.

Baartmans and Siegel
With their background cemented at Viktor & Rolf, the design duo took their talent and adapted it to the dynamic, luxury label Baartmans and Siegel. Still working on honing in on their craft, the Baartmans and Siegel pop-up presentation in an open retail space welcomed seasonal transition in a collection entitled, ‘The South Pacific Aviation’ – complete with models perched in between plant pots. Continuing to explore textures and performance fabrics, the jungle/guerrilla aesthetic gave way to a boyish uniform, again in the season’s popular use of navy/neutral tones and hints of Hawaiian print. Detailing and masculinity, two concepts the brand has become synonymous with has meant that outerwear was given a refined twist and wasn’t short of classic English jacket styles such as the Harrington, Field Jacket and the Trench.

Richard Nicoll
With a predominant focus on modern classics that can be transferred from day to night, Richard Nicoll menswear, which made its debut for SS13 is understated, yet carries an element of masculine beauty. Known for his trademark blue, for next season Nicholl stepped outside of his comfort zone and created looks for an imaginary club that took inspiration from the 70’s portraits that made their way into the book by photographer Pietro Mattioli. Bold graphic prints were emblazoned onto leather-sleeved bombers and teamed with rubberized sweatshirts. Elsewhere on the runway, Nicoll presented tailored chinos with the classic Harrington with added twists of mesh sweatshirts. It truly was an eclectic mix for the man who remains undecided on either sharp tailoring or something sportier.

Matthew Miller
During the show, Matthew Miller did not get the attention it deserved. A half filled room (especially in comparison to the other shows that day), a few technical issues with music volumes, and a bunch of over-dressed bloggers on the front row it felt like Miller’s message was a tad lost through production. Nevertheless, I understood his meaning behind ‘Radical Prototypes’, a SS14 collection that aimed to fuse together fashion and lifestyle. It proclaimed to me, ‘I am a rebel but I am straight to the point’, as interpreted through the initial looks in clinical white, greys and black that were industrial yet effective. Soft leather played central to the theme as well as jackets, came in the form of mint colored hoodies that wear teamed with cropped ankle grazers. Side pocket chains were also a detail that didn’t go a miss alongside belts in jackets that were cleverly concealed. Overall, Miller wanted to create a manifesto for design philosophy, and through models boasting body paint that stated, ‘Untitled’ and ‘Mixed Media’, he did just that.

Oliver Spencer

I didn’t mean for it to happen this way, but naturally you save the best till last. Highlighted for his appreciation of art, for next season, come rain or shine Oliver Spencer was inspired by Jean Michel-Basquiat. As opposed to taking inspiration solely from the artist’s graffiti, Oliver Spencer wanted to create a wardrobe for the artist, iterating the notion that what men wore in seventies and eighties was a lot more free, than it is perhaps now. With that on the mood board, Spencer gave us a two-toned double breasted blazer, paired with a wider-trouser leg – something he has been working toward for the past few seasons, accentuating the movement and texture of the looks that little bit more. Yellows, deep reds and hints of electric blue pay homage to the works of Basquiat on canvas, whilst a continuation of unstructured tailoring made for more of a relaxed look in line with a masculine silhouette.

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