Designers shout out
Top image: Charles Jeffrey SS17, photo by Harry Clark
A lot goes on at fashion week beyond the show-to-show format of the schedule itself. From the clothes to the key themes and cultural influences that run across the collections, we’re curating SS17 menswear into one bite-sized round-up, documenting the ideas that rung out loudest.
Paris, David Bowie, Muhammad Ali, BREXIT, Orlando… Donald Trump. It’s been a fucked up twelve months and at London Collections: Men this season we saw designers respond to the pervading feeling of uncertainty that’s shaking the world to its core.
A new wave of sportswear mavericks and tailoring rebels rose up in the absence of schedule heavyweights Burberry and Alexander McQueen. Reflecting on gender, sexuality, politics, unity, belonging and belief they made themselves heard – all in the context of the clothes we’ll be walking out the door wearing in a few months time. Listen up.
The fashion industry is rife with big level changes right now, one of the most major tied an increasing number of brands opting to unify their men’s and women’s collections on the catwalk. Gucci is combining its men’s and women’s collections into the one show, as is the norm for cult Parisian brand Vetements (whose creator Demna Gvasalia last year took the design helm at Balenciaga), while Bottega Veneta will hold a joint men’s and women’s show at Milan Fashion Week in September, skipping out Milan men’s fashion week for SS17 altogether. No matter the action taken, it’s a reminder of the impact gender is having on the industry as it buckles under the conflicting weight of tradition and contemporary culture.
The co-ed mood was reflected across the shows at LCM. Girls and boys shared the catwalk at Agi & Sam, Bobby Abley, Maison MIHARA YASUHIRO, while for the first time Sibling staged their first combined menswear and womenswear show.
Meanwhile, the first look at Casely-Hayford on Saturday was shown on a female model. It premiered the debut of the London father-son design duo’s womenswear line, bucking the trend of brands bailing on menswear in favour of combined shows to simply stage their new collection on a platform they know well.
You don’t have to be active on the same level as Dame Vivienne Westwood to be counted as a politically vocal fashion designer.
This season there was a rising feeling of right and responsibility, designers using their collections and creative standpoints to vocalise their views on the impending national EU referendum.
‘In’ was the catchphrase of the week, with designers doing their best to encourage voters to support Britain remaining a part of the EU come polling on 23rd June. Several designers including Mihara Yasuhiro, Patrick Grant of E Tautz and Sibling’s Sid Bryan and Colette McCreery took their end-of-show bow wearing a t-shirt bearing the word. Christopher Raeburn incorporated into his collection heavily, ‘In’ appeared printed on pockets and repeated on logos across the collection.
Meanwhile several collections seemed to celebrate Europe and its diversity, from Cottweiler’s sporty uniforms envisioned for a ‘new Mediterranean’ to the E Tautz collection, which was inspired by the heroes of lower league European football.
The most literal of all by far was Daniel W. Fletcher, who staged an impromptu, off schedule rally outside the BFC show space. The rising South London designer, who has previously centred his collections around issues like the NHS and the UK’s housing crisis, stood with a group of boys and girls holding placards and banners that read ‘STAY’.
At a time when our global society feels wrapped in a toxic state of flux, there’s a kind of comfort in the notion of slapping what you believe in on your clothes for the world to see. Designers this season championed the idea of wearing your heart on your sleeve or, in their case, your slogan on your chest.
Christopher Shannon spotlighted the controversy surrounding Sports Direct, the UK retailer whose founder Mike Ashley this week faced allegations over his employment practices. In his stripped back return to sportswear Shannon riffed on the store’s unmistakeable slogan ‘low prices guaranteed’ with sweaters that read ‘no ideas guaranteed’, ‘Haters Direct’ and ‘Lovers Direct’.
At Christopher Raeburn it was REMADE (referencing the brand’s sustainable re-made in England ethos); at Daniel W. Fletcher it was ‘STAY’ (in regards to voting at the EU referendum); at PIETER’s presentation – which stemmed from notions of gay and party culture and the idea of the comedown – it was ‘RENT’ on the front of tops and ‘BOY’ on the back.
There was a feeling of aftermath and reflection at LCM – a mood that ran through several collections and most potently in those that explored notions of post-party chill and comedowns, referencing gay identity and queer culture.
Sebastiaan Pieter designed this season’s collection in reaction to the pumped up mood of FW16, his models leaning suggestively against a white framed window, peering through curtains as if looking for someone or something. Tops read ‘CHILL’ on the front and ‘OUT’ on the back, and pill motifs suggested both the come up and the come down, inducing an overwhelming feeling of summertime pining. Meanwhile, Liverpudlian designer Christopher Shannon told us he was influenced by Robert Mapplethorpe and Judy Blame’s work for Boy George, and Rory Parnell-Mooney was inspired by a German slogan meaning ‘Nice from behind’.
Then there was Charles Jeffrey. Aside from what he does on the catwalk, the rising designer is well known for his East London club night, Loverboy. His first LCM presentation two seasons ago was staged like a chaotic dance night in itself, while last season moved the vibe to the runway. On Friday, Jeffrey closed the MAN show with a catwalk performance that explored the darker side of partying. His models staggered down a rose-scattered runway in armour-like chain mail and Jeffrey’s signature ‘drunk tailoring’, to the doom-sonics of Big Ben’s bell and a strung out version of the ‘Digitally THX Mastered’ jingle (think back to the starting credits of any VHS you watched as a kid – or in the haze of any party-after-the-party induced movie binge as a Big Kid).
A childlike quality of togetherness ran through several collections, cutting through the darkness.
Craig Green said his thickly layered, drained-of-colour creations had been inspired by the Boy Scout uniforms he used to wear as a kid. J.W.Anderson showed his most welcoming collection to date, inspired by childhood dress ups his show was accessible and lighthearted, its Michel Gaubert- scored soundtrack comprising David Bowie’s 1978 narration of Prokofiev’s Peter & The Wolf. And Bobby Abley took us on a magic carpet ride, continuing his journey through the Disney archives with a supercharged take on Aladdin.
For her first solo show, Grace Wales Bonner was inspired by the communion of the Caribbean and East Africa symbolised in Haile Selassie’s return. Young models walked slowly and purposefully, filling the room with an air of pride and hope. The reception featured the sounds of Chineke, a string quartet for black and ethnic minority musicians.
Yesterday, Wales Bonner was announced as the winner of this year’s LVMH prize. It serves as a reminder of the importance of designers with heart, just as LCM served as a week-long reminder of the power of creativity that advocates goodness, love and unity. In the wake of the devastating events in Orlando this week, it’s a sentiment more apt than ever.
Stay tuned for more fashion week coverage across Milan, Paris and New York.