An American triumph on British soil – London Collections: Men has finally concluded after four days of intense drama, respite, home runs, rebellion and a good old dose of American pragmatism. Perhaps it’s a sign of the times – uncertainty often begets the desire to withhold something more substantial, and most of all functional. Designers seem to have pre-empted customers’ need to be able to feel and see the difference they are paying for. While brands like Alexander McQueen returned to their niche of razor-sharp tailoring, others like Paul Smith devoted his whole show to selling the concept of utility through “A Suit To Travel In”.
Brooklyn-based Public School’s victory at the Inaugural Men’s International Woolmark Prize set off this American takeover at the shows. Their highly innovative sportswear-inspired collection that echoed the brand’s urban DNA looked into employing wool as an everyday fiber, especially in design below the waist. Their unique focus eventually bagged them the prestigious prize.
Stuart Vevers’ stewardship at American household brand Coach featured among the most luxurious outerwear and accessories offered this season. Buttery brown leather and a splicing and dicing of old classics breathed new life to staple menswear outfitting. Though the presentation was small and intimate, it was all substance.
Arguably the most anticipated show at LC:M had plenty of Americanisms to it in fact. Jeremy Scott’s vision of Moschino continues to be a great hit, drawing rave reviews from the audience. His high Camp lumberjack foray into an anti-bougie ski holiday in the Aspen Alps was not short on showmanship, baiting even the most stoic of onlookers into his exuberant take on the American dream.
Whilst the Star-Spangled Banner was raised high for a good part of LC:M, the British certainly held their own.
Decorated emerging design duo Agi & Sam presented a rather shrewd collection that is infallible given that it was based entirely on Agi’s precious sketches from when he was 4. The collection, which featured abstracted Child-like drawings in Crayola tones, was styled with high-impact Lego face masks that made the show one of the most memorable.
London’s foremost enfant terrible, J.W. Anderson, stole the limelight at LC:M hands down. He upped his ante with a “pataphysical” show that featured 70s influences with a dystopian Sci-fi streak. Scoring his show with the chilling track by Big Hard Excellent Fish that opened every known Morrissey concert, Anderson continued his discourse on class systems and Otherness.
Sibling’s unapologetically pink collection too gets a special mention. The show brought to mind a lineage of heroes like Bowie, Billy Idol, Paul Simonon and Brideshead Revisited’s Sebastian Flyte, who embodied Sibling’s unadulterated spirit to dressing up. It was a boisterous disregard for any form of menswear convention whatsoever and their take on it is “so what?”
KTZ also brought their A-game to the fore with designer Marjan Pejoski reprising old classics while infusing shapes and techniques never seen before in the collective’s repertoire. Mosaic portraits of Mao Zedong and Karl Marx were emblazoned on military-inspired outwear. The heavy reference to “A Clockwork Orange” sealed KTZ’s reputation as the go-to outfitters for rebel youths of the underground.
The final highlight from LC:M this season was a true star at the Fashion East presentations. Central Saint Martins graduate Grace Wales Bowler’s take on the Harlem Renaissance, featuring hip hop artist Larry B, was probably the single most original proposition this week. Appropriated bourgeois women’s formal wear dressed an all-black cast against a commissioned backdrop — ultimately reminiscent of the work of Malinese photographer Seydoux Keïta.
The tussle between American and British fashions seen at London Collections: Men was nothing more than friendly competition. With New York still awaiting a dedicated men’s fashion week, it makes sense that the best and brightest of American talent is represented here across the pond. With LC:M growing each year — exemplified by the caliber of established designers and the wealth of new ideas — it is quickly becoming the global center for menswear trade and design.