SAFARI DAYS. The seventh London Collections: Men makes the best of its extra day to bring us a veritable smorgasbord of exciting themes
London has never really trailed behind the other fashion capitals of the world in terms of relevance, but London Collections: Men sure does a good job of playing catch-up with Paris, Milan and New York. As of its latest spring/summer show, LC:M has permanently expanded its schedule to four days, allowing even more new players to jostle for position with the city’s more established fashion houses. Coach was one of the former. But before we delve into the New York brand’s first foray in LC:M, why don’t we step back a bit to the start of the big week?
Opening LC:M’s spring/summer show was Topman Design, which did so without even a single pair of skinny jeans in sight but with plenty of youth culture references taken from a memorable part of the country’s past. One prominent influencer was Britain’s northern soul, a music and dance movement from the ’70s which later on grew its own associated fashion identity based on classic mod style. As such, Topman’s runway show included a lot of vests, patched jackets and wide-legged trousers—the latter two were especially suited for a life on the dance floor.
There were, of course, other cultural references in play. From across the pond, classic New York punk style contributed studded denims, and there was a palpable ’80s feel emanating from the casual color palettes on the catwalk. The big question, however, is whether design director Gordon Richardson’s patchwork approach can appeal to the youth of today—who weren’t even born when northern soul and its contemporaries were at their peak. Still, wide-leggged trousers may yet find a new niche in 2016, just like they did in the roaring seventies.
Also notable on day one: Christopher Shannon’s foam party-inspired runway show
And then there was Coach…
Yes, Coach, the New York label famed for its leather goods, made its fashion debut at the second day of LC:M spring/summer 2016. For this historic move, designer Stuart Vevers presented a collection that spans the entirety of American street culture, from east to west—from California’s surfing scene to Woodstock and New York’s very own hip-hop scene. And just so nobody missed the obvious “street” cred of the brand, the set for Coach’s show featured a series of wooden skate ramps and saw English rapper Tinie Tempah take a front-row seat. It would seem that Vevers also caught the gender-bending bug; although instead of sending out boys sporting womenswear, he opted for female models—such as New York-based Binx Walton—in men’s clothes. The overall effect is one of classy effortlessness, of something that anybody can easily appreciate and maybe even consider for purchase for their own summer ensemble.
A little less easy to pick up but no less charming is the rest of the collection featuring button-up shirts with psychedelic patterns taken straight from the ’70s to coats and double-breasted suits with touches of animal print in a rainbow of colors. Still, there is no mistaking the perfection and tailored details that went into those pieces. Also worth pointing out are the patchworks on the various jackets which, along with the rest of the accessories on display, highlighted Coach’s trademark leatherworking.
Also notable on day two: Pajamas, fur and starry makeup at Agi & Sam’s show
Day number three saw another big change in a fashion label.
This time, it was J.W. Anderson’s turn. Now, the Northern Irish designer was one of the first exponents of androgyny in men’s fashion, way before it became the prevailing trend it is today. And sure enough, this theme returned in force for spring/summer 2016. But while his androgynous offerings in the past were memorable for their shock value (the corsets on male models from two years ago comes to mind) this time around he went for a gentler vibe. Anderson’s collection featured mostly rounded and softened shapes. Outerwear pieces inspired by adventures in outer space were balanced out by delicate translucent tops and an intriguing accessories, including buckled high heels which easily became the most gender-defying part of the show.
There was still one more change from J.W. Anderson this season—a subtler one. Basically, the collection made heavy use of high-end materials like raw denim, hand-knitted cotton and soft leather, thereby putting the label squarely in the luxury category.
Also notable on day three: Henry Holland’s menswear debut.
The fourth and final day had quite a few noteworthy shows and presentations; but in what is perhaps best described as a London fashion week tradition, Burberry Prorsum’s turned out to be the most memorable. The venue and timing couldn’t have been more perfect: A semi-open air stage in Hyde Park, complete with a full orchestra, under an uncharacteristically sunny London day.
Surprisingly—and quite fittingly—Christopher Bailey eschewed bright patterns and bold colors and instead opted for a more muted palette dominated by green, gray and beige, along with dark blue and mustard. This summery safari vibe continued in loose cuts (in contrast with Burberry Prorsum’s usual slim shapes), sleeveless shirts and boxy outerwear. Speaking of which, suits were also scarcely seen on the runway, replaced by unlined jackets and coats.
Material-wise, super-light wool, silk and cotton—all quite summery—were joined by lace in yet another manifestation of the genderless look. In fact, the very first model walking down the catwalk did so while wearing an ivory lace shirt and a lace tie under a navy trench coat. Altogether, three out of every four outfit in Burberry Prorsum’s show incorporated lace, with looks ranging from casual cotton lace shirts to more thoughtful combinations such as a green double-breasted suit worn over a mint lace shirt. It was clear that much of the collection had its roots in the sartorial traditions of Britain’s more privileged classes, but Bailey certainly managed to shave off a lot of the more formal edges to create a lineup of clothing items any man can wear.
Looking back, Burberry Prorsum’s approach mirrored what other designers brought to LC:M spring/summer 2016: Either the toning down of formal wear or the refinement of street style, with both meeting somewhere in the middle. And it’s hard not to imagine that mid-point to be something one would wear on a safari—casual with just a tiny hint of haughtiness that was oh so very British.
Also notable on day four: Tiger of Sweden closes the week with its usual pomp and splendor.
In a way, it is as if London’s fashion scene has grown in confidence. Not that the city has ever lacked in self-assurance, but the extra day and the relaxed vibe that reverbed throughout those four days certainly hints at an increasingly mature fashion scene that will continue to charm us in the years to come.
This article first appeared in DA MAN Style spring/summer 2016. Click here to get a copy of the magazine.