THE ExpErimEnt goEs on
As LOndOn COLLeCtiOns: Men settLes dOwn in its fifth yeAr running, new fACes And bOLd sArtOriAL experiMents steAL the spOtLight frOM the MOre estAbLished shOwrunners
With New York as the de facto newest (official) kid on the international fashion week scene, it would seem that London— or London Collections: Men (LC:M), to be exact—has really settled into its role as a major focal point in the world of menswear. Besides, LC:M is well into its fifth year running and shows no signs of slowing down. Still, much like its counterparts on the mainland or across the pond, the show also felt the sting of hatred now permeating the globe.
Day three of LC:M spring/summer 2017 began with many attendants distracted by news of people being shot at a nightclub in Orlando. Then the day ended as word came out that nearly 50 people were killed and dozens more injured. The show did go on, as it always does. Perhaps it would be presumptuous to assume that this was somehow in defiance of the horrors that befell that day but, still, London’s spring/summer 2017 fashion week rolled along just fine.
In fact, LC:M spring/summer 2017 had quite a few surprises up its sleeves, including some rather unexpected newcomers. First among these was Xander Zhou, the first designer from China to join the seasonal show in London. In fact, his was the opening show of LC:M, and what an opener it was. The collection is titled Grown-Ups, and was accompanied by keywords including “sex,” “arousal” and “stimulate.” Yes, it was far from subtle. The models walking that day looked appealingly disheveled while sporting striped boxer shorts, latex trench coats and oversized hoodies. On the accessories side, striped bandanas ruled the runway. The overall effect was that of modern sexiness that was at the same time aggressive and tasteful.
Another newcomer was Phoebe English, which presented a capsule collection that couldn’t have been more different from Xander Zhou’s: Soft cotton joggers, minimalist coats and elongated shirts. The loose silhouettes and the exclusive natural fabrics gave the collection—which constituted the designer’s first official menswear presentation—a very rustic feel. The pieces wouldn’t have looked out of place in a period drama during England’s Tudor era. That being said, they also looked extremely comfortable and nonchalant, while still appearing exquisitely finished at closer inspection.
Going from a pastoral past to a starry future, we have KTZ aka Kokon To Zai. Set in an underground club, the brand presented a collection that “looks to the future and oozes adventure.” The futuristic vibe was quite clear, with sci-fi elements and details reminiscent of star maps woven into monochrome prints spread across shorts, hoodies and light coats. The same, alas, could not be said about the adventurous part, as none of the pieces looked really different from what KTZ has been offering season after season. Well, outside of the leather harnesses and occasional gimp mask, that is. And dark, dimly-lit venues aren’t exactly great at letting a monochromatic—and predominantly dark— collection shine. Still, the show did manage to highlight how male sexuality can be interwoven into a fashion collection in a manner that is both sensually shocking and at the same time tasteful.
The spirit of experimentation was certainly alive and well at MAN, the talent incubator run by Topman and Fashion East. As usual, three directors showcased their creations under the brand. First up was Per Götesson, a notable graduate from the Royal College of Arts. His runway was dominated by denim in huge, oversized pieces. It was as if Götesson, who is notably tall, designed the pieces for himself, but then had normal-sized models showcase them in a charming play of proportions. It would certainly pique the interest of anyone who has always struggled with looking for the right-sized pants.
The second MAN designer at LC:M spring/summer 2017 was Feng Chen Wang, who was introduced as an artist who “uses clothing as a metaphor.” It’s hard to guess what message she was trying to get across, but the pieces shown on stage are perhaps not the kind that one would literally wear on the streets. Treated cotton and nylon were the main ingredients of the collection, with nylon cords tied at awkward places to create non-functional joints. Still, it was an intriguing display of what an aesthetically-minded designer could do with technical fabrics.