Op­pos­ing at­trac­tions

The re­cent menswear shows in Lon­don fea­tured a stark con­trast in styles; be­tween the clas­sic and cut­ting edge.

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ONE of the stand­out shows of “Lon­don Col­lec­tions: Men”, the city’s three-day men’s fash­ion “week,” was by a 27year-old novice named Craig Green. It was all the more as­ton­ish­ing be­cause it was, tech­ni­cally, his first.

Few fash­ion cap­i­tals are as nur­tur­ing to its emerg­ing talent as Lon­don. Its suc­cess is all the more ev­i­dent now that fash­ion’s reign­ing con­glom­er­ates have taken note and in­vested in its ris­ing stars: LVMH in Jonathan An­der­son of J. W. An­der­son and the shoe­maker Ni­cholas Kirk­wood; Ker­ing in Christo­pher Kane.

But the suc­cess sto­ries here are not limited to the head­lin­ers who have won cor­po­rate back­ing and plum jobs. (An­der­son’s first collection as the cre­ative di­rec­tor of the owned Span­ish la­bel Loewe will de­but in Paris on June 27.) The city is al­ready of­fer­ing new case stud­ies of in­no­cence quickly evolv­ing into ex­pe­ri­ence, like that of Green (who, de­spite the fore­go­ing state­ment, still lives at home with his mum).

He is the prod­uct of the city’s ex­em­plary de­signer train­ing: first as a pro­tege of Louise Wil­son, the head of the Cen­tral Saint Martins mas­ter’s pro­gram in fash­ion de­sign un­til her death in May, who mid­wifed nearly a gen­er­a­tion’s worth of English fash­ion talent; and then as the ben­e­fi­ciary of what passes for post­grad­u­ate stud­ies in Lon­don fash­ion (spon­sor­ship, sup­port and a plat­form at young-de­signer show­cases, like the MAN show, where for three sea­sons he took his first ten­ta­tive steps on the run­way).

The pre­vi­ous Tues­day, at his first in­de­pen­dent show, Green pre­sented a collection for spring 2015 that was star­tlingly ma­ture and eerily beau­ti­ful. His bare­foot men in ro­belike jack­ets and side-tied pants re­sem­bled pen­i­tents and cru­saders at once. Padded jack­ets sug­gested ar­mor, but trail­ing un­done laces be­hind them like kite strings, even those laden with flaglike stan­dards con­veyed fragility as much as ag­gres­sion. Their gar­ments, in cot­ton and denim, had grown out of iden­ti­fi­able ba­sics (tai­lored shirts, straight-leg jeans) into some­thing rich and strange.

It was trans­port­ing. Sev­eral mem­bers of the au­di­ence were in tears.

And the way of “Lon­don Col­lec­tions: Men” is such that they dried them and hur­ried along to Burberry, six km and the full width of the aes­thetic spec­trum away.

If Green’s show was a high­light – one, it should be said, of sev­eral, with strong col­lec­tions from An­der­son, Jonathan Saun­ders and Christo­pher Shannon, who re­cently took the in­au­gu­ral B.F.C./GQ De­signer Menswear Fund prize – it was by no means rep­re­sen­ta­tive. That is be­cause for Lon­don, even more than for most other fash­ion cap­i­tals, there is no sin­gle rep­re­sen­ta­tive ex­am­ple.

And yet there in Lon­don was Jeremy Scott, who chose to stage his first men’s show for Moschino here. Scott, who has al­ready in­cor­po­rated the McDon­ald’s logo into his id­iom, pre­sented a collection that un­abashedly cel­e­brated con­sump­tion. It was a smor­gas­bord of tweaked trade­marks and lo­gos: both Moschino and “Fauxschino,” plus re­hashed ver­sions of the Louis Vuit­ton mono­gram and the totems of Her­mes. They were shown along­side the flags of the world: the United Colours of Brand­ing. Though ob­vi­ous, it was fizzy and of­ten funny.

Those two points of view were in stark op­po­si­tion, but Lon­don can ac­com­mo­date both and, in­deed, many more. Some­where in be­tween lies the ap­proach­able sports­wear of en­trench­ing de­sign­ers like Lou Dal­ton, Christo­pher Rae­burn, Richard Ni­coll and the fa­ther-son duo Casely-Hayford.

The Lon­don week is distin­guished among its fel­lows on the in­ter­na­tional men’s-wear sched­ule – namely Florence, Mi­lan and Paris, where the in­dus­try leads ed­i­tors and buy­ers next – by its ex­tremes. At one end, it show­cases dar­ing ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, much of it orig­i­nat­ing from the still-scrubby East End. At the other, sar­to­rial tra­di­tion­al­ism, much of it grow­ing out of the tra­di­tions of Sav­ile Row.

”I think Lon­don is unique in that you have this real jux­ta­po­si­tion of East Lon­don – very ‘fash­ion’ and cool – with in­cred­i­ble Sav­ile Row tra­di­tion,” said Ja­son Bas­ma­jian, the cre­ative di­rec­tor of Gieves & Hawkes, of No. 1 Sav­ile Row, which has now joined the Fash­ion Week fray. “It’s that push and pull that makes Lon­don very dy­namic.”

In two short years, Lon­don Col­lec­tions: Men has es­tab­lished it­self as an im­por­tant stop on the men’s-wear cir­cuit, draw­ing not only an in­creas­ing num­ber of ed­i­tors and buy­ers (some, ad­mit­tedly, goosed into at­ten­dance by spon­sor­ship from its gov­ern­ing body), but also repa­tri­at­ing English de­sign­ers and la­bels that had long shown their wares else­where, and even lur­ing for­eign na­tion­als off their na­tive soils. Burberry re­turned to Lon­don from Mi­lan one year ago; Alexan­der McQueen, now un­der the di­rec­tion of Sarah Bur­ton, came back six months be­fore that. This sea­son, they were joined by Dun­hill, lately tread­ing wa­ter off the run­way, which is now ad­ven­tur­ing back into the fash­ion world with a new de­signer, John Ray, who was last seen de­sign­ing men’s wear at Gucci eight years ago.

”I was never go­ing to go back to the in­dus­try,” he said. The dif­fer­ence was Dun­hill. ”I felt the heart of the brand,” said Ray, a Scot.

Lon­don call­ing

But it would be a false di­chotomy to set the en­ergy and ex­per­i­men­ta­tion of the upand-com­ing against the state­li­ness of the well es­tab­lished. Yes, the young guns are glee­ful trounc­ers of tra­di­tion, who trick out track­suits with shaved mink (the Dan­ish-born Lon­doner Astrid An­der­sen) and splice crotchet with punk re­galia (the knitwear trio Sib­ling).

”The show last sea­son was too much about the clothes and not enough about the spirit,”

said Joe Bates of Sib­ling, who righted the bal­ance with a pre­sen­ta­tion that in­cluded sweaters wo­ven with hand-cut raf­fia to re­sem­ble man-size, blood-red dan­de­lions or one of the artist Nick Cave’s sound suits.

Saun­ders, whose collection was hand­some even in its off-kil­ter colour scheme (he called one taupe-ish shade “yucky caramel”), hap­pily con­fessed to hav­ing “a per­verse sense of colour. A per­verse sense of ev­ery­thing, re­ally.”

But there was for­ward think­ing at Burberry, as well, where Christo­pher Bai­ley chan­neled the late English ex­plorer and travel writer Bruce Chatwin, with prints taken from trav­el­book cov­ers and a collection that was sen­sual and sug­ges­tive both in pal­ette and tex­ture, long on jewel-toned vel­vet, linen and gabar­dine. At a house built on sturdy war­time trench coats, Bai­ley is a rest­less ag­i­ta­tor for sar­to­rial ad­ven­ture, even if he oc­ca­sion­ally ven­tures in too deca­dent a di­rec­tion.

That’s the risk and the re­ward of travel, a theme that en­gaged some of his fel­low de­sign­ers as well. At Dun­hill, Ray showed a collection more solidly grounded on tra­di­tional, mil­i­tary-in­flu­enced tai­lor­ing, like longer jack­ets with kicked-out vents, but cut it in lighter fabrics for cus­tomers in far­ther reaches and warmer climes. It was the spirit of Al­fred Dun­hill him­self, like Chatwin a more quest­ing char­ac­ter, which in­flu­enced him more than the house’s long his­tory. For la­bels with long his­to­ries to draw on, evolv­ing the tra­di­tions is as cru­cial as pay­ing homage to them.

“I re­ally hate when you put things to­gether and it looks like Down­ton Abbey,” he said with a sigh.

Nev­er­the­less, brands like Dun­hill, Gieves & Hawkes and the newly re­vived Kent & Cur­wen, rep­re­sent the al­lure that English her­itage, even in its jazzed-up new it­er­a­tion, still holds for the global fash­ion busi­ness, and the lengths that in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies are will­ing to go to in or­der to har­ness it. (Dun­hill is owned by Richemont, the Swiss group, which has en­riched it with a new man­age­ment team poached from Ital­ian de­signer la­bels, in ad­di­tion to its new de­signer; Gieves &Hawkes and Kent & Cur­wen, by Trin­ity Limited, a men’s-wear re­tail­ing com­pany.

So Lon­don has be­come a le­git­i­mate home of the large-scale and the global, as well as the fledg­ling and the small.

“We wanted to be in Lon­don as soon as we could,” said Bai­ley, Burberry’s de­signer and chief ex­ec­u­tive, “be­cause it’s our home­town. Par­tic­u­larly when you think about the his­tory and her­itage of men’s wear, it just felt right for us.”

He ob­served the new weight and le­git­i­macy that “Lon­don Col­lec­tions: Men” has de­vel­oped over the short course of four sea­sons, one that Burberry’s re-en­trance fur­ther en­larged. For a la­bel with world­wide reach, the home­com­ing is sig­nif­i­cant. — In­ter­na­tional New York Times

Two dif­fer­ent looks: Dun­hill’s sar­to­rial per­fec­tion and Astrid An­der­sen’s ex­per­i­men­tal style.

Clas­sic vs avant garde: Jonathan Saun­ders (pic above) fea­tured neu­tral shades and Craig Green’s (pic right) pre­sen­ta­tion ap­par­ently moved the au­di­ence to tears.


(Left to right) Burberry, astrid an­der­sen, Richard ni­coll, Lou dal­ton and alexan­der McQueen.


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