Lon­don men’s fash­ion week opens with eye on China


Sharp suits vied with street wear and top brands at men’s fash­ion week in Lon­don, which opened Fri­day with an eye on boost­ing ties with the lu­cra­tive luxury Chi­nese mar­ket.

Burberry, Alexander McQueen, Tom Ford and Jimmy Choo are some of the big names show­ing over the next four days along­side Sav­ile Row tai­lors such as Richard James, Gieves & Hawkes and Hardy Amies.

The event opened with a show by Top­man, the brother la­bel of high­street brand Top­shop, fea­tur­ing retro track­suits, wide-legged chi­nos and sporty tailor­ing and watched from the front row by For­mula One world cham­pion Lewis Hamil­ton.

Men’s fash­ion week, of­fi­cially known as “Lon­don Col­lec­tions: Men”, grew out of the larger women swear event and is now in its sev­enth edi­tion, with 77 de­sign­ers on the main pro­gram.

This sea­son sees a new fo­cus on pro­mot­ing Bri­tish menswear to China, with the ap­point­ment of the event’s first in­ter­na­tional am­bas­sador, 45-year-old Chi­nese model, ac­tor, singer and phi­lan­thropist Hu Bing.

“We’ve been look­ing at the Asian mar­ket for quite some time be­cause there’s been huge in­ter­est in Lon­don Col­lec­tions from Asia,” said Dy­lan Jones, chair­man of men’s fash­ion week and edi­tor of the UK’s GQ mag­a­zine.

At­ten­dance by Chi­nese press and buy­ers has grown 185 per­cent since the event be­gan in 2012, he told AFP, adding that Hu would “take the mes­sage of Bri­tish menswear all around the world, but par­tic­u­larly to China.”

China was the fifth-largest mar­ket for luxury ready-to-wear menswear in 2014 and is ex­pected to be­come the sec­ond-largest af­ter the United States by 2017, ac­cord­ing to an­a­lysts Euromon­i­tor In­ter­na­tional.

Ital­ian luxury menswear brand Ermenegildo Zegna, which opened its first store in Bei­jing in 1991, says China is al­ready its big­gest mar­ket world­wide.

Chi­nese in­vest­ment has also given es­tab­lished Bri­tish brands a new lease of life — Sav­ile Row tai­lors Hardy Amies, Kil­gour, Gieves & Hawkes and Kent & Cur­wen are all now owned by Hong Kong’s bil­lion­aire Fung broth­ers.

‘Dragons and pe­onies’

Hu said he wanted to be “the bridge” be­tween Lon­don and Asia — a role which in­cludes en­courag- ing young Chi­nese de­sign­ers who want to show in the UK’s cap­i­tal.

“It’s im­por­tant that we don’t op­er­ate in an old-fash­ioned im­pe­ri­al­is­tic way, tak­ing West­ern de­sign­ers to China. It’s fun­da­men­tally im­por­tant that we en­cour­age Chi­nese de­sign­ers to come to show here,” Jones added.

Only one Chi­nese designer, Bei­jing-based Xan­der Zhou, has been a regular fix­ure on the Lon­don menswear cal­en­dar.

In the past he has de­lib­er­ately es­chewed what he calls the tra­di­tional “dragons and pe­onies” for fear that he would be pi­geon-holed — but said this is about to change.

In his spring/sum­mer 2016 col­lec­tion, to be shown on Mon­day, “I have found the courage to ac­tu­ally use ori­en­tal el­e­ments af­ter us­ing el­e­ments from many other cul­tures in my past col­lec­tions,” Zhou told AFP.

“The fact that I am ready now has to do with the way I have evolved, but also with the way the world has evolved in terms of stereo­types about ‘Chi­nese de­sign­ers.’”

Zhou wel­comed the new fo­cus on China, which will also see Bei­jing-based Sean Suen make his de­but with a show spon­sored by GQ China mag­a­zine on Mon­day.

“China is ‘hap­pen­ing’ in many ways ... and when it comes to menswear, Lon­don is where the new and edgy at­tract the world’s at­ten­tion and get peo­ple talk­ing,” Zhou said.


A model presents a cre­ation by Bri­tish designer Kit Neale on the open­ing day of the Spring/Sum­mer 2016 Lon­don Col­lec­tions Men fash­ion event in cen­tral Lon­don on Fri­day, June 12.

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