London Fashion Week Men’s showed what men will be wearing in Spring. Paul McLauchlan unveils six of the key trends.
The 14th edition of London Fashion Week Men’s took place at the weekend. In recent years, the three or four-day-long event hasn’t drawn names like Burberry, Tom Ford or Moschino, but the British fashion industry, which is expected to grow by 15.4% to £17.9 billion by 2023, has proven itself to be a talent incubator and an arbiter of the latest fashion trends.
In the face of Brexit, London’s designers marched ahead, delivering some of the most interesting shows in years ranging from hot takes on the political climate to a practical way of dressing today.
Here are the top six trends that emerged from LFWM.
Making sustainable fashion fashionable
Increasingly, customers are mindful of the environmental impact of their spend. At LFWM, designers have risen to the challenge, shifting the cycle towards something more sustainable. Bethany Williams works with initiatives supporting disadvantaged communities and repatriates a percentage of her profits to said communities.
Edward Crutchley has no team. Everything is produced by a group of freelancers in London — traceability is key. For Patrick Grant, an outspoken advocate for sustainable fashion and designer at E Tautz, 70% of the pieces in his collection are made in their own factory in Lancashire.
Therein lies the challenge to make sustainable fashion fashionable. Fashion designer Bethany Williams combined hand-crafted knits (made from ocean plastic) with abstract illustrations of night bus routes which serve the local community in South London.
Edward Crutchley looked to the chintzy 1980s to look forward. He channeled the spirit of bad taste with sexy plunging neckline floral shirts in silk and sharply tailored trousers.
At E Tautz, the message was about lightweight ease in soft shades and light fabrics. It looked effortlessly beautiful and left you yearning for a summer holiday. Fashion as it should be — imaginative and transportative.
Many designers played with tradition, maintaining a focus on looking back while thinking ahead. At Belstaff, available in Brown Thomas, “the intent is to move towards a more conscious and sustainable approach to clothes that will be purposeful and remain beyond the seasons,” said creative director Sean Lehnhardt-Moore of his inspiration.
He began with two jackets — a fisherman jacket and a nautical jacket from the 1970s. This led to a functional collection consisting of battered safari jackets, military-inspired coats, and super-fine knits. The essence of familiarity in uncertain times will play to the customer’s advantage.
Bianca Saunders toyed with the idea of timeless classics, twisting them playfully to meet the demands of the contemporary customer. Saunders said, “I looked at the things the guys around me wear and played with that.”
She produced sumptuous suiting with trousers boasting a slit in the front and shirts with subtle darting details. The result was sensual and romantic.
Meanwhile, Per Götesson romanticised adolescence with earthly but dramatic takes on denim (see: oversized proportions and extravagant surplus fabric), and jackets (accented with savvy bottle-top embroidery) — crafty takes on classics channel modernity.
Designers respond to uncertain times
As we try to navigate a labyrinthine political landscape, certain designers have challenged themselves with understanding how to dress in light of this. For Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY, whose seersucker suiting and featherweight jacquards referenced armour and civil service uniforms, it was about responding to the post-Brexit terrain with notions of protection.
Esteemed for theatricality, this was a rather pragmatic outing — he used military jackets, weathered and worn rips and tears to signify clothes combating challenging times but also clothes combated by challenging times. Elsewhere, there were nods to punk and his native Scotland, with tartan suits and skirts. But this was a modern-day rendition of how to dress for the revolution.
Paria Farzaneh grappled with the ‘extreme pressure to create “newness” in uncertain times’ and the issue of borders and barriers. She landed somewhere which enlivened established dress codes. She slashed a shirt’s form, imitating an apple pastry, and solemn tailoring with excavated geometric panels.
A recurring motif in Farzaneh’s work is the way she interweaves her Iranian heritage. This time elaborate patterns merged with orange bomber jackets, a blue short-sleeve shirt, and her upcoming collaboration with Converse. Nowadays, cross-cultural style is rich with possibility. Borders are irrelevant as far as fashion is concerned.
Sportswear gets an update
Anyone can design a tracksuit but how do you bring the sportswear conversation forward? How does sportswear adapt to daily life? Irish whiz Robyn Lynch provided an answer with marvellous effect.
The Irish designer harked back to a time when seaside camping was the holiday of choice. “This carefree nature is something that I’m always drawn to,” said Lynch.
She spliced Aran knits with sporting nylon and introduced a comfortable towelling fabric. She juxtaposed these against neatly tailored shorts and trousers. A sporty summer ahead.
Chinese designer Feng Chen Wang looked to preserve her native Fuijian Province’s traditional crafts — the most intriguing aspect was giving the sweater an urban, sporty edgy through a basket-weaving bamboo technique. These were styled with the latest instalment of her Converse collaboration.
At Italian label ICEBERG, founded in 1972, the answer was to look to highlighter shades and to incorporate tailoring.
Creative director James Long wanted to merge the disparate worlds of the punks of the King’s Road and the Sloane Rangers. Emerging label QASIMI opted for an elegant take with a sensual militaristic flair. They added tailoring for a sense of formality.
The new face of sportswear, as dictated by the London runways, is combining elements of formality. Try suits with trainers, tracksuits with boots. Plenty to mull over.
London is renowned for its open-minded, forward-thinking approaches to sexuality and gender. So are it’s designers. While some will shy away from wearing mini-dresses and skirts, labels like ART SCHOOL and Xander Zhou demanded change.
ART SCHOOL is a celebration of queer culture and gender non-conformity with quirky characters bedecked in skater skirts, leopard-print mini-dresses, and pantless tailoring.
Chinese designer Xander Zhou, who has in the past shown clothes on men with prosthetic baby bumps, proposed 90s inspired denim skirts and flowing trains for men. Not for the faint-hearted but as the world changes and attitudes towards gender become more liberal — these names are writing the next chapter in which fashion and gender merge.
Fashion for the future
The most common question a fashion editor will be asked is, ‘how do you dress for the season ahead?’ In London, three designers gave you something which will define the future of fashion.
Kiko Kostadinov, a Bulgarian designer, presented in the opulent environs of Plaisterer’s Hall. He issued a futuristic take on sportswear and tailoring. Sportswear was spun with an in loose, billowing shapes, in optimistic shades of spearmint, sherbet, turquoise, and apricot — a whimsical take on working out.
The tailoring, exceptionally crafted, referenced equestrian shapes, with asymmetric button detailing, in warped and fragmented checks. The show was accessorised with Camper boots and Asics trainers — two of Kostadinov’s ongoing partnerships. The result of this collection, eccentric and varied, was not an answer on how to dress for today but for tomorrow.
The same could be said for Martine Rose, who also consults for Balenciaga. Off the back of successful collaborations with Napapijri and Nike, her label continued to thrive with the latest instalment. She breathed life into 1980s subcultures with check shirts and polos brought to life with extra-long bell sleeve, football shirt iconography and leather biker jackets. Try her square-toed loafers to shock your colleagues or perhaps a pink puffer coat and speckled fleece over your shirt. It’s these subtle perversions of normality that drive fashion forward.
Craig Green is an award-winning British designer known for emotionally resonant shows which have wrung tears from guests. This season, he wanted to “bend the parameters of established ideas” with a collection that studied the self and the male form. Printed on his quilted workwear jackets were ‘hazy remembrances’ which, upon closer inspection, resembled subtly printed masculine forms.
Overcoats were detailed with paradisiacal patterns and capes draped the body as if borrowed from a ship’s mast. (Peppered throughout were magnificent feats of production — featherweight paper constructions with intricate laser-cutting in luminous shades.) In its entirety, filled with practical options for a man of any age, there was a sense pragmatism, too, has the ability to be emotional. You left with a sense of knowing the direction fashion might take in the next five years. In uncertain times, such knowledge is a miracle.