At London Fashion Week: Men's Collections, designers pursued an individual course, each with a strong point of view about the culture of clothing that surrounds their lives and experiences rather than finding inspirations in far away places foreign to how they and their peers actually live. That's what set these designers apart, as they created clothes that incorporated a milieu relevant to them — and hopefully, relevant to more and more other people as well. Good fashion is the ability to create garments that will jive with your customers, and this crop of young London menswear designers did this masterfully.
There was of course J.W. Anderson's lyrical collection of elongated silhouettes in printed linen or plaid cotton caftans, and black short pants worn with a red silk trench, or even a blue A-1 nylon bomber jacket. Surely those dropped shoulder and puffy-sleeved tunics, the cropped sweater or the sleeveless fitted long tank shirt-dress could be next season's influencer garments. Then there is Craig Green, the other pillar of London menswear, who catapulted only a few seasons ago to become one of the most watched designers with less than three years' work under his belt. Green continued his complex examination of the process of garment making, and at times he left his garments in states of deconstruction, only to be tied together by corded strings — as seen on a trench coat with cut-out sleeves and slashed side seams. Often though, Green seemed to confuse his audience by asserting too many ideas into one outfit; witness the multicolored silk scarves wrapping around the waist and draped on the front of an otherwise simple light jacket, paired with black pants with colored border stripes.
But behind the shadows of Anderson and Green comes an explosion of young talents who would be the envy of other fashion weeks around the world. Consider that for her first solo collection show, Wales Bonner, a recent graduate of Central Saint Martins, presented a collection where the formalities of European classical tailoring were viewed with a Pan-Africa spirit, as seen in a white long collarless shirtdress with shortened sleeves, as well as a white embroidered cropped bolero over silk blouse and cigarette pants. Her fluid clothes erase rigid gender boundaries; here, her man can wear an all-white, cropped, embroidered, pinched-waist pantsuit without much hindrance.
Kiko Kostadinov, another Central Saint Martins MA who graduated in February 2016, showed his obsession with the different usages of workwear. The details of uniforms, such as cleaners' shirts, doctors' lab coats or oil workers' boiler suits, were transformed into utilitarian dressing devoid of decorations with innovative materials, such as Tyvek-coated fabric on a black high collar coat.
But one of the specialties of London menswear designers is their ability to turn "streetwear" into high-end collections. Matthew Dainty and Ben Cottrell of Cottweiler's sophisticated approach and refined fabrication elevated streetwear to a new level of luxury. Astrid Andersen combined sports and sex into a softer collection of loose plaid shorts suits with black lace trims. Nasir Mazhar's urban fabric of culture and counterculture dynamics focused on covetable garments, like an aqua blue track pant or loose shorts with multiple panels. And newcomer Liam Hodges stayed focused on turning his patchwork and workwear ethos into a year round business.
British designers always believe in creating fashion that is born from their social cultural environment. With a presentation in the form of a flash street protest staged on the Strand across from the King's College campus, Daniel W. Fletcher spoke about his experiences working in Paris at Louis Vuitton and how that gave him a rare opportunity that should be preserved for others to follow. His models stood proud in souvenir T-shirts, a few with the word "STAY" emblazoned on them, and others in printed rain jackets and shorts to recall the British holidays. They all carried large signs reading "STAY" or similar messages regarding the Brexit. Fletcher delivered a heartfelt message from his generation — it runs counter to naysayers who think fashion is just frivolous.