25 seasons of womenswear fashion but never a men’s show – Madeleine Macey reports on the British heritage brands showing at London Collections: Men, Autumn/Winter 2015….
London Collections: Men (LCM) opened on the 9th January – its 6th season. The focus for LCM is energetically on the clothes themselves and not the social circus that surrounds them. Attending leaves you feeling more like you’re being welcomed into an exclusive club rather than being left on the membership waiting list. LCM generates a genuinely enthusiastic and intimate atmosphere, with designers openly cheering each other on, amidst the backdrop of the rapidly expanding luxury menswear market; a market which latest reports state is worth close to £13 billion.
This formula has seen LCM grow in size and achieve international recognition. Chaired by the indefatigable Dylan Jones, editor of GQ, and powered by the British Fashion Council, it now boasts 37 presentations and 70 designers exhibiting in the Designer Showrooms over 4 days, and has even more new additions this season including Aquascutum, Barbour and Kilgour. LCM doesn’t only showcase the old Houses but also nurtures new talent such as Todd Lynn, Christopher Raeburn and Craig Green, who are all worthy of note. However, it is the British heritage brands that have evolved and reinvented themselves for the modern man that made a bold impression this season.
Hardy Amies, Savile Row – Founded 1946 (Royal Warrant)
This was Hardy Amies’ Creative Director Mehmet Ali’s first show. He had previously warmed up his audience with critically acclaimed presentations but the show had the confidence of an experienced hand that knows how to orchestrate a fashion journey, with a meticulous eye on every detail, fabric, colour and layer. The show launched with a big screen that filled a rather chilly concrete underground gallery in Soho, with a sensory experience taking us through the stunning British mountain range of Snowdonia whilst bombarding us with dramatic, stormy music. The audience was silenced as the models walked out in warm colours and rich textures that seemed to leap straight out of the screen: bracken green, shrub russets, gorse yellow, granite grey and storm cloud blue. The eveningwear and sharp tuxedos were also a highlight of the collection. David Gandy at the Esquire / Jimmy Choo party later that night told me it was easily one of his favourite shows.
Pringle of Scotland – Founded 1815 (Royal Warrant)
Pringle is renowned for its clever innovation in knitwear, which is a difficult mantle to maintain, especially on an important 200th anniversary. However, this Autumn/Winter collection, shown in the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple (as magical in name as in appearance) had Massimo Nicosia yet again surprising with details and confident use of knit alongside elegant tailoring. The styling was high-necked and oversized, with heavy sumptuous cardigans, jumpers in signature argyle and tartan, and striking scarves – my favourite look being a navy roll neck that displayed 3D dimensions of cable knit which made me want to reach out and grab the poor lad off the runway, eager to understand how he had achieved such depths in one item. Special techniques have always been at the forefront of Pringle’s practices and this season showed digital painterly prints, shaved mink and the softest cashmere achieved by blowing the threads with air; presumably premium Scottish air at that.
E.Tautz, London – Founded 1867 (Dressed Winston Churchill in his breeches)
Patrick Grant is, I can only assume, the most organised man I know – not that he agrees with me. He is Creative Director of Savile Row’s Norton & Son’s and E. Tautz, and has recently opened a beautiful new flagship store for the latter on London’s Duke Street, closely followed by the launch of his first book, Original Man. He heads up a popular television series and a successful high street collaboration and says he “thrives on the constant workload.” Yet he always seems remarkably calm, easy-going, well-groomed and may I say, even a little flippant about the whole thing. The show and collection continued the impression of effortless elegance with the certainty and confidence that Grant possesses in all he achieves. The inspiration was taken from this country’s Northern textile industry heritage, where people grafted hard, wore clothes made from the fabrics they created, layered up for the cold and didn’t think too much about their ‘look;’ there is definitely a feeling of throwing on the long-loved coat from the back of the door that may have been your father’s, or even your father’s father’s. The styling is oversized, masculine and not too considered, the fabrics rich but with “a gritty textural” feel, all a palette of grey with easy-flowing, tailored trousers. The textured broad-shouldered outerwear is all eminently wearable and I loved it. Essentially, I would like my husband to dress in this nonchalant, nostalgic vision, but he would definitely need to be a little taller….
Belstaff, Staffordshire – Founded 1924
Belstaff cuts through the elegance of LCM with the vibrations of a customised 1950s Triumph with holes drilled into the exhaust. Tough, bold and macho, the collection – rich in leathers, shearlings, great coats and more knitwear than I expected – was presented in an underground car park opposite the Houses of Parliament. ‘Ton Up Boys’ was the name of the show, harking back to the days when groups of ‘Greasers’ would gather at cafes to ‘do a ton;’ 100 miles an hour on souped-up motorcycles, and testosterone was stitched into every garment. Known for its outerwear, the collection didn’t disappoint with a vast variety of fabrications and shapes with waxed cottons, hand-painted leathers and customised details. The classic coats (as worn by Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock) were updated in hounds tooth prints and cashmere. The party atmosphere and beautiful crowd added to the feeling that this was a world you wanted to be a part of, a collection you would want to have a heart-breaking affair with rather than marry – Belstaff is the guy every girl wants to be with, but he will always love his bike and his leathers first.
Burberry, Basingstoke – Founded 1856
The big-ticket item is Burberry. I have always found the Burberry boy a well-defined billboard aesthetic in prettiness, slim styling and a guitar-based London sound, so was intrigued on entering a moody, dark, draped tent usually filled with light from the surrounding Royal park. The show was bold in statement, where the Burberry boy becomes man – bespectacled, sophisticated, individual eclectic styling and the impression of a well read and travelled mind. ‘‘Classically Bohemian,’’ the collection consisted of muted ethnic colours, paisley and animal prints and was finished off with shearling coats, the iconic trench in various incarnations and large tasselled scarves and ponchos. Creative Director and CEO Christopher Bailey’s clear vision in motion is always impressive to see realised across the entire brand, but I don’t think I have ever seen a man in real life wear a shawl….but come Autumn/Winter, I’m convinced some Streetstyles will.