These London menswear shows are turning out to be an interesting anthropological experiment: What happens when you move your work from foreign climes to home territory? Like, duh: It improves by leaps and bounds.
Case in point: Burberry shifted its menswear show from Milan to London, and in the process, Burberry’s chief creative officer Christopher Bailey designed his best collection in years.
It’s rare for a pensioner’s wardrobe to be cited as a menswear inspiration, but the homely clothes worn by writer Alan Bennett and artist David Hockney were the guiding light in an intuitive parade of colourful, clever shapes. Think grandad cardigan jackets in cashmere, boyish of length but with deep pockets made for cosseting hands. The collection was knit-heavy, which might seem strange for a spring/summer show, but is a canny move when you consider these pieces actually go in store in January 2014.
Much of the strength came from the details. A cashmere Breton sweater? The shoulder was slightly dropped. Another sweater woven like a sweatshirt? The sleeves were cut at the elbow. Bailey flitted easily from one idea to another: striped cotton artists jackets; large polka dot shirts; tiny florals on a zip-up; a gingham hoodie. Will the move to London jeopardise their business? Not with this collection. Backstage the designer said, “It’s so good to be home.”
Even if home is, as it increasingly seems with Tom Ford, a whole other planet. “Our latest accessory,” he said at his menswear presentation: “Tom Ford crutches.” Out hobbled an evening suited model called Igor, who had injured his foot playing football, complete with velvet-covered crutches. No one knew if it was a joke. “We got them made yesterday,” said Ford. What a nice place to live.
It’s also full of colour, particularly in the tailoring. Pink was a preferred shade, with the suit block of choice the one Ford cut for Daniel Craig as James Bond. 007 in cerise – what an idea. And so it went, with lacquered nylon windcheaters in popping colours, and evening wear in elaborate jacquards. “I’ll always be trapped in the 70s,” Ford said, and indeed, all around were swirls, florals, dots and patterned shameless in their redolence. For those who are interested in joining his colony, Ford’s first freestanding store in London opens on Sloane Street next month.
The final day of the London Collections has been buzzing with creativity. James Long presented his best collection yet, his silhouette neatened by his cycling theme for a collection focused on zip-ups and bombers (a word we’re likely to hear often in the coming weeks). Meadham Kirchhoff staged a presentation of eloquence and emotion, with layers of sheer ginghams and florals. some in straightforward shirts, some in dresses. Men in dresses? Welcome to the fashion universe, London orbital path.
Christopher Shannon presented some excellent ideas, like sweaters patterned with oversized swirls like terrain, or a warp of his oversized logo. Sheer floral shorts may be for the very few, but the floral bomber will be for more. Shaun Samson showed some desirable pieces that bonded satin on to neoprene, worn with platform skate shoes, courtesy of a collaboration with Vans.
The best debut came from Liam Hodges, a designer who only graduated last week from the menswear course at the Royal College of Art. At the Fashion East installations, he dressed some beery lads in printed T-shirts and tops, the convoluted images of which added gleeful complexity to the codes of youth. As it happens, Burberry’s Christopher Bailey is also a graduate of the Royal College of Art. The city’s gravitational pull is hard to avoid.