London Collections: Men, report 2

The second day of menswear in London has all been about branding, both how to define it, and how to exploit it. Indeed Moschino, now under the creative direction of Jeremy Scott, defines itself through exploitation: it plasters its own name everywhere. And not only its own branding, but purposefully cheap looking takes on other fashion logos and design signatures (the Emporio Armani eagle; Hermès gold locks). In a logo-obsessed fashion market, the stuff will fly. More importantly, it was clever too, like a deft dissertation on the ridiculousness of branding, and the hold that it has.

It was the Italian label’s menswear debut in London, a canny move, since many of its young designers are obsessed with its archive (Christopher Shannon even has a Moschino phone cover). They also cite Mr Scott as a hero for his understanding of how to elevate streetwear through humour and attitude. And so it was here for spring/summer 2015, with smiley face sweaters, tailoring with a Moschino take on soda packaging, and the house name written loud all over pretty much any garment you care to mention.

Then came the twist. The word “Fauxschino” appeared, hinting at market stall fakes. Orange shorts criss-crossed with a ribbon print were like a take on a wrapped-up Hermès box. A denim parka had a blown-up print of hearts and peace signs in the form of a fake Louis Vuitton bag. It is said that a copied design has to be changed six times to stop any legal action. It is usually the excuse of fast fashion brands copying the major designers. To see one luxury brand do it to others was abrasive and hilarious.

In March 2015, London will get the chance to see the Alexander McQueen exhibit Savage Beauty, first shown at New York’s Met Museum in 2011. The exhibition proves how Mr McQueen himself was influenced by ideas of the future as much as he was by the historical, yet recently the brand’s menswear has erred towards the latter. No more. Creative director Sarah Burton’s show for spring/summer 15 was intentionally devoid of any history lessons, instead focusing on the contemporary: think a clear, crisp palette of white patterned with colour, silhouettes with youthful swagger, all worn with souped-up trainers.

An abstract of a kabuki print was the basis of the pattern, which crucially was allowed to roam free, rather than the tight mirrored images that have been used by McQueen for a while. Occasionally, a single swoop of pattern in houndstooth was cut across a black garment, like a blazer or bomber. It was like the sort of tailoring incision that Mr McQueen himself would have done in the late nineties, before his brand had been bought by what was then called Gucci Group. It was very pleasing to see the brand refer to its late master, rather than a bygone era.

The effect of LVMH part-ownership on JW Anderson’s brand is clear to see: he has started making clothes. It was apparent from the opening few sweet tops of woven countryside scenes – a chalk horse on a hill here, a waterfall there. These tops were nothing more than a couple of squares of cloth sewn together, but they had an ease and wearability that went beyond his previous awkwardness.

There were still many dare-to-wear moments, like the off-shoulder knotted pinstripe tops, or the one button woven jackets that, at the rear, were cut away to expose the back. In previous seasons, Mr Anderson would have left it at that. But now he seems to have understood it pays to soothe after a slap: the jackets came out in their pure state, and looked like genuine pieces from a luxury house. Also welcome were polo shirts with different grades of stripe, and long-sleeved tees with contrast sleeves.

Fashion loves a novelty. Sometimes it is in an attempt at a new outfit, like a mankini. Jimmy Choo’s new idea for encapsulating its brand was a shoe fashion show. That is a show with an elevated catwalk, so that the focus is supposed to be on the feet (and yes, the models were in clothes). Objects in abstract can have a strange, hypnotising effect. In the UK, there was once a TV show called The Generation Game, in which the nail-biting finish involved contestants remembering domestic items – toasters, a cuddly toy etc – that went past them on a conveyor belt. Replace them with luxury sneakers, and you get the idea at Choo.

Product-wise, it was on the money. A year ago, I wrote here about the total lack of coherency in Jimmy Choo men’s shoes. For spring/summer 2015, it knows what its customer wants – the sort of loud luxury sneaker which upscale department stores cannot keep on the shelves. Laced high-tops came spray-painted or in gold metallic, while white slip-ons were decorated with white studs. There were more formal shoes, but in menswear right now they’re becoming an irrelevance.

Each season, Christopher Kane’s menswear brand grows ever more expansive. It started off as just a few T-shirts, shown at the same time as women’s pre-collection. It has now evolved so much to warrant its own presentation, with more tailoring, outerwear and clever commercial pieces such as polo shirts. But it’s still in womenswear’s shadow, with the entire collection based on a print of the flip-book dresses he showed for autumn/winter 14. The pieces were great, from a T-shirt printed with a curl of pages, to an abstracted print that’s like a vivid colour palm over the shoulder of a sweater.

When a young designer presents a clear vision for their brand, it’s a thrill to see. James Long stepped up with a show of distressed jeans with boxer waistbands, grey sweatshirts bonded with his name handwritten in red, and elasticated knits that clung like bobbles to the body. It all felt modern, as did the best moments of Richard James, namely gingham work shirts and a gingham seersucker suit.

At the Fashion East installations, it was great to see Shaun Samson back after some visa issues with some needle-punched squiggle tops and shorts, while Martine Rose said everything she needed about doozy youth with one sole model: a long leather jacket worn with super wide track pants. A quick nod to the off-schedule presentation by new label Pieter, the work of designer Sebastiaan Groenen, already excelling with crisp tailoring, great T-shirts in Japanese cloths, and an excellent bomber jacket. His is a brand of particularly great promise.

Fashion Weeks

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