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Atmosphere is everything at a fashion show. For spring/summer 2016 at London Collections Men, Burberry worked hard to conjure theirs. An open walled tent was erected in Perks Field, a part of Kensington Gardens usually closed to the general public (blame the monarchy). A live orchestra played emotive songs — “Vienna” and the like. The mood was meant to be all romance and ease, but to keep with it took effort.
In the show there was a lot to like. A new suit block, lean but still with construction to keep it sharp. Trenches came in the cut too. It was both wearable and also CEO pleasing, which is handy, since Christopher Bailey is both chief creative and chief executive officer. These were worn with lace shirts beneath, and lace ties — a styling trick, since those who would want a men’s luxury brand lace shirt can find them just delivered at Gucci.
The knitwear was superlative. A red sweater had a wide funnel collar, while a cashmere short sleeve shirt was one of the nicest pieces seen during LCM. Full marks too for the cashmere joggers, worn with tailoring. “I love joggers,” said Bailey afterwards, backstage. “I wear them a lot at home. But now I can wear them out.”
Like many designers, Bailey took the decision to show women’s pre-collection during men’s. It’s something you get used to these days, but this felt different. The male models padded down the catwalk in sweet patent lace-ups or velvet tassel loafers. No such luck for the female models, who were dressed in aggressive heels, a platform under the sole and a vicious metal stiletto. This is menswear — why can’t they relax, wear flats? As the show went on, the disparity became unbearable. One model was in a long dress that hobbled and slowed her walk. The next male model, breezing along in tailored trousers and slip-on loafers, almost caught her up. It snapped away from the fantasy of the show and put the focus on reality: was she OK? Hardly any of my female friends wear heels. They run their own businesses, have successful careers. I have three sisters, three young nieces. How else am I meant to react to these heels than with anger?
It’s great to see Patrick Grant’s brand E Tautz making sense. Much is down to the recently opened store on Duke Street, a canny location near Claridges and The Beaumont hotel, and on the route to Selfridges. Grant is a shopkeeper at heart, shown from the personable success of his Savile Row tailor Norton & Sons, and suddenly he can get to know what his E Tautz customer wants.
The answer is breezy, characterful, wearable menswear, the type which recently won him the BFC/GQ Designer Menswear Fund. This show for spring/summer 16 was a tight edit of rain coats and cagoules in a water-resistant fine wool mix; neat navy cotton jackets, and zip-up, wait, what was that? They like the kind of blousons that have dominated LCM, and were particularly neat here. But on his show notes, Grant called them “jerkins”. Today’s garment terminology lesson ends here.
Let’s leave London with things that are new. At the Fashion East Installations, Grace Wales Bonner excelled with a collection of depth and thought. She was looking at Malik Ambar, an Ethiopian from the 16th century who became a ruler in India. On a recent trip to Senegal, Wales Bonner saw that the most popular films were Nigerian takes on Bollywood. The result was clothing of great personality and desirability, especially an open-weave summer wool shirt and pleat tailored pants, buckled at the waist, or a white T-shirt with a navy trim of terry cloth.
Also at the Installations, Charles Jeffrey recreated the club that he said funded his final year on the Central Saint Martins MA course. Club kids partied on a platform — I was in there when the DJ played Madonna and the Spice Girls — the models stood around the edge. But this kid is serious, especially the double-breasted tailoring and paint splattered shorts that had been made on Savile Row.
And then there was Bobby Abley. A year ago, he had an Instagram smash and retail mania with sweatshirts featuring Ursula from The Little Mermaid. Disney loved him, and let him use its imagery. And what does Disney now own? Star Wars. Some of the graphics were literal, like a Storm Trooper sweatshirt, while others took the path of subversion, like the fluffy striped sweater that read “CHEWY”. After three seasons as part of the MAN collective, it was only his first solo show. Along with Grace Wales Bonner and Charles Jeffrey, it was one of the best of the London Collections.
For more reports from the London shows, go to our fashion weeks page on the FT web app, or visit our London Collections Men SS16 fashion weeks hub on FT.com
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