London Menswear: day one

London is a city that likes to think it likes to shock, at least sartorially speaking. But on the first day of the autumn/winter 2013 menswear shows, London designers were experimenting – as usual – with clothes that men might actually want to wear in their normal lives, away from fashion’s insular whirl. Which is less usual.

Case in point: Richard Nicoll, who made his name as a womenswear designer, but who actually studied menswear and is now in his second season making neat pieces for thirtysomething men like himself. “It’s just things that I want to wear,” Nicoll said backstage.

Look past the requisite lip service to “influences” such as post-punk New York, and look closely at the pieces that played around the borders of understated: a stiff peacoat with contrast collars, or a great green crew neck knit, or even those that touched on frivolity, such as a reversible parka shown with metallic side out, or a vivid orange city coat.

And Nicoll wasn’t the only designer marching into the territory of wearability.

One of the true grafters of London is Lou Dalton, who is proving herself to have a knack for designing pieces that can find an audience outside fashion’s tight circle. She was at her best with casual blousons, hooded parkas, and a cosy green crew neck knit (Lou’s crew neck preceded Richard Nicoll’s green crew neck by seven and a half hours – but whatever: the more green crew necks, the merrier). The stomp of her collection was provided by big squared-off clomping boots, made in collaboration with traditional Northampton shoemaker Grenson, which were anything but prissy.

Then there were Agi & Sam, young designers who have already been picked up in London by Liberty and Harvey Nichols. Agi designs the clothes, Sam makes the prints, and together they created a layered looked of printed and padded outerwear that often had a sophistication above their years (they are 26 and 27 years old). They have a long way to go, but the beauty of London’s incubation schemes for young designers means they have time to evolve.

This being London, extremity was also given its due. But this extremity was often extremely wearable, albeit for a particular sort of a man.

Meadham Kirchhoff, for example, showed some extraordinary pieces inspired by black and white photos of Ben Kirchhoff’s grandfather and resulting in elegantly snug tailored jackets and high-belted trousers.

Young designer Lee Roach, meanwhile, used his show to announce his intent to be a designer of singular vision like Rick Owens or Helmut Lang (hence his strict monochrome silhouettes with buckle and strap fastening), while Craig Green, a recent Central Saint Martins graduate, made his catwalk debut as part of Fashion East’s MAN presentations with an uncompromising (face masks made from planks of wood), incredibly raw, but also very accomplished show full of pieces that this writer for one would like to wear – particularly the exposed-edge knits.

I know we have just come back from holiday, but with this collection, I’ve started my Christmas list already.

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