This time last year and the menswear fashion-scape was reeling from the aftermath of 2016, a pretty rubbish year by anyone’s standards. Brexit, Trump, the list doesn’t really need to extend any further beyond that to make the point. Designers, of course, reacted accordingly with politics central to collections via the fashion means necessary: slogans and an overriding sense of doom and gloom on overall staging, music, and the like.
Oliver Spencer FW18 menswear show in London. Picture by Regis Colin Berthelier.
One year on and where are we at? In government terms, pragmatic and logistical terms, pretty much nowhere. We’re still clueless and we’re still worried. In catwalk terms, thankfully there’s more to feel optimistic about. Fashion was never an industry about shutting anyone or anything out after all; it was about celebrating and sharing. Oliver Spencer looked to London as muse for his namesake collection, and the real reason it’s so beloved. “It’s totally multicultural,” he said backstage. “We’re going through a lot of flux right now with Brexit. I was inspired by the early Seventies when the Roxy Music stuff was coming out and the political uncertainty then is the same as what’s going on now.”
Bobby Abley FW18 menswear show in London. Picture by Guillaume Roujas.
Striding down the runway, therefore, came the designer’s repertoire of easy-to-wear pieces. Not too scary, not too plain, just right for men who get scared of the “F” word – that’s “fashion.” But it was also a chance for the designer to make his own comment on another hot topic right now. “Our clothes aren’t gender-specific and I hadn’t said anything about that, so it just felt like the right time to,” he said by way of explanation for the three womenswear looks that took a turn. The more traditional platform for voicing political prowess, the sweatshirt, was put to good use by Bobby Abley who sent out a style with the e-passport motif that read “Legal Alien.” Elsewhere across his collection, it was more of the same fun and antics for caricature and cartoon designs.
Liam Hodges FW18 menswear show in London. Picture by Regis Colin Berthelier.
And while the whole streetwear-skatewear punk thing has begun to dwindle among those brands for whom it was only ever a season or two of zeitgeist inspiration anyway, one designer for whom it is part of his DNA, Liam Hodges, managed to make it still feel relevant. Why? Because he’s authentic and so are his clothes. He’s not Palace or Supreme but he feels like he’s already part of the conversation and has been for some time, even though he made his debut back in just 2014 with Fashion East. Post-punk and paganism, Hodges looked to English culture for his references – but those that came armed with their own dose of attitude.
Edward Crutchley FW18 menswear show in London. Picture by Guillaume Roujas.
Meanwhile Edward Crutchley, a Kim Jones protégé and hot ticket of menswear, looked at the idea of pilgrimage for his collection: apt in a time when so many of us are no doubt mentally making our own. It’s his blend of louche-but-loud silhouette for lounge appeal style that has made him one to watch. And while there were some pieces here that seemed to wander off-piste, his is overall an aesthetic that works in the real world.