Remember when London’s menswear shows started off with a royal reception? Those leisurely, long-ago days (well, 2012 to be precise) feel a lifetime away now. This season, however, is starting before the city’s had a moment to recover from the Trump family’s fly-by vacation. And its designers, more than ever, find themselves slotted into a narrowing slice of the fashion audience’s attention span. Take Kiko Kostadinov’s show last night – in news cycle terms, squashed unpromisingly in between Anthony Vaccarello’s YSL event on Thursday night (a Malibu boardwalk at twilight, luxe materials and languid shapes, Keanu and Miley on the front row) and Jeremey Scott’s late Friday Moschino extravaganza (a Hollywood backlot, influencers and It Girls, scream queens and skeletons). On the face of it, Kostadinov – still an emerging designer, opening the city’s schedule in the daintily opulent great hall of the Worshipful Company of Plaisterers – seemed doomed to a certain eclipse.

Kiko Kostadinov Spring/Summer 2020 menswear show in London. Photo by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION. 

But one of the most interesting things about this particular emerging designer is his willingness to swerve approach – whether that’s outsourcing his womenswear line (to his partner, designer Deanna Fanning, and her sister Laura), or throwing his brand aesthetic entirely off-balance, as he did last night. 

When Kostadinov first made an impression, back in 2016, it was a for a graduate collection that focused on coolly grim, stubbornly austere, workwear-led tailoring. Seven seasons later, though, there was an altogether lighter feel to proceedings – from racing silk two-pieces worn over cycling shorts to slash-sleeved, oversized tunics to sleekly spliced-and-sliced tailoring. The same fast-and-loose playfulness carried through to the collection’s exuberant palette (sunflower yellows, mint greens, and raspberry pinks, alternating with powdery blues and grays) and to its use of giddily oversized graphic pattern – both elements which suggested an increasing synergy with the Fannings’ work on Kostadinov’s womenswear.

Kiko Kostadinov Spring/Summer 2020 menswear show in London. Photos by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION. 

What the clothes weren’t, by any standards, was boring. They clamoured for right-here, right-now attention; enjoyably off-kilter, gleefully anachronistic, teamed with multicoloured riding boots and powdered periwigs, retro-printed tote bags and go-faster trainers. The exciting thing about this curveball collection, though, was what it said about Kostadinov’s future; that we should expect, at the very least, the unexpected.