IRL: Clothes Versus Concept

If there’s one common thread all too appropriately linking our clothes with our phones, it’s our ambivalent relationship with them. We want them, we need them; we hate them, go away.

E. Tautz Fall/Winter 2019 show in London. Photo by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION.

At the beck and call of trends and technology, we find ourselves in a conundrum of our times when it comes to dealing with both of them. And as the collections increasingly become a social media stomping crowd, the clothes more and more seem intriguingly to be shying away from courting those Insta moments in a reaction against documentation and labelling.

“Our clothes are decorated in meaningless words. We smile at the camera and write meaningless platitudes about this meaningless stuff. We embrace the banal in the hope that strangers will like us,” read the show notes from E. Tautz at the beginning of the week in something of a dystopian poem, though one that perfectly summed up this new mood for privacy.

The clothes accordingly were elegant and full of languid tailored pieces in a friendly colour palette. There were no slogans, badges, symbols, or motifs and it couldn’t help but feel modern and new, even though really it was just nice clothes – though the baggy trousers were possibly too baggy.

Liam Hodges Fall/Winter 2019 show in London. Photo by Regis Colin Berthelier for NOWFASHION.

But such a resistance, to what has fast become a social epidemic, didn’t start and stop there. Liam Hodges used this idea of the “fourth dimension,” as he was calling it for his collection, a motif of a figure stuck between dimensions to be found among his recognisable street-sportswear. “It’s as if we’re caught between dimensions, our infinitely informed, totally connected, fully mappable digital selves concluded his show notes.

Depressing as all of that may sound, his collection, though, was not – it’s clear he’s put time and effort into elevating the Liam Hodges look for something of a commercially-sound proposition that still bestows the fun and cynicism of its designer.

Paria Farzaneh Fall/Winter 2019 show in London. Photo by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION.

When it came to Paria Farzaneh’s show, another collection underpinned by a comment on connectivity, all too perfectly was it prefaced by the story of one fashion director who told me how in accidentally losing his iPhone he had acquired an old-school flip phone and as a result was enjoying a much better quality of life: emails in the morning, lunchtime, and end of day, focus on the rest of the day’s tasks between. None of this checking in, updating, and documenting.

Farzaneh was keen to join this club. Phones had been instructed to be put inside clear plastic bags and the show to be watched without a lens as mediator. “If you could please place your devices in the plastic bag provided as your invite,” we read. Intriguingly, it’s this conceptual narrative and not so much the clothes I find myself writing about, though splashes of her signature print work were strong but few. Which makes this all feel a little meta: comments about concepts that are comments. What about the clothes?

Edward Crutchley Fall/Winter 2019 show in London. Photos by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION.

Edward Crutchley took his languid silhouettes and put them to work on Eighties power suiting for elegant and modern effect. It was a lovely collection, and not only did it feel like a step on for him personally – for it can be difficult for a designer to progress beyond what they’re known for – but for menswear in general, too. Tailoring! Finally, we’re saying goodbye to streetwear and sportswear across the board. Of course, it’s sticking around for brands for whom it’s what they do, but elsewhere and there’s a move to something smarter and slicker.

Craig Green Fall/Winter 2019 show in London. Photos by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION.

Craig Green, the wunderkind of the schedule given that the London menswear shows are full of so many young and new names (hardly recognisable from when it began some 13 seasons ago), showed a beautiful collection that displayed both his creative and commercial sides: split into what felt like three stages – there were tech-panel jackets with sashes and slings; plaid tunics; smocking and crochet in pastel tones – it ran the gamut of shoppable and collectible pieces, varying levels throughout. Having ended 2018 with a British Fashion Award for best menswear designer to his name, he hasn’t started 2019 off too badly either, which seems a pretty fitting comment on British menswear IRL.