Kit Neale Menswear Spring Summer 2016 London
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Apart from Christopher Shannon's sun-holiday inspired meshes and neon layers, there's not been a whole lot about the first day of SS16 shows to evoke summer itself. That's not, perhaps, too much of a surprise, given the increasingly international, trans-seasonal, climate-controlled world in which both designers and customers operate. But when Kit Neale, rounding out the day at Victoria House, sent out a collection bursting with rainbow colours and blooming florals, it was an evocative reminder of what we might have lost. Summer, in fashion, used to mean impractically floaty garments and the sensation of sand beneath your feet. Today, it probably means no more than removing one or two layers of a year-round uniform.

And Neale's show, inspired by the cheap-and-cheerful, bad-taste-so-terrible-it's-almost-good aesthetic of junk stores and car-boot sales, acknowledged that discrepancy, sending models out in the kind of furled hats and drop-waisted dresses that haven't been “in,” for men, since “Some Like it Hot.” Teamed with granny floral prints and billowing house coats, it was a collection which revelled in its own sweet-as-candy silliness. Models trailed Pom-Pom earrings as though they'd forgotten they existed, and wore drawstring pants slung loose over long, lean vests and baggy t-shirts. It was, strangely, exactly the kind of to-hell-with-it aesthetic that you'd expect of an Englishman wilting in the summer heat – the kind of Englishman T.S. Eliot wrote about in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” who sank into middle age moaning “I shall grow old/I shall grow old/I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.”

Each season, more and more, English menswear is becoming defined by the energies of youth. But Neale's nostalgic, whimsical detour made a compelling argument for the liberation of life over the hill. 

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