The menswear schedule is slimmer; there’s no this name or that name showing (notably Alexander McQueen, Tom Ford, Burberry): this is what has prefaced menswear this season – in all honesty a slight sense of negativity. Which seems a little odd, frankly. While womenswear seems to be experiencing a little bit of a wobble, menswear seems to be the most solid and exciting option right now, actually, backed up by the goods – be that traditional tailoring, the totally insane, or the tame. Pick your fashion poison. Because it’s all here at London Collections Men, now four years old, having moved on from being just that one day tacked onto the end of the ready-to-wear schedule to now being four fully-fledged and fleshed-out days, thank you very much.
There’s lots to see: great designers, interesting names, new names, big ideas, accessible ideas (they are needed too!), but ideas nonetheless, which has always been London’s calling card. It should therefore in fact be celebrated. Let’s not put a Debbie downer on proceedings. Even Burberry, the show shake-up enfant terrible as it were, put on a soiree, there in spirit if not collection – and in fact showcasing its artisans’ craft at work with embroiderers stitching away, and monogram calligraphers there too. All really is not lost.
So day one and let’s look at what there is to toast.
Phoebe English made her first foray into menswear this season and one being instantly recognisable as her at that: she does black, she does white, she might do a bit of navy. It’s tactile, there’s a gentle homespun feel to it but one that never strays too far, kept in tight control for the aforementioned colour combination reasons. Here we saw her designs become more accessible – for we all know that men, deep down, aren’t quite as adventurous as women on the getting-dressed front. It was a good move and will no doubt garner her more womenswear - in fact, followers too.
But for those men who do like to dress up, there’s Xander Zhou: chains, glitter hoodies (a thumbs up to these), huge big coats cut here and there, striped and adorned with trailing bits (that is actually the best technical term to go with); it was a tight mash-up and one not for the faint-hearted from the Chinese designer, who also moonlights as the menswear fashion director at The New York Times’ T Magazine China edition. Here it was those dress-length hoodies and the leathers that came fringed and threaded with words that stood out the most. We’d be impressed to spot someone walking down the road in one of the supersized macs on any given day other than an LCM day.
Craig Green, recent recipient of the BFC/GQ Designer Fund, is the darling of London Collections Men. There’s a reason and it’s obvious: he does something sophisticated, elegant, and lyrical; it’s innovative, too – and, in menswear terms, pushes the boundaries but not so as to be entirely unwearable or ridiculous which is so often the downfall of most. Pinstripe tunics and wide-leg trousers were spliced and sliced; there was dense stitching, quilting, pastels, ruched hoods, as flags wrapped around all of this wonderment that wandered from pastels to punches of organised colour. There was, as there always is, a decidedly romantic quality to his work, workwear elevated to serene status.
In no way serene, meanwhile, is Bobby Abley who was proposing a magic carpet ride of fashion fun. Was your favourite Disney film Aladdin? Then you are in for a treat! The genie, the carpet, and the monkey, they were all there to incarnate this fun and whimsical take on sportswear with a transatlantic twist. And the teddy bear accessories – some in glossy vinyl – were a hyper nod to nostalgia to either compound or confuse the point. Falling into the KTZ zanier side of menswear life, this is one that you’ll either love or hate but full marks for fun.
Oliver Spencer, meanwhile, is all about looking well put together in that classic and pseudo laid-back way. It is tame, breezy and light, this collection a holiday go-to for the girl who wants her guy to look smart and typically hot at all times. She's probably not complaining.
Meanwhile stepping that up were the designers over at CMMN SWDN: citing a recent trip to Morocco as their inspiration, they gave us incredibly-cut trousers whose waists were high and fastened with extra-long belts and slinky-slinky bomber jackets. The colour palette was great, as was the edit; it all worked and had serious womenswear appeal, whether that was the intention or not.
In total there will be 32 catwalk shows, 25 presentations, five digital presentations, and 21 events happening throughout the week. Come on, that's something to cheers to.