London SS18: Made in the 80s?

In the realms of womenswear, the Eighties has been hanging around as a style sticking point for some time now. But among menswear, it’s taken a little more time to catch up. That time is nigh, compounded by Topman’s spring/summer 2018 offering in London, which was an ode to Blitz kids and David Bowie, a club culture heyday and a certain type of tailoring that requires a certain sort of confidence – not to mention great quiff – to carry off. Add to that Liam Hodges specific 1987 Fila referencing for sneakers and colour palette and the new romantic eccentricity of Charles Jeffrey Loverboy – a Blitz kid of 2017 if ever there was one – and we have a reprise of the decade that just keeps on giving.

Charles Jeffrey Loverboy SHOW (Photo by Gio Staiano)

The Eighties gives you more,” reflected Graeme Moran, head of fashion at trade publication Drapers. “The Nineties is very sportswear, young, denim, whereas the Eighties gives you that tailoring with boxy shoulders, glitter disco party outfits.” And let’s face it, streetwear went from being cool to criminally everywhere and when that happens in fashion, we get bored and we run a mile the other way: to tailoring, to big shoulders and a certain sense of power dressing – an Eighties hallmark if ever there was one.

You can even see it on the streets of London, there are a lot more people wearing blazers and I haven’t seen that in a long time,” continued Moran, pinpointing even the front row of Matthew Miller – which aptly came accompanied by decade-relevant Nick Cave on soundtrack – as a case in point. It’s the bomber backlash. “Even brands that were more tracksuit and trainer-led, are moving on,” he said of the week. 

Liam Hodges show (photo by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION)

Cast your mind back and it, the Eighties reprise for men, began gently last season. The name that immediately leaps to any menswear editor’s mind is Martine Rose in London and of course Balenciaga was an homage to Eighties awkwardness, syncing up the boardroom with the commute in one fell swoop. And what one tends to find is that once one big brand’s seed has been sown, that spread will be seen across the fertile fashion land for a while. It’s taken hold now.

It’s filtered down, it’s made its way from Balenciaga,” agrees Moran. Of course, there was Haider Ackermann making a Bowie point of the Eighties last season, and this is more what was picked up at Topman this season for its directional fashion Design label. Joan Collins shoulders and carrot-leg trousers with high waist, a Beetlejuice colour palette and glitter and blue smudges across the face; as Topman collections go this one was pretty out there. But, built on tailoring, means that said “out there-ness” can easily be tamed and toned down.

At Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, being tame isn’t really an option. Neither is toning down. The enfant terrible that London menswear was missing, his collections are part Galliano, part Westwood and McQueen all combined. This season he presented his first standalone show, one which wandered into an explosive performance that will become the talking point of the London season, especially in light of the likes of JW decamping to Pitti.

Of course, one can argue about the wearability factor of his collections, because who is going to wear an Elizabethan dress? Yes, still menswear. But that’s not really the point. Loverboy is about creating a culture that goes beyond fashion. You look at the Elizabethan dress and the Tudor doublets and you look past them to the natty little tailored jackets and T-shirts, the denim embroidered numbers you could wear. You see personality and a spirit that is embodied. And that’s certainly what the Eighties was about. “The romantic fantasies of our imagination become more real than ever. Space was a nice place to visit, but we’re crashing back down to earth,” reflected and described the Loverboy show notes.

And if we look at the real world right now, especially the UK, crashing back down to earth is certainly what’s happening. And it also whiffs of the political upheaval of the Eighties once more.  

It’s a bit like dressing up and putting on a power suit to take everything on and mean business,” reflects Moran. And in the Eighties, that’s what one had to do, that’s where said style began. In the Nineties, we were relaxed and chilled in our sportswear; now we’re bracing ourselves once more. Fashion as always is our armour. So, it’s perhaps no surprise that what’s on offer is distracting and exuberant. It has to be when everything else isn’t – and so a special shout-out not only goes to the pink-cardboard-and-felt-tip-pen creatures at Charles Jeffrey Loverboy but also the big fuzzy bear that ended the Liam Hodges show.

Matthew Miller Show (Photo by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION)