When a robotic female voice announces that we are about to encounter “exciting new frontiers straight from the heart of the future,” every attendant looks up from their smartphones and at the direction of the molten lava-like cave entrance to the catwalk. Indeed, Xander Zhou showed that he knows how to capture an audience’s attention, and not just with a showy opening. Out came the first model in a black regal panelled coat with diagonal red strips, delivering on the promised otherworldly element both via the uncannily minimal silhouette and via the nondescript accessory akin to a scarf, carried close in arm. The sci-fi streak continued with part-priests part-college graduates enrobed in a series of ceremonial high collared coats, brought down by a casual bottom of wide trousers and trainers, some with a furry galosh. Add some matching top-and-trousers sets in shimmering gold or soft knits with dessert traveller sashes running across the chests, and only halfway through the futuristic tale of Zhou was already sufficiently enigmatic.
Indeed, if deconstructed, every element from the collection carried a sense of comfortable familiarity but in Zhou’s ensembles and through his laser-sharp detailing, it appeared altogether foreign and fantastic. That said, the winning aspect of the collection was not so much its theatrics and consciously orchestrated strangeness but rather its indisputably gorgeous variations on the calf-skimming coat. Heavy and panelled, pared with pyjamas, adorned with stitched emblems or showered top-to-bottom with Sputnik-like pom pomps, Zhou’s coats irrevocably stole the show and attested to his no-nonsense skill at delivering innovative and highly-desirable pieces. Walking a very fine line between playing safe and yet introducing avant-garde quirks – classic shapes with loose bow fastening, sculpted collars, non-functional contrasting panels – Zhou didn’t slip for it all made sense in the context of the collection. The final look with its myriad of tiny grabbing hands embroidered on the coat’s lapels made for a playfully suitable metaphor: these are coats men will want to get their hands on.