text by Adam Lehrer
It's been a full week since LCM, which is an eternity in the world of fashion, but we like to take our time to really analyze the collections for their sartorial craftiness, relevance in culture and wearableness. Anyway, another season another killer London Collections: Men.. Bless Central Saint Martins and London College of Fashion, because as we’ve said before, London is far and away smoking the menswear game in terms of new and subversive talent. So, yes, cool creative guys are wearing lots of clothes by British designers, but what is most amazing about the London talent is that these guys have really been stunning at creating their own customer bases and as a result have created substantial businesses without having to sacrifice creativity for commercial appeal. Nasir Mazhar has identified his adventurous grime rapper looking for something with heavier design than the standard Adidas or Nike tracksuit (nothing wrong with said tracksuit, however I’m wearing an adidas track jacket while writing this, cozy as fuck). Craig Geeen has found a gender-neutral customer looking to make poetic statements with flowing fabrics. Casely-Hayford has tapped into an older wearer, a man that used to play in a punk band and now spends his time painting and taking trips to the country for camping and hiking. It’s astounding the amount of brands in London that have so seamlessly (well, actually, with gruesome work ethic) developed a definable but ever-growing story surrounding the brands.
The Fall-Winter 2016 shows saw these stories mutating and developing, with designers like Liam Hodges and Cottweiler establishing firmer directions for their well-defined aesthetic ideas. Nevertheless, London titans Alexander McQueen and conventional brethren Burberry set forth their strongest shows in seasons. So, hard to narrow down these collections to favorites, to say the least. But there can only be seven.
Still abstract and poetic in its assembly, Craig Green’s FW 2016 collection nevertheless presented a vision that might more immediately appeal to men (and as much so to women, as women have eaten up Craig Green possibly more then dudes). What I find most impressive about Craig is that in show, his collections look as abstract and architectural and plain fucking weird as anything Rei Kawakubo has ever done. But unlike Rei, when I see the clothes in retail I see a great utilitarian jacket. The design is in the possibilities for styling within that jacket, which seem limitless. This aesthetic works even better in FW 2016 with its earthy muted colors. The collection had some of Green’s most far out pieces, with the sort of bondage pieces barely concealing models’ bodies, but also some of his more accessible pieces. The oversized tan crewneck in silk looks like something I could wear all winter. With Craig, there doesn’t seem to be immediate touchstones, like say, “Hedi Slimane tapped into surfer punks.” It’s vague and poetic, defined by an abstract architecture. The story is defined purely by image, and not by a defined context.
Fetishization is near always interesting, and the fetishization of athletic wear by men is a singular trademark of the urban millennial. Cottweiler has developed a rabid cult following conceptualizing this trend, and with every season the design duo, Brits Ben Cottrell and Matthew Dainty, has sharpened this aesthetic. The duo seems highly aware of contemporary art, architecture, and performance, eschewing a conventional runway show for grandiose displays of design. For FW ’16, Cottweiler explored the relationship between modern technology and how nature reacts to it. That idea came through strong in this collection, with a lineup of models dressed in Cottweiler staple track jackets but also knitwear made of new-to-the-brand materials like Sheepskin, elevated by platform and surrounded by bamboo and vegetation. Is tech enhancing our relationship to nature, hindering it, or a little bit of both? Option C, Cottweiler suggests.
Remember how the album by nu-metal band System of a Down came out the week of 9/11 and, due to its politically charged themes, it was heralded as a work of great artistic achievements? Well, probably not, but they were decent enough either way. The point is, sometimes a work of creativity comes out at precisely the right time, warranting it more attention and discussion than perhaps it deserves. Case in point, Katie Eary’s FW 2016 collection. While the clothes alook good enough, it’s the fact that they celebrate David Bowie’s great contributions to menswear that make them stand out, especially during this week when we sadly lost the man to cancer. Inspired by documentary Sacred Triangle that documented the creativity camaraderie of Bowie, Iggy, and Lou Reed, the collection featured lots of menswear staples presented in a gender fluid manner; such as, a traditional western jacket over a silver leather workwear suit. Would Bowie have worn this stuff two weeks ago? Nope. 30 years ago? Everyday.
With his SS 2016 collection, Nasir Mazhar opted for dark monochrome over his better known colorful palette, re-evaluating his stance after losing his father. From my viewpoint, it was his best collection yet, fully targeting the grime community that worships him as deity. His FW 2016 collection continued in this tradition, employing his perfect tracksuits with more abstract looks. The garment draped riot helmets were some of the most striking looks Nasir has ever sent down a runway, and the bondage leathered female models looked absolutely smoking. Unlike other conceptual designers, Nasir designs for an active body, making it easier for me to imagine myself wearing even the more difficult pieces. I’ll be honest, I want a lot of this stuff. I’m sick of denim jackets for one thing, and Nasir’s rumpled track jackets look like the just interesting enough antidote to finding a new layer to throw under a trench coat. Cool shoes, too.
Father and son design duo Charlie and Joe Casely-Hayford define the contemporary state of London menswear as well as any brand on the circuit: few designers are able to translate the luxury craft of Savile Row with the street friendly cultural references paramount to London culture so easily. In a recent article in The New Order magazine, father Joe described his interest in fashion being piqued through early shopping experiences at Vivian Westwood’s shop Let it Rock, where none other than one time Sex Pistols member Glen Matlock would help him try on looks. And of course, Joe would also get seriously luxury trained as creative director at Savile Row behemoth Gieves and Hawkes. Joe has amazing cultural taste and crazy tailoring skills, while son Charlie brings the Casely-Hayford label a Central Saint Martins-educated design skill and a youthful exuberance. Charlie has stated that all their collections begin with a discussion about music and youth culture. The duo really goes wild with a concept. For FW 2016, Casely-Hayford taps into imperial military outfits as re-imagined by Sgt. Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club band. The psychedelic patterns on the dinner jackets and trousers were tastefully decadent. Bomber nylon was added to down jackets. Speaking of bombers, nearly ever designer does one seemingly ever season, and why not? They are always top sellers because they look, well, sick. But Casely-Haford constantly finds new ways to reinvent the staple, seen here as an elongated silhouette with fringe touching the floor and scraps of denim patchworked into the Nylon. I can see myself blowing some credit to get my hands on one of those.
As successful as Sarah Burton has been at continuing Alexander McQueen’s legacy with womenswear is as wishy-washy she has been at solidifying that success with menswear. Seldom do I ever see a piece that I would blow the obscene amounts of money indicated by the price tags to get my hands on anything logo’d with Alexander McQueen. FW 2016 was a vast improvement though, capturing the gothic romanticism of McQueen’s fascinations as well as the razor sharp tailoring that he made his bones with. Superior suiting glued to near-starving looking dudes was revved up by employments of moth graphics, adding a macabre flair to traditional menswear garb. A few dudes walked around with faux-facial jewelry matching brutal silver accessories hanging over tuxedo jackets. This would be a smart direction for the brand to go in: cocktail attire for wealthy male artists and musicians, etc.. I would love to see post-punk bands employing this look.
A more subdued Astrid Anderson is not at all a boring Astrid Anderson, as evidenced by the wool-heavy FW 2016 collection. With co-signs from A$AP Rocky and Ferg, Astrid has arguably become contemporary hip-hop’s new favorite designer. Despite that, Astrid never designs her clothes to the tastes of her rapper friends; instead those rappers redefine their tastes to wear Astrid Anderson. Starting the show with a sleek wool tracksuit, the ostentatious flair was dialed down in favor of clean and desirable design. The gold floral patterned gym shorts was more in-line with what we’ve seen with Astrid in the past, though a bit more dare I say classic? Of the things I’d most like to wear, must point out the knitwear. The loose silhouettes looked absolutely perfect, calling to mind a more club-minded Haider Ackermann with interesting shades of lime and solitary stripes. This sweater looked even cleaner when cut in half by the stripe, lime on the top and baby blue on the bottom. The plaid hoodie and sweats under a sweet black trench will be all over the street style blogs. With the show soundtracked by legendary Parisian DJ Brodinski, Astrid seems aware enough of the underground to both take cues from and influence it.
The Man Show was particularly strong this year, with Grace Wales Bonner re-imaginings of the contemporary black man as a man of taste and luxury looking particularly poised to make serious cultural and financial impact. One of my personal favorites, Liam Hodges, offered his most realized collection yet. With his well-defined tribe behind him, it doesn’t seem to be reaching to think that Liam Hodges could achieve Rick Owens-esque success. Matthew Miller, who has a tendency to over explain his ideas, is best understood as a man who deigns sick fucking coats, with FW ’16 no exception. Agi & Sam, displaying men’s and women’s looks, offered a minimalist collection with useless but stunning details, such as sleeves hanging below inches below hands. E. Tauz appears to be taking cues from Christopher Lemaire: simple simple simple, with amazingly structured and flowing silhouette.