text by Adam Lehrer
London Fashion Week Men’s, formerly London Collections Men’s aka LCM, was reenergized for the Fall-Winter 2017 season. Chalk it up to Brexit or Trump or all the existential uncertainty that arises in the wake of political devastation, designers are innovating once more. I was happy to see fashion designers starting to mess around with silhouettes again, no longer content to ape the oversized everything innovations of Demna Gvasalia; the London collections featured a plethora of big, small, skinny, baggy, tailored, sharp, clean, jagged, and everything in between set of shapes. There was less emphasis on sportswear and streetwear, with designers even finding new life and new ideas in the most traditional of menswear garb: the shirt, tie and trousers look. The message seemed to be that the creative class needs to be taken seriously, but we must also find ways to maintain our individuality in this conservative coup. Designers seamlessly blended the bizarre with the traditional, the maximal with the minimal, and the suit with the sporty.
Martine Rose Fall-Winter 2017
British menswear designer Martine Rose has had a subtle but profound impact on the introduction of underground sub-cultures to the palette of menswear design over the last 10 years. She has referenced the style and sexuality of Robert Mapplethorpe, the poetic genius and masculinity of The Fall’s Mark E. Smith, and the liberated glory of ‘90s ravers in her own collections, located the sub-cultural importance of workwear labels like CAT and Timberland in collaborations, worked extensively with the now defunct streetwear/music project Been Trill, and even consulted on Demna Gvasalia’s now iconic Balenciaga menswear debut. The Balenciaga consultancy manifested slightly in Martine Rose’s Fall-Winter 2017 menswear presentation, the designer’s first catwalk since 2013 and her first to heavily feature tailoring (right down to the neck tie). Rose has always had an ability to slightly alter staple menswear pieces to hint at punk undertones and sexual subversion. The collection dealt with everyday workers: the bus driver, the real estate agent, the banker, and the office worker among them. The collection’s central question was, “How does a man hold on to his individuality when entering the professional world?” That is why this collection connected so deeply. That is the most resonant clothing concept in the modern world. Every day, we have to dress in accordance with our institutions’ dress laws while holding onto icons of our selves. The collection offered simple shirt and tie looks in shiny and ostentatious silks and beautiful/ugly colors of orange and baby blue. The tailored jackets clung loose to the frames of the models, but not to the point of making a statement, seemingly more concerned with nonchalance and comfort. The nylon jackets and coats in the collection often concealed the restrictive office wear in youthful nylons, sometimes with the sleeves hanging off the shoulders nearly unattached. The collection was exceedingly sensible. I’d wear just about all of it. This is how you conform to standards without losing you sense of identity.
Craig Green Fall-Winter 2017
As brands grow and gain success, it is typical for them to start introducing more palatable and accessible elements to their collections. These are the products that can be repurposed and resold each season: Vetements and its now staple reassembled jeans, Raf Simons and his Adidas Stan Smith sneakers, Hood By Air and its branded t-shirts. Craig Green’s brand is undeniably growing; selling like crazy and earning Green a CFDA award for menswear design in the process. But almost like noise rock band Royal Trux did by signing to Virgin Records in the ‘90s and using the major label money to create highly iconoclastic and idiosyncratic rock records, Green has been using the freedom success has brought him to introduce more ideas, concepts and radical aesthetic gestures into his brand. In my opinion, his Fall-Winter 2017 collection is the best damn collection he’s had so far. Introducing heavy tweeds, Green used the durable fabric for severe all-over looks: statuesque jackets with ropes tied around the waist, wide leg trousers, scarves coiling around the neck, and a waist piece that could possibly be a bag, a cape or both. See, with Green fashion is about subverting the “form follows function” rule. For Green, form IS the function. Everything is designed for multiple uses and styles of wear, and the clothing takes on the form of its very purpose. That is at the essence of Green’s avant-garde sculpture. Padded satin looks (also head to toe) are topped off by a vest with belts wrapping around it, allowing the vest to take on a mass of potential ways to wear it. The most remembered looks of the collection will undeniably be the embroidered cloaks that resembled a monk wearing ornamental Korean carpets as religious garb.
Vivienne Westwood Fall-Winter 2017
Ever the political firebrand, Vivienne Westwood used her Fall-Winter 2017 collection, Westwood’s first show on the menswear schedule comprising both menswear and womenswear lines, to further illuminate on the imminent disaster of global warming and corporate culture’s blatant disregard for it. Though it’s not what draws me to Westwood’s output, I firmly disagree with people questioning Westwood’s environmental intentions. Like any creative discipline, fashion can’t alter the political landscape so much as it can provide a conduit for awareness. Pushing awareness is beyond reproach. It’s a good thing to do. But at the end of the day, activism isn’t going to convince me or anyone else to buy any clothes, and Westwood’s collections for a few years seem to have missed the mark. But this collection hit the mark. Like Vivienne’s best output, it balanced the torn and tied together messiness that she got known for alongside some fantastic, wearable, and excellent quality traditional pieces. For every see through sweater dress was a sensible tailored double breasted blazer (made rocker cool with extensive finger rings and black leather boots). Women in baggy plaid suits, embroidered nutcracker jackets, stitched together pants and shirts, and abstract crowns made this a decidedly classic Westwood collection polished with a Victorian sheen. I quite liked the all-over camel early 20th century stage coach looks of a cashmere cape over a three piece suit styled with polished leather boots. the 50th look in the show, a patchwork crewneck sweatshirt with matching pants and black boots, is a rare runway look that I would wear head to toe. Daily. For years.
Kiko Kostadinov Fall-Winter 2017
Kiko Kostadinov is a rare designer on the London circuit. Instead of finding his inspiration in raves and clubs and sub-cultures, Kostadinov seeks to elevate uniform garb. His brand is for men that work, technicians and craftsman if you will. But instead of plumbers and custodians, Kostadinov seeks to give the comfort of uniformity to the world’s painters, sculptors, photographers, jazz musicians, and poets. There are very few designers elevating simplistic and clean silhouettes like Kostadinov is. The FW 2017 collection was minimal and expensive. Military sweaters in jet black came with wide legged wool trousers fitted with a tool belt, double breasted coats clung tight to the body refined and polished to a sheen, and jumpsuits were replete with multiple pockets in light wool fabric. Kostadinov discusses his desire to create a classless vision in his collection. Let’s face it, that is impossible. His high fashion price points ensure that working class people will never wear his clothes. But he is designing clothes that can be work through the bulk of life. Can’t wait to see the work Kiko does as creative director for Mackintosh coats.
JW Anderson Fall-Winter 2017
It gets hard writing about designers as they achieve stratospheric success. JW Anderson is certainly one such designer with his domination of CFDA womenswear and menswear awards and not to mention his total rebranding of Loewe that resulted in the brand becoming as associated with conceptual architecture and poetic appropriation as heritage Spanish luxury under his reign as creative director. But his collections are exciting no doubt, and he benefits from being able to tap into that “of the moment” resonance in his work. As per usual, the knits were beautiful and bountiful and the flares were wide and fey. But there was something palatably arcane within the collection, perhaps inspired by contemporary culture swaying back towards the bad ol’ days? Anderson also has a knack for finding the most overdone menswear looks and repurposing them for a taste of the uncanny. The 12th look in the show was sans description the minimal skinhead look: bomber, button down, and jeans. The kind of look that Raf made high fashion almost 20 years ago and Jerry Lorenzo made look tired and lazy with his overpriced philistine brand Fear of God. But JW makes his satin bomber fitted and sharp and adorns it with knit graphic patches and pairs it with a pair of jeans beautifully hand painted with a heaping of religious imagery and then decides the look works best with flip flops that look like flippers. And you know what? He was right.
Xander Zhou Fall-Winter 2017
Beijing-based designer Xander Zhou’s talent for utterly fucking with menswear proportions and silhouettes is vastly underrated. Like many designers of his age group, he wears his Raf Simons influence rather proudly and like the great Belgian has an obsession with youth culture that informs his designs. But Zhou’s collections are wild, dirty, and untamed in a way that Simons and his fellow intellectual Belgian designers aren’t. His Fall-Winter 2017 collection was his best outing yet, displaying his seamless hybrid of luxury and streetwear and drawing in all sorts of outer limits influences. Zhou displayed a fetish for misbehaved prep school boys in his first couple looks: models wore cropped vests over cropped button downs with ties resembling trash bags worn over the shoulder (dress codes can be fun when you know how to fuck with them). Those tailored looks continued with the addition of leather duster coats (the ones favored by Robert Mapplethorpe who is having a major fashion reincarnation this year). But Zhou’s true nastiness lies in his disregard for menswear rules. The double breasted blazer is turned into a biker dude leather daddy jacket. Denim jackets are elongated and contorted into deconstructed overcoats. The workman staple that is the jumpsuit is trimmed at the waist and given a day-goo dye job and another connotation rises to the surface. Zhou has eluded the press raves that so many of his contemporaries on the London schedule are lavished with on a regular basis. That needs to change; his clothes look like nothing else out there at the moment. That’s not easy in this hyper-saturated market.
A-Cold-Wall Fall-Winter 2017
I’ve been thoroughly taken with British designer Samuel Ross’ brand A-Cold-Wall since first coming into contact with it a couple years ago mindlessly browsing the Hypebeast website (a bad habit I’m happy so say I’m fully detoxed from). The brand functions as a conceptual art project cum streetwear brand from which Ross examines the disparities between working class culture and high fashion. Using a minimalist color palette informed by the dreary buildings and walls of low income London neighborhoods, Ross has introduced a surprisingly striking body of products ranging from French terry graphic hoodies to Nylon ponchos to tote bags. It’d be easy to dismiss an elevation of working class garb as well, a dismissal, but Ross has located something beautiful and pure in this style of dress. His Fall-Winter 2017 presentation was his first show using a cat walk. Ross celebrated the occasion by stepping well outside his comfort zone presenting both men’s and women’s collections, adding tailoring into the mix, and introducing some bold fabric pairings. Collection stand-outs included a technical satin overcoat, a wool sweatsuit, a leather t-shirt paired with wide legged trousers, and a white mesh suit and the whole collection was paired with Ross’ simplistic Nike Air Force 1 collaboration.
Cottweiler Fall-Winter 2017
The design duo of Matthew Dainty and Ben Cottrell have been hard at work, introducing this Fall-Winter 2017 collection just days before their much anticipated collaborative line with Reebok debuted at Pitti Uomo. The conceptual sportswear brand seems to be evolving past its minimalist beginning into something more vibrant, ostentatious, and showy. Cottweiler has always been about the fetishization of sportswear and the duo nailed its approach in its early seasons. Now, they are embellishing that fetishization. Cottrell cited an “apocalyptic” vibe to this collection but honestly, that tag could apply to just about anything and has become a near unbearable fashion design cliche. What I saw in this collection was flash. The satin tracksuits were richer in color, the sports designs were over-emphasized (a sleeping bag worn as a cape, for instance), and the accessories were plentiful (electronic navel piercings and handblown UV glass pendants). Cottweiler obsesses over dual nature of sportswear: good for playing sports, better for dancing your nut off. This was the comfortable, breathable club wear that a luxury price tag offers.
MAN Show (Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, Feng Chen Wang, and Per Götesson Fall-Winter 2017)
Must make mention of another excellent Top Man sponsored MAN Show event that demonstrated the talents of three designers, all of whom have shown collections at the event previously. All three collections demonstrated an escalation in the clarity of the participating designers’ visions. All three designers fall firmly into the category of avant-garde fashion and occasionally into the field of nonsensical inscrutability, but appear to be trying to push their concept into wearable products. Swedish designer Per Götesson presented his collection almost entirely in denim and introduced a multitude of silhouettes that you’ve surely never seen that tried and true fabric take form in prior. London designer Fang Chen Wang used leather and foil to drape all manner of architectural fuckeries over the bodies of a diverse cast of models. But the big story here was the British raving wunderkind Charles Jeffrey and his Loverboy label. Jeffrey is tapping into the late ‘90s rave fueled moment of madly inspired fashion design, but somehow makes his collections more contemporary by reaching for the antiquated. For every super cool looking oversized thrashed Freddy Krueger sweater, there are ten looks that look like ecstasy fairyland versions of Victorian London suits. Fueling the macabre strangeness of the presentation was not only Jeffrey’s wild club kid friends dancing in the background but the incorporation of several fine art sculpture pieces that surely can’t be expected to be sold by any reputable retailer. One looked like a gigantic American flag themed cone head and one was the grim reaper. I mean that in the literal sense.