London Fashion Week Men’s - LFWM - was stripped back in more ways than one, this season. While the bones of the skeleton schedule were showing through, it was the lack of themes on the catwalks that really raised questions. What we were given was a genderless, season-less and sex less display of menswear: a casstratrated men’s fashion week. The rumour mill was flying that LFWM will soon be merged with the women’s London Fashion Week. It’s worth noting, there were as many female models as men, so, if gender is becoming less of a differentiation, then London Fashion Week will become just that, and the two separate halves could make a whole.
Left - Alex Mullins AW19 - Girls for Boys?
If the men do return to the women, it needs to be as equals and not just a day tagged on at the end. Menswear is outgrowing womenswear, and is always seen as the less established and important sibling from brands who see ii as an add-on and not a priority. It’ll be interesting to see which brands are brave enough to give menswear equal billing.
Men’s fashion needs stereotypes to challenge, it needs boundaries to push and lines to blur, if all the lines have been erased, aren’t you just floating into nothingness? And that’s what it felt like a bit here. Menswear collections entirely shown on females models - Alex Mullins produced an entire men's show featuring only female models - more non-binary club kids dressing up in dated womenswear or six pack revealing T-shirts for the coldest months of the year: it was the male minimised.
As for gender, the whole big reveal of a chick-with-a-dick is no longer shocking, nor interesting, nor original. Art School showed a collection that didn’t look good on either gender and, Charles Jeffrey, the Uri Geller of the London scene, continued with more theatrics, but, in his defence, when the feathers stopped flying and the smoke and mirrors were turned off, the collection looked more accomplished and could hold its own alongside any other designer in-store.
This lack of focus made for a schizoid season, and it was brands like E. Tautz, which didn’t do anything particularly new, that created a pull and yearning for collections featuring something beautiful again. Bored with sports, bored with fugly, the next men’s movement will be a return to something you want to enjoy and cherish rather than Instagram and discard.
That most British thing of all, the weather, was totally missing during LFWM. It’s all about “drops”, and “Autumn/Winter” is delivered in the middle of the summer, but, before, many brands and designers would start with this idea of “Winter” or, rain, which made Burberry. That probably had something to do with bigger budgets and fancier staging. Larger and more established brands used to like to ram home the cold weather feel, already visualising the windows, and while this idea is dated, at this LFWM, many of the clothes could have been for any month, anywhere, at anytime. So, what makes it 2019?
Sex was missing too. Even the hyper masculine muscle boys at Astrid Andersen were covered up for a luxury pyjama party. It was as though men were getting ready to go into hibernation until all this woke madness blows over. Though, Per Götesson, showed T-shirts pulled up to reveal the stomach, perfect for those social media body fascists. “It’s about equal parts vanity and fragility.” he says. “Each piece is designed three dimensionally around the body. We are applying techniques perhaps more common in womenswear and couture where lines and proportions in movement are taken into consideration. The jersey pieces are developed using this process, it is about finding a balance between strength and fragility.” And, there was me just thinking it was about likes on Instagram. Back to creating a male pecking order, As soon as one thing disappears, a new line or goal is revealed to differentiate the masses: that unattainable 8-pack separating the men from the boys.
Right - Art School AW19
Fashion is about selling change and, as a designer or brand, you need to create desire for that change into what you are presenting at that moment in time. Genderless, season-less, sexless, can equal nothingness. Just please don’t make men redundant.
Burberry has opted to put all its checked eggs into Riccardo Tisci’s basket. Before a single collection, except for a couple of teaser T-shirts, they’ve changed the logo - 2018 is the year of the bland, officially - found an old monogram in the archive - plastered London (& the world) with it - and really committed to this creative director before a single industry or customer reaction.
Unlike Gucci, who rushed out a quick collection with Michele, and tested the water, this has had a six month build up. Need I remind you what happened at Roberto Cavalli or Brioni when they changed everything for a new creative director.
Left - Burberry's new monogram from the archive
Following the departure of Christopher Bailey - more here - whose rainbow swan song ended an era when Burberry was a fashion leader. The winds of fashion changed, Burberry was no longer as relevant and it’s been playing catch up recently.
Control, alt, trenchcoat?! The new Chief Executive, Marco Gobbetti, previously at an accented Céline, inserted Tisci, whom he worked with at Givenchy. and proclaims to want to ‘elevate’ the brand and take it away from ‘accessible’ luxury. I’m not sure how accessible the current £1500 trench coats are, btw?
The stock market likes the idea - the share price is up 20% so far this year - and is salivating at the higher prices and bigger profits these more expensive items should generate. If only fashion was that simple.
Cut to Vauxhall, and the first show from Tisci’s new ‘B Series’ Burberry. You can shop his first pieces now – available for 24 hours, only on Instagram.
Right - New Burberry projected onto Global Harbor, Shanghai
First impressions is, it’s big - 133 looks (crazy) - but doesn’t have a clear viewpoint. I would have done a smaller collection - say 40 looks - and kept its message very focussed, strong and styled.
It looked like a Parisian’s take on Burberry, and maybe something Phoebe Philo would have done, if she’d got/wanted the job. It’s probably too tasteful for the current Burberry customer; they want more check and logos. People go to Zara for these types of clothes, these days. When people buy ‘designer’ they want a statement, they want a recognisable piece and there didn’t seem to be much of that here.
If Burberry wants to do clothes like this, at these prices, then the quality and cut needs to be flawless. There was a couple of nice takes on the trench. I liked the silk scarf details on one.
Brands need to highlight something they’re getting behind for that season, be it a bag or a type of coat, and really ram it home. I couldn’t see any key bag styles, and, if they’re going to elevate the brand, like they hope, then it will all be from accessorises to drive the revenue growth.
The male models, with their 80s gelled back hair, had touches of Tisci’s Givenchy in the baggy sweat shorts and luxury sportswear, but there was nothing here you couldn’t get at Boss or Louis Vuitton.
Left - Armed with an umbrella, but where was the Britishness? Burberry SS19 Menswear
I was expecting the new monogram to be on everything, it wasn’t. I feel like that’s a mistake, no matter how tacky it could be. It would be a major sales driver in the all important Asian market and I’m sure we’ll see more in these ‘drops’ of collections we keep hearing about. There could have easily have been a logo segment in this huge collection.
It was chic, at the beginning, with some nice detailing, then the men’s section arrived, and then it got all confused towards the end. Sadly, these aren’t the type of clothes you’ll be thinking about until they come out, there’s just too much good competition.
It seems there’s competition for Charles Jeffrey’s party crown. The young designer who gave us a gritty and sweaty club night presentation at the ICA and, last season, giant monsters running around the catwalk followed by a wave of dancers, isn’t the only one offering us a new interpretation of the London ‘Club Kid’.
At this afternoon’s MAN show, ‘Art School’ made its dramatic debut with a small collection that was big on personality and, despite really pushing the androgyny and drag of menswear, was a believable treat. Entitled ‘Queer Couture’, designers Eden Loweth & Tom Barratt, say it is ‘rooted in a cast who are emblems of trans defiance’ and ‘the unfolding narrative of a non binary paradise to be indulged in’.
Translated that means boys as girls and clothes moulded and designed around the wearer and not the usual conformist approach. Slutty Swarovski covered hooded mini dresses in scarlet red mixed with biased cut dresses and splits to the gusset. The only way of spotting the girls from the boys was to look at their legs.
Left & Right - Charles Jeffrey's 'Loverboy'
While exhibitionist, it felt real and believable. It could simply be the models’ conviction, but it felt more than that.
Charles Jeffrey’s first standalone ‘Loverboy’ show was an ‘orgy’ of ‘clothes made of dreams’. Labelled ‘Queer hedonism’, this time, it was a theatrical display that included a crocheted daisy thong and Elizabethan finery. Jeffrey has become a poster boy for this polysexual energy of the city’s young and while it’s caught their’s and our imagination, I can’t help but think it’s a shame there isn’t a bigger scene for all this go with. I’m thinking music and clubs, because, as we all know, this has been in decline for most of this century. Of course, there are pockets, especially in East London, but you feel like you need a New Romantic moment that resonates into wider society.
And, this brings me back to Jeffrey’s collection. While fun and entertaining, it felt more like costume and the clothes dictating the wearer. While the tailoring is there, Vivienne Westwood’s shadow was ever present, especially with the styling and Blackadder type Elizabeth I wigs.
It feels like he needs to go back to the club and think less about the show and spectacle of fashion week. There was too much going on and didn't feel as raw and as fresh as previous shows.
Left & Right - Art School
But one thing is for sure, London’s young is sandwich between high rents, student loans and low pay and need this. This is the generation where, while they have the freedom, they feel handicapped by the older generation and in a cultural landscaped that is being squeezed.
This is fashion that inspires the creative. It's time for a night of a escapism.
We’re on the eve of London Fashion Week Men’s and, while celebrating its 5th year, the biannual event is having to deal with the changing menswear landscape. Brands are cutting expenditure, many are merging men’s with women’s, budgets are under pressure and London Fashion Week needs to be justified more than ever.
Left - The new face of Topman AW17, Lennon Gallagher giving good brows
The closed, industry facing idea of fashion weeks is over and it’s all about photo opportunities and customer facing events. It’s about promotion, harnessing the buzz and trying to get some direct return on the costly investment.
Perfectly illustrating this is Topman Design. One of the originals on the London men’s schedule and the first to really elevate high-street to a catwalk proposition, Topman Design has decided to shelve the show and instead have a presentation for its new SS18 collection that will be thrown open to the general public over the weekend. Arcadia, the parent of Topman, has seen sales falling and this puts pressure on making these type of events perform.
A ‘multi-media event’ called ‘Transition’, the Topman Design installation is curated by a series of collaborators.. Each collaborator will ‘own’ a space and create an installation showcasing their interpretation of this attitude with each room having a completely different and fresh perspective to create a unique journey through the space.
The event takes place at the Old Truman Brewery and open to the public on Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th June between 10am and 6pm. To gain access to the event simply download the DICE app on the App Store and Google Play or at DICE.fm.
Collaborators featured include photographer and filmmaker Nick Offord, musicians ‘The Rhythm Method’, poet and writer Max Wallis, architect and filmmaker Ben Cullen Williams and photographer and creative director Campbell Addy who will be working alongside illustrator King Owusu. In addition the space housing the installation will be designed by young British architect Benni Allan of estudio b.
The space will also feature a pop-up shop selling exclusive apparel featuring prints and graphics taken from and inspired by the Topman Design archive as well as exclusive pieces from the collaborators exhibiting.
Opening the fashion week up to the city makes it an event and creates the momentum that continues to keep these things going. We need to see more of this and not simply 'See Now, Buy Now'. I was thinking when they pedestrianise Oxford Street, it could become the location for fashion week. Clear marquees could hold shows and outside screens could showcase collections to the general public increasing interest and firmly keeping British fashion as the centre of creativity and the city.
Increasing the public's interest in fashion and fashion week and taking it out of its bubble should be the main objective this LFWM.
Last night I took part in the #MayfairCollective panel discussion talking about all things menswear in the lead up to London Fashion Week Men’s LFWM. Teo van den Broeke. Style Director, Esquire magazine, was a fellow panelist and said something interesting about how, on his recent trip to Milan, the luxury brands there told him they wanted to appear ‘warmer’ to consumers.
This is welcome news and also timely as their stand-offish approach is alienating consumers and becoming increasing sterile. They realise they've found themselves stuck in a luxury cul-de-sac with sales slowing and boredom setting in.
There was a time when the brands controlled the consumer. The consumer was supposed to be grateful that they were allowed into the luxury shop, buy the luxury goods and walk out with a luxury bag. Thank you, thank you, thank you...
Things have changed and the power is, now, in the hands of the consumer. The market is saturated, there’s more competition than ever and people are being short-changed with the quality of many of these ‘luxury’ goods.
Brand warmth comes from personality, inclusivity and a friendliness, which many brands, without a strong central figure, will find it difficult to find. It’s about tone of voice, retail environment and brand messaging.
This is a big shift for these companies and will take time. I think they need to think small to go big. People like to buy from people they know or feel like they know. They need to think about the cities and neighbourhoods they are in. They brands can have an overall message, but they need to tailor it for the specific consumers and locations.
They have stopped with the identikit shop fits, but it going to take instinct, trust and a more organic feeling of change, which these very rigid luxury brands will worry about. Addicted to control, it’s something they need to wrestle away from themselves otherwise it they will, eventually, suffocate their businesses or be replaced by those who do.
Fashionistos, clear your diary! As we stand on the eve of the new SS18 men’s show season be part of the excitement of London Fashion Week Men’s - LFWM - thanks to St James’s. Join TheChicGeek on Saturday, June 10th, as Jermyn Street is transformed into an al fresco catwalk.
The centre for London’s menswear for centuries, the St James’s area is steeped in history while still being one of the best contemporary men’s shopping areas in the world. Combine an afternoon of shopping with an inspirational see-now-buy-now catwalk show featuring some of the best British brands including Turnbull & Asser, John Smedley, Lock & Co and John Lobb as well as contemporary, newly arrived names including Paul & Shark, Jigsaw, Sunspel and Barbour International.
The two shows are at 1.30pm and 3.00pm and the tickets are free. You just need to register - here What are you waiting for? See you there!
Nearest Tube - Piccadilly Circus
Left & Right - Previous St James's presentations featuring the men's retailers within this prestigious area of Mayfair
If you can’t make either of the shows visitors will be able to drop into the shops of St James’s for a variety of special in-store activities such as a shirt cutting demonstration from a Master Shirt Cutter at Harvie & Hudson and complementary wet shaves at world renowned perfumery Floris. Jermyn Street will also play host to some of London’s best street food retailers all offering a bespoke St James’s menu, making sure the day will be a feast for all the senses.