LONDON — While London designers have often shown a few men’s looks as part of their women’s lineup, this season the British Fashion Council decided to give men’s designers their own dedicated day to shine. And rugged British fabrics and retro silhouettes — from skinny Fifties suits and Nineties ravers to looks that recalled medieval armor — ruled the men’s runways Wednesday.
This story first appeared in the February 26, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Perhaps a sign of these recessionary times, heavy, cocooning wool knits seemed to be everywhere. J.W. Anderson, who showed as part of the Man lineup, a Topman-sponsored showcase for emerging designers, sent out chunky, oversize fishermen’s sweaters covered with a layer of sheer brown netting, along with nubby black-and-white tweed trousers and knitted jodhpurs. The designer said he was inspired by “early 20th-century England and the aristocracy’s fascination with fantastical expeditions.”
James Long, another of Man’s designers, worked snug sheepskin into tough, armorlike gilets with high necks decorated with leather buckles and hoods. He also sent out woolen jumpers with high cowl-necks that were threaded with small silver coins to resemble chain mail.
Topman Design, meanwhile, mined the streets of London’s Soho, circa 1950, for inspiration, working natural fabrics — herringbone, wool and tweed — into fitted, cropped-sleeve jackets and skinny, turned-up trousers, all in a muted palette of moss green, gray and brown. The functional, low-key fabrics meant the Teddy Boy silhouettes still felt modern.
Carolyn Massey, one of London’s men’s wear standouts, also took her suits in a strict, slightly retro direction. Inspired by Britain’s National Army Museum archives, Massey sent out slim navy suits with sharp shoulders, their jackets glinting with silver buttons. And she gave some of her sharp silhouettes a jolt with unexpected fabrics as well, showing a hooded military cape and trenchcoat, both in shiny black patent leather. Similarly, Patrick Grant, the designer behind the revived E Tautz line, part of the Savile Row tailors Norton & Sons, said “the military and the old-world glamour of Sandringham, the ultimate sporting estate,” was a starting point for his designs. The collection, presented at Norton & Sons’ showroom, offered tailored wool jackets in green shot with flecks of gold, and thick wool sweaters in mustard and cream, stitched with fun, quirky animal motifs in place of a logo at the breast.
Meanwhile, Christopher Shannon, the third designer to show as part of the Man lineup, played with sporty looks of a less patrician nature. His punchy show — in collaboration with Reebok — featured PVC and jersey sweat suits in blocks of gray, orange and pink, and short-sleeve gray sweatshirts emblazoned with “Shannon” logos printed one over the other, a cheeky nod at brand-obsessed activewear. With models sporting hair slicked down with gel and high-top sneakers, the looks seemed to nod to England’s throngs of sportswear-clad youths.
B Store, the private label clothing line designed by Matthew Murphy and Kirk Beattie, who own the eponymous Savile Row boutique, also looked to rebellious youth culture. Their salable collection of simple, cropped-leg cotton suits and chunky wool sweaters in cornflower blue and gray was inspired by “teenage students’ protest marches.”
Man and Fashion East — another program that supports young designers — held a series of static installations at a tumbledown house in South Kensington Wednesday. Katie Eary’s presentation was a highlight: She’d set up a decadent tableau of models at afternoon tea, dressed in military-inspired black-and-white feathered jackets, bronze leather trousers covered with crystal embellishments and purple crystal headdresses with plumes of horsehair, so the models looked like futuristic versions of Queen Elizabeth’s Horse Guards. One model even wore leather trousers in a Union Jack print. Sibling, a design collective, showed a film at the same location that featured inventive knitwear. Their designs included a pink cashmere sweater knit with an intarsia pattern of black rats and a gray sweater knit with metallic Lurex details.