LONDON — Men’s wear is steadily carving out a space on London’s runways.
During the latest round of shows last month, men’s wear had its own time slot during London Fashion Week, with designers showcasing strong tailoring, chunky statement knits and edgy sportswear.
There were also three debuts: London tailor Edward Sexton launched his first men’s and women’s ready-to-wear collection; designer Carola Euler introduced men’s wear to her runway; and B Clothing, the in-house label at the directional boutique B Store, also bowed.
Men’s wear is still a small part of the London Fashion Week lineup, although discussions are under way between Topman, the designers and the British Fashion Council (BFC) for a dedicated men’s wear day in future.
This season, the men’s shows were part of the off-schedule lineup. MAN, the Topman-sponsored showcase of young and emerging design talent, hit the runway on-schedule that same day.
“It worked really well. It had much more impact,” said B Store owner and creative director Matthew Murphy. “We have so much talent but not really any vehicle for men’s wear here. This gave it focus.”
In addition, men’s looks continued to appear on the women’s runways. Unconditional, Todd Lynn, Peter Jensen, House of Holland and Edward Sexton all showed a mix of men’s and women’s fashion. Sexton, best known for designing Bianca Jagger’s iconic white wedding suit, showed a sleek men’s and women’s wear collection. He worked the glamorous dandy vibe with cream dinner suits edged with white ribbon; brown pinstripe suits worn with lemon-yellow polo shirts; and long winter coats finished with gray fur collars.
“I wanted to capture the feeling of the clothing that originally inspired me in the early 1970s,” said Sexton. “That full-lapel, long-body silhouette. Long and lean.”
Sexton plans to build on the wholesale volume of this rtw collection in the U.S. and European markets while continuing to work on his bespoke business out of his Savile Row store.
At the other end of the scale was B Store, a boutique that specializes in casual and directional men’s clothing, and stocks a number of British designers including Peter Jensen, Carola Euler, Fred Perry and Siv Stoldal.
Murphy and business partner Kirk Beattie launched the rtw collection B Clothing four seasons ago, and this time around they held their first presentation.
“This season we were inspired by kaleidoscopes, and put in lots of color,” said Murphy. This translated into a fun, 52-piece line, including rockabilly check shirts, leather bomber jackets and shortened, slim-fit, black jeans.
Tailored clothing was a major trend, particularly at the Carola Euler, Unconditional and Todd Lynn shows.
Euler’s collection was American Psycho ’80s glamour on an Aspen ski slope—but in a good way. Looks alternated between sharp gray suits, white tailored shirts with added details including contrasting colored strips at the collars, buttonholes and sleeves, and ski slope-inspired looks including red ski pants worn with white polo jerseys.
Euler is one of London’s most exciting men’s designers at the moment, and this was quite a sophisticated outing.
Philip Stephens at Unconditional created a collection inspired by bored 1940s aristocrats. His men’s looks consisted of white tailored shirts, softened by long, burnt-red cardigans and black tailored pants; scarlet silk smoking jackets worn over gray boiler suits; and slouchy, double-breasted, brown lounge suits.
Meanwhile, Lynn built on his love of Victorian silhouettes with a glamorously somber range of cream frock coats, teamed with T-shirts and black trousers, black smoking jackets with fur collars, and tweed jackets coated in metallic blue finishes.
MAN was the only men’s wear show on the official BFC schedule. For fall it featured a completely new lineup and included Hans Christian Madsen, Kesh and James Long, alongside Topman’s own upscale directional collection, Topman Design.
“I think this show rang true,” said Gordon Richardson, Topman’s design director, after the show. “It fulfilled the promise that we’ve endeavored to deliver over the past few seasons, and the selected designers really rose to the challenge and produced ranges that not only excited but were carefully styled and considered. The MAN bar has been set high.”
Of the three new designers, Madsen was a highlight, offering a sophisticated range of luxurious, chunky knit cardigans and sweaters in long lengths, teamed with relaxed sweatpants and sport jerseys in muted grays in varying combinations. His large, hooded parkas will also no doubt prove a hit with London’s trendsetting boys.
Topman Design focused on tailoring and knitwear. For its tailored range it built on last season by working the slim-fit suit in dark colors with skinny ties, and also evolving into pieces with sports detailing, such as white tailored shirts with drawstring waists, and drawstrings on suit trouser pockets.
Topman Design is traditionally the commercial backbone collection of the MAN lineup, allowing the new design talent to be more directional. Its collections are consistently the strongest element of the shows but in many instances play a little on the safe side. It could afford to live more dangerously, maybe stretch to a solo show akin to Unique, Topshop’s women’s wear counterpart.