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LONDON — The men’s shows here continue to generate positive buzz — but they remain dogged by the drama of the calendar.
Buyers on both sides of the Atlantic said London Collections: Men raised its standards once again this season, with designers delivering solid, salable collections.
Budgets are up, and buyers were enthusiastic about the offerings from labels including Gieves & Hawkes, Kent & Curwen, Christopher Raeburn, Richard Nicoll and Christopher Kane.
Not even the clouds and rain (albeit at a relatively balmy 50 degrees) could mar buyers’ love of what they described as soft tailoring, strong outerwear, artisanal touches and a move toward looser, wider, longer silhouettes at labels such as Richard Nicoll, J.W. Anderson and Agi & Sam.
“London really raised the bar this season,” said Kevin Harter, Bloomingdale’s vice president of fashion direction for men’s, home, young world and bloomingdales.com. “There is a lot of potential here, we have confidence in the designers, and we are leaving very happy.”
See All London Men’s Fall 2014 Collections Here >>
However, the crowd of international buyers and press waiting outside the Burberry tent after the show spoke volumes. The group was set to take organized transportation to Gatwick Airport, and later a flight to Florence chartered by the Italian trade fair organization Pitti Immagine Uomo. On Wednesday night, just as the London shows were winding down, Diesel Black Gold’s new creative director Andreas Melbostad was preparing to stage a runway show as the men’s wear guest of Pitti Uomo, while stores were sharpening their pencils for the major Italian men’s wear showcase.
Eric Jennings, vice president and fashion director, men’s wear, home, food and gifts at Saks Fifth Avenue, was one of those headed to Florence after Burberry.
“London is so early: I feel bad for the designers who have to get their samples done on time, and then what about the poor designers showing after Burberry?” he said.
The Pitti brands are also feeling the pain: Jennings can remember when he would spend four days at Pitti. Now, he does the trade show in less than 48 hours.
Caroline Rush, chief executive officer of the British Fashion Council, said that while the June show dates are not an issue, the January ones are a challenge.
“We are not setting any dates for the next three years, and we are keeping the dialogue open. We are talking to everybody: our friends at Pitti, but also to the designers, the buyers, the domestic and the international media,” said Rush. “In an ideal world, there would be no crossover. It might take longer, but in the end, we will get to a decision that works for all of us.”
For those buyers who did make it to the London shows, the payoff was worth the effort. “Boo hoo to the people who didn’t come,” said Jason Broderick, fashion director of men’s wear, sports and watches at Harrods. “We thought it was an outstanding three days. There will definitely be an increase in our budget this season.”
Broderick flagged the outerwear at Gieves & Hawkes and Tom Ford, the footwear at Louis Leeman, and Raeburn’s collection, which “hit the mark. It was sporty, casual and urban.” Harrods will be taking on Gieves for fall, and also plans to pick up Christopher Kane, which has expanded into a full men’s wear offer with tailoring as well as knits and outerwear. Broderick also highlighted the tapestry and “fluidity” of Burberry Prorsum, and the artisanal, British-made fabrics at Paul Smith’s British Collection.
Bloomingdale’s Harter pointed to Simon Spurr’s debut at Kent & Curwen, including the “terrific leathers”; the tailored clothing at Gieves & Hawkes and Hardy Amies; Burberry’s shearling coats, and up-and-coming names Lou Dalton, Raeburn and Casely-Hayford. He said budgets for the season will remain flat at least — and could well climb.
Damien Paul, men’s wear buying manager at Matchesfashion.com, said he was impressed by how much “covetable, wearable product we saw in London. We have a reputation for being a city of ideas, but our designers offered clothes that had a real life beyond the catwalk. Christopher Raeburn in particular was a master class with his perfectly executed outerwear.”
Paul said the Alexander McQueen collection was one of creative director Sarah Burton’s strongest ever, while Richard Nicoll “felt like a real step forward — he absolutely nailed the new proportions that seem to be emerging in men’s wear. Jonathan Saunders was another highlight: His sense of color is second to none, and he has a knack for creating pieces that are eye-catching but entirely wearable.”
Saks’ Jennings said this season he saw a coming together of two previously divergent trends in London: young, contemporary streetwear and Savile Row tailoring. “There is still a gap, but there was more meat in the middle, and the younger designers are maturing and evolving, more so than in the past.”
Jennings singled out E. Tautz’s and Raeburn’s outerwear, and Nicoll’s “fantastic use of color. The color overall in London was amazing, from the bright primaries to the fall pastels.”
• Muted tones accented with pops of tomato red, bright orange and neon yellow.
• Streetwear and activewear, including cycling influences.
• Technical fabrics.
• Graphic bold prints.
• The Eighties Thatcher era.
• Slim-cut suits.
• Fuller and longer cuts in topcoats, duffles and peacoats.
• Oversize bags.
• Protective garb, from the arctic to the apocalypse.
• Chunky knitwear.
• Best of Britain: from fabrics to British icons.