The single theme running through the three collections at the Topman-sponsored Man group show was dressing up. From Stefan Cooke’s off-kilter elegance to Art School’s High Concept Characters and Rottingdean Bazaar’s frivolous costumes, the season was certainly theatrical.
Cooke, winner of the H&M young designer prize and the L’Oréal Professionnel Creative Award, founded the brand with partner Jake Burt after graduating from the Central Saint Martins M.A. course last year.
His second outing for Man was a nostalgic exploration of the summer holidays of his youth, eagerly anticipated but ending in a state of ennui, with days spent doing nothing but indulging creative impulses and foraging through the dressing-up box. Maybe throwing a feather boa on with jeans and a T-shirt, maybe borrowing an older brother’s suit.
That meant a focus on tailoring and outerwear, with suits embellished with inlaid Perspex studs in naïve floral clusters, a jazzy tartan ensemble topped with a trompe l’oeil cable-knit vest, and well-cut trousers styled with striking ostrich feather belts. It was a sophisticated collection that established Cooke as a designer with a strong point of view.
After several seasons of applying their quintessentially British to tongue-in-cheek collections that make absurd use of everyday flotsam and jetsam, designers James Theseus Buck and Luke Brooks completely did away with the idea of a collection (in the sense of clothes that could, conceivably, be purchased and worn at some point), and sent fancy dress costumes down the catwalk. Actual costumes. And not good ones.
The “For Rent” placards carried by the models stated each costume’s name, and the name and the web address of a British costume store. Turns out the whole collection had been rented from those stores. So, even if you wanted to buy look 14 (a pumpkin), you can’t. Ditto the a corn cob (complete with green husk), the Christmas cracker, worm, chicken and “Vincent Van Gogh”, complete with severed ear affixed to a painter’s smock.
But you can rent them; see models’ placards for stockist information.
Not exactly what the average person would call fashion. Or a fashion show. Which begs the question, why was it on a catwalk during London Fashion Week Men’s? Perhaps a comment on sustainability; Or a jibe at the industry’s tendency to peacocking? In any event, the effect was hilarious.
For their final Man show, Eden Loweth and Tom Barratt sent out a collection titled “High Concept Character,” another feisty affirmation of gender nonconformity.
Transgender models, including Munroe Bergdorf, and a diverse supporting cast put on a fierce performance in looks that ran the gamut from sparkly party dresses to demure ankle-grazing shifts. But all that brouhaha couldn’t detract from a collection that showed a shrewd eye for commercial success.
The tailoring was handsome and dresses answered myriad wardrobe demands, from the demure to the dazzling to the downright saucy (see the dangerously low-cut strapless dress in black patent leather).
A silver trenchcoat stood out for its over-the-top elegance, while the Nineties-ish spaghetti-strap dresses in black silk and an asymmetric green sequined dress had broad red carpet appeal.