At the first London Fashion Week Men’s since Britain decided to quit the EU – technically the first ever, following the dissolving of the moniker London Collections: Men – the uncomfortable mood that has enveloped culture since last June was on the minds of many. From subtle nods that played out via nostalgia filled collections, to Christopher Shannon, who literally spelt out his dislike of the situation on tees and sweats: it was undoubtedly there.
Writing the press notes that would accompany Liam Hodges’ A Clockwork Orange inspired outing, Daryoush Haj-Najafi observed that, “Style is always an attempt to find yourself and your people. Today the only maps that seem to make sense of our present reality come from dystopian fiction, illuminatingly the genre is rich with strong aesthetics.”
Elsewhere designers responded with a palette of bright colours, easily read, given the Autumn Winter season is more traditionally linked with dark tones, as a rejection against the collective doom and gloom. First noted at Topman Design, where the team celebrated ‘the archetypal, nomadic British traveller’ with a series of neon pieces, the rainbow was likewise keenly observed by Alex Mullins, Lou Dalton and Bobby Abley.
Teaming up with the Power Rangers franchise for a see now buy now collection, the core of Abley’s line-up strode out wearing diamante name chokers, in a vein not dissimilar from the crystal encrusted tees modelled at Art School, who made their debut on Saturday under Fashion East’s Presentations banner: both offered a nod to noughties teen culture and the hint of a warm, fuzzy feeling for those who took part the first time around.
One of the main highlights of the four day event, Eden Loweth and Tom Barratt’s Art School collaborated with Theo Adams Company for a rousing performance art piece in which models, dressed in flared suits, chiffon frocks and heavy jewels, staged a drama rehearsal cum dance warm up that borrowed from Bugsy Malone; a vehicle for exploring their own non-binary identities, benches were strewn with the Art School manifesto printed on sheets of yellow A4.
Making his third exit at MAN, Charles Jeffrey’s LOVERBOY label also worked with Theo Adams Company and put on a similarly moving display. Split into four chapters separated by Gary Card produced ‘Goddesses’ – the trio now reside in Dover Street Market and make for highly credible Instagram content (‘Go visit them and send me a picture’ asks the designer on his own account) – the Scotsman’s posse, kitted out in a mixture of flamboyant tailoring, elegant leather jackets and Dennis the Menace knits, walked with a determined speed and grand attitude as groups of dancers in flesh coloured ensembles looked on, moving their bodies with the ease of some uncomfortable creature.
While Jeffrey’s show notes loosely touched on the political shambles currently occupying western offices in its acknowledgements – “This presentation should be considered in the context of a beloved childhood storybook into which very adult fears have crept,” it read, while one of Card’s Goddesses glided down the catwalk in an XXL sized mash up of American stars and stripes and the Union Jack, a beautifully ugly visual that while abstract, bore a likeness to the US’s president elect – the aforementioned offering from Christopher Shannon dealt with the landscape in a more clean cut fashion.
Following Spring Summer’s replication of Sports Direct’s famed logo, for AW17 Shannon delved into other iconic branding to translate the bleakness: Calvin Klein became Constant Stress, Hugo Boss became Loss International, and Timberland became Tumbleweed. Accompanying the strong trio was a collaboration with Rottingdean Bazaar designers Luke Brooks and James Buck (elsewhere serving up fantastic satirical clothing labels in their second Fashion East showcase); working under the label ‘Posh Crusty, Bored Protest, Confused Unity’, the fruits were a series of flags as facewear, a look inspired by sports fans painting their team colours on their cheeks.
It was Shannon’s finale track that offered perhaps the most profound moment: in addition to the full line-up of disgruntled word play moving in single file, Cilla Black’s cover of Dionne Warwick’s ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart’ ultimately drove the message of discontent home.
A shoutnot now then, for music’s grip on this season’s first sartorial event. From Mike Skinner, who made the rounds at Blood Brother’s Monday morning, Thames inspired presentation, to Liam Gallagher’s son Lennon, signed to Models 1, who walked his first catwalk for Topman Design; Agi & Sam partnering with Boiler Room for the latter’s first fashion week gig, and Tinie Tempah’s What We Wear label, which made its debut amongst Charles Pétillon inspired white balloons and a live orchestra (you can watch the full thing here, and be sure to stay for the closing track). James Massiah’s cameo at Astrid Andersen, an exciting accompaniment to Andersen’s heavy branding and full looks of brown corduroy, was a solid treat too, further proving that times of unease have the ability to double up as a platform for creative parties to flourish. Roll on June?