"Pollution, fog, and the shine left by rain dropping on tar" were the inspirations for James Long's Fall collection. The rising star of London menswear was firmly on home territory again after a sunny sojourn in Woodstock last season. "I wanted that darker feel, that feel of London this time," he said. And on this dank, wet day in the city his collection indeed shone.
Showing as part of the MAN Day—that jam-packed menswear outing at the end of the womenswear week in London—Long is now one of the designers who feels most complete and able to finesse his aesthetic. He rose through the ranks of the East End crew, many of whom cut their teeth through Lulu Kennedy's Fashion East showcase (where he showed his women's collection this season). The difference with Long is that he has always been a cut above the ducking and diving, make-do-and-mend, Dickensian charm of many of his contemporaries in that part of the city.
The designer is a leather and knitwear specialist who is intensely dedicated to the craft of his garments, and his production values are accomplished. (His expert mum is sometimes drafted to complete the most difficult knit details by hand.) And the clothes he produces can sit alongside the output of the big fashion machines in terms of desirability. But he hasn't sacrificed that East End edge for the kind of conservatism that reigns in men's-mag land. His black patent-leather perforated trousers glistened like luxurious tar—they were one of the best spins on fetishwear seen this season. An acid-splashed ponyskin biker jacket (fast becoming a signature piece) had that combination of detritus and desirability often found on the streets of London, and his intricate, multi-yarned knits were sensuous statements. New this time was the accomplished non-leather outerwear: a shadow-check lumberjack jacket and an almost feminine, bruise-colored tweed overcoat were standouts.
"I really wanted a feeling of mayhem," Long explained—perhaps the reason for all that bruised tweed. "The type of man who summed this up for me was Vincent Gallo." You have to hand it to Long: Like Gallo, he makes mayhem look good.