Lee Roach's end is simple: "To modernize the way we wear clothing." His means to that end are equally straightforward: clothes pared to the barest bones of form, shorn of anything as superfluous as a lapel, a button, or, often, a sleeve. Minimalism in excelsis. It's been that way since Roach first showed three years ago. His signatures are now as they were then. Jackets and coats closed to one side with straps. The tunic, often turtleneck-ed, is his answer to the fussiness of shirts. He uses the lightest padding to distinguish his outerwear.
So Roach's clothes are about incremental evolution, not change. In that, they are scarcely "fashion." And yet when that suggestion was put to him after the show, he seemed slightly exasperated. He rattled off developments: the slight lapel in a contrast fabric; a new sense of drape in his "biker" jacket; the introduction of straps as a decorative, as well as functional, element; and, above all, a shift in the way he works, keeping the raw spirit of the toiles, roughening up the formerly pristine finish. Still, it must be said that these "additions," as he called them, were, on the whole, so subtle as to be lost in translation.
But anyway, what's wrong if Lee Roach's clothes don't have the tingle of change that a new fashion season strives to deliver? As minimally "modern" as his work appears, he is actually upholding the finest old traditions of Savile Row, the street where he first practiced his craft. A tailor grows with his customers. Loyalty is his best friend. Roach is simply the twenty-first-century manifestation of that ideal. And with One Direction's Zayn Malik as his most visible client to date, it looks like he's catching the future while it's still young.