"I've had an injection of glamour and have been licking a toad!" laughed James Long about his latest menswear outing. The glamour comes courtesy of lessons learned at the house of Versace, both metaphorically and literally: Recently, Long has been working under Donatella Versace on her menswear, and it shows. There is an absorption and reimagining of some of Versace's famous codes and indomitably glamorous spirit in this exotically decadent collection. Long is joking, mostly, about the toad; it is rather the surrealist sculpture garden Las Pozas, built by English eccentric Edward James as his own personal Garden of Eden in Mexico, that he has gravitated toward as his chief inspiration this season. But it made for a surreal fantasy, and you may find yourself hankering for some of whatever Long's been licking.
His catwalk show was a mélange of flora and fauna, Adam and Eve, silks, sequins, and leather. It worked extremely well for the designer, who has graduated into a force to be reckoned with in the menswear world. In other hands, this collection could have been an exercise in camp, gaudy excess—and a mess. Yet as Long infused everything with a patina of sun-bleached age and a downbeat, sludgy haze, as well as the confidence and technique to carry it all off with aplomb, it worked.
The figure of Brian Eno loomed large. "I think he's been on every men's mood board I've ever done," the designer said. And it was the early Glam Eno, with all the femme elements of masculine provocation, that stopped this collection from becoming too "girly." Instead, the standout snake sequined cardigans and jumpers—which also made an appearance earlier in the week in his women's collection at London's Fashion East showcase—were layered with the silk shirting that hinted at the intricate leopard and pansy patterns underneath. A new "burnt-out" knitting technique did something similar, showing flashes of pattern underneath bamboo leaf fronds. Bamboo was repeated in "leopard leaf" patterns, a hybrid of flora and fauna that speaks for itself. Much was offset with a lightweight dark violet tweed used for trousers and shorts, which somewhat anchored the flights of fancy. And Long's expertise with leather came to the fore again with lightweight, snake-printed leather jackets. Building to a crescendo of shiny and matte sequined trousers, the music was Eno's "Baby's On Fire." This show was.