Another revolution of the seasons has brought two new faces into the mix at MAN, the Fashion East- and Topman-sponsored spotlight show that allows emerging designers three seasons of sponsorship in a group show (and has, incidentally, graduated most of the reigning heroes of young English menswear).
In youth is innocence, and it isn't always wasted on the young. Bobby Abley's "relaxed tailoring" was covered with Disney-style swallows; his heads were haloed with buckled leather crowns (part Westwood, part Jughead); and his backpacks had teddies trussed to them. "It adds that extra bit of fairy tale, keeps it lighthearted," he said. He ransacked the stuff of childhood, but his own outlook is closer to innocence than experience. "This stuff is really present for me," he explained. "I loved it as a kid, but it's still the same. It's natural to me to use it." He's still defining his look—"Not too tailored, not too sport," he said—but it already has a kind of carbonated cleverness.
Irish-born Alan Taylor paid homage to experience. He sourced tweed and linen from sixth-generation Irish mills. But his treatment defied the sartorial hagiography that sometimes passes for heritage appreciation in menswear. Taylor's explanations were involved—he was inspired, he said, by "the theory of the fourth dimension. If we were four-dimension beings, we wouldn't perceive three-dimensional objects as we see them now, as 2-D shapes; we'd see every side at once." But in practice, he turned jackets sheer to show their inner workings and rigged up a system of elastic-closing hooks and eyes to fasten jackets with clean lines. He has a welcome willingness to look askew. He closed his section of the show with a passage of garments with upside-down versions stitched to them, like the twin jacks on a playing card. He'd been looking at the blog of London editor Charlie Porter, who's an all-purpose resource to many of the city's up-and-coming talents. Porter posts runway images upside-down. "It makes people stop and look at them differently," Taylor said. In fact, they didn't feel as fresh as the rest of the lot, but they had the right spirit.
Closing the show was the returning Craig Green, the standout of last season. In the intervening months, Green unexpectedly found himself in a minor media controversy when his plywood headpieces from Fall were called out on television as an example of English fashion's eccentricity. But he stuck to his guns, painting more plywood pieces and having his models carry them like portable barricades. It was defiant and self-protective in a single gesture, but Green's supporters should soon—if not already—far outnumber his skeptics. He's producing beautiful work. His layered, finely textured pieces came this season in print as well as solid: a graphic tie-dye that even extended to bucket hats and bandanna blindfolds. They're each done by hand in his studio, and will be for production as well, for which they'll be numbered like artist's editions. "We just wanted it to be euphoric and dark at the same time—chaos and control, freedom and restriction," he said. Meting out freedom in three-season packages is the success and selling point of MAN. Long may its flag wave.