On the final day of London's large and growing menswear "week" (currently three days, but give it a few more seasons), the reigning mood is Anglophilia. The talk is of London designers with London creativity and London verve: The city is justly proud of itself and its own. The slight wrench in the gears is Shaun Samson, one of its most talented young designers of the present moment, who, though educated at Central Saint Martins, is Southern Californian through and through. It's always been an undercurrent of his work; today, it was at the forefront. His surf-tousled bros made their way down the runway to the sounds of West Coast rap; they wore platform versions of canvas slip-ons from Vans, SoCal's sneaker-maker of record. Samson offered no justifications and no apologies. "It's who I am," he said backstage after the show.
Nineties fabulosity colored the lot. Clever touches set the scene: the lanyards whose woven bands spelled out "Shaun Samson" in numeric pager code, the Samson-branded waistbands of boxers, peering out from over the waistbands of shorts. There was such a heady sense of objectification about his muscled boys shrugging off their shirts and sagging their shorts (nine a.m. show slot be damned) that it put one in mind of the young Marky Mark in his Calvins. But his shorts weren't silk georgette and organza like these.
There's frisson in that froth, but it's not overwrought, unlike the work of some other young designers. It has the gentle friction Samson managed to ignite by putting several of his surf-iest guys in towels, wrapped around the waist. "It's not a fashion statement," he said. "It's a way for a man to wear a skirt." So it isn't, and it is.
If it's possible to have a light touch with bugle-beaded stripes—or last season's sequin paillette basketball shorts—Samson has it. Maybe that's just the SoCal way, man. Whatever it is, it's worth celebrating. Samson lives in the sweet spot where tickling a fancy meets touching a nerve.