First, a feint: "I never really do graphic lines," James Long announced at a preview of his Spring collection. Then he showed a collection chockablock with them. He'd been looking, he explained, at a work of Josef Albers, and thinking of the ordered geometry of the abacus. Then he scrambled it. There was a palpable tension in Long's new collection of straightness against swerve. The two faced off in the prints that Long commissioned, and on the embroideries and intarsias that snaked all over his celebrated knitwear. Order and chaos. Part of Long's dark suggestion is that one always overlays the other, so that even the oddly traditional bits in his new collection, like the variations on the classic white shirt, embroidered with hard-cornered abacus-inspired motifs, seemed to pulse with weird energy.
It didn't feel accidental that many of those shirts had their arms cut off, the better to spotlight a powerful shoulder. They were shown with the full-legged Bermuda shorts he introduced as his dominant silhouette this season. Those shorts had pleats and panels so extreme they extended up all the way to become belt loops, so that they hung off Long's belts like curtains on their rods. They'll be a challenge for everyday wear, but on the runway—flapping open and shut as the models stomped, a literal face-off between the line and the curve—they looked ready for battle. This is warrior dressing, and not of the corporate raider variety. Not for nothing was the show's inspiration and soundtrack Alan Vega's Kung Foo Cowboy. Vega's brand of enervated aggression suits Long well. "I've done this more on instinct," he said of Spring, rushed ahead to make the new London menswear week's earlier deadlines. "Maybe that's why it's dark." Rich, too.
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