More From London’s Triumphant MAN Day
Wade with an open mind through the variety of shows and presentations on offer during London Fashion Week’s MAN Day, and you’d have been impressed by just that—variety. From Savile Row smart to Mineshaft sleaze, London’s menswear designers laid out a buffet that could make your palette pulsate with pleasure or leave a bad taste in your mouth. But what was immediately striking about every single designer who showed a men’s collection on Wednesday is how sophisticated they were with their back-stories. James Long, currently anointed The One to Watch, referenced Fuse Boy, a film by the scarcely-known Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin, for a collection (pictured) which imagined men in a steamy boiler room, their steam-saturated clothes slowly going moldy. That scenario scarcely impeded appreciation of Long’s masterful use of leather. New Power Studio was inspired by London’s multiculturalism and, at a time when the city feels like it is splintering, there was idealism in a show that offered a cross-section of ages, races and sizes in sportswear that was elemental enough to embrace them all. And, because I’m a fashion trainspotter, I couldn’t help drawing a line from the last look—a be-glittered guy in a shtreimel—to the ultimate fashion idealist Jean Paul Gaultier’s Jewish collection in 1993. Turns out NPS’s main man Thom Murphy is a big Gaultier fan.
If the rest of the world is going to get the picture, it is essential that MAN Day bring together all the strands of the burgeoning British menswear scene. I felt this one did. I’ve already written about Topman and I’ll have more to say about E.Tautz. The ideas they represent—the heritage of Savile Row, the historical romance of benchmark English designers like Galliano and McQueen—clearly provide a framework that is dictating the direction of many younger designers. James Small was so focused on tailoring that he trimmed everything superfluous out of classic men’s pieces. That peacoat? So lean it was mean. Lou Dalton, Carolyn Massey and J.W. Anderson opted for history, a temporal construct (Bonnie Prince Charlie) in Dalton’s case, a personal patchwork with Anderson, with a knapsack laden with roses (below) as one of the day’s enduring images.
And it wouldn’t be London if there wasn’t at least one intensely polarizing presentation. Rasharn d’Vera Agymang and Jaiden James are buoyant twentysomethings who make clothes that are anything but upbeat. With Mad Max apocalypse and Mapplethorpe’s X Portfolio in mind, they produced a collection of fetish leathers that was numbingly literal. Meanwhile, Re:Bel, the magazine they make together, was being distributed outside in the courtyard of Somerset House. It’s an impressive feat, a manifesto that rebuts the bloggy brevity their peers opt for. In fact, Re:Bel looks so substantial that it made the clothes feel like an afterthought. But, from Karl Marx to Malcolm Maclaren, London has always been the city that is kindest to manifestos.