August 22 2014

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At London Fashion Week, MAN Power


Jo-Ann Furniss, editor in chief of Arena Homme+, reports from London fashion week’s MAN Day for

One of the great things about MAN Day is the radically different perspectives on offer, perspectives that somehow all seem to get along famously. There are none of the handbags-at-dawn shenanigans of womenswear, so the faultless Savile Row tailoring traditions of E. Tautz can literally sit next to the punky, poppy, yet brilliantly accomplished knitwear of Sibling in Somerset House. (Sibling’s collection film by the photographer Alasdair McLellan was also one of the standout moments of the day.) Many of these fledgling London-based menswear and accessories designers have matured into forces to be reckoned with on an international stage this season, while at the same time losing none of their sense of fun and a take on a wider pop culture that seems more relevant than ever for fashion in the city.

This influence of musical subcultures was found in many of the shows, more precisely, the sixties and the seventies seen through the filter of the nineties. This was the case at Topman Design (above), who presented the sort of thrift shop boys you used to see in London idolizing West Coast psychedelia and wanting to be Bobby Gillespie, in effortless washed silk shirts and crumpled parkas.

James Long presented his most accomplished collection to date (above left), full of the nuanced touches that designers achieve at the big luxury houses, not so usual for somebody based in Bethnal Green. The collection was inspired by the sight of a burnt-out hippie in Woodstock. “His look died too young…but he was still rockin’ it!” said Long. “I wanted some of that wildness, but made into modern, luxurious, hallucinogenic wildness.” And with his delicate knits, digital prints, and ink- and- acid-splashed leathers, he achieved it. J. W. Anderson, too, presented his best collection yet (above right), and again with a sense of the psychedelic. His was a narrative inspired by William Gedney’s documentary photography—photography that itself appears on garments throughout the collection combined with lovely washed-out and faded Liberty prints. “It was about getting lost,” said the designer. “A couple, highly in love, doing LSD across America.”

Embracing the romantic reverie in a different way, Thom Murphy’s New Power tudio (above)—always in debt to musical subcultures and always stealing the MAN show—presented a paean to domestic bliss with members of the Michael Clarke Company, a bin-bag tracksuit, a literal embodiment of Mrs. Mop, and a child made into a rubber glove rucksack. This was the make-do-and-mend of the soon-to-come new Austerity Britain. “It’s the opposite of that idea of the alienated man in fashion,” explained the designer. “I wanted something that felt softer for boys in this country, something anti-luxury, and a sense of community.”

Community—that’s the MAN Day mission, and it shows.

Photo: Samir Hussein / Getty Images (Topman Design), Ray Tang / Rex / Rex USA (James Long), Tristan Gregory / Camera Press / Retna Ltd. (J.W. Anderson), Katie Collins / PA Wire / AP Photo (New Power Studio)

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