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July 23 2014

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Letter From London:
The Men’s Collections, Day 1

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After a royal kickoff, London Collections: Men (its official, if slightly wordy name) began in earnest this morning.

The first show on the schedule belonged to Lou Dalton, the brassy woman-in-menswear (like her sister-in-arms Martine Rose) who is a promising part of the young London scene. Her futuristic take on tailoring (left)—jackets with inset mesh panels, shirts in classic fabrics like seersucker that billowed like deflated humps behind their wearers, and boxy shorts, worn with trainers and high socks—seemed almost sci-fi, but it had an appealingly dystopic twang. Alexa Chung, who dipped backstage after the show to offer her congratulations, seemed to appreciate it.

And now, as the Pythons used to say, for something completely different. (This is England, after all.) Hackett’s show at the English Opera House drew inspiration from the past, specifically the thirties of Gatsby. That sort of vertigo-inducing 180 from the future to the past and the experimental to the traditional characterized the day and may well characterize the full schedule of collections here in London. In the afternoon, Savile Row opened its many doors, while not far away, Rose made her mark—literally—with outerwear and shirts in neoprene stamped with impressions of her own hands.

In the (relatively) classic camp, Oliver Spencer showed bohemian looks, though the painter or poet he seems to have in mind must’ve just landed a nice commission. He was free-spirited, but not above a few military borrowings, like belted jackets and trousers that button at the calf. Spencer jazzed up outerwear with azure trim and closed the show with a jolt of head-to-toe electric blue. For Spring, the designer also turned out his first-ever board short, white with trim navy stripes.

On the subject of swimwear, Orlebar Brown showed its new collection at its store, including a suit of polyamide made in collaboration with tailor Thom Sweeney. The collection included custom prints as well as one borrowed from English design legend David Hicks, whose work will also show up for Fall as a pocket square at Gieves & Hawkes. The entire collection was inspired by Englishmen abroad, like David Niven summering in Cap Ferrat. And while he’s no Englishman, the abroad theme fit the bill for Xander Zhou as well, the young Chinese menswear designer who came to London to show at the behest of GQ China (and with the support of the Chinese computer megabrand Lenovo), to finish off the day with a shiny, silky, dare one say louche take on layering.

While Tom Ford hosted dinner for a few near and dear (more on that here), Mr Porter toasted the beginning of the collections with a party at the Corinthian Hotel, thrown with Esquire and Jimmy Choo. Alexa Chung, who’d started the day with fashion, ended it with fashion, spinning nineties jams for the likes of Gareth Pugh and Matthew Williamson. Florence Welch arrived just as Mad Man Jon Hamm did. “You look amazing!” he told her. Men’s fashion week or not, the guys don’t have a monopoly on looking good.

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