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April 19 2014

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Letter from London:
The Men’s Collections, Day 2

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After a more leisurely opening day, London ramped up the action considerably for Day 2 of its nascent London Collections: Men. Sibling’s first runway show had bodies in the seats at the unfriendly hour of 9 a.m., a requirement that proved worth it when their gold-flecked riot gear took the stage. E. Tautz’s Patrick Grant required a firm commitment from his guests, too, with a Wapping show space—his new studio#8212;farther afield than most. Once showgoers did secure cabs and made the journey out east, their perseverance was rewarded with a show about, appropriately enough, an explorer in foreign lands.

Traveling man segued into MAN, London’s group show for select up-and-comers. London is now quite good at supporting its young, and the heartening thing is, its young are quite good at supporting it. Happily, the three labels of MAN—Astrid Andersen, Agi & Sam, and Shaun Samson—were three of the most exciting of any seen so far. Andersen’s dark, sensual take on sportswear—as in, for sports—included sheer jerseys paneled with fur and boxing shorts worn over lace tights, mixing masculinity, sensuality, and exoticism is a way that at times recalled Riccardo Tisci. Her collection (pictured), she said backstage, owes something to the calm of her native Copenhagen and something to the turbulence of her adopted London—”and it’ll sell in Tokyo,” she added with a laugh. Shaun Samson, the most developed of the bunch, looked more than ready for his own show next season. The California native and Central Saint Martins grad added subtlety to the pieces he’s known for, like the felted and needlepunched chimera tunics, here worn over complementary pants. They gave way to low-slung, baggy shorts embellished in disco-ball silver with hand-embroidered tops whose silver beading made them look like gorgeous motherboards. There was a nineties flavor to the sagging plaids and ironic T-shirts—printed with Kawaii kittens, some sporting piercings to undermine the effect—and backstage, Samson cited Clueless as a point of reference.

The suit label Mr. Start is, like the MAN-ites, East London-based, but for all the similarities between them, it might as well be on the other side of the world. Designer Philip Start has made a name for himself in recent years with elegant tailoring and a no-nonsense approach. The fledgling label is deconstructing jackets for spring, a switch most noticeable on the runway in the softer, un-roped shoulders. He went softer underneath the jackets, too, showing a collarless, pocketed short-sleeve shirt and his first polo. Additional, careful steps toward warm-weather informality can’t be too far behind.

Despite the alfresco location, though, in a courtyard outside Harrod’s, Thom Browne’s presentation was hardly warm-weather informal. As the rising band Wolf Gang played atop a double-decker bus—a last English gig before a tour supporting Coldplay in the U.S. —a line of boys in matching TB seersucker suits arrayed in quasi-military formation. The presentation won’t supplant Browne’s usual runway show, which will proceed in Paris as usual later this month, but did give a taste of the brand not only to London fashion-weekers, but also to the gathered crowds just outside the partitions, too.

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