Ordinarily crunched into a one-day showcase after the womenswear collections have wrapped up – rather like that tasty pickle spear served alongside a deli triple decker sandwich – menswear at London Fashion Week has always been fabulous, but far too brief. This week sees the sophomore effort of London Collections: Men, an event that bills itself as a London men’s fashion week on par with those held regularly in Paris and Milan.
In a capital renowned for its top fashion schools, and home to an industry in which both independent designers and luxury brands are thriving, LC:M feels long overdue. It’s a welcome acknowledgement of both oft overlooked menswear designers and the burgeoning consumer demand for new and experimental duds for dudes. LC:M’s inaugural Spring/Summer catwalk was held in June of 2012 and attracted much positive feedback. This first Autumn/Winter launch starts today and runs through Wednesday. Let's outline the key points:
London Collections: Men is chaired by Dylan Jones, the award winning editor of British GQ. Working alongside the British Fashion council, Jones aims to ‘lead the charge’ on developing LC:M as a regular bi-annual event.
“We have been overwhelmed by the support and enthusiasm for the project from designers, retailers, buyers and the press,” he said in the wake of S/S 2012, adding that “LC: M has already contributed to the changing perception of menswear in this country, and our plans for the next week in January will hopefully build on this."
Well that week in January has arrived. Heavyweights Alexander McQueen, Tom Ford, Christopher Kane and Burberry will be showing their mainline menswear collections alongside eccentric newcomers like Joseph Turvey, James Long and Lou Dalton. The over 60 designers scheduled to show were chosen by a selection committee that includes fashion tastemakers Lulu Kennedy, Gordon Richardson (creative director of Topman) and Selfridges David Walker-Smith.
Creating a space for new British talent to flourish is clearly part of LC:M’s brief – but there are also economic reasons why men’s fashion week has finally come about. The UK fashion market has tentatively grown throughout the recession: The British Fashion Council reports that the UK fashion and luxury apparel industry now churns out £21 billion annually – worth more than the film, auto and sports. Market researcher Mintel estimates that the market for mens fashion grew by 3.2% to £9.9 billion in 2011 – that’s almost half the industry total. Growth of a further 16% is estimated by 2016 - not too shabby chic. Such a hike has fuelled the call for an officiated mens fashion happening and the wider reach LC:M will bring to menswear brands.
LC:M S/S saw balmy collections defined by loose silhouettes and unexpected textiles – prints, knits, and shimmery anoraks. Also popular: sportswear constructed with acute attention to detail, think tailored tracksuits, and cheery pastel hues. There were even a few topless models (gasp!); the sort of impractical nudity that women’s fashion week so joyfully flaunts.
This A/W display continues the air of colourful optimism. The Guardian’s Simon Chilvers even tips off some designers whose collections put wintertime doubt, what with all the shorts and sheer shirts. Sources of sartorial inspiration include the seventh Marques of Bath, badger culling, Texas oil barons and androgyny, with the emphasis once again on inventive print, colour and fabrication.
The overall vibe is positively celebratory. And perhaps that’s no wonder - as men’s fashion moves forward, today’s fashionable male is less and less a piece of penguin coloured arm candy. The boys, it seems, should be peacocking in their own right.
Highlights from today's collections:
Lou Dalton AW13
John Smedley AW13
[All Images: London Collections: Men]