Their future is all sewn up
No big names at London Men's Fashion Week, but there soon will be.
Wednesday 10 February 1999
But, as is often the case, it was surprise new entries such as Warren Kade, 21st Century Kilts and Bent & Corrupt who perpetuated the internationally held understanding that a lot of very creative stuff comes out of Britain.
Warren Kade is, in fact, not a man but a girl, PJ Kim Warren, and her male partner, Kade Uawithya, and the label promises to be one to watch. Hatched from the internationally acclaimed Royal College of Art and Central St Martin's, it has success written all over it. The collection was an exuberant rock-star fantasy mixed with performance kit, classic tailoring and streetwear. The key seasonal trends were there (drawstrings, hip-slung pants, plenty of grey, raw edges, funnel necklines) but hardly overstated in a dictatorial way.
Their emphasis was clearly on individual statements, even mixing vintage items (tailcoats) and Levi's jeans. Huge, shaggy goat-hair collars, sheepskin gilets over shirts, sailor pants, traditional masculine fabrics for sporty pieces, quirky details such as mock ivory teeth fixed to trousers - all contributed to a cheeky, appealing and wearable look.
"We're feeling ecstatic - the response has been so fantastic," says PJ. "Our Italian production company wanted us to show in Milan, but I'm so happy that we stuck out for London. The collection has already sold to stores in Japan, Hong Kong, America, Italy and Spain, as well as Vertice in London."
Incidentally, Warren Kade shares an Italian showroom with Matthew Williamson, Clements Ribeiro and Helmut Lang - so the firm's in good company.
So what about the rest of the clothes? Small and low-key it may have been, but London Men's Fashion Week was pretty forthcoming with the critical fin de siecle trends, if you leave aside Boateng-inspired sharp, skinny suits with bright linings and tricky detailing from designers such as DA Lilliard - too mid-Nineties to be taken seriously. Far more relevant here is the laid-back, streetwear-meets-sportswear-meets-formal-wear hybrid that is collectively tagged "urban sportswear" for simplicity's sake.
Wherever I looked, both on and off the catwalk, there was a sea of grey (yes, it's still a goer) and any man I spoke to admitted that he could easily imagine himself in any of the slate, dove, elephant, charcoal, anthracite combinations, with perhaps a little black or white thrown in for light relief.
But the collections that stood out were those that had gone a little more wild with the colour palette: muted pastel knits at Bent & Corrupt; teal and oxblood at All Saints; hot pink and orange under Richmond's grey jackets; claret and teal accessories at Costelloe; honey and cream sweaters at Rocha and red leather at Warren Kade.
Amid this sea of monochromatic practicality was one name having a laugh with fashion. The crowds flocked to 21st Century Kilts (sponsored by Timberland), where real men with great calf muscles sat around all day in denim/tweed/metallic/sheer plastic/Chinese/satin kilts.
Never a dull moment, and it left us all wondering exactly what a millennium man should wear under his kilt.
Since they were true Scotsmen, however, the answer was not forthcoming. But I could have sworn I saw some bare flesh through that plastic kilt. Luckily a sporran kept me tastefully in the dark.
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