Another two-fingered salute to the bespoke tradition from London menswear collections
Sarah Burton ripped the stuffing out, exposing seams, shoulder-padding and fraying hems and cuffs
The cult of personality. That’s what a lot of menswear is built on. It’s not too dissimilar to teenagers hero-worshipping their football icons – in fact, clock how many adolescents sport those idolatrous football shirts as everyday attire. Or how many shelled out for Beckham’s H&M pants in the vain hope of emulating his ball action, when you think of it.
It’s the same in the higher echelons of fashion, exemplified as we slide past the half-way mark of the three-day presentation of London’s menswear collections for spring/summer 2014. The forceful personalities on the calendar are the designers who make the most interesting clothes, and the ones who garner the most attention.
To fashion-infatuated teenagers, JW Anderson is a name that inspires football-worthy fanaticism. Why? Because Anderson is London fashion’s provocateur par excellence, especially when it comes to menswear. For spring, Anderson referenced the “awkward self”, concealing his models’ features behind hangdog fringes, drowning their legs in Oxford bag trousers, but revealing bodies through chopped-out shoulders and midriffs.
There’s always a sense of the gangly, long-limbed teenager to his work, here articulated in oversized knits and a limp lacy halter-top like a stretched-out gym singlet. Those are the kind of clothes that always push buttons, whether engaging or enraging, but Anderson’s own personality is a large part of why what he makes is so compelling. Whether you love it or hate it, you want to unravel what he’s trying to say. It makes you think.
You don’t need to get deep and meaningful to understand the work of knitwear label Sibling. They played the West Side Story soundtrack and sent out quiffed models in Cadillac shades of milkshake pink, pistachio and lilac with Jet and Shark logos. Colourful camp, then. But the personalities of the trio of designers behind the label, Sid Bryan, Joe Bates and Cozette McCreery, reverberate through every rib and purl, while the technique – intarsia leopards, knitted plastic, or a double-face wool in a contrast-lined bomber – elevated everything above and beyond High School Musical shenanigans. It was loud and proud, defiant even.
Neither Sibling nor Anderson pay any heed to Britain’s tailoring tradition. Thank God. Although Alexander McQueen showed tailoring, dedicating the latest collection to “ceremonial dressing”, designer Sarah Burton ripped the stuffing out, exposing seams and shoulder-padding, fraying hems and cuffs, or turning detached silk linings into deconstructed suiting.
McQueen famously scribbled insults on the lining of suits for the Prince of Wales while he was an apprentice on Savile Row, and these suits seemed another two-fingered salute to the bespoke tradition. Some came in lace worked with skull motifs, others in distressed, sun-bleached jacquard with tarnished brass buttons.
Again, these clothes sparkled with personality – in this case, of the label’s namesake. The show, staged on a cobblestone path under scuzzy railway arches, close to both King’s Cross and McQueen’s recently relocated alma mater Central Saint Martins, conjured up the label’s trademark mix of histrionic menace, historicism and wickedly sharp cutting.
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