Lighting up the runway: London menswear shows reviewed

The simmering tensions between the Savile Row establishment and the capital's youthful upstarts has suddenly come to the boil

The third instalment of London's fledgling dedicated menswear event began on Sunday with shows from Richard Nicoll, Lee Roach and Lou Dalton. Tailoring stalwarts Alfred Dunhill, Hardy Amies and Gieves & Hawkes presented collections too.

The disconnect between the established esteem of Savile Row and the youthful upstarts who have something more urgent to communicate is fractious to say the least, and the tension that has been slowly simmering in the world of menswear has suddenly come to the boil thanks to a packed schedule that has split the attention of the industry.

But that is no bad thing: after all that blend of the old and new has invigorated the capital's womenswear offering and allowed it to excel on the world stage.

As editors in three piece suits watched muscle-bound male models promenade in tight white Sophie Hallette lace body suits and lycra cycling shorts at Astrid Andersen's show it was hard to deny that the tradition of tailoring was overshadowed by something altogether more compelling.

The first show of the day was Lou Dalton, in the opening slot she has made her own. Dalton's take on the traditional was subverted - unlined jackets were worn inside out, RAF imagery was printed on to boiler suits and separates. This subversion was echoed by newcomer Alan Taylor, whose melange knits and tweed tailoring were given an injection with upside down shirts and jackets worn as apron-fronts on trousers. The jacket was repurposed by minimally minded designer Lee Roach, who slung jackets belted at the neck around the waists of narrow trousers.

The marriage between youth and tradition was embodied in Jonathan Saunder's "Patrick Bateman goes to Tokyo" collection, in which he explored the "iconography of a business man in an unexpected way". As such, a crease on a trouser-front was actually an optical printed dot-matrix design, a traditional Crombie was re-imagined in acid yellow Shantung silk. The classic business briefcase was given Saunders' touch too, thanks to a collaboration with Smythson, embodying that necessarily symbiotic relationship that can work so well.

At Topman Design the design team, led by Gordon Richardson chose to examine that "unsung hero" the shirt, with silk cowboy shirts embroidered with tropical florals and B movie motifs of spiders and venus flytraps. "Our stance is always trying to turn things on their head as the brand is about new fashion," said Richardson.

It is interesting that the best way many have found to communicate something new is by repurposing the old to varying degrees of success. The most literal manifestation of this was in Richard Nicoll's collection which featured a collaboration with Linder Sterling in which the artist repurposed images of snakes and eagles, and vintage gay porn to adorn leather bombers and hooded tops.

There is a breadth in menswear that is often overlooked by those too eager to categorise everything as suits versus shorts. This was well demonstrated in the MAN show in which Bobby Abley combined teddy bear silhouettes, fleur de lis and Disney-fied birds in his collection of urban sportswear. Woven wicker prints on shirts and hooded jackets, leather crowns and teddy bear adorned backpacks showed an accomplished depth and understanding of a collection.

Craig Green, whose collection last season was lambasted by many in the popular press, and also by male model turned Ambassador for British menswear (announced on Sunday) David Gandy. With bandanas tied over their faces, and extreme sculptures carried in front as shields, Green seemed to be asserting his stance and refocusing the gaze of spectators to the clothes rather than anything else.

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