London Collections 2015: JW Anderson and Alexander McQueen review: What exactly is the message of 21st-century menswear?

One focused on the floppy, the fey; the other on swagger-shouldered military machismo

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Indy Lifestyle Online

There could be few more opposing statements on contemporary menswear than those proposed by J W Anderson and Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton.

The former focused on the floppy, the fey, the snake-hipped gender-blending 1970s; the latter on curled-lip, swagger-shouldered military machismo, last seen circa 1870 when Britannia still ruled the waves, and the world. 

That diversity indicates both the strength and simultaneous weakness of autumn/winter 2015 at London Collections: Men – almost everyone seems to have their own distinct and individual ideas about how men should dress for the future. And while that leads to breathtaking variety for journalists and stylists to cherry-pick through, it contributes to an overall weakness of vision for the city. What does 21st-century London menswear look like? What is its message?

J W Anderson knows what he wants to talk about in his clothes. A sexual revolution, hyper-intellectualised to the point of almost complete obfuscation, which boils down to slit-ankle flared trousers and clingy knits cinched with femmy contour belts. It makes for great pictures – yet while his womenswear is charged with a throbbing core of covetability, this menswear feels destined to live purely on magazine pages or LED screens. Maybe Anderson is saving the ideas we want to wear for Loewe, where he presents his sophomore menswear collection next week.

Burton’s Alexander McQueen show was a volte-face from spring’s Matisse-inspired show, and all the stronger for it. She turned back to McQueen traditions, rather than archives – maybe Savage Beauty’s imminent restaging at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum got her thinking about the past.

The past she delved into was distant – the foundations of not only the McQueen label, but of Savile Row itself in the tradition of 19th-century military tailoring. Here, it was cut in a poppy print jacquard that ended up looking like camouflage, in flak jackets cross-bred with frock-coats or slender, classic suiting. Others came in pinstripe, printed with words like “Truth” and “Honour”.

“That’s how we should all try to live,” commented Burton backstage, philosophically. And certainly, she seemed to apply them to the creation of this powerful collection.

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