A model on the catwalk during the YMC show at the London Collections


It was a day of great British brands at the London Collections: Men today, but the designers behind them were clearly feeling a bit French.

Berets abounded at Margaret Howell and YMC, two exemplary success stories of how London street cool can build an international brand from a single boutique. At both, beatnik rebel chic was the order of the day.

Howell, who rose to fame in the Eighties with her functional and unpretentious modern classics, stuck to those signatures: workman-style jackets in dark herringbone tweed, slim-fitting shirts and minimal gabardine coats. Sludgy greens and rust were as colourful as this collection came - something Howell’s legions of low-key fans will be only too happy with.

The spirit of 1968 was alive and well at YMC too, the indie label set up by Fraser Moss and Jimmy Collins in 1995, where models again wore slimline and sombre pieces, including cropped chinos with gathered ankles, combat trousers embellished with zips and even an anorak with an integrated rucksack. Boxy jackets with patch pockets looked at once retro and radical.

Vivienne Westwood, no stranger to airing a view, used the unveiling of her new season range to voice some of her wider concerns. She had rounded up a clutch of pro-Julian Assange protesters outside the venue and wore a t-shirt bearing his face in sympathy. Inside, meanwhile, placards which read ‘what’s good for the climate is good for the economy’ were strewn among the models.

“There’s so much pressure to supply to the consumer,” she said, “the industry must start putting the climate first.”

“But then I’m not a very fashionable person,” she added.

Westwood is one of several labels to join the fledgling menswear event in the capital from either Milan or Paris, where she usually presents the range that she designs with her husband Andreas Kronthaler, lending crucial support to the initiative.

“Thank goodness for Savile Row!” She said at the presentation, “or else men would look as silly as their wives.”

Today is the final day of London Collections: Men, and sees the legendary Tom Ford sweep into town for private appointments with press and buyers.