IZZY CAMMARERI 11 January, 2018
NINE STANDOUT EMERGING DESIGNERS FROM LONDON FASHION WEEK MENS AW'18
London Fashion Week Men's AW'18 saw the spotlight fall on Brittain's most cutting-edge emerging talent. This season, designers such as Wales Bonner, Xander Zhou and Edward Crutchley played with notions of history, identity and heritage, reimagining tradition and cultural elements from across the ages into carefully considered and highly relevant contemporary collections. Discover our top 9 picks of the season and why they were a cut above the rest.
Taking off from his somewhat more subdued past collections, this season Xander Zhou offered a bit more of a kick. Alluding to a melange of cultures and historical dress, many pieces lifted elements from ancient Youxia warrior regalia, Changshans with knotted frog button closures and silhouettes drawn from the Hanfu tradition. Modernized Tangzhuang jackets were the collection’s heros, fashioned from untraditional leathers and denim and presented in an array of bold colours. Vibrant Jacquard silks with classical dragon prints and Chinese character brushwork found themselves reimagined into funnel neck zip jumpers, sleeveless vests and loose suit jackets. Bold accessories made a huge impact featuring metallic dragon handles for hand-held frameless sunglasses (designed by Percy Lau), updated leather conical hats and oversized folding fans. These Eastern-inspired elements were married with a ton of classic Western staples such as tailored suits, ties and cargo trousers. Hybridising Eastern and Western cultures into a brand new aesthetic, Zhou reinvents ancient styles with a modern, wearable edge.
Crutchley was another designer playing with a mix of cultures through the ages. This season Crutchley looked to Chinese literature and Celtic mysticism, merging a strong contemporary aesthetic with traditional influences. Drawing from the philosophical and spiritual narrative of Journey to The West — a classic Chinese folk tale of a legendary pilgrimage from one’s personal culture into the unknown — the collection plays with volume, exaggerated silhouettes, oversized outerwear and modern interpretations of 1940’s style Zoot Suits in luxurious silks and velvets. What really made the collection pop however, were the myriad of bold prints adorning pieces from head to toe. In collaboration with the Emoji company - the creator and licence holder of the digital text widely used for visual communication today - Crutchley blended these recognizable visual cues with elements from Chinese folklore, resulting in an unusual dialogue between emojis and ancient pictographs. Crutchley’s mix of references offers a refreshing wardrobe, with a distinctive contemporary edge.
CHIN MENSWEAR INT’L
Going from sheer and dandy (SS’16), to boy-next-door inspired outfits with a bit of sleaze (SS17), to silhouettes and details drawn from Victorian undergarments (SS’18) - shown at his first presentation in Paris - Taiwanese-born Chin Wang is behind the semi-eponymous label Chin Menswear Int’l. What remains at the core of the label however, is the exploration of a subversive kind of sensuality, dissolving the line between masculinity and femininity. Coming a long way since first graduating from Central Saint Martins back in 2014, this season’s collection offers a much more grown up and sophisticated edge with clear 70’s influences. Standouts included clean-cut bell bottom jeans reaching the ankle; oversized pinstripe suits with tailored trousers cut to the shins; 70’s style disco collar shirts; brightly coloured two piece ensembles in purples and reds; and matching double denim sets, all with a sophisticated air.
Distortion has been a key signature of Alex Mullins since the dawn of his label, known for playing with asymmetric proportions and unconventional prints, with imagery often morphed or skewed. This season was no exception. Exploring the contrasts between the analytical left side and the creative right side of the brain, Mullins balanced imaginative spontaneity with systematic, clean-cut designs. Acid tie-dye cutaway shirts were mixed with charcoal grey tailored trousers, black pinstripe suits, cream puffer coats and camel corduroy. Mullins also photographed smashed ceramic plates featuring previous season’s muses and had them digitally printing onto silk and cotton poplin. This unique print mirrored the fragmented thought of creativity. All in all, Mullins created an interesting connection between clean minimal classics and striking individuality.
Continuing to explore subjects of African diaspora, heritage and identity, Wales Bonner’s AW’18 collection was even more elevated and poised than her previous offerings. Referencing the poetic notion of Creole sailors returning to port after long voyages at sea, many of her designs pulled from 1940’s style tailoring, with heavy silks and nipped waists. Highlights included slim-fit ivory silk suits for both men and women; sleek-cut trousers leaning wider at the base and slung low to reveal the pelvic bone; cropped jackets with wide cuffs; and louche shirting with prints referencing the 1940’s migration series by African-American artist Jacob Lawrence. Nautical elements shone in the form of sou'westers, gingham check linings and even a head-to-toe bucket yellow outfit echoing fisherman oilskin smocks and waders. Bonner continues to expertly meander the nuances of black masculinity, presenting gentle but sophisticated menswear that women can relate to.
DANIEL W. FLETCHER
For AW’18, Fletcher looked introspectively to offer a quietly powerful collection based on expression and tradition. The starting point of the collection was a series of paintings the designer created in 2016. It was a way for Fletcher to ground himself by making something real and physical with no added pressure. The collection was a peaceful reflection of this notion, keeping craft at the core of each garment and creating clothing without taking things so seriously. The results were simple classics reinvented with subtle elevations and modern twists, such as drawstring waists added to blue and white Oxford shirts, silk shirts dabbled with faint painterly prints and flared denim trousers with added side slits at the base. Using innovative fabrics such as technical nylons and slick leather for considered tailoring, this step in a new direction for the designer looked on tradition to inform the future.
Only graduating in 2016 from the MA Fashion Design Technology Menswear course from London College of Fashion, Bethany Williams puts a social conscience at the heart of her work and strives to fight for social and environmental change. This season, the eco-conscious designer presented a film for AW’18. Titled ‘Women of Change’, it was made in collaboration with moving image director Crack Stevens and showcased at London Fashion Week Men’s along with a live presentation of her AW’18 collection. The film was inspired by Williams’ involvement in UAL’s ‘Making for Change’ programme as well as working with the San Patrignano recovery community – two pioneering rehabilitative programmes which work closely with vulnerable women around the world. Exploring themes of ‘second chances’, it draws correlations between the second chance given to discarded materials, and the second chances given to the women involved in both of these initiatives. Each piece in William’s collection was created from 100% organic or recycled materials: electrical tape and wine bottle packaging were woven into durable new textiles at San Patrignano and used to create outerwear; buttons were handmade in Lake District by Jean Wildish; knitwear was created using recycled wool and denim sourced from Kent and then hand knitted.
Scooping the menswear title for the International Woolmark prize 2017/18, Matthew Miller chose to forfeit the runway, models and general fashion week mayhem this season, opting instead for a low-key event that resonated whole-heartedly with his design ethos. Throwing a music gig in a dive under railway arches, he dressed performers in his AW’18 collection called ‘Riot’. Casting on Spotify and YouTube, Miller enlisted two groups from Brighton - White Room and Strange Cages - for the show, as well as Grime poet, Ekeno, from Tottenham North London. He dressed the performers in nylon bombers modeled on police uniforms and practical outerwear made with functional pockets and canisters to hold spray paint. The collection also featured sharp tailored trousers matched with technical trench coats and rain macs made from rubber bonded natural cloths, making them 100% waterproof.
Moving from the presentation room to the runway for their debut show this season, Blood Brother stepped up their game, serving up a satirical and playful collection critiquing garish luxury. Exploring notions of get-rich-quick escapism and the instant gratification that comes with winning the lottery, standout pieces included Swarovski embellished denim jackets and tracksuit bottoms, tiger print fur coats, a metallic gold one piece suit pulling inspiration from 80’s ski wear, and waxy snakeskin prints fashioned into slim two-piece ensembles. Slogans reading ‘It Could Be You’ and ‘Money Bags’ were also emblazoned in bold print on knitwear and scarves. A bold commentary on excessive opulence and overindulgence that the Nouveau Riche often succumb to, as witty as it was, Blood Brother’s expert execution resulted in a strikingly relevant contemporary streetwear aesthetic and solid garments.
Designers who have wholesale showrooms currently open-to-ORDRE:
cote&ciel, GRANDPA, NAMES, GOYA, LUDA KHANLARI, Alighieri, Article No., Designer ORDRE, DYNE, Hill & Friends, SKIIM, Deveaux, HAERVAERK, JOSEPH, MATTHEW MILLER, SEAN SUEN, Patricia Padrón, NOT JUST A LABEL: GAYEON LEE, FYODOR GOLAN, Phoebe English, MICHAEL KORS, Sleeper, AYNI, A.F. VANDEVORST, JEFFREY DODD, LIAM HODGES, Sharon Wauchob, Teatum Jones, ANGEL CHEN
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