Before Milan, a reflection on London Collections: Men

Alexander Fury

The menswear pack has already moved on from London: a few flew to Florence for Pitti Immagine, predominantly a trade show but recently given a fashion twist via presentations from talented guest designers. This season it was Japanese label Kolor showing menswear, with a womenswear presentation from Paris-based German/Croatian designer Damir Doma to showcase his Cruise line. As of tomorrow, the shows begin in Milan: the first show by new Ermenegildo Zegna creative director Stefano Pilati (formerly of the house formerly known as Yves Saint Laurent) starting a day which also includes Jil Sander, Versace and Dolce & Gabbana, the first after their sentencing for tax evasion. Interesting.

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A look from the Burberry Prorsum Spring 2014 show in London

So today, there’s nothing to see, besides the luggage carousel and the inside of a hotel room. Which lead me to think back over the three-day stretch of London Collections: Men. I particularly wanted to expand on my comments on the Burberry Prorsum show, especially after a degree of reflection. Looking back over the Burberry Prorsum show, one realises how much it pops over the Internet. Online, the colours look more intense, the simple shapes are easily read. However I can’t help but think that a designer of Christopher Bailey’s calibre should be more interested in the reality of his clothing than its digital manifestations. Surely you want to get people’s bodies into the stuff – that’s what fashion is about, isn’t it? I also found the lack of innovation in the design of Burberry’s garments – slope-shouldered overcoats, boat-neck sweaters, brightly-coloured desert-boots and boat shoes – vexing.

But Bailey isn’t alone there. Despite the trumpeting around London Collections: Men, there were an awful lot of shows that didn’t really show anything new. Shaun Samson, for example – which others enjoyed fair enough, but which felt, to me, like ideas rehashed. Christopher Shannon has played with the idea of ironic big-boy branding, like Samson’s Calvin-alike logo-ed underwear and poolside necklaces with his name woven into the ribbon, for years now. More than that, the garments themselves – wide-cut shorts, billowing surfer shirt, a couple of patched silk wetsuit-style tops – didn’t feel exciting. And a towel saronging a waist isn’t a viable alternative to a bottom half, unless you’re at the Lido. The use of bugle-beading to suggest wet fabric glistening in the sun was interesting, but overall this collection felt semi-developed.

You got no such feeling with Christopher Shannon. In fact, it hit you how fully-rounded his creative universe

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Nylon shorts and bomber jacket from the spring 2014 Christopher Shannon collection

is. There’s the branding – this time knitted into neat intarsia sweaters – and the sportswear touches that have equally become eponymous with his label. That sportswear this time came in part from rave culture, the neon colours of glow-sticks pumped out in a shocking fluoro trio of suits in hard latex, models with their hair plastered with glitter. Those looks were hardcore, but the nylon shorts, zip-spliced denims and multilayered t-shirts were easy to imagine anyone wearing.

You can see looks similar to Shannons on many a council estate kerb in England. I’m talking from my own childhood there: I’m from Bolton, Shannon Liverpool. It’s not just a Northern thing – however, it is very, very British. And the authenticity to Shannon’s look is what gave it strength. Nasir Mazhar’s riotous show had the same feel. This wasn’t a designer co-opting hip-hop style, but one who lives it, fully immersed in that world. There was something genuine there, some soul.

We hope for more of that in Milan.

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