What some of the best menswear designers in the world have conjured up for Spring/Summer 2017
It has become one of the highlight congregations of the twice yearly fashion season: London Collections: Men has just wrapped and after four jam-packed days of sometimes inspirational fashion and other times failed experiments in creativity, we feature some of the shows that made the best impression, those that are worth watching out for in the future or those that are moving the needle on what men should look like in the 21st century.
The reasons behind Mr Song moving his show from Paris (the presumptive home of fashion, including menswear) to London after 10 years of showing in Paris may not be entirely clear, but hell, we are all incredibly pleased that he did! The Songzio SS17 show was the standout collection of the LCM season by some margin.
I don’t have particularly strong views on the old argument of whether fashion is/can be art; I barely have views on what art is or is not. But what Songzio did was nullify that debate and merely put art on clothes. Which is what he always does, in any event; the idea behind each season’s show beginning with paintings by Mr Song.
But where in previous seasons the mood has tended to be darker, with a mostly black and white and greys colour palette, this season he gave us Monet’s water colours painstakingly painted on clothes – an ocean of coral, all shades of blues and greens, painted on white shorts and pants, long, voluminous, as unending as the ocean itself . It was nothing short of exceptional. And one of those rare moments in fashion where you feel like you are an intruder, and should not be privy to such creativity, thought, genius.
Welcome to London Mr Song. Please, stay!
I wasn’t sure if KTZ had really decided to have their show at XXL – the gay club for bears, cubs and otters (their words, not mine) in Southwark. But when I walked into the cavernous hall, the smell of poppers and stale gay sex thick in the air, I was like yep – that’s XXL.
I guess it is unsurprising then that there was so much gay leather scene references in the show (even more so than usual): the harnesses around the torso, fetish masks; obviously all black and white. But if the show did anything, it was merely to cement the slight cult that the brand has created and not by any means re-imagine it, the way last summer and last winter’s collections had, for instance. Quite frankly, the cultists wearing various incarnations of previous collections looked more inventive than the show itself (of course that begins to look repetitive as well).
Take that whichever way you will – better seasons are past them, or the seed of the cult has been firmly planted – now it’s time to knock some nails into the coffin.
That’s fine by me, nails into the cult coffin. Although one had such high expectations for a further inching of the needle toward something else, that you can’t help but feel a little let down by a mere retention of the status quo.
Anyway, the girls got their day – one of the more interesting looks was a full length sheer dress and hood with little sparkly stars that made the girl look like she was floating on a cloud in the Milky Way. It was lovely.
Otherwise, with the exception of the 17 year old boy who sat next to me, all pimples and braces and physically gushing before the start of the show as it was his first time at a fashion show and he’s been “following this label for many years, since I was 14″ (…right…!), I suspect the rest of us thought…meh…next season then.
Speaking of stars, there were two shows from relatively unknown designers that, with little doubt, will start to gain traction in the not-too-distant future.
It is always surprising how few people have ever heard of Berthold; even fashion people. But that may be because Berthold seems to have an ideology about fashion that is similar to Rick Owens’ – there is a very particular aesthetic and each season is used to nudge that aesthetic a little bit from last season, make the fabrics cleaner, tailoring more precise. But there isn’t a major re-thinking of cuts and shapes each season, it stays mostly true to form: oversized outerwear; an intellectualised interest in man-made materials, from PVC, rubber, to sheen-like polyester.
The reason Berthold is going to be a star, though, is that he keeps getting better. He keeps refining that narrow aesthetic, driving steadily towards his 10 000 hours. This collection had “statement” items like the bulbous trench and pants in bright and sultry red; and as always, enough smattering of black on black to keep the old faithful of us feeling like we have come to visit an old friend at his new house (the venue for the presentation was the BFC Showspace, away from the Swiss Church in Holborn where collections have been shown over the past few years).
Don’t worry if you are not quite sure how to pronounce this label’s name – someone should tell them how disconcerting it is to not be sure what the name of a brand is: is it an acronym; is it a code that those who are not in the know are probably better off not asking be decoded? It’s “Common Sweden”, apparently. The label was started in Sweden and presumably the common comes from that typically Nordic aesthetic of not trying to be too different – clean lines, minimalism and all that.
But to think of them only in those terms would be missing the subtle force that these guys’ collection had this season: certainly it was not minimalist, with references running the gamut from a strong 70s Grease vibe, to the medley of colours and textures that one would find in a Marrakech market. Marrakech served as one of the main inspirations behind the collection, named Market Rodeo, with a Beduin on a camel the accompanying picture to the invitation (incidentally, the designer of aforementioned Berthold told me at the presentation that one of the designers got engaged in Marrakech when they went earlier this year). There were the pants, which came in various lengths and cuts: skinny and high-waisted here, wide-legged skirt-like shorts there (one of the best looks from the collection).
It seems that somehow the CMMN SWDN designers have managed to wash off the stain from having once-upon-a-time been affiliated with Kanye West’s defunct women’s line (they were the creative directors) and are instead forging fast into their own path, which looks set to lead them to success.
And so ends four days of frantic fashion in London. LCM certainly has the wind behind it and is gaining momentum as one of the leading menswear showcases in the world, especially for those amongst us who prefer smaller brands that are a little more forward-looking.
Writer: Lithemba Velleman