While we’ve been celebrating Christmas, menswear designers across London have been heads down, working through the night to get ready for London Collections Men this January 8th to 11th. Since its inception, LCM has grown in status to become a staple of the fashion calendar. It’s friendlier and most digestible than London Fashion Week and while its triumphs and innovations appear to be on a smaller scale – the phrase ‘classics with a twist’ could apply to a lot of the shows – the growth in menswear and the thrill of what appears on the catwalks can’t be denied. Men are being sartorially challenged and excited in ways they’ve never been before. Here are the most exciting names on the circuit:
The dynamic duo: Agi&Sam. Offering bold prints and bright colours on exaggerated silhouettes from sportswear to suiting, Agi & Sam – currently in the running for the prestigious International Woolmark Prize – balance energy and irreverence with commercial nouse.
The dreamer: Alex Mullins. CSM and RCA MA Mullins pours colour, art, play and painterly effects onto familiar but off-kilter shapes given romantic flourishes. The CSM and RCA MA grad is one of six labels this year to join the Centre for Fashion Enterprise’s New Fashion Pioneer program and is basically amazing.
The king of pop: Bobby Abley. The cuts may be urban sportswear but the graphics – fleur de lis and crowns, tattoos and teddy bears – traverse worlds. SS16 offered one of the sharpest fashion homages to Star Wars that I’ve seen. The models in silver mouth braces and neon pink teddy bear suits for AW14 still lingers uncomfortably.
The texturist: James Long. There’s something about beautiful boys clad in patched and printed denim and colourful raw-edged knitwear that I find very sexy. Long’s genesis in imaginative knitwear lingers in the designer’s flair for exploring colour and texture. In November, he was appointed new head of menswear at Iceberg. Well deserved.
The surrealist: Katie Eary. Kinetic prints in eye-searing prints recalling 1970s surfers-on-acid psychedelia are inspired by the likes of Jeff Koons and super-furry craziness in general. This is, after all, the designer KFC turned to, when it decided to challenge someone to create a capsule collection.
The conceptualist: Christopher Shannon. The references may be humble – Nineties street style by way of puffa jackets and joggers, placcy bags and cigarette packets – but the results are not. Winner of GQ’s first ever Designer Menswear Fund, Shannon’s work is bold and biting, intimate but fearless.
The philosopher: Matthew Miller. The collections can be highly political; all is not right with the world and Miller uses his resources to say that. Sometimes, it’s subtle, embedded in a streamlined utilitarian aesthetic. At other times, particularly in Miller’s use of text, it’s right out there.
The club kid: Nasir Mazhar. It started with hats – for Gaga, Madonna and Gareth Pugh. Now, inspired by the codes of London nightlife and by its music, East London-born Mazhar’s attitude-laden, logo-heavy joggers and crop tops offer a searingly honest presence on the schedule.
The dark horse: Pieter. The shapes are familiar but the cuts are so sharp they hurt and leftfield flourishes, like the slits on those trousers, keep you guessing. LCF graduate Sebastiaan Pieter interned with Raf Simons at Jil Sander before launching his own label and it sort of shows.
The knitmeisters: Sibling. The death of co-founder Joe Bates earlier this year has only increased the affection with which eternal rebels Sibling are regarded on the circuit. Shock and awe, colour and chutzpah, the rush of adrenalin you get at a Sibling show is hard to beat.
The juggler: Xander Zhou. Kimonos, onesies, halternecks and curiously fey pyjama suits – China-born Zhou deconstructs and exaggerates beautifully, blurring gender stereotypes in the process.