A Men’s Moment

By Jo Phillips

June 2022 London and there is a small set of shows for London Men’s fashion week. With Paris and Milan to follow London came first with a collection of shows and presentations that opened the season even if only in a small way. However, most interestingly, alongside the working designers, several student collections were presented and in many ways, it was this new breed of student that deserves the accolades. Find here a slight peek at each show in A Men’s Moment.

Heritage, Culture and childhood Holidays were subjects of much of the shows at London Fashion Week, but again as seen with the student shows these became far more politicized in their hands. In many ways, London is one of the only fashion capitals where integrating cultural histories, social and political comments in fresh and contemporary ways is expected and acceptable.

QASIMI

Military threads, desert nomads, sartorial subversion, technology with a soul and the natural camouflage of mirage horizons combine. Al-Qasimi twin of the original founder of the brand states “Legacy is not just about what you leave behind. It’s also what you do going forward.” The Tuareg people, as well as the Saharawi and the Sahel regions, act as the inspiration for the deep, unavoidable indigo hues that permeate this season’s collection. U.S. Army combat uniforms, Swiss army work jackets, Swedish army popovers, thermal zip necks and parachutes underpin the military tropes.

AGR

Aptly titled ‘Dripping in Colour’, is a true celebration of the brand’s journey: from handmade knits for Notting Hill Carnival to creating an exclusive capsule for Nike Town to now debuting at London Fashion Week. For this collection, creative director and founder, Alicia Robinson, seamlessly blends her signature designs, with new daring techniques and playful accessories.

The brand continues to find the balance between fine-tuning its existing techniques and trialling out new processes. This season includes more recycled denim and explores metallic foiling on crochet, with Robinson elevating her tye-dying and knitted pointelle lycra techniques. The collection’s staple pieces transition seamlessly from daytime beachwear to all-night dancing.

CARLOTA BARRERA

On December 26, 2001 Carlota visited Cuba for the first time. Since then, following several trips over the years, she has established an emotional connection with the country.

A collection inspired by personal experiences travel diaries, conversations with strangers and coffees with family friends. Buena Vista Social Club, Olga Guillot or Bola de Nieve are some of the soundtracks to these memories, which alongside the photography of Alex Webb or René Burri are some of the pillars of the collection. The life of downtown Havana, the rawness of the Malecón, the street music, the sound of domino tiles in Plaza Vieja, El Vedado, the markets, the open doors, the ‘colectivo’, the chats between balconies, Carmita, Bárbara, Giordano are some of the fragments from this collection. Natural fabrics such as cotton, lyocell or linen make their appearance, the latter proposed in three different versions; combined with silk, combined with cotton and in its purest form with fine striped prints. The colour palette, defined by bright tones such as blue, yellow and green, are mixed with white and brown, typical of Cuban culture.

CY ROBYN LYNCH

Images ©Chris Yates/ Chris Yates Media

Each season, Robyn Lynch digs deeper into her family wardrobe to find gems of inspiration. Though instead of the usual peek into her father’s chest of drawers, SS23 kicked off with an emotional heirloom originally owned by her mother. Back in the 1983, Susan Lynch flew to Mallorca with her friends and brought back a T-shirt as proof of the good times. With neon smiley faces scattered generously throughout, intertwined with various phrases referencing Lucy-fuelled raves, this dear, worn-out souvenir instantly brought feelings of joy to Robyn.

The humorous graphics of the Mallorca acid tee sparked a trail of thought which led Robyn on a thrilling eBay hunt for the ugliest, funniest, most charming souvenir T-shirts from all over the world. The show is a place where the Robyn Lynch boys are heading for hols next summer: an all-inclusive resort that’s somewhere very hot and very cheap.

This core story of the collection focuses on the big picture as she re-imagines mundane clothing items into elevated pieces. Instead of cheap cotton, Robyn imagines her pun-tastic T-shirt in light jacquard knit created in fine Italian yarn. Also, see semi-transparent crinkle nylon trousers, Miniature crab embroideries also appear on trousers and jersey pieces as abstract ornaments, adding texture and dimensions to classic menswear silhouettes. The towelling poncho is here reinterpreted as an elevated piece of outerwear executed in a two-toned bouclé.

JEKEUN

Designer Jekeun Cho philosophy is informed by his interest in psychology, specifically how we reconcile our internal self with the person we present to the world. The choices we make daily on what to wear extend beyond our wardrobes using an arsenal of clothes, masks, actions and behaviours we dress up for the world around us as the people we think we should be.

Subtly manipulated silhouettes, re-interpreting the power of traditional suiting and military tailoring, softened and rebalanced to embody the interplay of confidence and shyness. Bold and vibrant colours and prints are applied to further obscure the silhouette, referencing how outward expression can conceal what lies beneath. Tartan and stripes are a recurring theme through Cho’s work, orderly and well structured, but complex and distorted as they are applied onto the human form. Innovative knitwear techniques are developed based on the patterns and shapes of the human brain, inspired by MRI scans of depressed subjects, complex networks of connections, intersections, pushed and pulled across the skin. 

OLUBIYI THOMAS

Phoenix rising was the name of his collection this season reflecting his heritage as he was born in Lagos but raised in Glasgow. With time spent working at alexander McQueen after graduating from Central St Martins college see artisinal detailing mixed with raw edging and tailoring all presented with a dance event in the show. His designs explore archaic textiles and reinterpreting historical references. Elongated, tailored silhouettes that drape and layer exquisitely, with raw edges that complete the deconstructed avant-garde aesthetic.

TIGER OF SWEDEN

Swedish brand Tiger of Sweden came to London and presented ss23 in a showroom with images from the campaign and time to spend with creative director Bryan Conway.

Inspired by a photograph of a seventeen-year-old Conway on holiday in Spain, the collection celebrates chasing the sun and fun in all shapes in which it comes. Shot in Mallorca with a cast of models and local inhabitants, nostalgic nods are seen throughout. Revisiting archival designs synonymous with Tiger of Sweden’s DNA. The iconic Tiger head belt returns with reimagined design details, honouring design heritage whilst reshaping the brand aesthetic.

The collection forges a new playful path and designs rooted in Swedish minimalism. A contemporary muted colour palette of white, cream, grey and black sits next to vibrant accents of neon orange, aqua, fire and gold with statement prints courtesy of polka dots and animal print. See bold silhouettes, that sit in juxtaposition to refined elegance of more minimalist shapes and cuts. A collection that redefines the brand’s classics updates them with relaxed elegance.

YUZEFI

Following the cult-like success of Yuzefi’s coveted bags, Creative Director Naza Yousefi has expanded the brand’s ready-to-wear offering with a debut presentation during London Fashion Week. A muse on the juxtaposition between beauty and imperfection. Adjustable trousers and exaggerated silhouettes pave the way to fluid bias-cut dresses, crafted from the highest quality sustainable Japanese cupro. Translucent garments appear to float kinetically, delicately reflecting light as if it were water. The introduction of knitwear sees subtle hints of metallic woven through tops that twist at the neckline, unstructured but deliberate, mirroring details from the bags. Feminine stretched satin grazes the skin, offsetting voluminous structured jackets with hems cut short, a gentle nod to physicality. The colour palette of coral pink and contrasting red, was interspersed with natural creams and tonal browns. The new bags see bold styles with a playful edge; colours are rich and surprising; glitter is introduced, lime green and coral are interspersed with earthy tones.

80% of the collection is made from sustainable fabric or deadstock. The leather is produced by one of Italy’s most reputable tanneries which qualify for the Gold Leather Working Group standard, ensuring the highest sustainability ratings in all aspects of their leather production, from traceability and chemical use to worker safety and waste.

MARTINE ROSE

Martine Rose is always interested in the relation between fashion and our ordinary realities, and this season we began with every day, unthinking tussles we have dressing and undressing; Fighting to get into your own clothes, or trying to get into someone else’s. The clothing accidents involved urgent sexual encounters or hurried dressing afterwards.

Investigating how garments are pulled against the body and their resulting shape or attitude. Shrunken silhouette play with proportion, the torso is reduced to the body but the sleeves, collar and other details retain a correct fit. There’s a simultaneous constriction and roomy comfort. See clubby mini T-shirts with these ideas developed through tailoring and denim to a lightly padded sports jacket creating the illusion it’s too tiny to close and where the deliberately exposed lining zips up to fasten the garment instead.

This pressure and tension are also explored in tailoring, fabric is pushed up and held by its inner construction to sit ruched on the hips, the pocket bags are enlarged and pulled out and the trousers fit intentionally tight to rudely expose the fly. Usually discreetly hidden in the side or back of garments, the “invisible zip” is placed centrally, throwing the piece back to front. The garments are effectively double-backed, without invitation, and there’s a simplicity, austerity and minimal emptiness.

AHLUWALIA

‘Africa is Limitless’, is a masterful reminder of the magnificence and beauty of a culture, often distorted and hidden from view. A land of broad and diverse thinking, doing, and living. Ahluwalia’s ethos remains one of fusion and hybridisation; a proud interweaving of her dual Indian-Nigerian heritage that passionately resonates throughout her collections.

This collection was a process of elevating beyond the typical national colours and flag motifs steadfastly offered up a satisfactory representation of these cultures. It offers up new and timely interpretations inspired by everything from weaving, to their many superstar musicians, to the technicolour Sapeurs, album covers from Cote d’Ivoire, and the great and bountiful constellation of bright spots. Beaded elements draw on sources of inspiration from Kenyan and Rwandan cultures. Old vintage museum blankets from Tunisia inspire a respectfully redrawn and reinterpreted from knitwear, and other vintage textiles inspire unique prints. The blue and cream hues of Algeria’s stunning Notre Dame d’Afrique informed the collection’s colour palette. Find deadstock and vintage materials, as well as organic denim her lasered version a collection staple.

LABRUM

Another collection focusing on Heritage was British African Labrum. Telling the untold story of West Africa helps bridge the gap between western and West African cultures. This season he presented a collection where tailoring meets his Sierra Lione background. Think dandy soft coloured suiting offset by Reggae-inspired tall hats as the juxtaposition. Oversized diamond cut shapes appeared on suiting as if to highlight the swagger of gents cruising down the runway. Ulitmelty it felt like the meeting of different cultures here in multi cultural London.

JUSTIN CASSIN

Justin Cassin started his collection in Los Angeles USA. His signature is to ‘blur the lines between traditional and contemporary fashion and commands the attention of the modern cosmopolitan male, who is equally at home in the rugged countryside or downtown’. Long lines and a classic palette of white, black and greys adorned the catwalk this season, with shapes that were loose and longlined.

Westminster MA

This season both the MA and BA students of Westminster courses blew away many of those watching. Ideas, ideas and more ideas were expressed on the runways, but unlike many a student show although other famous designers could be referenced in some works what stood out so much for both sets of students were original thinking ideas and most of all emotions. Remember many of these young designers spent the majority of their courses working and learning in lockdown. And boy did this show, via very emotive collections of sadness pain and protection. The emotive response must be celebrated because from the heartbreak comes the utter joy of creativity.

Like many of the main designers, heritage was often expressed via shapes colours and texture from the Scottish highlands via the vast plains of Africa, but it was the wit, humour, love, pain, and laughter that stood out. Alienation felt like a strong emotion seen here via wrapped and costed clothes, a need to connect seen via transparent items. Recycled and awareness of waste seemed a big emotion share via patchwork, reused, upcycled or reformed, torn and shredded fabrics as well as deconstructed pieces. Sexuality also seemed a point of discussion seen via tailoring for men but shown on women with a trouser so low strung that they sat under the models bottom, or brocades used that could just have easily been a David Bowie tour outfit from the 1970s except these students don’t use those references. Shape and forms were manipulated beyond recognition and beyond mere sexuality.

Ultimately these two shows felt almost painful to watch as the emotions they experienced during the college period in lockdown was written on every trouser seem padding texture colour and cloth they used, they expressed themselves so clearly, it was both heartbreaking and breathtaking to watch. However, the plethora of ideas shows us this new breed of student has much to say about the world around them and will bring new fresh and interesting vitality to a somewhat tired industry.

AliceBrightmore

FangfangRao-Phoii

FanniFloraHenics


GeorgiaWilson

Guangyu Li1

Hsuantsai Chou

JasmineThompson

Jesse Lee

JuoyuWang

Lingshan Fan

MarcusWood

NaYeonKim

QianSun-Eric

YuhaoLi-Felipe

University of Wesminster BA

Yani Bridge, Catching the Wind.

Haemin, The path less travelled.

Lily Willan, Now then…

Grace Kwon, G O D S P E E D

Steph Birtles, Origami Blue.

Lucy Higgens, Cocoon.

Christy Higgs, Hand skills, connection and craft.

Eduardo Moreira, Arrebentas.

Maya Magnay, Subverting normality.

Owen Snaith, Scottish Pride: navigation, re-invention and collaborative craft.

Mel Hewgill, Sobreteixims

NAHNAH by Hannah Salmon, A Composition of Six Figures in Circles and Stripes

Jiao Xie, A world of my own.

Sarah Dowle, Giants Among Men. 

University of East London, ©Chris Yates/ Chris Yates Media

Omotoyosi Adekoya

Gaius Nwaiwu

Jack Murphy

Elizabeth Abimbola Majiyagbe

Kelly Ros Botero

Adetutu Owodunni

Mary Emebeyo

Letizia Miceli

Ivaylo Etimov

Angel Guardines

Maria Dumitriu

Erin Strange

Jovi-el Paul

Hemercia Quintas

Ravensbourne

Images Mathew Clark

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