London Menswear Spring/Summer 2013: Chaps, Dandies, and Transients
This past week kicked off the first ever London Menswear catwalk shows and it was the perfect summation of the wide range and eccentricity of English fashion. Inspirations were present from across the board, from stately modern takes on English Prep, to an avant garde androgynous pastiche straight from the animated gifs of Tumblr. One of the most impressive elements of the collections was the extremely varied take on what comprises modern English fashion. As Patrick Grant, who showed his E Tautz collection, noted in a New York Times piece about the shows, designers have been exploring every facet of the English aesthetic instead of sticking to the molds they’ve become accustomed to: “The great thing about British fashion is that it is going in every direction,” Mr. Grant said. “In the past, people pigeonholed us as either dyed-in-the-wool traditionalists or streetwear designers, and they didn’t imagine anything in between. I think we have been a bit braver.”
English fashion has a long tradition of elaborate experimental designs that have been at the forefront of innovation while simultaneously changing what the mainstream perceives as wearable. Vivienne Westwood almost single-handedly ushered in the punk aesthetic while contemporary designers like Alexander Mcqueen continually pushed the boundaries and artistic decadence of modern fashion, and their influence was consistently present in a number of the menswear collections. This upcoming generation of English designers has really shown they’re creating some of the most otherworldly and forward thinking collections in modern fashion.
Design team Meadham Kirchoff presented their collection in an alternative venue comprised of a two room installation full of dingy mattresses, dollar store linens, and the leftover debris from a night of excess. It was an amazing blend of a Harmony Korine-esque post-rave squalor with a neon and floral color palette accented by dozens of dead roses and squatter fuselage. The look was an androgynous post apocalyptic gypsy dreamscape that combined Eastern tunics with American vintage sportswear, day glo Nikes, and multi-hued pajama bottoms and sloppy boy shorts. At least some part of the aesthetic was also reminiscent of the current Tumblr hyper-pastiche looks floating around the web, eliciting many URL in IRL moments. It was one of the most jaw dropping but also strangely organic collections this season, which completely shattered any semblance of conformity, as noted in this quote by half of the design team Benjamin Kirchhoff: “There is no idea of personal freedom or personal style anymore. It’s something people have lost in London and around the world.”
Sibling’s designs comprised another audacious collection that perfectly exemplified the tenacious experimentation of English designers. It was a futuristic take on hip hop tropes and tailored sportswear with bizarre headpieces and facemasks that looked like mutated q-tips or streamlined jousting masks. It was a decidedly white palette with tons of gold and gaudy accents with intricate knitwear designs and pants that very often resembled baseball uniforms cut below the knee. A lot of the designs reminded me of the Hood By Air homo thug designs that blend sleek urban sportswear with hyper-stylized minimalist touches that automatically invert any overtly masculine cues. There were even bling emblazoned baseball caps matched with a severely plunging neckline hoodie and exposed full body tattoos that were both subtlety threatening and a tad bit decadent twee. Overall it was such an interesting mix and match aesthetic that seems like a harbinger for every rapper’s wardrobe in maybe 2030 or so.
The New York Times