The future of London Fashion Week Men’s has been a much-debated subject in the fashion industry for the past two years. With the announcement of the summer edition’s schedule, there have been many questions raised.
An industry in flux, designers are questioning how to present their collections to the fashion press and buyers. Is it in a standalone runway show biannually at fashion week? Is it direct-to-consumer? Are shows worth the money? These are just the fundamental questions surrounding presentation. Then you have to factor in the idea of consolidating menswear and womenswear, which has increasingly become the done thing—Burberry and J.W. Anderson both decamped LFWM from the womenswear edition in February and September.
Craig Green, WWD
Last season the standout shows were from Craig Green, Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY, Wales Bonner and Cottweiler. In a season when the heavyweights—J.W. Anderson, Tom Ford, Burberry, Coach, Moschino—had all absconded London for womenswear, New York and Milan, the emerging talents emerged from the cocoon of the chrysalis and blossomed into beautiful butterflies. Green’s fashionable poeticism wrung tears from his audience members; Wales Bonner’s academic research led her to the life of a migrant black man, rendered in sumptuous feminine-influenced tailoring; Cottweiler’s guests were plunged into the darkened bowels of the Natural History Museum where they were enthralled by a confident, mature offering that served as a breakthrough.
There are no signs of Green and Wales Bonner on the schedule this season. Green has been invited to be the guest designer at Pitti Uomo, the biannual trade event in Florence, Italy. Past guests have included Raf Simons, J.W. Anderson, Off-White and Gosha Rubchinskiy. Some have whispered that Grace Wales Bonner is Paris-bound, where she can join the upper echelons of creativity. Her work is already pervaded with a rich historicism that wouldn’t look out of place in the city.
Other rumours suggest that Cottweiler might follow suit. (I am uncertain their haute-streetwear aesthetic with homoerotic influences will gel as successfully on the Paris schedule but disrupters often make some of the best work.) But as of now they remain.
Away from designer decampments, the arrivals include Sharon Wauchob. The Irishwoman is restructuring her business to show newly-launched menswear alongside womenswear in January and June. Her last standalone womenswear show took place in February at London Fashion Week.
Furthermore, James Long returns as creative director of Italian luxury brand ICEBERG, which will open LFWM on June 8. He emerged as one of London’s most sought after talents in 2007, having studied at the London College of Fashion. He was the recipient of the inaugural NEWGEN Men’s sponsorship and also received the support of the British Fashion Council. He stopped showing in January 2016.
Elsewhere on next season’s schedule include brands like Xander Zhou, Per Götesson who have exciting ideas to express and are undeniably on the right track to become London’s next success stories. Also, there’s the ineffable craftsmanship of Daniel W. Fletcher and Christopher Ræburn, both equipped with sustainable approaches to ethical fashion. This isn’t to mention the likes of Phoebe English and Kiko Kostadinov, whose cerebral visions have energised the weekend in recent years. But do they have the ability to act as London’s life support?
Unquestionably, emerging talent is London’s lifeblood. Lulu Kennedy’s MAN show (the men’s division of Fashion East) will present, as always, a carnival of energy and effervescence. But in an overcrowded industry is there room for another Craig Green, Wales Bonner or Cottweiler? Has that time gone? Is it due to scattered press coverage or lazy fashion design, or both perhaps?
Reports show that, in the UK, the menswear market is set to outstrip the womenswear market and reach £16.2 billion by 2021. Does this serve as proof that London Fashion Week Men’s can secure itself on the international roster of fashion weeks? Are articles about the end of London Fashion Week Men’s fluff? I think so. If fashion week is held in hundreds of cities around the world, surely there’s a place for London among them. Given it’s pedigree as one of the Big Four, I suspect it’s here to stay.
Wales Bonner, WWD