Monday, April 30, 2018

Questions Raised About the Future of London Fashion Week Men's as the Summer Schedule is Published

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.
Cottweiler, WWD
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

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Prada's Updated Fearless Femininity // Fall 2018

In the recently opened Rem Koolhaas-designed extension at the Fondazione Prada in Milan, one rainy February night, Miuccia Prada unveiled her Fall 2018 womenswear show. Neon signs of Prada classics lit up the mostly dark show space. What did she have in store?

Something to sink our teeth into for starters. No, not the often questionably tasting hors d’oeuvres that Mrs. Prada’s preferred catering company produces. A fashion show with substance—those are alarmingly few and far between nowadays. 

I’ve had a bone to pick with Prada recently. Similar undercurrents were present in this womenswear outing too. The clothes of late have pandered to the unending desire to sell, or in this company’s case, to recover. Ailing profits are being resuscitated with the reintroduction of Prada signatures. Nylon. Prada Sport. The men’s show in January was dominated by those two tenets of Prada history. The Fall womenswear recalled the neon hues from and those softly curved shoulders from 2011. The accessories were reissues of other archival successes. Contextualised for 2018, they were marked with a freeing spirit, one with an intent on a kitschy humour. 
Having shed the bonnie romanticism of previous years—romanticism no longer, femininity is something she will never trade—this frostier Prada rendition is akin to the modern woman’s portrayal in the news, post-#MeToo. This being the darkest turn, the lofty layer she’s developed had finally come full circle, following November’s reports of sexual misconduct allegation and the subsequent claims in the months after.

The models marched with a sense of urgency. Amongst them were Amber Valetta and Sasha Pivovarova, veritably venerated veterans, and newcomers Kaia Gerber and Anok Yai—women of various descriptions.  Their clothes were marked with a practicality necessary to navigate daily lives. Swishy dresses and cropped trousers allocated for free movement; fabrics were chosen interestingly, nylon to reflect and plastic to counter rainwater. Coats were cut generously.

The colours used: flashy neons reminiscent of traffic lights. Familiar patterns of the urban landscape, alight and abuzz with evening commuters journeying home, appeared on dresses and jackets, as glowing loads on the road. They were rendered more simply in block colours, contrasted against sober greys, taupes and blacks. (Some of them however—with bucket hats and ponchos—were a stick away from being one of the crossing guards that guide children after school.)

Mrs. Prada is notably an ardent feminist and rarely shies away from stating her views. This season “it’s for the strength of women going out in violence. My dream is for women to be able to go out in the street and not be afraid.” These were Mrs. Prada’s nocturnal animals. Bold, fearless and lionhearted. It makes romance look so outdated.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Emma Charles & LFW's Party Girl Renaissance // Fall 2018

Champagne-guzzling attendees at Emma Charles’ party were treated to dancing models and a marvellous view of London at the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch during London Fashion Week in February. The clothes were decent too. And it wasn’t just the bubbles going to their heads after a long, first day of shows.

The Westminster grad launched her eponymous womenswear line in 2016 but she counts Preen by Thornton Bregazzi as her breakthrough role in the creative sphere. There were also stints at Tom Ford and Stella McCartney, in various capacities. The influence of Preen wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination suffocating, nor did they prevent Charles’ signature from shining—masculine-inspired womenswear, riffing on vintage garments. Cocktail dresses and tuxedo jackets contrasted nicely with the informality of sheer blouses and the patterned seashell embroidery. 
Throughout the show there were looks which resembled something from a wardrobe of yore but was somehow effortlessly modern. She diverted course from anachronism quite nicely. 

The emphasis on accessories this season is Charles’ effort at solidifying her presence on London’s schedule as a viable long-term fixture. They’re what made Simone Rocha stand out from her peers many moons ago. Carving an identity in this field will probably come naturally to Charles, a member of the Instagram generation, who understands that Instagram mileage is a useful tool in commerce.

Her reflection of femininity and modern day dressing, if not too on the formal side, was relatively accurate. Will she switch the format up next season though, reworking the context once again to prove herself? A party and an intimate hearth-side presentation under her belt, the malleability of the presentation formats nowadays will permit Charles to explore what best fits her going forward. But there’s definitely a party girl in the making. London’s cocktail dressing fatigue behind us, the 21st century party girl renaissance is here.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Sunnei Makes Intelligent, Ironic Menswear // Fall 2018

Much of fashion nowadays is entirely bereft of a sense of humour. It’s an industry of smoke, mirrors, fads and foppery but comedy isn’t something the po-faced pack seem to engage with—save for the oddly amusing detective work of Diet Prada or the Photoshop skills of meme account Siduations on Instagram.

Sunnei is a post-irony goldmine for the rags-to-riches success stories of SoundCloud, where Peeps and Pumps emerge like bacteria from soporific suburbs, the Instagram generation who mine the myriad of fashion inspiration accounts or the man who is in search of good quality basics. Sunnei doesn’t profess to be linked with one of the above factions, rather its open to interpretation, capturing the attention of the fashion industry’s attention in its wake. They began presenting at Milan Fashion Week in June 2016. 

Helmed by Lors Messina and Simone Rizzo, the Italian-French duo launched Sunnei in 2014 after quitting their day jobs. Stocked globally, their focus is on timelessness and an aversion to “sartorial boredom.” Conveniently, they have jumped on the ‘dad-core’ bandwagon—the thick-soled, 90s-inspired fashion statement that has dominated popular culture of late. Fanny packs, billowing work trousers, an unconventional understanding of styling. Dad dressing has skyrocketed to success—look no further than the clunky shoe craze propagated by Balenciaga, Vuitton and virtually every sportswear brand known to man. Bucket hats: they were seen here in a mushroom-like shape. Fanny packs, similarly, are everywhere, apexing with last year’s Supreme x Louis Vuitton collaboration, cementing them as ‘sick’; ‘sick’ being a preferred adjective of the streetwear disciples.

There is something more intellectual about Sunnei’s approach. Firstly, they took Maria Grazia Chiuri’s now infamous feminist slogan t-shirt and reworked the lettering to ‘We Should All Be Sunnei’, reasserting the pithy slogan rather than an empty political effort. Amusing, ironic, double-tap material. Moreover, they pick apart the theme of mundanity, which has been pervading fashion for a couple years now. Perfunctorily, the clothes achieve timeless while also appropriating 90s trends and dads’ wardrobes. 

Beige and blue, greige and green, the nostalgic colour palette echoes the direction men’s fashion, as dictated by social media, is taking.

With their clean lines and special attention to cut, Messina and Rizzo’s venture could succeed in the long-run but what happens when the consumer palette changes? Their ability to adapt will be crucial.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Fashion's Fragile Masculinity on Show at Emilio Pucci // Fall 2018

Throughout fashion month—at least one of the luxury brands—the audience witnesses what can only be described as fashion’s equivalent to fragile masculinity. Showing for the sake of showing.

 The cyclical nature of fashion has heightened in recent years, with the revolving door at fashion houses reaching an incomprehensible velocity. Haider Ackermann’s out at Berluti. Kris van Assche’s in at Berluti and out at Dior Homme. Kim Jones is in at Dior Homme and out of Louis Vuitton men’s. Virgil Abloh’s in at Louis Vuitton men’s. And that’s just the menswear industry. 

In Milan, there are shakeups with womenswear. Gaia Trussardi announced her departure from the family business. And most notably, Emilio Pucci, the house which spun a 180 degree turnaround from the hedonist vixen Peter Dundas created to a quieter, cerebral gamine by Massimo Giorgetti, is without a creative head. The studio team were responsible with crafting the Fall 2018 show in February.

Inspired by the brand’s history in America, the studio team drew inspiration from Los Angeles in the fifties, when Marilyn Monroe was acting, the jet-set were destined for some far-flung locale bedecked in palazzo pants and eye-catching graphic prints. The breeziness they aimed for, the Californian insouciance would’ve been better suited to a spring season. Puffers, ponchos and parkas don’t scream West Coast. That’s not to say their beachy elegance, often glamourised with big sunglasses, opera gloves and headscarves wasn’t entirely unsuccessful. It contrasted nonchalance with polish, private lives and public lives.

The clothes were all right, inoffensive and recognisably Pucci. What they sorely lacked was a directive vision. What an anonymous studio team can’t do that a creative director can is fabricate a believable narrative and inject it with their passion and past. Without this, there’s an awkward hollowness. They spoke of Marilyn and Old Hollywood but there weren’t many connections established between the references and the clothes. 

It’s embarrassing really—behind-the-scenes, people put in copious amounts of work to make the show happen but all anyone can think about is who will be the next artistic director. What’s the point? 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Karl Lagerfeld's Prevents Fossilisation at Fendi // Fall 2018

“I’m constantly moving, which stops me from navel-gazing all day and becoming fossilised,” said Karl Lagerfeld in a recent interview with Numero. (In the same interview he reveals his qualms with #MeToo, his self-deprecating sense of humour, and incisive and uncompromisingly exact responses to the interviewer’s vaguer questions.) Perhaps this is how the German has outlasted his peers, designing at Fendi since 1965, his eponymous label since 1974 and Chanel since 1983. 

At Fendi, for Fall 2018, he underscored his tireless desire to explore the confines of modernity by opting to revive logo-mania and introduce a collaboration with Italian sportswear brand Fila.

Lagerfeld’s reintroduction of the interlocking F logo perhaps comes as a response to the vintage movement’s proliferation in recent years, the resurrection of the Baguette. Not to mention, the patronage of Kim Kardashian West, Gigi and Bella Hadid, amongst other social media stars, appearing in public and in photoshoots bedecked in the logo. Lagerfeld presented it in socks, fur-accented sweaters, dresses and—of course—accessories. The ‘FF Reloaded’ capsule as it is known was recently feted in London, commemorating its return.

The Fila engagement emerged in the advent of the Louis Vuitton x Supreme storm which shifted the landscape of luxury in 2017 and permitted streetwear a place in the context of high fashion. It’s why Virgil Abloh, who began by urbanising Ralph Lauren polos in the mid-2000s before launching his streetwear bait Off-White, the position of artistic director at Louis Vuitton’s men’s division. Scottish artist REILLY reworked the classic Fila logo, using the typography to recreate the Fendi logo. It reminded me of the tongue-in-cheek merchandise from a few years ago: Comme des Fuckdown, Féline, or Homiés, albeit driven much less by comedic effect. However, it’s Lagerfeld’s wry humour which allows such a stunt to work at Fendi.  

Elsewhere, away from the sportswear references and logo-mania, Lagerfeld investigated the modernity found in 40s classicism. Boxy shapes, swishy skirts and luxurious overcoats were all rendered in such precise tailoring that it looked undeniably modern. Not only that but it was the pinnacle of old world luxury, which contrasted nicely against the logo-mania and Fila facets. Charlotte Stockdale’s styling, which is often to the detriment of a Fendi collection, was brilliantly wrought this season, conveying a sense of both leisure and luxury. 

It was a Fendi show in which there was something for everyone. It tampered with cohesion but it oozed a sophisticated modernity that put it in a prominent position as one of Milan Fashion Week’s finest shows. No signs of fossilisation at Fendi.

Monday, April 16, 2018

In London, Toogood's Enthralling Presentation // Fall 2018

February 16 2018. The sun was setting nicely in Shoreditch. The blue skies overhead were a promising end to the opening day of London Fashion Week. A stone’s throw from the overground station is Redchurch Street, and a black building which is the flagship and showroom of Toogood, the family-owned venture by Faye and Erica Toogood who specialised mainly in furniture and ceramics but launched a unisex clothing which now counts nine collections. 

Their Fall 2018 show took place in their showroom, which is a warren of activity. You arrived to see the fleet or PR interns dressed uniformly in an off-white shade. The first sight of models inside were two women perched at a table, sipping tea on a patio space. Inside, the models stood like statues from Easter Island. Occasionally, they’d catch your eye, follow your gaze unrelentingly. It was as if you’d entered someone’s house uninvited. Everyone had seized and you wandered a domain that didn’t belong to you but you weren’t going to be asked to leave. You were an intruder. It was enthralling. 
Some models stood, tall and imposing. Others were seated, conveying a level of nonchalance that one would expect to see if you were watching television. It showed the models’ comfort in their surroundings and the way they’d look at the viewer was as if it had been disrupted. 

The clothes were excellent too. The patterns studied the stratified layers of the earth’s soils, the clothes themselves rejected the “unsustainable turnover of flighty fashionistas, who rework themselves in transient faddery with every passing season.” They were all in muted, earthy tones of pewter, aged soil and wintery greys. They concerned themselves with physical layering also, the idea of warmth and protection emanating from them in a timely manner—I didn’t view it as a response to the post-Trump landscape, rather in the context of the environmental disaster humankind has created. It was reported recently Ireland’s households account for the worst carbon emissions in the European Union; the collapse of ocean currents is a catastrophic possibility and daily we learn of animals’ extinction. These clothes enveloped the frame, in order to shield the wearer from the dark times ahead, while also engaging with natural themes. 

“Our revolution is evolution, incremental and rugged like the very land itself.”

Friday, April 13, 2018

5 Questions with... Mimma Viglezio

First published 19/07/2016

As a fashion lover, SHOWstudio’s live panels are an endless source of entertainment. At an hour long each, the panels enliven my fashion week. A regular fixture on SHOWstudio is Mimma Viglezio. The freelance consultant and editor-in-chief of Lula magazine is often featured on the live panels and hosts her own ‘Head to Head’ series on the site.

I finally met Mimma in February at London Fashion Week. I instantly recognised her from the videos she’d been in. I met her a few times over that weekend. On the way home from a day of shows I picked up my first issue of Lula, which happened to be Mimma’s first issue as editor. I was more than impressed with the content. I’m a huge fan of the cover star Greta Gerwig, and Anna Foster’s editorial in Istanbul was sublime. Not only does the magazine contain beautiful imagery, but there are thoughtful written pieces interspersed throughout. She no longer edits Lula. She is now the Editor of SHOWstudio.

Mimma’s has led an incredible career in communications, marketing, consultancy and now she’s on the editorial side of things. I wanted to interview her for this series because of her wealth of experience, and hopefully these questions captured that.

I hope you enjoy 5 Questions with… Mimma Viglezio.
1: Who/what inspired you to pursue a career in the fashion industry? What did you study?

To be honest with you I never chose fashion, it rather chose me. I was the Executive Director of Global Communications for Bulgari in Rome and LVMH started hunting me. Eventually I accepted the job and my adventure in fashion began. I studied Italian and English literature and wanted to be an academic scholar. I started one year of PHD studies after my degree and felt I was slowly fading away sitting in libraries all day. So I went out in the world and started working in communications which seemed to me the closest to who I was. I was writing and talking and reading and creating, that is how it all started.

2: You were named editor-in-chief of Lula last year; what has been the most challenging aspect of editing a magazine?

I did not know, at 50, if I was able to be an editor, therefore the first meetings were terrifying. I accepted the challenge because I thought it was a way for me to have a voice and I am absolutely loving it.

Today, we manage to put together a magazine with a few staff and little means so we always have to find solutions and be creative, but it is a loved title, therefore we are encountering enthusiasm and willingness to participate within the industry, brands and creative talent alike.

3: The statement 'print is dead' is often used; why do you think print media is important in 2016?

It counter balances digital. Print is slow, digital is fast. People like a magazine as an object, they take more time to read or study it, they keep it. We love and need digital for the width of the possibilities it gives us, but print is not dead and never will be. 

4: What advice do you have for those aspiring to pursue a career in communications and marketing in the fashion industry?

There are no secrets: work hard! Keep your eyes and ears always wide open, believe and never give up. Don't choose fashion because you think it's cool, choose a job because it is the only thing you want to do or you feel you are able to do. If this is the case, you will succeed. 

5: Finally, what are your thoughts on the current state of the fashion industry?

It is an industry that is slowly realising it needs a total make over. The old power is confused by the new generation dictating new rules that are more relevant and in tune with young consumers and the today world. They try to adapt but they hold on to what they know and to their power that basically comes from access to unlimited funds. 

But it is changing notwithstanding, and that is not a good thing, it is a marvellous one. People like Demna Gvasalia or Alessandro Michele are liberating fashion and giving us the right to be who we want and look how the hell we please to, that is enough for me to sing "hallelujah". In the process they create amazing fashion that will go down in history books, like Andy Warhol did when he first shocked the establishment by painting Campbell cans...

There has never been (in my time) a more exciting time for creativity.
All images are my own

Thursday, April 12, 2018

J JS Lee // Fall 2018 // Menswear

J JS Lee came up in the same class as Simone Rocha, Thomas Tait and Matthew Harding (one half of palmer//harding). They emerged at a time when the London scene increasingly spotlighted vibrant young talent and perhaps the timeliness of their arrival cemented the longevity of their careers. It’s been 8 years and all four remain in business. 

J JS Lee broke onto the womenswear scene with a minimalist collection in the height of the stealth wealth era. (It seemed to be the trend among graduates at the time. Their research was centred on channelling emotions into clothing, intensely focusing on craft, as opposed to scavenging for likes on Instagram. Times change, expectations too.) After stints on the London Fashion Week schedule, she recently debuted a menswear collection at London Fashion Week Men’s. She presented at the DiscoveryLAB at 180 the Strand, which is “an experiential zone for thinkers, makers, explorers and innovators across the landscape of technology, fashion, art and performance.” 
A film by Tezo Don Lee, entitled ‘A Singular Interview’ played on screens. At two and a half minutes, the short film follows a gentlemanly scholar interviewing a pinstripe-clad man. It segues into the young man sitting in a theatre, watching ‘The Late Night Show with Finn.’ Throughout, there is a sense that the subject is boyishly shy, perhaps even nervous but in the final scene he marches confidently down a corridor, suitcase and golf clubs in hand, halting and pivoting to see what is behind him.

Wordless exposition is the art of film and one gleans a clear sense of the J JS Lee man from watching the film. One imagines him in a pastoral setting, surrounding by canines at the fireside, reading Hopkins, studying the intricacies of sprung rhythm or perusing the Financial Times—whatever catches his fancy. The clothes are supportive of this claim. Prim and proper like her womenswear, not overly fussy and concerned with a perfunctory charm rather than a gaudy exclamation. But the clothes weren’t as they seemed. 

They toyed with traditional lengths and cut—suspenders were built into double-breasted pinstripe suits and created Y shapes on the back; shoulders were enlarged to give a feminine touch; other sleeves were separated from the bodies of jackets, it was one of the more trend-led pieces but it bore a non-conformist edge regardless. 

The subtle alterations to the conventional 50s menswear uniform and boxy shapes is seemingly the direction of J JS Lee Man. The latest venture from the South Korean designer could perhaps be complemented should she place her menswear in the context of her womenswear. It would be interesting to see the aesthetic and perhaps solidify the aesthetic of the world in the way Margaret Howell has recently consolidated her menswear and womenswear—Lee and Howell are aesthetic bedfellows. 

Continuing the experimentation with film could be paramount in her success in fashion—truthfully, it worked. It made efficient use of its limited time and captured the crux of her menswear. And it was entertaining.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Xu Zhi // Fall 2018 //

Xuzhi Chen’s label Xu Zhi appeared for the first time on the womenswear schedule at London Fashion Week in February. Taking over the Swiss Church on Endell Street, Chen was fixated on a love story from the olden days, and the relationship between model and muse.

February wasn’t Chen’s first outing in London. He studied womenswear at Central Saint Martins before enrolling in two of London’s recent success cases, where commercialism and creativity are balanced: J.W. Anderson and Craig Green. In September 2016 he showed an off-schedule presentation inspired by French artist Claude Monet. He was invited to Milan Fashion Week for February 2017 and the following season he was a fixture at Shanghai Fashion Week, where he recently returned for a pop-up display.
The pop-up display in Shanghai didn’t have the same effect as seeing those models, lounging about, standing in Chen’s brushstroke-print outerwear. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a British poet and painter, was ‘obsessed’ with Jane Morris, a British model and embroider. A muse to pre-Raphaelite artists, it was her “dark romance” which drew Chen into her clothes. He reflected this in a mostly sombre palette of dark green, navy and soft shades of porcelain and orange (an obvious nod to Rossetti’s 1879 painting ‘The Lady of Pity’). 

It would be a bit unoriginal though—wouldn’t it?—a collection inspired by an artist and the only motif present is brushstrokes printed on dresses and coats. He used tassels on some pieces to create painterly shades through a different medium. It was an enriching, tactile touch to the collection which also nodded to Jane Morris’ preferred craft. 
In terms of its clothing there was a strong selection on display. It was commercially viable and there was an insistence on modesty with the styling. Although it didn’t quite come off as potently in the presentation as it did in Lucy Norris’ show notes, the pertinence of the ‘model and muse’ relationship is incontrovertible post-Weinstein. Boundaries can no longer be blurred. In the #TimesUp era we find ourselves in, responsibility and accountability are hand in hand. The landscape has shifted and perhaps the art will too.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Per Götesson // Fall 2018 // Menswear

Swedish wunderkind Per Götesson was given the opportunity to present his Fall 2018 menswear show in the environment it would eventually end up in eight months later: the Machine-A. 13 Brewer Street, in the heart of Soho, houses the standalone boutique, founded by Stavros Karelis and co-run with stylist Anna Trevelyan. Karelis headhunts fresh talent from around the globe and stocks emerging brands exclusively in the store. One of them is Per, a recent graduate from the menswear programme at the Royal College of Arts and the incubator facility MAN, under Lulu Kennedy’s renowned tutelage.

“I wanted to explore notions of modern masculinity,” he declared. It has been something which has formed the basis of his work, with four seasons under his belt now. He subverts conventions and his output is rather captivating, colourful and creative. He distinguishes himself from the gender-defying menswear movement by specialising in oversized and undersized garments which create these unconventionally stylish moments—it’s akin to a painter’s trousers, distressed with paint drops and colourful smears, his clothes belong to the creatively-inclined. 
He based his fall study on “attraction, sexuality, desire, what is concealed and what is revealed.” Sensuality rested at the surface without becoming overt. Götesson expressed himself in familiar terms—oversized trenches for covering up, a decortiqué lilac sweaters (Galliano, the trend disseminator) showing off. There was something so casual, yet so beautiful, in the way an oversized safety pin was used to gather a sweater, or the slight sheerness of printed shirts. 

Each of the looks were placed within plywood frames, stuffed with fabric. It placed fashion in an artistic context, the way Faustine Steinmetz did in the beginning. By situating the show in a store, as opposed to the museum or gallery venues Steinmetz had over the years, Götesson’s creative realm collided with the commercial realm. It was believable. 

One vest was comprised of bottle caps. Coca-Cola. Diet Coke. Alcoholic beverages: Sol, Corona. Cheap and cheerful. (In 2016, he told i-D, “there is always time for a couple of pints.” Clearly.) These were handcrafted by Husam el Odeh, a German fine art graduate based in London. He was also responsible for the silver wire tiara which adorned a model’s crown, encased in a wooden frame. These pieces, although crafted from metal and wire, were the most delicate which is a gesture towards modern masculinity if anything. They were worthy of an archive, but also they possessed an innate ability to be translated into something more commercial which is the biggest challenge facing experimental menswear designers nowadays. 

Friday, April 6, 2018

MaxMara // Fall 2018 //

The Italian classicism that underscores much of Milan Fashion Week’s offering is arguably its downfall. Where is the modernity? The answer, this season past, was found in Alessandro Michele’s Gucci, the Moncler collaboration project and the emerging talents such as Erika Cavallini, and Francisco Risso who helms Marni. One storied house is changing things up, however, distancing themselves from the constraints of classic Milanese fashion with a renewed spirit and an enlightened vision of women: MaxMara.

Black, Asian and Hispanic identities have become increasingly present on their runway. They made headlines in the Fall 2017 season when Hijab-wearing model Halima Aden was selected to open their show. This gives the brand’s work an entirely new context. It’s transportive too—gone are the days of solely catering to the white Italian woman, this is gambit for the socially aware social media generation and the generation that came before them, an attempt to win a new base by simply representing more people. Of course, diversity isn’t about quotas. This gesture is a rather natural progression which fits with the brand identity. After all, it is famous for its camel-coloured coats and luxurious outerwear, something which can slot into the wardrobe of any woman. 

Plenty of that was on show—they used the finest furs, lustrously luxe leathers and decadent animalia. It was a bit dated, a nineties regression of sorts. It was both in line with trends and its identity as a brand. They traversed numerous decades, appropriating styles. Each look was like an individual time capsule. It was a pleasurably pinball from decade to decade but ultimately it was a blow to cohesion.

It was a mostly black and grey affair with few pops of colour. Where colour did emerge it was the most eye-catching and captivating moments. Fran Summers’ sharp-shouldered dusty rose, double-breasted suit jacket felt like an ode to the eighties; this expression of womanhood was rampant in Milan. American model Cara Taylor was ravishing in a blush-hued slip dress and Pepto Bismol pink fur coat which hewed on forties styles. In a dark show space, with a predominately dark colour palette, these moments of lightness were rare life forces in an otherwise forgettable show.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Xiao Li // Fall 2018 //

Xiao Li means business. Scores of fashion folk flocked to her pop-up event at Shanghai Fashion Week last week and at her on-schedule show at London Fashion Week in February, she declared, loud and clear, that the tides were turning. A new direction.

Firstly, she changed PR companies. She now works with The Lobby London, founded by Ella Dror, which also manages other emerging London talents such as Roberta Einer, Marta Jakubowski, Mimi Wade and a slew of other buzzworthy names. Secondly, stylist Anna Trevelyan was employed to put her spin on Li’s sustainable wears. Resultantly, they exuded an emphatic exuberance that characterises Ms. Trevelyan’s poppy style. 
What remained the same was Li’s wry sense of humour and playfulness. There may have a thumping techno soundtrack and a new team, but the brand’s core values refused to shift. This was important. 

70s skate culture and the highly-saturated photography of Hugh Holland were the starting point for Li. Her louche silhouettes and pastel palette sought reference in the decade. There was burgundy and bubblegum, contrasted with cobalt and indigo.

By way of this American expedition, she looked at the neon road signs of Los Angeles. While it wasn’t Bruce Nauman, she crafted quirky prints and emblazoned them on outerwear—a commercial proposition for the follower-touting Instagram generation, no less. Illustrations of ollie-launching skateboarders and ‘Car Wash’ signs permeated a sense of frivolity. 
But Li has always been a politically aware designer, subverting the parameters of high fashion and subtly imbuing her clothing with references to the political landscape. She’s tackled the proliferation of GMO foods, the saturation of social media, sustainability as a means of operating rather than a trendy statement and the positives associated with it. Here she explored the “manic pace of American culture” and finding an antidote to that in the city of Los Angeles. With every news bulletin, it becomes strikingly apparent that slowing this pace down is virtually impossible. Sociopolitical turmoil is abound, despite encouraging economic prospects, in a country led by the controversial President Trump. Xiao Li, a small London label, has her say.

“The way of life and attitude of Los Angeles is really inspirational in the way that there’s a place for everyone, and it is a place everyone can be accepted for who they are. It is a city full of hopes and dreams where everything seems possible.” With an attitude like that, and a drive like Li’s, the sky is the limit. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Merchant Archive // Fall 2018 //

Merchant Archive 

Sophie Merchant had trained as a dental hygienist but she launched Merchant Archive, a vintage marketplace, on the brink of the economic downturn, in 2007. She specialised in selling celebrities, stylists and designers a selection of vintage clothing and jewellery. Due to high demand and the encouragement of her peers, she launched her first shop in Queen’s Park before opening her current outpost on Bloomsbury Street (by way of Kilburn Lane). Also in high demand was Merchant’s curatorial vision. She launched a collection of her own designs for Spring 2015 and was immediately stocked by Net-a-Porter. Fast forward three-and-a-half years and she’s presenting at London Fashion Week at the disused Averard Hotel at Lancaster Gate. 

Historicism-infused modernity is the modus operandi. In a way, a Merchant Archive show is like a jaunt to a vintage trader’s shop. You venture in, searching for something or nothing but ultimately finding something you want, whether it’s what you set out to find or not. As with most vintage stores there are some things you wish weren’t revived, best left in the epoch they derive from—the peplum waist and A-line trousers. As with most vintage stores there are items you wish were on-trend again—jewel tones and 50s-inspired silhouettes. Most importantly, as a fashion show is a proposition to the consumer, they are left to choose how to style the pieces which is what defines a modern look. 

Given the emphasis on reference, Merchant’s clothes aren’t particularly groundbreaking but they are forward-thinking. She is compelled to create clothes that are worthy of future archival. It contrasts with many nowadays who are more concerned with the Instagram moment than longevity, which is obviously where her business acumen is at play.

What’s pleasant about Merchant Archive’s presence on the London Fashion Week schedule is its restraint: it doesn’t force itself into the fashion conversation, its clothes are centred on quality and craftsmanship with historic references without being overwrought, kitschy or attention-seeking. And to their advantage, in years to come these are the kinds of clothes you’ll expect to see in secondhand shops, the cycle beginning anew.