Now in its fourth year, London Collections: Men (LC:M) has truly come of age. While, internationally, it might still be regarded as an upstart, it’s one of menswear’s foremost global events where press, buyers and the public can see some of the best menswear in the world; clothes that combine genuinely creative and forward-thinking ideas with the tailoring excellence that London is known for.
There were conflicting moods at this season’s event, as ever. Savile Row and its tailoring houses continued to present their slick, sharp vision of contemporary tailoring, while the East London designers continued to show boundary-pushing concepts. Meanwhile, at the brands that traditionally sit somewhere between these two extremes, there were two clearly divided camps.
First up, the stuff that makes the headlines. Acid house themes were everywhere at this season’s shows, from the colours and overall vibe of Lou Dalton’s Hacienda homage to Jeremy Deller’s orchestral rework of 808 State at Dunhill.
Dalton’s mix of psychedelic ginghams, Prince of Wales checks and bright cyan and orange left a lasting impression with attendees, while her focus on the Harrington blouson turned out to be a precursor to one of the defining garments of the weekend.
James Long took this musical obsession to supernova heights with an homage to Glastonbury circa 1993. His collection was a delicious mix of materials, colours and textures that evoked a true hippy vibe while still demonstrating the designer’s knitwear prowess.
In a collection that blended tailoring with sports-inspired shapes, Long showcased his strongest line for a few years, and one that will doubtless influence many high street designers by the time SS16 rolls around.
Topman Design also took a distinctly music-inspired route, gleaning inspiration from the infamous Northern Soul hangout Wigan Casino, resulting in a collection that was influenced by the 1970s but again channelled it into a festival-ready set of garments.
Henry Holland’s debut menswear showing was also seaside-based, collaborating with renowned subversive photographer Martin Parr for a collection that, like Holland himself, screamed fun.
While Sibling took the prize for most outré with a showing of American jocks in jocks (that played with notions of masculinity as much as with tailoring), it was designers like Christopher Shannon and Casely-Hayford that best translated this distinctly hedonistic, technicolour vibe into tailored garments.
Casely-Hayford’s offering took nu-rave-inspired geometrics and overlaid them onto softly tailored separates, while Shannon’s collection read like a ‘best-of’ his work – which is definitely a good thing.
The ‘best-of’ vibe pretty much summed up the second trend from the shows. While some designers went all-out with colours and ideas, many chose to sharpen up their classics and offer a pared-back, minimal collection that while being commercial and an undoubted hit on the rails, occasionally resulted in a frustrated journalist moaning about having nothing to write about.
Agi & Sam was a case in point: their collections, usually so redolent of youthful experimentation, clever tricks and tailoring excellence, fell a little flat, yet it resulted in probably some of their most wearable garments for some seasons.
Matthew Miller played the same hand, stripping back his political agenda for a collection that displayed his talent for Margiela-esque texture and tailoring cut.
Further into classic territory were accomplished collections from YMC, Oliver Spencer and Christopher Raeburn.
All blended sportswear influences with tailoring excellence, while retaining a little of their brand DNA and demonstrating that yes, they can make clothes that will sell. Although exciting colours and revealing shapes are great to look at on the runway, it was these labels that showed the kind of thing that consumers will actually buy into come next summer.
Jimmy Choo and Paul Smith both simultaneously used trick bicycle riders to showcase their clothes, albeit in different ways.
The Choo presentation showed pieces that crossed the sports-formal divide, and would happily be found in any discerning man’s collection, while Paul Smith’s versatile travel-ready suits were effortlessly displayed by a stunt rider in a hanger-like Mayfair gallery.
Speaking of tailoring, Richard James’ effortless use of prints provoked much salivating amongst his front-row guests, while Dunhill’s exercise in Britishness will undoubtedly provoke a similar reaction in stores across the globe.
Several others showed a collection that whispered normcore, in vibrant 1970s hues and simple, sharply cut pieces. Margaret Howell’s was sublime – classic tailoring and French gardener chic at its very best.
Sitting in perhaps a slightly different vein were three headline designers. Craig Green’s gently evolving ideas and sense of his label showed what he does best, and proved that he is undoubtedly one of the breakout stars of LC:M.
Meanwhile, J.W.Anderson, some years ahead of Green, showed his androgynous, minimal tailoring is clearly one to buy into if you have the confidence and body type to rock it.
And then there was Burberry. Christopher Bailey’s design is, naturally, a gentle evolution of the tailored classics that the brand is renowned for.
However, the spectacle that is created every season, couple with a renewed interest in texture (particularly the liquid silks and lace detailing), showed that if there’s one show to see at LC:M, it is of course Burberry Prorsum.