On Friday, Martine Rose livened up an understated start to London Collections: Men with a collection filled with what I called “Rather Wrong, and Possibly Very Wrong”.
That lurking Wrong-ness – the pervasive sense of disruption and provocation which fuelled so much of the weekend’s aesthetic turbulence – reached a crescendo on the final day of the showcase, with collections by designers as disparate as Meadham Kirchhoff and J.W. Anderson. Both Fashion East alumni, their sensibilities are poles apart (Anderson’s tactile sensuality which has gradually honed from improvised ease to refined abstraction, whilst the Meadham Kirchhoff boys specialise in dense, complicated, dazzlingly-detailed intimacy); but their Summer 2013 collections summed up London’s stubborn determination to drag menswear into new territories.
Anderson recently expanded into womenswear, riffing first on the notion of girls borrowing boys clothes, and then increasingly on a stylised androgyny which suppresses gender within stiff, sturdily asexual shells. Today, though, the problem of gender was back, in a collection tellingly titled “Age of Consent”; and this time it was boys borrowing from girls which set the agenda. Models walked down the mirror-slick ICA runway in hip-hugging flared trousers with coordinating t-shirts, or sheer lacy pyjama suits, or knitted twinsets, with headscarves and dangling handbags emphasising the brand’s swerve towards transgression. But it was the mixture of deliberateness and almost accidental nonchalance which made it so intriguing – a kind of “why not” approach to dressing which questioned why a man mightn’t be just as likely as a woman to reach for a wraparound bubblegum pink overcoat , or a head-to-toe turquoise pantsuit. The overlapping cuts and dropped hems and clashing proportions which animated the collection drove home that sense of uneasiness, generating boldly unfamiliar sculptural shapes (or, to be precise, shapes that were unfamiliar on men).
The last few pieces, though, showed the point of all those visual games; a sequence of low-key black suits which moved on from the theatre of the catwalk to the simple question of what men could actually wear. In this case, it was judo-style wrap tops tucked into fluid trousers; a straightforward, accessible ending which emphasised that Anderson – as well as generating buzz – is also in the business of selling clothes.
-words by John-Michael O’Sullivan