There was a noticeable shift between the first and second days of the London Collections shows. Day 1 was a gentle overture, with refined, classic tailoring undermined with subtle provocation and jarring dislocations; but Day 2 (kick-started with Sibling’s visceral, high-volume knits and armoured surfaces) was a no-holds-barred jolt into the future.
It’s fascinating to see how much the city’s menswear scene has fractured in the space of a few short seasons; seven years after Fashion East first launched its’ MAN group show, its’ latest crop of designers presented three very distinct aesthetics – but shared a common ground of searingly contemporary youthfulness that stood in stark contrast to the silhouettes and sensibilities of the initiative’s early shows. Back then, challenging sartorial traditions and evolving new strains of menswear out of the embers of the past were the dominant forces, driving towards a new definition of British masculinity which has now grown comfortably familiar; but the next generation are aiming for a very different territory.
It helped that two of the three are foreigners: California native Shaun Samson, and the Danish Astrid Andersen. It made for a freer sensibility (or, perhaps, just a different set of preoccupations). And it also helped that this is the trio’s second time showing together: it seemed as though, by osmosis, fragments of language and surface had filtered between each collection, stamping them with a common identity of loose layers and gently vivid colour. Andersen built on her full-throttle, locker-room debut with an at-times-startlingly delicate assembly of sheers and lace and flocked wools, twisting archetypal performancewear shapes and details into something that felt far more subversively luxurious, whilst Samson replaced his show-stopping blanket-wool fusions with a quiet, almost monochrome sequence of flat-cut planes and gently fluid shapes. And sandwiched in between, Agi & Sam’s charmingly eccentric tailoring – which should by rights have been the most wittily conventional – managed to skate far closer to the edge than previously, with an eclectic mix of models in tapestried patterns and broken planes acknowledging the often uncomfortable relationship between youth and maturity.
There was still plenty of clear space between each collection’s intentions, from melancholy grunge-inflected androgyny to athletic intensity to disturbing father figures. But as a group force they shared a powerful sense of possibility; in the best possible way, it would be amazing to think that – another few seasons down the line – this, too, could be another wave of designers’ definition of normal.