At a time of identity crisis for London, many designers, including Craig Green, and Hussein Chalayan, defiantly flew the flag for British men’s wear.
LONDON — The arrival of the new year has done little to quell the nerves about a London in flux. The economic and political future of Britain remains uncertain, and the battle over how the country should leave the European Union continues to rage.
It has prompted an identity crisis that spilled over into the first of the coming round of fashion shows, which began on Friday with London Fashion Week Men’s. After all, the old narrative of London as a global metropolis was an identity deeply woven into its designs.
So it was of little surprise that, last weekend, passionate questions around authentic presentations of self and voice, as well as explorations of artifice and mirage, were front and center on the runway. Here’s what shone through.
Next-generation stars grew up.
This season, the stakes were raised by some of the brightest young talents on the fashion week calendar: recognition, perhaps, of a need to boost their credibility outside of their home base.
Mr. Jeffrey’s prodigious talent was visible in both cut and construction, as was an effort to make his often outrageous styles more accessible.
The same could not be said of Art School, the gender non-binary collective that this season graduated from the bosom of Fashion East, a talent incubator. The designers Eden Loweth and Tom Barratt said they had been picturing models on the way to the opera, but it was still hard to imagine the exuberant explosion of silk slips, wobbly stilettos, hacked-up sweatshirts and bottom-skimming metallic tuxedos as actual clothes.
And then there was Samuel Ross of A-Cold-Wall, the most recent recipient of the Fashion Award’s prize for British Emerging Men’s Wear Designer and one of the most-watched names on the London scene.
Like Mr. Jeffrey, Mr. Ross has stepped things up a notch while looking to the news cycle. His show was inspired, in part, by the immigration crisis and the movement of people across bodies of water in Europe.
Models came down a runway adrift in inky black water, surrounded by growling dogs and dancers who slinked and sighed in the shadows. Constantly looking over their shoulders, they wore versions of the sportswear that has become this brand’s signature — hoodies, macs, protective utility vests and tailored tracksuits in muted tones — with reflective piping and compasses sewn into garments.
Technology grew in importance.
“Fashion has overdone nostalgia in an attempt to cash in on your impossible longing for a perfect you and perfect time, that doesn’t exist now and actually never did.” So read the show notes of Liam Hodges, a London men’s wear favorite, whose kaleidoscopic collection of tracksuits and T-shirts was inspired by the growing pains of “modern day cyborgs,” touching on ideas around evolving online and offline identities.
It was a theme also plumbed by Cottweiler, designed by Matthew Dainty and Ben Cottrell. Their latest collection, presented 12 levels down in a dank East End car park alongside moss-covered urinals, was a lament about the decline in face-to-face interaction (specifically cruising in parks), thanks to the rise of social media.
Techy tracksuits and multipocket outerwear in verdant hues, laden with cheeky touches like open flies, midriff hints and bottom-skimming zips, were framed by a 10-piece capsule collection of sleek raincoats made with the Italian label Allegri.