Having just moved to the UK, the Spring/Summer 2014 London menswear collections were particularly significant compared to those I’ve reviewed in the past. It’s often difficult to articulate an experience when it’s only just beginning, but my initial impressions of London have all been qualified by their stark difference to my native Toronto. Wearability is a term that verges on irrelevant here, because people seem to wear whatever they want (however outrageous). It’s almost as if this deference to personal style has resulted in an unflinching public, a collective lack of surprise towards even the most eye-catching of outfits. My favourites from the menswear showings all seemed to be screaming for that discerning attention. The commonplace was made new again through detail and shape, but it was in this calculated subtlety that I couldn’t help but look twice. Maybe over time I’ll become just as jaded, but the London designers have certainly provided ample eye candy to hold me over in the mean time. Continue reading for the best of London menswear from the Spring/Summer 2014 collections.
Agi and Sam are Growing Up
Agape Mdumulla and Sam Cotton’s most recent offering for Agi and Sam was most remarkable for its flanking ends. The opening and closing set of looks marked a departure from the flamboyant prints which have always constituted the brand’s identity, relying instead on a kind of restraint indicative of where Mdumulla and Cotton are currently at in the careers.
The burgeoning brand can’t really be characterized as such anymore, especially in the wake of a new collaborative collection with Topman, and an ever-expanding list of stockists. This new chapter translated into a kind of novel austerity. The prints were often just as busy, but a muted palette of greys and blacks suggested that the Agi and Sam man is sobering up.
As a result, silhouette fabrication became the most important message communicated by the collection. From the layering of cropped wool coats over slick back nylon, to the all-white stunner which closed the show – there was also a less literal emphasis on androgyny relying less on bold prints and patterns and more on shape. The coats worn as dresses to expose the male models’ bare legs were perhaps the most obvious incarnation of Agi and Sam’s newfound penchant for a quieter kind of androgyny, with a jarring contrast of a black leather oxford pointing to the fact that we are not dealing with little boys anymore.
James Long’s Cycle Fit
Stripes and mesh were the two main stories as James Long showed his spring collection in London. Pretty straightforward on paper, but Long turned these ideas on their heads to produce one of the best collections shown that week. In seasons past, Long’s collections for spring have always tended to be sportier than his visions for fall. This dichotomy was pushed to the absolute extreme with pieces that evoked notions of cycling gear, from the year 3013… on the planet Mars.
The textiles and their manipulation were emphatically futuristic, from the otherworldly mesh rendered in the form of sweaters and bomber jackets, to Long’s decoupage approach to his prints. Cryptic messages were cut and reassembled in a stripe formation on everything from knitted sweaters to zip-up cycling tops. Next up for Long is fall, and while the designer has tended to reserve his sportier side for spring, the reception to this triumph may see him demonstrating a bit more consistency in seasons to come.
More Brilliance from Xander Zhou
To describe Xander Zhou’s spring collection in one word? Postmodern. The designer has always had an affinity for androgyny, but this season that affinity took a decidedly futuristic turn. Each model emerged onto the runway with a metallic choker, verging on fetish. If that wasn’t enough, PVC mini-dresses were one of the strongest themes throughout the showing – immediately sexual, but also incredibly graphic in their adoption of a clean and simple line.
The other postmodern element manifested in the form of a very evocative preoccupation with computer motifs. Coats were refashioned as scrapbooks of technology – featuring everything from Google web search results, to web player icons seeming to invite the viewer to “press play.” Is Zhou trying to say that technology is the new fashion? Maybe, but given the designer’s track record with conceptualism, nothing is ever that simple.
- James Lavapie