London Collections: Men (Day 3)

Only JW Anderson can make the fashion crowd get up early Sunday morning and be glad they did. In one of his strongest collections to date, Anderson’s uniquely offbeat take on British heritage took a perverse turn in a show titled Age of Consent—inspired by, he said, mother-son incest. These mothers, you can’t help but imagine, are of the gin-soaked, aristocratic variety, and they give their sons free rein in their closets. Lantern-jawed models clad in headscarves wore haute-bourgeois cardigans and turtlenecks in lilac and camel. Someone ought to send one of the transparent lace pantsuits to Marc Jacobs—he’d adore it. T-shirts printed with teddy bears were just plain wrong, so naturally everyone in the audience wanted one.

Perhaps inspired by the squatters who, in 2009, took up residence in a Park Lane mansion, the Meadham Kirchhoff boys took over one of the toniest locations in South West One, filling it with grubby Disney duvets, fresh flowers and languid boys with dip-dyed hair. And the clothes? In an affirmation of fashion’s love affair with tender hooligans, they ranged from the laddish—tracksuits, sportswear, wooly hats—to the downright girlish—lacy blouses and faded florals.

Also swathed in blooms was newcomer T Lipop’s presentation. Inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead, models were given Rick Genest-esque skull face-paint and stood in coffin-like wooden wardrobes. Top marks for boundary-pushing, but among the rompers and acid brights there were actually some totally wearable drape-collared jackets. That seems to be the unofficial business strategy of many edgier designers here: the conceptual chutzpah draws people in, but the quietly brilliant design makes them place orders.

If MK and JW’s menswear looked a lot like womenswear, Pringle of Scotland has always designed womenswear that could easily pass for men’s. Not for nothing is Tilda Swinton, the label’s gloriously androgynous poster person. Eschewing heritage tropes in favor of some bracing Scottish Puritanism, camouflage knits, ultra-functional cagoules and zingy shots of tangerine and yellow came out in force. Somehow this reflected the label’s Highland history better than any amount of tartan could have.

While the innovators were innovating, there was a whole host of other things going on, of course. There was Margaret Howell, a woman who has pretentions to do nothing else than make the world’s best bib-front shirt, and did it superbly. Nicole Farhi’s show had some nice takes on vintage men’s underwear and also some surprisingly leftfield all-in-one boiler suits, the sleeper hit of the shows. And Savile Row resident Richard James enlivened his tailoring with a) sparks of orange and electric blue, and b) Sir Elton John, who sat front row wearing pistachio-green metallic shoes.

So there you have it, the inaugural London Mens’ Collections: incest, flowers and a Knight of the Realm. What could be more British than that?

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