Dig out your stetson: Topman Design, the catwalk collection of the high-street brand, showed a western-themed spring/summer 2014 collection on Sunday as part of London Collections: Men, the flourishing men's fashion week.
Almost every look featured a satin cowboy shirt, and brogues had silver wing tips. There wasn't a pair of shorts – usually a summer staple – in sight.
Gordon Richardson, the design director, said he wanted the collection, which had a surf theme for autumn, "to feel glamorous". As part of that directive, shorts were banned but there were wide-legged trousers and sleeveless bombers. "Topman is always about realism," says Richardson. "We're not here to do crazy designs."
They left that to MAN. The Topman-sponsored new talent showcase for three emerging designers was a highlight of the schedule – and showed London could still top the creativity league. Bobby Abley was first out and his Sword in the Stone-inspired collection was endearing: like Disney goes to Dalston. Models – and Abley himself – wore crowns, and carried backpacks with teddy bears.
While Alan Taylor was more restrained – grey tweed pieces and skinny tailoring sometimes featuring jackets sewn upside down on to the front - Craig Green had masked models wearing layered-up tie-dye streetwear and carrying sculptures made out of cardboard found on the street. "I always think a show should be a show,' says Green. "I do what I would like to see."
It's not all theatre, though – break up any of these looks and you'll invariably find pieces that can be worn off the catwalk. This new generation of London talent comes with an edge of business acumen. "I don't want to be a hype designer," said the Irish-born Taylor, 25. "I'm creating my own style but try to make it commercially viable." With two more seasons with MAN, he's "able to develop that organically".
Tailoring brands such as Hardy Amies and Gieves & Hawkes are creeping on to the schedule, with Amies providing a photo op with a presentation at the top of the Gherkin. But Richardson maintains traditionalism and newness can exist happily together. "We're the only city that started menswear from the street up," he says. "These heritage brands add to what we have but a younger voice isn't going to go away."
This plays out when you look at London's new establishment – Jonathan Saunders mixed tradition and bleeding-edge design in a punchy collection. At Saunders, there was sharp tailoring, op-art polka dots and crisp outerwear shown in a warehouse space inspired by graphic designer Peter Savile's 1980s work. These are clothes that will appeal to men after just a little workplace subversion. "It's about the iconography of a businessman put through an acid wash," quipped Saunders.
There are also new designers showing in London emerging from developing markets. Kay Kwok, a designer from Hong Kong, showed in the morning in collaboration with GQ China. "I think the presence of the bigger brands add to the exposure," says Fan Jiang, the magazine's deputy marketing director, who oversaw the show. "London Collections: Men is still new but it's getting stronger."
Now in its third season, the international clout of London's newest fashion week appears to be growing.
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