Three designers showed at MAN today. First Bobbly Abley, then Alan Taylor (whose designs have been previously featured on this website) and lastly Craig Green were shown at the Topman Show Space. MAN is the initiative ‘between Topman and Fashion East (the non-profit organisation established by Lulu Kennedy MBE and The Old Truman Brewery in 2000)… that champions emerging menswear talent. Each season these young designers receive a bursary, catwalk show-production, PR support and expert advice to help them launch their labels.’ Astrid Andersen and Agi & Sam finished their time under MAN’s wing and now have solo runway shows.
All of the designers bring something interesting to the London menswear stage. Bobby Abley’s collection of teddy bears, sheer and loose sportswear was kitsch in its use of cartoons as prints and motifs, as well as stickers. These are are great idea in merchandising and I have seen some similar, branded stickers on the models at the recent Versus by J.W. Anderson show where it produced a riff on a minimalistic vision of Gianni Versace’s playful brand.
The clothes were accessible as pieces and somewhat in styling, way more than previous collections of his, with baggy and loose shapes that appeal to all men. It was a lot more commercially-savvy than his previous collections, with a clear coherent theme that introduced Bobby Abley as a brand. The shirt from look 2 caught my fancy.
Sheer seems to be becoming a big trend within the coterie of new designers showing at LC:M. Astrid Andersen and J.W. Anderson have also explored the fabric’s possibilities in menswear though I don’t think Mr. Abley’s vision, as some alluded to in the SHOWStudio discussion of the shows, will make it more manageable within the masculine identity with pink and brown teddies printed onto it. It’s probably not supposed to. I got a sense of Big Kids in the juxtaposition of big shapes with small and cartoon prints, that were ‘cool’ and laid back.
Selected looks from the collection:
Alan Taylor showed a tight edit of clothing that had an international scope, yet decidedly London roots, which shrivelled a bit sandwiched between two immediately strong collections. Different fabrics, lengths and colours were the main propositions as new elements of Taylor’s aesthetic. In the vein of his AW13 offering, there were the ankle trousers and the structured t-shirts that were made of stiff material, similar to that of his jackets. I really like this item because I am trying to find a midpoint between a t-shirt and shirt, something not too casual but not too formal, good enough to wear to Hyde Park then with trousers to a party.
Being SS14, there was noticeably less layering in the garments and the outfits had shortened lengths. The jackets came to the elbows and shorts stopping at the thigh, with side slits on tailoring very reminiscent of Raf Simons SS13 but wider in cut and stiffer in material. The blazers again showed subtle development in asymmetric lapels without any visible fastenings, in beautiful battered grey and brown tweed.
The transcendence of AW13, however, did not come across in this collection. He tried to replicate the off world wonder in mirrored items where the appearance of the garment on the chest was extended with an upside-down version of itself. Jackets were added to t-shirts to form mock kilts. But it did not look good. It more looked like clothing that could be styled for an editorial but silly if worn down the street, rather than in AW13 where the cut-out coats were suitable for human use.
The collection had a decidedly minimalistic rebellious theme, sort of a New Wave grunge scene if there ever was one with Helmut Lang being tossed around by Colin McDowell and others on the SHOWStudio panel. It too had an air of the new about it, with most of the items being directional yet easy to wear. Though, I would have liked to seen more development in his aesthetic with the use of different garments, as only knits were introduced, and more risk-taking. Mr. Taylor has bounds of talent and seems to be building signatures tied to his name , though it was less than expected for his first runway outing. A slow burner.
Selected looks from the collection:
Craig Green ‘s showmanship and easily misconstrued (David Gandy… tut…tut…tut) savviness, wowed as he closed MAN. His aesthetic, like the others, is instantly recognisable but what set him apart from two otherwise strong and coherent collections, was his interpretation of the SS14 season and fashion in general and how there was no press release, no manifesto needed to understand some of the ideas and inspirations behind the collection. He layered many items into one look, atypical of the usual more pared back approach to clothes for the summer months, but in doing so showed more of a summer-ready collection with the items mostly looking light and airy (on the livestream).
In layering, the garments that have many pieces in them them together, he showed his prowess in proportion and colour. Mr. Green has somehow found a area of carefully judged everything at once. In doing this, so much more can be shown. See look 53 (17 of his offering) with 2 jackets, a tunic and cropped trousers, ankle bands which I want to try out myself, a choker neckband, a face mask and a bucket hat. And leather slippers. These black looks exemplified the subversive spirit of the collection.
Most designers usually forget that it is a fashion ‘show’. Mr Green disagrees:
I feel like a show should be a show. I wouldn’t want to go to a show about real life because I see real life every day. A show should make you feel something, even if you hate it, even if you feel unnerved or excited by it and I feel like that has been missing in fashion recently.
This collection had both elements of showmanship in excellent quality design and presentation. The amalgam of bric-a-brac to form a headpiece held by the models that obscured their faces and most of their bodies. My only complaint is that it would have been more impressive if these were somehow attached to the garments. All the stylistic parts of the collection formed a cohesive idea, which he explored through the total contrasting looks of off-white and tie-dye. The obscured faces led a anonymous idea that juxtaposed the overt amazingness of the clothes, suggesting how supposedly expressive clothes can hide someones true identity rather than representing it, or be used as an instrument of promotion without personality, or be used as a statement and mean many things to many people.
The beautifully colourful, yellow, green, purple and white mix was an explosion of colour, that achieved its shocking goal and made/makes my mind tick. These hand-dyes felt ethnic in their roots, with the SHOWStudio panel citing Africa as a possible source of inspiration, which kind of annoyed me as tie-dye is very haphazard, spontaneous and quite easy which is the reason for its appearance throughout many eras, while most African prints are mind-bogglingly detailed and laboured.
I think it was more likely, especially when the bold blue and white tie-dye came out, that the rebellious nature and rave and hip-hop cultures were being conveyed. Strong and divisive eras that have retained their individuality, as these clothes do. Here, it’s good that inspiration is indiscernible, because it means the designer has created something totally interpretive and/or original. And by doing so much it ensures that there is something of Craig Green that can work for anyone. Looks look like they can be taken apart, mixed and matched to suit different styles, such is the encompassing nature of his “clumsy, clunky aesthetic.” Yet, his concept is the most polished, the most wearable, the most respectable and most original of this MAN season.
The whole collection:
UPDATE (17/06/13): Charlie Porter has shown some love for Craig Green, and great front row iPhone shots.
I realise this is more of a comparative piece than separate reviews but in seeing all the collections together, what else is my brain to do?
I think that’s why Alan Taylor should have a solo show to appreciate his workmanship.