In London, the Length’s the Thing

Gray June skies in Britain’s capital have somewhat stretched the imaginations of showgoers at the London Collections: Men this week, with the decidedly optimistic proposition of airy layers and abbreviated lengths appearing across the board for Spring/Summer 2014. Whether luxuriating within the bounds of British sartorial heritage or striving to break through new ground, designers on day two have favored relaxed proportions from the waist down and an absence of sleeves to drive their summer silhouettes.

Kicking off bright and early, J.W. Anderson’s boys marched down the sloping white maze at Topshop’s showspace to a thudding soundscape by Michel Gaubert, their every look building up from a pointed boot hidden beneath wide trousers. On top: leather, knit and neoprene was pinched, wrapped or folded to create a series of long structured tunics—punctuated at times with knotted tabs to cinch and close the sculptural creations. The method to Anderson’s madness is forever in the ebb and flow of ideas between one garment and another. This time, his obsessive repetition of taupe and monochrome variations was abruptly diverted by a jarring trio of halter-neck shirts embroidered in tiny red, blue, and yellow daisies.

Stripping down her Marylebone boutique to host an intimate, no-fuss show, the veteran designer Margaret Howell once again waved her flag for quiet, coastal style. Set to Richie Havens’ rendition of “Here Comes The Sun,” soft linen and crisp poplins and twill were cut in loose, wide shapes—think bowling shirts, dry cotton knits, and windbreakers in navy and mustard. Bucket hats and a neckerchief were rare accessories in this streamlined and classic garderobe, which allowed austere cuts and fine textiles to do the talking.

Historically, knits lack something of a “cool” factor, to say the least. SIBLING are a zany trio hell-bent on changing that, and their latest men’s extravaganza proved there’s hope yet for the noble craft. Taking cues from the Jets gang of West Side Story, they sent out their East London update on the theme, issuing rockabilly shapes and rejigged retro twinsets in fence-post patterns awash with ice-cream pastels. Their more progressive techniques played out in the sequined and coiled plastic baseball tops and bottoms, which left little to the imagination on their casting of coiffed Casanovas—muscle-bound boys who bounced their way down the catwalk with cheeky grins to match the cheeky clothes.

The young talent springboard of London Collections: Men comes in the form of Lulu Kennedy’s Fashion East program, which selects three young designers to support for the MAN group show each season—with Bobby Abley, Alan Taylor, and Craig Green the latest candidates. Abley amused with an offering of styled-up sports jerseys and shorts tricked out with cartoon teddy bears, mesh paneling, and a blown-up raffia print—his boisterous heroes wearing leather crowns and an air of fairytale humor. Second off the mark was Alan Taylor’s rather more serious tailoring experiment—he crafted some meticulous see-through blazers and a series of topsy-turvy short-suit hybrids—jackets that grew out of t-shirts like an odd, mirrored reflection. Closing the show was crowd favorite Craig Green, who returned for his sophomore MAN show with more bric-a-brac sculptures to extend his rough-hewn aesthetic off the garments and into the realms of wearable art. Bright blue tie-dye and psychedelic rainbow warrior prints enlivened his patchwork designs with a much-needed injection of color.

Alexander (Lee) McQueen honed his craft in the halls of Central Saint Martins fashion school, and in a no doubt prescient homecoming, creative director Sarah Burton staged her latest menswear show in the shadows of the school’s new Kings Cross digs. Weeds and grassy foliage crept across the cobblestones and brickwork of the railway bridge setting, seeming to continue through the intricate jacquards and floral macramé that was layered over starched formal shirts and paired with long pleated culottes. Cutting loose some of the regal structure of the previous winter (indeed, not all), a sense of dishevelment mingled with the formal tailcoats and brass buttoned-finery, in the form of soft silk undershirts, creamy denim jackets and cuffs extending well past their jacket sleeves.

For more coverage of London Collections: Men Spring/Summer 2014, click here.