The British Boys

Published June 17, 2013

A profound sense of national pride and introverted reflection are keystones of the London menswear scene. Be they tailors, streetwear specialists, or those who tinker in the more conceptual end of the game, designers showing at the London Collections: Men for Spring/Summer 2014 have traversed a sweeping pool of British references to bring their collections to life—from the nation’s Royal Air Force to its 1950s film culture. If that sense of British-ness isn’t evident in the garments themselves, you can be sure it will surface elsewhere: in the casting of pale-faced, waifish boys or the eclectic surrounds of London’s cultural institutions, member’s clubs, and warehouses that set the scene for a slew of runway shows, installations, and cocktail affairs.

Opening the three-day event yesterday morning was Royal College of Art graduate Lou Dalton, who extended her repertoire of polished hybrid sportswear in a contrast of washed-out utility ensembles and rich pastel jacquards, all layered with schoolboy ease. Inverted and piped tailoring supported the RAF photographic prints that ran across light cotton jackets and shorts. Even Dalton’s accessories echoed the proudest brand of the British army, with Casio’s G-Shock Aviator wristwatches premiering at the show. Mauve denim and coral brocade added a soft, dandy touch to Dalton’s customarily sober lineup.

For Kay Kwok’s debut runway show on the London schedule, the Hong Kong-based designer may not have exuded British flair; however, he did instill his collection with the sense of experimentation that has come to distinguish London’s avant-garde players. Evolving his previous excursions into digital print tailoring, Kwok made a bright, futuristic statement with long-line tunics and pooling trousers in swathes of soft leather. Architectural sandals and Perspex breastplates added an armorial touch. Prints in rosy pink and sea green evoked Saturn’s rings, and, cut as boxy tees and shorts, seemed a more viable solution than the eye-popping glare of his three-piece suit.

Later, minimalist sage Lee Roach injected a patterned flair into his monochrome wardrobe—airing out a systematic tailoring lineup with tan-colored camouflage that popped against his signature strappy suiting. The young designer proposed a cinched waist for Spring ’14 that lent a subtle tulip shape to several blazers, while others were slung about the hips in navy wool and papery beige cotton. Roach layered slim jersey tops with geometric apron belts, furthering the theme of repetition and reduction that underlines his meticulous design process.

As is custom at a house in the midst of a sunny revival, the Hardy Amies team ran riot in the Savile Row archives of the dandy maison. Their discoveries: the fragrance advertising and signature “HA” monogram designed by graphic designer and filmmaker Saul Bass in the late ’50s. Taking colour-blocking cues from Bass’ posters for The Man With The Golden Arm and a ticking stripe direct from Hitchcock’s Psycho, the bold and contemporary offering, shown high above London in the summit of the Norman Foster-designed “Gherkin” building, was a precise, slim-line promise of a snappy summer.