London Lads Make Fall

London delivered a sartorial wakeup call this week, ushering in the New Year with three days of menswear shows before January’s established gamut of mens, couture and pre-fall showings begin on the continent. Mens fashion in the British capital is unique in both structure and aesthetic, as government initiatives support a thriving avant-garde scene linked with pop and youth culture in sharp contrast to the corporate agendas of the nation’s heritage players like Burberry and Dunhill. These two opposites seemed well matched at Sarah Burton‘s show for Alexander McQueen on Tuesday evening, when the designer infused luxurious, blood red coats and trompe l’oeil suiting with the subverted traditions of Savile Row. It was the label’s first outing back on home ground, and solid proof of the closing gap between art and commerce in London.

Elsewhere, Fall 13 has seen London designers tap three distinct streams of consciousness: loosely country manor, club kid, and cold, hard concept. Belstaff were first off the bat in the first and most traditional category, launching their lower-priced Goodwood Sports & Racing collection with a distinct motocross vibe—the models perched atop vintage cycles, of course. At Hardy Amies salon show on Wednesday morning, designer Claire Malcolm showed a series of heavy blanket ponchos and highland tartan, referencing archive photos of their namesake dandy’s personal wardrobe.

The punk spirit of the ’90s night life in East London inspired everyone from James Long to Martine Rose—the former tricking out Divine’s iconic portrait across a knitted sweater, the latter posing boys in lamé skinny tees and floor-sweeping flared tracksuit bottoms. Meadham Kirchhoff‘s second men’s season looked somewhat further back in time to WWII postcards, translated as layering shredded, broderie anglaise shirts with glossy PVC trenches and striped leggings in a melancholy still life show.

On the sleeker, conceptual front, London nurtures a postmodern (often androgynous) minimalism that was evident everywhere from J.W. Anderson’s toggled tube top and stiff, frill shorts to silver-striped trousers and a nylon safety vest at Lee Roach. Womenswear favourite Jonathan Saunders lent his optimistic colour card to a men’s capsule once again, applying slick glossy coatings to bright overcoats and a fetching sunset degradé down honeycomb sweaters.

Hosting an opening reception at 10 Downing Street on Monday night, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron spoke of the hyper-aware 21st-century consumer and a new global middle class drawn to the UK’s creativity and tradition. If this vibrant festival is any indication, they’ll have much to choose from in stores come June.