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Austerity can prove rich in inspiration

During a financial downturn or periods of uncertainty, the greatest changes occur. In fashion terms this can mean an extreme contrast in attitudes. At present, designers are caught between references to nostalgia – last season’s menswear shows picked up on 1940s cinema – and a desire to look to the future.

Despite the credit crunch, sales of bespoke suits, shirts, luggage and footwear are booming, while Tom Ford has launched a top-end menswear line which comes with a hefty price tag. This begs the question, should the industry fight the economy or blatantly ignore it? In 1947 Dior’s New Look was born during post-war austerity, while Vivienne Westwood emerged from a punk period that protested at government attitude and social injustice in the 1980s.

So for the 24,000 buyers who attended last season’s Pitti Uomo exhibition, what are the emerging trends? Predicted are cool embellishments, and techno materials contrasting with luxurious cashmeres. Soft British tweeds are used by both formal and sportswear brands, which is not necessarily a safe nostalgic statement, but more an attitude of eccentric luxury. The Thom Browne show at Pitti, followed by the new Homme Deux line from Comme de Garçons, both encapsulated this eclectic mix.

So while we are swayed to nostalgia, designers need to inject a creative burst. The MAN show in London has taken the lead, even influencing a showing of menswear at London Fashion Week. Strengthening brand identity with interesting product will give consumers a reason to spend, but more importantly move us into the future.

Bruce Montgomery is emeritus chairman of the British Menswear Guild and chairman of the Graduate Fashion Week mentoring panel

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