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Comment: Emerging brands take spotlight at subdued LFWM

A cold wall autumn 18

The 11th edition of London Fashion Week Men’s (LFWM) drew to a calm and chilly end on Monday. While the overall atmosphere at the UK’s dedicated menswear showcase was much quieter this season, the lack of big, headlining brands focused attention on London’s creative rising stars.

Shortened from four days to three for autumn 18, this edition of LFWM was a more subdued affair. While there were still plenty of interesting brands to see and lots of innovative collections that stood out across Saturday, Sunday and Monday’s catwalk shows, presentations and events, it lacked the buzz and vibrancy of previous editions.

Buyer attendance across the three days seemed lower than usual, although teams from the UK’s most influential retailers and key independents were all spotted. Some international names were missing, particularly Japanese stores, but there were representatives from a range of European retailers, as well as America’s Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus.

Questions have been raised for several seasons about the future of LFWM, and the concept of a dedicated menswear fashion week in general. As with last season, this was stoked by the absence of more established names, mostly a result of the fact that an increasing number of brands are joining labels such as Gucci and switching to ”co-ed” showcases, merging their women’s and men’s catwalks into a single event held during the womenswear schedule.

There was, arguably, no single headline event this season. Vivienne Westwood and JW Anderson have left the schedule – Anderson is among those who have switched to a co-ed show going forward, which will be unveiled during London Fashion Week next month.

In the past, brands such as these, Burberry and Alexander McQueen created a thrill that permeated the whole event. They also helped to attract local and, importantly, international buyers.

Craig green autumn 18

Craig green autumn 18

Craig Green autumn 18

However, despite the lacklustre atmosphere and a few gaps in the schedule, London’s emerging brands and niche labels did not disappoint. The best of these presented fresh and innovative ideas in unique ways, but also piqued the interest of relevant buyers via key commercial elements.

Two-time winner of the Fashion Award’s Menswear Designer of Year prize Craig Green stepped to the fore for autumn 18, evolving his burgeoning brand and signature styles with new military-inspired shapes and a Crayola colour palette.

Buyers also highlighted the sharp tailoring of Wales Bonner, the strict sportiness of Kiko Kostadinov, the subversive sportswear of Cottweiler, and A Cold Wall’s agenda-setting tailored streetwear.

Designers such as Alex Mullins, Daniel W Fletcher, Oliver Spencer, Blood Brother, Lou Dalton and newcomer Paria Farzaneh also stood out as highlights.

Charles Jeffrey put on another memorable Loverboy spectacle at one of the most exciting events of the three days, creating a theatrical performance to showcase his maturing, boundary-pushing collection.

Charles jeffrey loverboy autumn 18

Charles jeffrey loverboy autumn 18

Charles Jeffrey Loverboy autumn 18

Although well-organised, there were times when the schedule seemed to lose some momentum. As London’s new generation of brands are so diverse – running the entire gamut of fashion, from directional tailoring and streetwear through to gender-non-conforming dresses and wonderfully outlandish creativity – there was plenty to interest every type of buyer, but not enough to maintain everyone’s attention consistently across three days. Many buyers Drapers spoke to “dipped in and out” of the shows this season.

Some designers also decided to try and shake up the standard catwalk style this season. At both Matthew Miller and Nicholas Daley, collections were worn by musicians who performed for guests, rather than the usual models. Elsewhere, at Band of Outsiders, the clothes were presented on ice skaters who took to the rink at London’s Somerset House. These and other new formats were entertaining, but at times the clothing felt almost like an afterthought. 

While the autumn 18 edition of LFWM proved that London remains the key platform to discover new and diverse talent, it will have to work harder to maintain that “must-attend” sense of attraction for both UK and international buyers. Its future, and that of all menswear-focused fashion weeks, depends on it. 

Wales bonner autumn 18

Wales bonner autumn 18

Wales Bonner autumn 18

 

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