Despite questions over the future of London Fashion Week Men’s following the departure of some big names, emerging labels flourished in the limelight at a successful spring 19 edition.
It is fair to say that the lead-up to this season’s edition of London Fashion Week Men’s was a little overshadowed by ongoing doubts surrounding its future.
The main reason for this was the exit of heavyweight brands in recent seasons, as headliners Burberry and JW Anderson left the event after co-opting their men’s catwalks into their womenswear shows during London Fashion Week. A growing, yet diluted, show schedule also meant some began to question LFWM’s strength and relevance on the international circuit.
This season the schedule was shortened from four full days to three, and yet more tent pole names departed: rising stars Wales Bonner and Craig Green were noticeably absent, the latter having opted to show in Florence as menswear trade show Pitti Uomo’s guest designer.
However, as the June sun shone across the UK capital this weekend, the holes left by these big-name exits allowed some of London’s up-and-coming designers and growing businesses to step up, while a relaxed yet upbeat atmosphere ensured a strong edition.
The best collections where characterised by designers focusing on and evolving their unique niches, balancing creative experimentation, design leadership and standout hero items with a strong commercial foundation.
Buyers highlighted Martine Rose, who this season took the fashion crown out of central London to a cul-de-sac in Kentish Town, staging a joyous street party-style catwalk along a quiet residential street.
The collection was a love letter to London and reflected the melting pot of the city’s music-influenced street style. There were references to reggae, punk and rave via leopard print panelled Harrington jackets, boxy denim and slouchy knitwear. Meanwhile, nods to the 1980s and 1990s were given fresh and current interpretations by designers.
A Cold Wall’s elevated, deconstructed take on streetwear, Cottweiler’s technical fashion sportswear and Kiko Kostadinov’s more relaxed take on his tailored workwear were also standouts.
Charles Jeffrey Loverboy also pulled an impressively large crowd and showed more polish throughout his outlandish creations – the intarsia knitwear promises to be a bestseller. Liam Hodges, Xander Zhou and Daniel W Fletcher were also praised by buyers, while debuts from Paria Farzaneh and Bianca Saunders showed particular potential.
Buyer attendance was strong: teams from Mr Porter, Matchesfashion, Selfridges and Browns were joined by independents such as Manchester’s Hervia and London’s LNCC, Sefton and The Place London. International visitors included buyers from the US’s Bergdorf Goodman, Harvey Nichols Hong Kong, Tokyo’s Gr8 and Milan’s Antonioli.
Selfridges’ buying manager for menswear, Jack Cassidy, commented that the spring 19 edition presented a “strong” and “dynamic” line-up.
“London’s advantage is that it is at the beginning of fashion month, which is beneficial in so many ways,” he said. “Buyers are looking out for trends, giving the designers the ability to set the tone for the season. London’s talent is fearless, full of creativity and has a great sense of humour.”
“London’s main draw is its creativity,” agreed Liberty menswear buyer Laura Robertshaw. “Sometimes this can slip over into a reduction in commerciality, but those brands that keep a good balance do it really well - that’s what I’m looking for this season, a balance of both.”
Darren Skey, founder of Nieuway Agency, which was showing brands including Tourne de Transmission and Deadwood in LFWM’s Designer Showroom at its 180 Strand base, also praised the spring 19 edition. “This season was better than last season thanks to the sheer volume of buyers. The smaller scale of the showroom has helped and the Discovery Lab section has been a great addition. As long as the international buyers keep coming we’ll keep showing,” he said. “Brands like Paria Farzaneh and Martine Rose show that there are still strong collections in London, that’s what London is best at.”