In the last year we got a lot of reports about the danger of fake news in our lives. The fashion industry is not immune to fake reports, it is indeed definitely more accustomed to the art of fabricating lies at various levels: major publications often write positive reviews of certain shows even when collections do not look so great, but in this way they avoid losing advertising money from a specific fashion house; in a different - yet similar - way, high profile Instagrammers, bloggers and celebrities at times rave and rant about some kind of life-saving exceptional product in their posts without revealing they are actually receiving money from the company producing it.
Some of the fake news mystique may be affecting London Fashion Week Men's. The event kicked off yesterday and so far what came out of it wasn't extremely new and was surrounded by a sort of fake optimism that may not translate into sales.
Quite a few reports excitedly announced the return of Dame Vivienne Westwood to London. The former punk decided to combine her Man men's wear line and her Red Label women's wear collection and opted back for London for "environmental friendliness" and "efficiency" reasons (Red Label was showcased in London and Man in Milan). Now, though her crusades for quality instead of quantity, against climate change and in favour of ocean preservation are perfectly understandable and honourable, these choices have mainly got to do with money saving reasons (in a way, she may have opted for the same conclusions a few collections ago, trying to save the planet ten years in advance…).
Even though many fashion labels and houses will never admit it, money is drying up, but there is something else that London is losing and that's its power as a creativity hub. Those ones who champion the British capital will keep on defending it, after all, a man who is tired of London is tired of life, but it is clear that London is in a creative crisis, maybe caused by the fact that there are fewer and fewer relatively affordable studios for artists and designers, or maybe caused by the uncertainties of the Brexit (it is clear that Theresa May & Co do not have a clue about what getting out of the EU genuinely implies and how to politically districate the country from Europe while keeping the commercial benefits deriving from it).
On the first day of the event some collections seemed inspired by a fake edge of rebellion and radicalism: high street label Topman Design combined neds, mods and raving lunatics on its runway, though the latter were probably the worst inspiration since - if you lived through the end of the '80s and the beginning of the '90s - you may have had enough of your fluorescent jacket and wide-legged jeans. In a way, it felt a bit like revomiting memory rather than delving into it.
The offer also included quilted tracksuits in shocking pink (we doubt that neds in Glasgow will adopt them…) and shorts worn over leggings with a - yawn - tattoo print. Models included Lennon Gallagher (son of Liam) with hair plastered to his face, while the final track was Scooter's 1996 hit "I'm raving, I'm raving". You wonder if Topman got it wrong: they are releasing Trainspotting 2 this January and not a new and updated version of the film Acid House from Irvine Welsh's eponymous short story collection (mind you, if it ever happened, Topman has already got the costumes, so we are sorted).
Craig Green has established his own position as an innovative menswear designer, but at times he seems another cult rather than a seriously viable commercial possibility for men above a certain age.
He may be British menswear designer of the year, but there are things that are still at a dubious level in his collections, such as the fit. For the A/W 2017 season Green was inspired by the awe caused by the vastness of the sea.
His mariners lost at sea for decades and completely isolated from their families and dear ones mainly sported navy or violet drawstring hooded coats and jackets matched with wide pants.
As an alternative he added felted, quilted and padded jackets tied at the waist with tubular belts maybe representing the oxygen tubes of deep sea divers, an inspiration that also emerged in the ruched life vest-like elements or sacks (or sleeping bags?) accompanying some of the designs.
A few models were also covered in what may have been rugs stolen from an orthodox church, cut and sectioned into pieces and reassembled together collage style to provide a sort of unholy costume for a modern pagan priest (or was it for a satanic spirit since Aleister Crowley could be heard reading his poem "At Sea" in the background?).
Once you eliminated the showpieces from the catwalk and confined them to a gallery or museum space, you realised the offer was limited to narrow draw-strung silhouettes or bodies covered in bulky and squarish ill-fitting clothes that do not look ideal for utilitarian urban battles (trailing ties are never a good idea, especially when running for a train or the underground). But maybe this is workwear for a generation of fashion fans infatuated with the idea of labour, but not effectively working.
The most puzzling offers of this first day were showcased at Lulu Kennedy's presentation of young menswear designers – MAN. This new talent incubator may actually confirm to more established fossilized designers à la Armani that they will be safe for another few years.
The showcase went from Per Götesson's juvenile delinquents in tracksuits with very serious volume problems caused by an excess of drawstrings (something that should be banned or rationed because the drawstring trend is by now getting out of hand…) to Feng Chen Wang's metallic or black patent briefs, corset tops, silvery trousers with one random cutaway leg and '80s ample jackets in a lemony yellow or in neutral vanilla.
The most loved and appreciated by the media at the MAN showcase seemed to be Charles Jeffrey Loverboy who sent out his designs among a clay-caked dance troupe choreographed by Theo Adams and giant papier-mâché monsters/deities by set designer Gary Card.
One of these creatures was an amorphous black mountain, another looked like a vaguely phallic mushroom-shaped monster, but there was also a bizarre shell covered in Stars and Stripes to symbolize a shattered American dream (fashion fans can investigate these costumes further at London's Dover Street Market where they are currently displayed). Apart from such bizarre apparitions - visions, the designer claimed, from an uncertain future in which young creatives are trapped, even though more mature and less infatuated commentators may just consider them as social media fodder - Jeffrey's collection included 18th-century tailored jackets, ruffled Elizabethan shoulders, padded hunting coats in a tomato red shade, deconstructed outerwear à la Comme des Garçons, boxy suits in velvet and silk, pinstriped suits for dandies in miniskirts and sheepskin doublets.
There is one main disappointing thing about these designers: they seem to be recycling ideas that appeared on the runways maybe a few months ago or a few collections ago. For example, the point of reference in their designs borrowed from history is not a specific historical period, but another modern and hip designer stealing a historical costume (think about J.W. Anderson appropriating the doublet and everybody else following…).
You seriously wonder how long most of these young designers called radical geniuses are destined to be used for great editorials on cool and hip magazines before disappearing again from the radar and be swallowed and erased by the relentless fashion cycles.
Yes, there are beacons of light in London, but there are also very few highlights in this edition of its menswear shows with a schedule that looks particularly thin. Yet, the edge of darkness tinged with an amateurish radical and incoherent rebellion of some of these collections with no real powerful messages behind them reveal a deeper crisis not just for the British capital (that seems to be currently trying to convince itself it is still at the forefront of cutting edge fashion), but also for menswear in general. As more labels and fashion houses are recombining the men and women's wear shows into one offer opting for genderless and unisex events, chances are that the end is near for the men's shows in favour of more consistent (and hopefully more coherent) biannual fashion weeks.