Fashion can be used to send out strong political messages and while people in power may show their influence via the cut of a perfect suit or an impeccable dress, ordinary consumers may use colours, slogans, symbols or accessories in radical ways that can show their allegiance or aversion to specific issues, ideas and groups.
There may have been some political messages on the runways at London Fashion Week Men's but sadly they didn't cause any major disruption. Things seemed to stall at pageant level with MAN designer Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, while Liverpool-born, London-based Christopher Shannon opted for real clothes and somber moods embodied by shredded flags - inspired by sports fans painting their faces and made in collaboration with Rottingdean Bazaar's James Theseus Buck - that covered the faces of his models.
The idea worked well since it pointed at the erosion of identities and international relations in a world that seems to be more complex while offering fewer opportunities for creative types.
The main inspiration were the people - mainly builders and bike couriers - the designer meets everyday while going to work in his studio in the East End. That's why the show opened with a fluorescent yellow cyclist top and a pair of red leggings, followed by classic denim jackets made with collages of patchworked panels and neon collars and cuffs, hoodies, tracksuits, quilted nylon overalls, baggy shredded jeans and trousers or quilted jackets with zip-away panels.
Shannon then played with authenticity via a series of bootleg designs: sweatshirts using the Timberland font and graphic read "Tumbleweed"; "Loss International" rather than Hugo Boss was emblazoned on a top donned by a model with his face covered by the European Union, while the iconic C(alvin) K(lein) was turned into CS, meaning not Christopher Shannon but "Constant Stress".
Though witty some of these slogans do not look more clever than what you may find on some market stalls in Italy (where there has always been a trend for T-shirts with altered logos of famous fashion houses transformed into puns - remember the "Versace da bere" - literally meaning "Pour us something to drink" - T-shirts?).
In a way London Fashion Week Men's was a missed opportunity for many young designers who, caught up between the Brexit and Donald Trump's victory, attempted to comment but were trapped by their own fears to take the discussion further and make more powerful statements. Shannon fell in this category: he may have had the KLF on the soundtrack and should have been brave enough to take the discussion at a higher and more rebellious level.
Take away the shredded flags and what you are left with are more or less ordinary clothes, wearable streetwear staples with some parody injected here and there. Yes, they felt more real than some ridiculous attempts at mixing genders (that only resulted in men dressed in women's clothes and in no real identity erosion...), but surely these are not extraordinary, exclusive or high quality garments. This has more or less happened on most of the runways by young designers at London Fashion Week Men's, and it is a bit of a disappointment, since it is as if the chaotic uncertainties of this messed up world were stifling the messages of young designers rather than liberating them in a healthy raging scream.