LONDON — The new year has brought new questions about the long-term future of London Fashion Week Men’s, where the latest round of shows began on Saturday. The now-conspicuous absence of big-league names on the schedule, as more and more brands opt to show mixed-gender collections during the women’s wear season or reconsider their spending on the traditional show format, has led to a dwindling numbers of foreign buyers, media representatives and photographers at the twice-yearly event. And this season has been no exception.
At times the calendar, with a few Savile Row stalwarts but also emphatic offerings from emerging designers heavy on the styling and outrageous statements but ultimately light on creative or commercial finesse, felt peripheral to the wider international fashion ecosystem. Yet it also fizzed with displays of energy, ideas and talent that underscored why the British men’s wear scene should not be discounted. Here, some of the best shows that defiantly flew the flag for the future:
Winner of the 2016 LVMH Prize for young designers, Grace Wales Bonner has been making waves in the industry with collections that ask boundary-pushing questions about black male culture and identity. She produced a standout collection Sunday night, cementing her status as the leading light of the London fashion scene.
Her starting point was a Creole sailor returning to his island after time at sea, and an exploration of the sense of both joy and dislocation wrought by a long-awaited and romanticized return home.
“I thought about what it would be like to look at a place and the way people behave, but from a distance and after a long period of isolation,” Ms. Wales Bonner, 26, said backstage after the show. “I wondered what a Creole setting would look like as an outsider, but also an insider, one with a deep connection to the community he is watching.”
The silhouette was long and lean, her signature, presented in sumptuous wools and silks, with suiting and outerwear dominating the collection. Nautical pea and bomber jackets were cropped and buttoned, while cargo trousers fell perilously low on the hips, uniformly finished with a viscose denim trim. Shimmering waterproofs embroidered with the word “Créolité,” or Creoleness, gave a contemporary edge, while recurring prints of bustling scenes, inspired by the 1940s paintings of the African-American artist Jacob Lawrence, captured both the excitement of watching a collective behavior and the ache of standing apart from the crowd. Mixed heritage is a continuing fascination for Ms. Wales Bonner, who describes herself as mixed race. “There is something about his unresolvedness about it all that I can identify with,” she said of her lonely sailor, back from his travels to Europe and America.