7 July 2016

For The Art

Aitor Throup
Spring/Summer 2017
(images via WWD)

Spring/Summer 2017
(images via WWD)

Apologies for the delay in getting the next episode of the podcast out, I have been running back and forth to hospital over the past few weeks getting adjusted to a new course of treatment and it has really been giving me a kicking. I am hopeful that things will smooth out soon however, so look out for the podcast - notes are done, I just need to sit down to record and edit!

Given that the men's collections are now over, I thought it might be interesting to look at some of my personal highlights starting with London. Regular readers will no doubt know of my ambivalence towards London Fashion Week, and as much as I think that the majority of the collections are a thorough waste of time, there are usually a few jewels that really are worth celebrating. Right off the bat I might as well say that I was not overly excited by Craig Green this season, it seemed almost lazy. As much as I enjoyed the colour work, I do not think that there was much else new going for the collection, and to be honest it felt almost like a pre-collection you would see in the showroom. That is actually close to how I felt about Aitor Throup's collection, were it not for the amazing theatricality of the show. The puppetry was absolutely spectacular, and I really am impressed by the work that went into getting them made and move so well - the puppeteers did an incredible job for the catwalk. I would highly recommend you watch a video of the show here on YouTube if you get the chance. However I must say that although the catwalk show was undeniably great, the clothes themselves were a little bit of a let down. I guess we might just have to wait for next season or the season after, but part of me was hoping for some newer ideas.  

My personal highlight for London Fashion Week was most definitely Kiko Kostadinov's collection. It spoke elegantly to me of the London I know and grew up in. I have never felt quite comfortable with the sportswear aesthetic promoted by the likes of Nasir Mazhar or Cottweiler, because while it is very much based on the type of clothing I grew up surrounded by, that source material never really had a romantic dimension for us - it was our reality. I grew up surrounded by snapback caps, tracksuits and Air Max 95s. I grew up surrounded by colourful weaves, intricate fake nails and skyscraper heels. It is an aesthetic world I know intimately, it is one that I appreciate fully, and one that I understand better than most. But it is not one that I have ever felt the need to seek out as high fashion. If I want to wear it, I would rather go with the real thing. I can rock it with greater authenticity when using the original pieces and styling that I know, rather than some sanitised version made for the fashion audience.

But there is another style I remember. One that was far more functional and practical, but no less codified with individual quirks and personal styling choices. The uniforms of the adult world and the uniforms of the other kids' parents as they came to pick them up from school. I remember looking at the uniforms of bus drivers, builders, painters, even policemen, and being utterly fascinated. Work wear and uniforms have always held importance for me, because not only did I wear school uniform throughout my childhood, but I remember looking up to adults in uniform - there they were, working hard, taking pride in their work, neat and orderly. Those uniforms meant adulthood to me just as much as owning a car or having a wallet with credit cards in it. There was a secure sense of identity, that I think as a child is always attractive. So I suppose the collection evokes some sense of childhood nostalgia for me that is almost aspirational in quality, and for that reason I think I am drawn to it far more than I am to the London sportswear crowd of designers.

And given the political climate in the UK as it currently is, what with the anxiety and uncertainty of Brexit crushing down on us, I think that this collection takes on an even greater resonance. Kiko described his man as "in his mid or late 20s and working and has a Belgian or French sensibility. These clothes help him dress functionally for the city." With the status of Europeans working in London (and the UK in general) under scrutiny as Britain seeks to enjoy the fruits of the single market unashamedly without free movement, there is something celebratory to such a cosmopolitan inspiration that feels so thoroughly London. The city I know is multicultural and inviting to anyone and everyone, and seeing that engaged with alongside such clean workwear uniforms was a joy. I really am looking forward to trying out the Ventile suiting once it hits Dover Street Market. Considering this was Kiko's first collection after his MA show, I am excited to see what is to come - this collection was a home run as far as I am concerned.


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