With every fashion season I grow a little tired of seeing highly polished looks on the Parisian runway. This is not quite a complaint though, because there are still beautiful clothes to look at. Rick Owens comes to mind as his works slowly evolves into a more grown up version of what it used to be ten years ago. Comme des Garçons on the other hand has sprouted into a psychedelic, steroid-fuelled version of itself in a span of four seasons. But underneath it all, one knows what to expect out of these designers, as well as the rest of the avant-garde clan like Yohji Yamamoto, Ann Demeulemeester et al. Even Vetements is starting to get formulaic. The last time I was genuinely excited by something novel out of Paris is the day I learnt to appreciate Raf Simons's menswear collections quite recently.
Perhaps this is the fashion fatigue talking. While I still have the capacity to appreciate the works of the old guards, it doesn't quite provide the fresh thrill that innovation brings to the table, with the exception of Sacai. Paris Fashion Week as a whole is certainly still the most important platform on the fashion schedule, but it's hardly the brewing ground for breakthrough in aesthetics.
Fortunately London has reinvented itself as the hotbed for new ways of thinking. Tweeds and trenches are taking the backbench. Proportions are blowing up, deconstruction is kicking in, stark minimalism is going away, and gendered clothing is approaching singularity to make way for genuine androgyny. Below are just a few London designers whose works are making waves on the forefront of fashion.
There are many things I dislike in fashion - one of them being denim, but I maintain that there's always someone out there who's able to change my mind. Faustine is one such person. While most designers approach the design process with a moodboard or a theme in mind, she reinvents iconic pieces from scratch. Literally. Take the ubiquitous trucker jacket, for example. Instead of cutting patterns to create a piece of garment, she weaves them thread by thread to create the 3D textures and colour gradation. This process is evidently painstaking and time-consuming, but it's an excellent way to manipulate an everyday item into an artisanal piece.
"I’m making pieces that people are wearing anyway. I know they’re wearable and they look good because they already existed, I didn’t invent them. To me it’s really about the texture, the materials, the détournements. It is about creativity within a universe. It’s not a pair of jeans at all, it looks like it, but it is an elaborated pair of trousers." - Faustine Steinmetz
Ah, where do I even begin with this one. Craig Green has come quite a long way since his interpretation of an ambiguous nomadic lifestyle for his Central Saint Martens show. Be that as it may, there is still an Oriental underpinning in his recent collections. From the use of shiny fabrics reminiscent of the checkered Chinese laundry bags to tie closure details, as well as the absence of gendered markings in terms of silhouettes and cuts (skirted trousers, boxy coats, long jackets), the only way to describe his clothes would be futuristic Mongolian space monk. Initially fashion insiders were sporting his signature quilted plastic pieces, but last season they were replaced by his parachute-like jackets. When I was in Dover Street Market in Ginza I had the pleasure to try on one of the quilted jackets which you can see here. Unfortunately it was in white and I do not trust my ability in keeping it pristine beyond two wears.
Tigran is a Russian designer whose works I had been hoping would outshine his fellow Russian counterpart Gosha Rubchinskiy. For some reason the latter is receiving more press. This despite churning boring 80s-inspired sportswear such as t-shirts and track suits which were not much better than that yawn-inducing overhyped brand called Supreme. But anyway, Tigran. His works have that DIY quality that drives you to do your own version only to find out that it doesn't turn out quite as nice because you aren't Tigran Avetisyan to begin with. He's one of those blokes who plasters political messages on his garments. Yet they aren't gaudy like Hot Topic punk shirts. If anything it rings closer to Raf Simons with additional angst thrown into the mix. While he is still somewhat 'greener' than the other designers on this list, I do enjoy the collections he's turned out so far.
Prada and Comme des Garçons are the epitomes of bad taste gone good, while Jeremy Scott's Moschino is bad taste that stays bad. Now London has a new representative of bad taste that has a great potential, and his name is Nasir Mazhar. He's pretty unabashed in plastering his name all over his clothes, but I am very much impressed by the skilful placement it. The logo has become a design element more than an advertising tool. This alongside the terrific combination of technical fabrics of contrasting textures and colours, with additional graphic details that work together in a cohesive chaos. The final result is proper luxe sportswear that have been promoted from Sports Direct to the runways.
His runway shows and editorials paint an inclusive view of what fashion could be. Models of all shapes and ethnicities have participated in them, with the exception of the older generation however. Ah well, one thing at a time, I suppose.
You see, us girls are used to wearing long shirts and tops that go past our hips, whereas it's only okay for boys if they're walking down the runway or are the cast member of Games of Thrones. The last time tunics were acceptable big time amongst men was when Shakespeare was writing his sonnets.
Liam Hodges loves patches, patchworks and frayed edges. His clothes are raw, aggressive, and long, which is evident from his obsession with tunics. Liam probably wanted to change the perception about clothing proportions for lads. While Rick Owens is a long-time tunic endorser, he is the prince of darkness and therefore not quite relevant in the mainstream crowd until hip hop stars namedropped him. Liam's aesthetics, however, has its roots in the amalgamation of popular youth subcultures and is thus more approachable. The closest OG counterpart I can think of would be Raf Simons. The problem is that Raf is on a much higher price point, which makes him as accessible as a full-time well-paying job in fashion journalism. Thank goodness for someone like Liam Hodges who is making canvas kaftans. Did I mention he also has some neat knitwear?
While I have plenty of wonderful things to say about the lot of designers above, one of the few complaints that I have would be how steeped these aesthetics are in youth culture, bar Craig Green. Perhaps this can be attributed to their fresh entry into the fashion ecosystem, but one can only hope that they will move away from the youth-centrism without compromising their vision.