In Depth

The spirit of youth: London Fashion Week Men's

Some played with gender and the theme of childhood while others opted for calm staples against a backdrop of political uncertainty

The 'spirit of youth' – whatever that is – was 'nowhere more evident than on the streets of London' during this past London Fashion Week Men's (LFWM), at which designers displayed their wares for spring/summer 2018. That, at least, was according to W Magazine, which celebrated the 'dandies, freaks and geeks,' of LFWM, 'showing off both classic English tailoring and motifs, but also the normcore aesthetic of the rising ruling fashion class'.

W Magazine also suggested that, following immediately after the general election as they were, the shows offered a kind of continuation of the vote; which was, apparently, all about 'young people ruling the day' and giving Mrs May a bloody nose – and not because that's fashionable. The fashion world might well be expected to believe 'young people' are the red-hot core around which it revolves, but that would be to belie the chutzpah, effort and determination of the (often not-so-young) designers who showed at LFWM, mining menswear's restricted reach for gentle updates of wardrobe staples.

The Telegraph noted that while the UK political landscape 'has never been more perilous', the fashion show must go on. But if fashion reporting lends itself to hyperbole, many of the best collections presented at LFWM reflected a need for calm, including three of Wallpaper's top picks – Lou Dalton, Pronounce and Kiko Kostadinov.

The Telegraph, and others, praised the ever-reliable Oliver Spencer as a case in point with his emphasis on classic patterns (checks and stripes, on easy pieces), bomber and Nehru collar jackets, and a familiar nautical theme. E Tautz got a nod too, for its floaty, double-breasted tailoring and '1980s power suit rigour' – a harkening back perhaps, or not, to when Britain had a real leader.

But the catwalks also had their challenges too. Hypebeast.com was excited more by the artful extremes on offer, once it had gotten over the style culture's enduring obsession with what people on the street are wearing. Alex Mullins's playing with print and proportion got the thumbs up – Hypebeast described the distorted western jackets and abstracted khaki trousers as offering a 'subtly uncanny transformation of classic forms' – as did Berthold's sci-fi military-inspired collection of pieces in either black or searing yellow.

The first LFWM collection from 'radical creative' Charles Jeffrey, inspired by Westwood and Galliano, was dubbed an 'eclectic knockout' by Hypebeast. And it's right. Genderlessness was a theme across the shows, and 'not just unisex, or gender-fluidity clothes, but all-out gowns complete with corsets and panniers,' the Guardian noted. And Jeffery's clothes played with this with aplomb, passing by deconstruction and historical costume along the way for a collection packed with ideas and fun. WWD agreed: 'far reaching references… appeared in a gender-refusing, schizophrenic, theatrical and OTT line-up' for which a 'diverse cast of characters [were] unified in their theatricality and joyous treatment of Jeffrey's theme: debauchery.'

Talking of which, Vogue Paris put Bobby Abley's collections at the top of its list, praising their streetwear with fitted cuts and sensible volumes, which this year nodded cleverly to Mickey Mouse and featured Power Rangers-inspired tracksuits. It was, as the esteemed journal put it, 'a return to childhood'. Ah yes, the spirit of youth indeed.

JOSH SIMS writes for the Financial Times, the Independent, Wallpaper* and Esquire

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