London Fashion Week Men’s poised for a buoyant weekend of international menswear despite Brexit
Four months ago, reviewers looking ahead to the February edition of London Fashion Week Men’s all stressed these would be the final menswear shows in London before Brexit. But then, Theresa May failed to sell her doomed deal in Westminster parliament.
Britain is now due to exit Europe on October 31. But, given all the variables, one hesitates to predict that the London Fashion Week Men’s, which debuts on Friday evening, will be the last pre-Brexit season. Ironically, what is certain is that this weekend will be one of the most international seasons in London, with up to a score of non-British designers throwing their hats into the ring; and some major local design stars returning home. Given the political indecision the season seems in remarkably ruddy health.
Alexander McQueen, led by Britain’s single most acclaimed contemporary designer Sarah Burton, returns to London with a Sunday morning presentation; while the country’s most admired cobbler, Manolo Blahnik, will open a major retrospective inside The Wallace Collection, entitled An Enquiring Mind. It will feature a personally selected edit of shoe designs from Blahnik’s private archives set amongst the masterpieces of the Wallace Collection. A rare opportunity to see excellence in contemporary design blended with the Wallace Collection’s own unique works of art.
Despite Brexit, the allure of the London catwalks remain strong. So such happening international brands as C2H4, Iceberg, John Lawrence Sullivan, HLA presented by JD.com, and Xander Zhou will all stage shows. Despite the shadow of Brexit loming over the whole UK menswear market, which is estimated to have grown 3.5% to £15.5 billion last year. Though the ability of fledgling local brands to grow internationally is very much threatened.
“As Brexit has yet to happen, the effect is still unknown, but the uncertainty around the possibility has had an extremely negative effect on the industry. If Brexit does happen, the industry will be under unnecessary pressure, and like womenswear, will suffer,” stressed Dylan Jones, editor-in-chief of British GQ and chairman of the menswear season.
The season actually opens with a Bulgarian talent, London-based Kiko Kostadinov, who plans an intimate catwalk moment on Friday evening. Moreover, in a novel move, the British Fashion Council has partnered with Seoul Fashion Week in an exchange program with one British designer showing at Seoul Fashion Week and one Korean designer at London. The debutant label is Münn, whose fledgling creator Hyun-min Han cut his design teeth at Wooyoungmi. His arrival comes at a buzzy moment for all things Korean in London. This week, K-Pop sensation BTS became the first Korean band to perform at Wembley Stadium; while the coolest football team, Tottenham Hotspurs, top striker in the runway to the final of Europe’s greatest club competition, the Champions’ League, was fellow Korean Heung-min Son. Even if they did eventually lose to the continent’s greatest team, Liverpool.
Meanwhile GQ China has got in on the act by presenting the 8ON8, a label by Chinese star Gong Li, known for his multi-layered structural designs. Like most of the season, this show will take place in Truman Brewery, the imposing former booze factory in the East End that is the nerve center of the UK menswear season.
“The London shows thrive on street style, cool and ingenuity. The cutting edge is always in London. Always has been, always will be,” insists Jones, highlighting what he sees as the strengths of London compared to Milan or Paris.
Editors and buyers will arrive to find a well-financed season, backed with loads of sponsors, reminding visitors that the British Fashion Council outperforms every single other global fashion season when it comes to sponsorship. Mercedes-Benz limos and people carriers will ferry accredited reviewers, retailers and VIPs some 10,000 miles around the UK capital this weekend; Toni & Guy will gift in goodie bags or use backstage over 7,000 Label.m products annually; while Evian plans to distribute 10,000 bottles of mineral water.
Plus, the city is bursting with great exhibitions from Christian Dior and Mary Quant in the V&A; Leonardo Da Vinci in the Queen’s gallery and Edvard Munch in the British Museum. And, despite all the gathering political clouds, the weekend is crammed with dinners and parties:
Friday night, Kiko Kostadinov will throw a bash with ever hip magazine Dazed; Alexander McQueen will host a very insider dinner Saturday night; while GQ Style and Browns will throw a party around the corner in famed Mayfair haunt Mark’s Bar on Sunday. Jones' own mag will close out the long-weekend on Monday evening with a dinner he will host with singer Liam Payne.
Not exactly a moribund mode moment in Blighty, is it?
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