Patrick Michael Hughes Men's Fashion Editor
The final day of London Fashion Week Men’s highlighted advanced east meets west contemplation to jovial optimism for fall 2018. Three standout runway shows on the last day were held in the British Fashion Council Space. The collections of PRONOUNCE presented by GQ China, the penultimate D. GNAK and the season’s finale runway show Bobby Abley.
PRONOUNCE presented by GQ China designers Zhou and Li drew from their Chinese background and “mature life experiences in the west.” The brand is known for classic tailoring techniques imbued with a harmonious eastern language of function and design. The inspiration behind Fall 2018 was a visit to the East Market in Via Privata Giovanni Venture. The designers collected a series of vintage postcards exhibiting life, travel and elegantly dressed tourist within the vast space. Two infinity signs consistently appear on the postcards leading the design duo to contemplate infinities, leading to the poetic thoughts of Russian exiled Nobel Laureate Joseph Brodsky. “The poetic notion of infinity is far greater than that which is sponsored by any creed.”
There was a great romance to this collection but in a conventional way of sighs ,lost breath ruffles and frills but rather a reflection of world history, tradition and a restless chi within a new world of exposure, intense information and dazzling technologies. A question facing many Chinese designers and creative’s of a new generation tempered by the west is what do we keep and what do we discard?
What was fascinating about PRONOUNCE’S collection was its spectacular organization, each moment of the runway show built upon the next an amazing crescendo of volume, color, textile and silhouette. The ankle length sweeping puffer coats in shinny black and white were particularly noteworthy. A detail at the back of the winter white coat was oversize obi tie making an entrance and an exit. The mammoth sweeping coat is an emerging theme that has grown over the past few seasons a metaphoric statement of security and versatility. Quilted TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) pieces in bright lavender hues were also spotted paired with red knit hats.
PRONOUNCE introduced new technological fabric a film coating on wool. The collection also highlighted a series of traditional and new fabrications seen in beautiful and generous cable knits in camel, red and sapphire blue to natty hand knit gloves and chinstrap hats. A quilted cotton sleeveless vests with black bias binding contained an infinite number of symbols within the quilting shown with wide-band elastic waist pants in leather. Total acid washed denim looks were also a feature of this collection offering hue variation and fabric sense to the blue section of the presentation. Roomy turtlenecks, parka jackets, layers of light and shine were seen through out the collection. The sharp and intriguing balance to all the volume were tailored pieces, which drew directly from the Mao suit sewing techniques, ‘curve metallic button ‘ replaced the traditional horn buttons from the traditional Chinese suit, these were modern takes and sustained elements from the past.
PRONOUNCE presented by GQ China was an exceptionally strong collection ticking all of the boxes of style, variation and menswear glamour for a highly discerning client with strong fashion sensibilities. PRONOUNCE contributed a chic moment within the landscape of infinity.
Korean designer Kang Dong Jun whose label D.GNAK also looked to poetic themes for inspiration eleventh century Song Dynasty poet Su Shi, “…the past, like a spring dream, leaves no trace” was the direction of the designer’s return to London Fashion Week Men for another season. Fall 2018 for D.GNAK inspiration was the fleeting nature of success in a world obsessed with social media achievement. His approach was one that sought to be more meditative than instant an exploration of dressing urban life and identity in the modern world.
D. GNAK statement in terms of clothing was a strong shadow play in a strict black and white collection. The fall 2018 is a collision of elevated streetwear and traditional Korean silhouettes. Dark velvets, rich tactile wool, jacquard and winter white fabrication; identity embroideries are present in this collection as in last season. The goal of the brand and the collection is to express a unique artisan mentality. Momento mori are motifs linked to the practice of reflection of morality and mortality, D. GNAK used the scull and cross bones motif on backs of long plush coats, skeletal hands on the sleeves of high collar leather jackets, and on knits such as scarves worn on top of plush fabric oversize zip front hoodies grazing the calf. The theme was made tremendously candid with the word ‘Repentance’ written on the back of outerwear jackets. A similar font and 'designer tagging' was noted on sleeves, an urban merger to a larger Eastern theme.
In addition to the many compelling looks were leather jackets, shinny drop crotch pants with side drape details and the wonderfully epic black and white footwear. The collection also highlighted a few pieces of womenswear that helped enhance the overall black and white theme. What was striking and successful about this collection is that it felt honest and true to the where the designer is currently. This was the way he was dressed and this was his style, a fashion moment reflective of his moment
The finale runway show of London Fashion Week Men within the British fashion Council space at the Strand was the highly anticipated Bobby Abley collection for fall 2018. Loony Tunes and Bobby Abley did not disappoint. It was an upbeat fearless and culturally assertive collection. Cartoon or ‘animation chic’ a nostalgic and satirical reflection of early twentieth century popular entertainment has been seen in runway collections the past few seasons most notable in Spring 2018 Gucci designed by Alessandro Michele in Milan looks superfluous next to Abley’s activist street savvy statement seen in London.
What was new and news was Tweedy Bird taking a stand for Freedom! sponsored ‘Bobbyland’ ‘Can't Hold Us Down’ statements. The placement and scale of the animation were the garments they were abstracted leading to new and fresh silhouettes with metamorphic sensibilities.
The classic American animated Looney Tunes characters and series produced by Warner Brothers from the thirties to the late nineteen sixties provided compelling palate, a plethora of textures, silhouette possibilities and attitude. The references to Wile E. Coyote, Sylvester, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tasmanian Devil and others were on cleverly deconstructed for collection. There was, as always with the Bobby Abley, collections a streetwise and emerging artist vibe. The runway was a reflection of diverse racial and ethnic casting of young men and women the generational shift seen in the streets of any major city with a thriving varied non conformist underground. It was a fusion of style and statement all that is rich and worthy to celebrate.
Pieces in the item driven collection which stood out were the ones that used or were styled with colorful robust beast fabrication at the edges of hoods, on zip off sleeve and on puffer jackets with ‘FRIEND’ embroidered on the back. Statement making red buffalo check parkas with deep zip off 'beast' cuffs and a noteworthy orange hooded overcoat with crystal details at the elbow with similar sleeves. Plaid, houndstooth and brightly colored neoprene were statements in the collection as well. It's important to note the pants were pleated on the waist and a ‘Bobby’ underwear waistband clearly visible a fresh urban statement. Also Bobby Abley's very special teddybear logo was astutely assimilated in the collection as a tape at the side of pants, sleeves and embroidered on baseball hats with African cowrie shells.
Conversation prints are a growing theme and this collection had a clever take instep with the theme, Marvin the Martian was seen on knee length tunic tops with oversize shorts and glitter skirts. However,the wait a minute moment, what season is this! In the collection was the use of ‘broiderie anglaise’ in a total two-piece look and at the hem of a long neoprene pair of shorts a wake- up Abley is not through playing with your senses or head moment.
This was a highly successful collection and statement on a multitude of levels arching beyond the Loony Tunes theme, bright colors and glitter face models. The Bobby Abley collection was fervent, passionate and well though out. It would be wrong to say this was simply fun. The better questions or thoughts might be what does optimistic look like? What assertive statements can optimistic themes make in fashion and a growing culture of diversity and media animation? Bobby Abley Fall 2018 narratives and fashion choices are saying much more than have fun.