Talk during London Fashion Week Men’s schedule may have been about the lack of big-name designers, the sparse schedule, and how long the event can stay separate, however, one thing everyone could agree on was that the menswear talent in London is still strong, with smaller designers really taking their moment to shine with their autumn/winter 2020 collections.
Five emerging designers to shine during London Fashion Week Men’s
Feng Chen Wang
A talent that had editors and buyers excited was Feng Chen Wang, everyone agreeing that the Chinese-born, London-based menswear who graduated from the Royal College of Art is one to watch, as her designs not only create amazing silhouettes but are focused around sustainability.
For autumn/winter 2020, Feng Chen Wang was inspired by a recent trip to the Wuyi Mountains, in northern Fujian province, China, close to her hometown, where she watched the sunrise, and the colours of the dawn she witnessed are seen throughout her collection from darker cooler shades such as icy greys and blues giving way to brighter, warmer hues like fiery reds.
These colours, made with pigments created from herbal tea, with ingredients sourced from her local community in Fujian, which Wang states not only provides a sustainable alternative to traditional clothes dye but also helps her hometown’s economy. This pigment created a patchwork, tie-dye effect across tailored pieces with streetwear influences from trench coats and blazers with exaggerated shoulders to slouchy track pants and rib-knits.
There was also a continuation of the exploration of her Chinese heritage this season, where she draws on her name and the Chinese characters that comprise it, these characters are abstracted and then articulated through the layering of fabric, she explains and arranged like the characters are written, “one stroke at a time” across trench coats, puffer jackets, knitwear and shirts, all of which were handmade.
There was also a collaboration with Pepsi, bring red and blue elements to her sporty designs, across long puffer coats, track pants, suits, T-shirts and bags.
AW20 also saw a continuation of Wang’s collaboration with Converse through an exaggerated, layered iteration of the Jack Purcell, a silhouette first introduced as a badminton shoe in the 1930s. There was also a new partnership Woolmark, as the designer is a finalist for the International Woolmark Prize 2020.
"Tough times may lie ahead but, as this collection hopes to remind us, dawn will surely come,” concludes Wang.
Images: courtesy of Feng Chen Wang
Bianca Saunders recreated dancehall parties for her ‘Videolight’ autumn/winter 2020 prevention during London Fashion Week Men’s to showcase what she calls a “deeply personal collection” inspired by her Black Caribbean roots with a focus on movement.
“This is a collection about my background, about my heritage, about being Black Caribbean,” explains Saunders in her show notes. “I used distortion, things that curved, and always a play with gender, and how we see masculine clothes.”
The collection pushes the boundaries of gender, while offering a fresh contemporary feel for tailored menswear, with designs that focus on the details, from a long, tailored coat featuring strong shoulders with a covered placket, so that no buttons show, offering “clarity of design”, which is also featured across the shirts to allow the “fluidity to shine through”, while other shirts have ruching at the side as if hitched up because the wearer has their hand in their trouser pocket.
Other standout features includes sweatpants with a double waistband, allowing the elastic to become a form of ruching, while all trousers and denim jeans have inside seams that curve outwards, creating a sense of continual movement, and padded jackets have wire running through their horizontal seams to create a silhouette that looks as if “movement has been stopped and paused”.
Saunders can also be seen experimenting with her latest collection, with waistcoats cut super-long, reaching the model's knees, while T-shirts are folder and gathered.
The emerging designer has also introduced accessories for the first time, with bags featuring wire in their frame to “hold endless possibilities of shape”, as well as silk scarves, and a footwear collaboration with Hernan Guardamagna, a fellow graduate of the RCA.
Images: courtesy of Bianca Saunders
London-based brand Priya Ahluwalia is continuing to push gender stereotypes alongside conscious design practices for her autumn/winter 2020 collection inspired by an alternative, multicultural interpretation of the 1960s by mixing sportswear with loungewear using a muted, earthy colour palette.
Nostalgic feeling was a strong trend throughout London Fashion Week Men’s, but this wasn’t a collection full of usual cliches of the Swinging Sixties, there weren’t any flower power moments instead the emerging designer created her own take on psychedelia with patchwork-inspired prints, wavy lines, colour pops and texture clashes.
Following her exploration of a smarter world with the Browns Fashion capsule collection back in November, Ahluwalia continues to infuse her sportswear designs with formal tailoring, with matching twinsets, that were masterfully mismatched, as well as padded jackets, tracksuits, denim, zip tops, shorts and shirts.
Being conscious is always at the core of Ahluwalia’s ethos, and the collection continues to use deadstock textiles and leftover materials from her past projects, explains the designer in the show notes, and this season also introduces new techniques. Rather than printing or bleaching onto denim, she has used lasers to embed the curved shapes onto the jeans, and she has ensured that all new textiles added, such as the jerseys and polyblends, have been recycled.
The AW20 collection also features two partnerships, with the recognisable three white stripes, appear in the ready-to-wear, as Ahluwalia uses archival fabrics from Adidas, alongside customising their Superstar trainer silhouette, and the designer has also worked with Clarks’ customising their Wallabees and desert boots.
London-born Priya Ahluwalia launched her label in 2018, after graduating from the MA Menswear course at The University of Westminster and was named the H&M Design Award winner in 2019.
Images: courtesy of Ahluwalia
Designer Kaushik Velendra, who was the first Indian-born graduate of Central Saint Martin's MA Fashion programme, is on a quest to evolve men’s tailoring with glamour and for his London Fashion Week Men’s debut, he showcased a contemporary menswear collection with his impressive hybridisation of sportswear and tailoring combined with heavy embroidery.
The presentation began with an inversion of the traditional catwalk show, with working members of the brand’s atelier, not least the designer himself, displaying their artisanal skills for all to see, before the collection filled with couture-like armour and futuristic tailoring grabbed the audience's attention.
Glamour explains the brand is the “very essence” of the 20-piece collection, with the clothes made for the red carpet, featuring tailored silhouettes inspired by the DNA of sportswear, highlighted with the use of space-age fabrications, such as magnetic zips and a heat-reactive felt that “naturally moulds over the contours of the shoulders”.
This was juxtaposed with traditional Indian embroidery techniques in collaboration with the lauded atelier of Vastrakala, founded by Jean-François Lesage.
“My intention was to find a way to recreate sexy and masculine shoulders, elegant elongated proportions and bold muscles using modified tailoring techniques and fabrication,” explains Velendra in the show notes. “My collection investigates the infinite possibilities of linking the two modes together, creating a ‘new generation’ of a modern, futuristic, sophisticated, and luxurious man.”
Highlights from the mainly black collection included Velendra’s removable shoulder moulds which, like armour, have been designed to accentuate the human form without ever compromising fluidity of movement.
Images: courtesy of Kaushik Velendra
Pacifism, founded by Talal Hizami in 2018, made its London Fashion Week Men's debut this season with his ‘Higher Power’ autumn/winter 2020 collection that took inspiration from his Arab heritage as well as reimagining old favourites, such as the cable-knit jumpers his mum would dress him up in as a child and the plaid checks across the collection inspired by his school uniform.
“Through subtle messaging, symbols, colours, textures and silhouettes, Pacifism’s AW20 collection aims to tell a personal story and connection to what the designer has experienced to be a ‘Higher Power’,” explained the brand in the show notes.
Hizami set up his menswear label to bridge the gap between modern elegance and streetwear, by incorporating modern staples, and his AW20 collection was a welcome addition to the London schedule, offering commercial wardrobe staples that were simple if not effective in design, from tailored check coats to knitted lounge sets, and styles that featured satin and embroidered trims.
There were also more directional pieces such as blazers featuring illustrations of “spiritual goddesses and angels of peace”, velvet tracksuits, padded shorts and a shearling jacket incorporating an elongated peach sign that was spotted throughout the collection.
Images: courtesy of Pacifism
Main image: courtesy of Feng Chen Wang