London Collections: Men

Dear Rowley,

It’s that time of year again when Bloomsbury Square is littered with Asian fashion bloggers in clothing that Lord Redesdale would describe as ‘pointless’ queuing outside Victoria House to view the fashion shows collectively known as London Collections: Men. I nearly belted one of the pesky devils who ambushed me with her Nikon en route to Waitrose without even a by your leave. The shows always remind me of the Whacky Races with the senior fashion press haring round town in a fleet of branded Mercedes alighting at various venues with that look on their faces that confirms they have never been troubled by self-doubt.

I don’t really follow the shows but dipped my toe in this afternoon for Richard James’s show at the BMW showroom on Park Lane. Richard is a professional. He’s shown in Paris and Milan so is no stranger to putting on a polished, coherent show. Autumn/Winter 2014 was no exception with a strong Neo-Edwardian theme echoing the Teddy Boys of the 1950s: a particularly rich seam in Savile Row’s history.

I enjoyed Richard’s overchecks in baby pink and mint green and always appreciate his clean, lean lines. The vogue for finishing trousers with turn-ups half way up the calf should really be discouraged but it’s the look as is the full Edward VII moustache and beard. As I said to La Farmer, there were so many beards at London Collections: Men it resembled nothing so much as the Castro circa 1971.

At the few shows I do attend, I’m always as fascinated by the old lags who are still in the saddle since the days when I reported from the fashion capitals for the FT and Trib. One particular lady still masticates like a disdainful saluki just as she did in the early 90s. Another has taken to wearing dark glasses. In London. In January. It’s raining. This is only excusable if one has cataracts or a shiner don’t you think? Still nice to see the fashion press trying to wear as many of their Christmas gifts from the designer brands in one outfit as possible. There is such a thing as accessory overload chaps.

It appears from looking at the buyers and press on the front row that Savile Row has won the battle from the waist up. Waist down anything seems to go including sightings of blue track pants, drop-crotch dhoti nappies and Argyll leggings all of which were on parade today. It is always a privilege to see a true pro at work. At every show there’s Suzy Menkes – fashion editor of the International Herald Tribune (still can’t bring myself to call it the International New York Times) – ¬†front row centre who can nail a story with golden prose whatever the shortcomings of the runway collection she’s looking at. The lady must have seen a million catwalk shows but she’s still got the nose for a story and always runs rings round the yoof. More power to your elbow, Duckie.

Is London Collections: Men gathering momentum? I think Huston has a problem with front row pictures that get the event into the newspapers and on telly. David Gandy is a terribly handsome man and dresses exquisitely. But another picture of him at another fashion show isn’t going to sell the tickets on the door. Neither will television presenters, radio DJs, Tiny Tempah or BoJo. It was rather fun to see Kylie at Dolce & Gabbana but London simply doesn’t punch at equal weight with the A-list front rows in New York, Paris or Milan. Only Burberry and Tom Ford can compete. By the by, the Savile Row collective are showing in the Cabinet War Rooms this afternoon: apt as it happens.

It would be grossly unfair of me to pass judgement on London Collections: Men having seen so little of it. The real success can only be gauged by how much schmutter is ordered by the international buyers and at the cash register come Autumn when the collections go in store. PR is of course impossible to put a price on though many people try. All one can do is to wish London Collections: Men well and hope the brouhaha translates into sales. It never ceases to amaze me how expensive it is to produce a runway show lasting an average fifteen-minutes. I suppose if like Burberry it is live streamed online then the investment is sound.

What else is new Rowley? Well, it looks like the London Cut exhibition proposed for the British Ambassador’s Residence in Washington is now slated for 2015 rather than this year. I think that’s a very wise decision. It took a good year to curate the original London Cut at Palazzo Pitti and none of that time was wasted. I am sincerely hoping we can include a broad church of London’s bespoke tailors in the Washington show just as we did in Florence. The Row is diminished by excluding tailors because of geographical considerations. Any exhibition is enhanced by a Timothy Everest or Edward Sexton, no?