In past seasons I have been snitty about London Collections: Men not least when the army of Asian gay bloggers in knee socks, brogues and pork pie hats descend on Bloomsbury Square for the runway shows jamming their Nikons up your boutonniere without even a by your leave. Tell me Rowley, how do you pronounce blog? Is it blogue as in vogue or blog as in flog? I know one or two in the business we call fashion who would be more inclined to the latter but as you know I never repeat gossip.
Seriously, what impressed me this season was how much class the grown-ups showed. I am thinking of Dunhill’s boy’s club reception at their Bourdon House flagship off Berkeley Square and Burberry bringing production values that would do Miramax proud to their presentation. Chris Bailey has the talent to make Burberry appear credible to the directional satchel-toting, skinny malinky kids with tousled hair and bee stung lips and desirable to their elders who can actually afford it.
The most life affirming runway show was Nick ‘Spencer’ Hart’s ‘friends and family’ Sunday afternoon jam session in his flagship opposite Claridge’s. Sweet mojitos were served as the guests ambled in as chilled as polar bear’s sock drawer. There was none of the fashion week nonsense whereby front rowsters arrive wearing dark glasses like re-entry shields as if they’d been blown in from Kansas and sprint from the venue before the last model has put a toe on the catwalk as if there was a bomb scare.
Guys who wear Spencer Hart are so much more chilled and came as much for Nick as they did the show. The mood was navy, white and indigo. The boys walked barefoot and there was the scent of Palm Springs Modern about the easy separates that has moved so far beyond the language of Savile Row. Nick speaks a patios of menswear all his own that is lighter, less complicated and a hell of a lot more fun than all the cliches about English style.
Do you know the litmus test of well designed menswear? When it makes the front row look down and think twice. Nick’s collection was for shiny happy people living laid-back lives. I might as well have been wearing pinstripes and a bowler compared to the New Orleans brass band he sent out to model the clothes last before they came together and swung the roof off the Davies Street store. Do you know what it reminded me of? The opening scene in Roger Moore’s James Bond classic Live & Let Die with the voodoo kings and queens raising a roar on the streets of New Orleans.
The world does not need another fifty menswear collections from New York, Paris, Milan or London. This I think the designers must have in mind when producing a showcase twice a year. If it isn’t exceptional then why on earth bother? This is what I like about Turnbull & Asser. As you know I am writing the house biography this year so have had the privilege of close-ups behind the scenes in recent months.
But what I enjoy about the T&A presentations at LC:M is seeing head of design Dean Gomilsek-Cole throwing down the gauntlet to his peacock following with literally hundreds of tie silks and pocket squares and a taste of limited edition T&A tailoring that poses the question every season how far the T&A man will go. As you know Turnbull & Asser was a fashion leader in the late 60s and most of the 70s. Dean has taken the peacock years as a starting point and infused the new collections with his own brand of whimsical story telling and talent.
I look to Turnbull & Asser for the flourishes. Granted I might enjoy a flannel trouser or a navy blazer but it is those flourishes that I really want such as the ‘Pixilated Aztec’ silk pocket squares for Spring/Summer 2016 and a marvellous hour glass and clock face number tie silk motif. When I look at T&A tailoring it is for the special piece in my wardrobe not the staples. I want the highlights not the box set.
Though fashion lost its charms for me many years ago – perhaps when I thought it no longer appropriate to follow – I am still in thrall to things of great beauty. Very good design is not prohibitive. It has the ability to speak to the best part of any man. This is why I don’t have time for clothes that seek to be too confrontational or too conventional. All of the truly chic men I have met choose not to stand out in a crowd but prove to be exceptional on closer inspection.
I feel about men’s fashion the way I do about the London Collections: Men black Mercedes that whizzed around London this weekend. It looks like fun but I’d don’t want to go where they are going. I prefer being free as a bird on Shanks’s pony than whirling round the carousel until dizzy with motion. One can only look at the same thing in a gleeful fashion for so long. At some point you have to say stop that world I want to get off.