LC:M ends and political awareness rings in our ears
A constant dialogue of controversial elections, divisive referendums and hate-fuelled attacks means we exist at a time when nobody can ignore what is going on in the world at large. In the past, the fashion industry has strolled alongside politics as if separated by a curtain of sheer fabric, but no longer does it have the luxury of handpicking issues to concern itself with – and as such, London’s designers treated LC:M as a creative call to arms.
This season stood apart as designers used their collections to tackle issues that come under the heading of ‘Politics with a capital ‘P’’. The first of these was America. As the Presidential election approaches, the future of America is, for many, a cause for concern. Katie Eary showed a collection of luxurious leisurewear: slips, robes and pyjamas of fine silk were printed with fish arranged in straight lines and accompanied by stars to form the American flag. The show’s press release cites Eary’s upbringing in a small market-town as being a key influence, though it does touch on the metaphoric value of the fish – their representation of the ‘deep, blue foreboding of the sea.’ Knitwear designers Sid Bryan and Cozette McCreery of Sibling, whose show began moments after the Orlando shooting’s death toll was confirmed at fifty, also brought suggestions of American strife onto the catwalk. Their poolside collection, modelled by a flock of smiling boys and girls all toned and tanned, consisted of Miami-esque swimwear and Italian yarn towels. Sibling’s usual cheery prints were this time joined by a constant flow of red, white and blue. The suggestion of underlying discomfort was expressed through stiff sequinned corsets, laced tightly and juxtaposing the carefree ease with which the models strolled down the runway.
The ‘Brexit’ debate, another “capital ‘P’’ issue, stomped its way down the SS17 runway. Christopher Raeburn showed jackets with the word ‘IN’ printed on the chest, while Patrick Grant of E. Tautz and the design duo behind Sibling stepped out to give their post-show waves wearing t-shirts that sported the same simple slogan. Topman designer Gordon Richardson showed sweatshirts featuring words like ‘Margate’ and ‘Torquay’ accompanied by nostalgic prints of ice creams. Meanwhile, emerging streetwear brand Blood Brother took inspiration for their outdoor-activities-proof collection from the quaintness of the great British holiday.
LC:M also had its fair share of shows that discussed ‘politics with a lower-case ‘p’’. This is a conversation in which fashion tends to be more outspoken, and the ever-present issue of gender was explored with enthusiasm in SS17. British designer Phoebe English, better-known for her womenswear, presented her third menswear collection on male models who sat against a white linen backdrop, each embroidering precisely on his own rag of hoop-framed fabric. The garments included shirt dresses and hooded smocks, the palette a simple mix of blue, grey and navy. Chinese designer Xander Zhou showed a fiercely sexualised collection featuring latex, bandanas and a plenty of skin. The beauty of this show came from its fluidity of gender; the sex-appeal was there but without the dose of hyper-masculinity upon which it so often relies. In the world of Zhou, a slim boy can wear a crop-top and high-heeled boots in a way which feels effortlessly masculine.
Nobody celebrates queer culture better than London’s freshest talent, Charles Jeffrey. Since graduating from Central Saint Martins last year, the Scottish designer has revolutionised the east London club scene with his night LOVERBOY, bringing the characters and characteristics of the non-conformist community to the runway and into the context of high fashion. Although Jeffrey’s second LC:M collection was not primarily concerned with this discussion – its aim being the altogether more abstract one of building a dreamlike, ethereal world within which the designer’s ongoing narrative can take place – the designer’s menswear featured skirts and waist-tight tailoring and was worn by a fabulously flamboyant cast. Chainmail was stitched to fine Merino wool, embodying the inclusivity upon which LOVERBOY is founded.
London’s designers have made their best efforts to respond to the colossal issues which we face at the present time, still managing to maintain perspective on the relative importance of what we do. And under the enormous political pressures and conflicts we’re experiencing right now, I can’t help but consider what their temperature will be ahead of next season’s political climate.