London Fashion Week has traditionally focused on womenswear, but in recent seasons, since the British Fashion Council announced that the biannual event would be going gender-neutral, menswear designers have been creating their own path and shaking up the fashion scene.
There was lots of menswear on display for autumn/winter 2022, with designers including Erdem, Edward Crutchley, Ahluwalia, and Mark Fast showcasing looks for men alongside womenswear, but it was the emerging menswear scene that stood out with designers including Saul Nash, Robyn Lynch, SS Daley, and Ladrum London all part of the BFC NewGen scheme.
Saul Nash ‘Rituals’
Menswear designer Saul Nash explored spirituality and folklore from Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America for autumn/winter 2022, as well as his own Guyanese heritage and the rites of passage of a young younger, set against the backdrop of Kensal Rise barbershop Gee's.
As with all Nash showcases, this was an immersive presentation that started with a short film shot by Fx Goby, which paid tribute to one of London’s first black barbers Gee Artery, who died in January and led into a choreographed performance on the catwalk to highlight how movement is always central to Nash’s collection of streetwear and sportswear.
For AW22, Nash has experimented with tailoring for the first time, with a nylon/merino wool blend combat suit jacket with detachable sleeves and hood, showcased with matching trousers that had the look of relaxed joggers. Innovations in wool were also a focal throughout, as Nash is a finalist for the 2022 International Woolmark Prize. He showcased wool compression layers woven with mermaid motifs alongside a wool padded coat and gilet insulated with HD Wool.
Other highlights included baseball shirts cut to enhance movement in merino wool flannel with Guyana across the chest in lettering secured by bio-based adhesive to proudly showcase his Guyanese heritage.
“I was born in London to a Bajan-born Guyanese mother, and it’s always interested me how much I was immersed in these cultures in a place so far away from them,” explained Nash in the show notes. “Spirituality was everywhere at home, and stories of ancestors and superstitions would set my imagination running. Ritual is about what these ideas mean to me today, in 21st century London.”
Robyn Lynch continues collaboration with Columbia
Robyn Lynch’s solo catwalk debut showcased a collection that refined her upcycling aesthetic and innovative approach to sustainability with pieces inspired by her Irish youth, apres-ski, and a continuation of her collaboration with outdoor specialists Columbia.
Building on her SS22 collaboration with Columbia, Lynch highlighted the potential of existing deadstock by upcycling 10 jackets using the outerwear brand’s innovative ‘Outdry’ technology made from environmentally conscious materials. Lynch transformed Columbia’s foldable rain jackets into cropped puffers that expanded into new dimensions with scalloped edged on the sleeves.
“Revisiting this project with Columbia has been an eye-opening experience,” explained Lynch in the show notes. “Getting to learn from industry leaders on technical fabrication development and science has been a highlight of this season, which has definitely influenced the way I work with deadstock, but also my approach to design in general.”
The collection also highlighted her use of technical fabrics, including sustainable materials like nylon made out of ocean waste, which was contrasted against reflective thread and beaded embroidery to add a new sensuality to the traditional codes of masculine sportswear.
Lynch also delved into her family wardrobe for AW22 by interpreting four of her dad’s vintage Dublin football jerseys interpreted into high-tech knit pieces. The emerging Irish designer utilised Japanese fashion lab Synflux’s digital-first approach to design to distort the scans of the jerseys and transform them into trompe l’oeil intarsia knits made in cotton yarn.
Labrum London ‘Poetics of Movement’
For autumn/winter 2022, Labrum London, founded by Foday Dumbuya, showcased a collection in an ode to movement, in relation to survival and as an expressive life form. The contemporary menswear brand takes inspiration from West African and British culture, and for AW22, Dumbuya returned home to Sierra Leone and the city of Freetown to work with local craftspeople to develop fabrics by artisans.
The catwalk was much more than about clothes it was an engaging event with a live choir providing the soundtrack to the elegantly crafted suits, outerwear, and denim strutting down in an array of brilliant oranges, ocean greens and vibrant yellows.
Highlights included Aishatu dresses and denim jackets screen printed with hand-drawn and hand-embroidered Nomoli figures from the Mende and Kissi tribes of Sierra Leone.
Labrum has also collaborated with luxury goods brand Nosakhari for AW22 to create three bag shapes, a heavy-duty tote, a crossbody and a folio made using deadstock and leather and fabric off-cuts, including from the Labrum design studio, destined for waste. The crossbody and folio appear in two distinct styles, a sophisticated camo print and repurposed patchwork, both featuring minimalist brass hardware, while the canvas and leather tote are in five colour combinations.
SS Daley ‘The Plate Collector’
Emerging menswear designer Steven Stokey Daley, who was recently named a semi-finalist for the 2022 LVMH Prize for Young Designers, was inspired by the dissolution of English stately homes and the “upstairs, downstairs” culture as depicted on British period TV shows like ‘Downton Abbey’.
This translated into an expansion of his design world, with a focus on tailoring that goes beyond his wide-legged trousers and embroidered shirts worn by the likes of Harry Styles. This was a collection that included a trench coat printed with 18th-century etchings of birds with exaggerated balloon sleeves and extreme lapels.
Daley also showcased oversized tuxedo shirts, reminiscent of a flowing nightgown, with pleated front bib reaching down to the knees, while other standout looks included a checked suit and a leather waistcoat cut from diamonds of leather.
For AW22, Daley also introduced his first womenswear pieces, blurring the lines between masculinity and femininity, alongside knitwear featuring a blue ribbed knit sweater embroidered with the motif that decorated a 17th-century plate found in a London sewer: “you & I are Earth”. The distinctive design opens asymmetrically at the neck along a saddle shoulder seam, held by long blue ties, while elsewhere in the collection there was a cropped tight cable knit cardigan and black knit vests that tie at the side.
“As I worked on the collection, I started writing my own narrative,” said Steven Stokey Daley in his show notes. “For each look, I gave it a character. It jumps from different periods and reference points, merging with my ideas of theatre and movement, to build my own modern day period drama.”