Before being immersed in the fashion industry as a photographer and later, editor, what clothes I wore didn’t really matter to me. I appreciated that for special occasions, it was important to have a suit; and I liked having nice shoes. But to me, that meant a relatively new, clean pair of Converse.. or a pair of black formal shoes from Next. When it came to male style icons, I had no clue – why does it matter what I wear on a day-to-day basis? What sort of a person does one look up to as a stylish figure?
British Classic Conservatism in Fashion
My first time at London Collections: Men and it became evidently clear that, although an emerging market in relativity to the women’s fashion industry, the world of men’s fashion was full of celebrities, style icons and fashion-focused fanatics. My first meeting with the renowned David Gandy was outside the Topman Showspace as he hopped out of his typically British classic car; and from that point it was clear to me who ‘the man’ of LCM was.
A familiar face, but not the one I was expecting to get the paparazzi excited. Much to my surprise, the ambassadors of London Collections: Men were not designers or business men but celebrities known most for their work in other industries. Of course, GQ UK Editor Dylan Jones and model David Gandy are exceptions, but even today it still surprises me to see the likes of Samuel L. Jackson and Reggie Yates so immersed into the world of men’s fashion.
The industry itself is still a minority, but a warm welcome to those in the fashion world. Unlike the notorious London Fashion Week and its participants’ bitchiness and disrespect for anyone whose name doesn’t appear on the guest list, London Collections: Men offers a more familial, group-led approach to the catwalk. Everyone’s in it together; we share ideas in the press room, travel in groups to the next show and network like you wouldn’t believe. Perhaps this is just a sign of its youth, having only started in 2012, but maybe it is an indicator of the whole industry.
Savile Row Style
When it comes to men’s fashion, one can’t help but picture the history and heritage of Savile Row; the mature, stern face of David Gandy a representation of how men can look good without the worry of appearing effeminate. However, is such conservatism unique to British fashion for men? Apart from the well-established Italian Pitti Uomo, there is no other men’s fashion week en par with with London Collections: Men; this indicates to me that as a whole, men are more reluctant to admit their interest in how to make themselves look good. Contrary perhaps to one’s expectations, the readership of men’s fashion magazines such as GQ is on the increase and we are now more likely to think twice about whether the clothes we put on this morning match than say, 5 years ago.
Interestingly, along with the growth of London Collections: Men, the male grooming industry has seen a huge boom in the UK – with a range of beard oils, hair products and shaving creams now on the shelves – and selling- the tell-tale signs of a market that is about to explode are making themselves known. The question now is not how much money the industry will produce, or even how well it will be received, but what the attitude of those involved will be: will the conservative, reserved attitude of the man remain? Or will we start to see an opening up in the man’s approach to appearance?
Either way, David Gandy will remain at the forefront of the industry – despite the recent conviction of Italian designers Dolce & Gabbana, whose campaigns he is most known for.
Photography: Alexander Barnes, David Gandy at London Collections: Men 2013.