How else to kick off the London Collections: Men AW14, than with the Topman sponsored MAN show.
Featuring designers Alan Taylor, Craig Green and Bobby Abley, anticipation had been rising, especially to see how last years’ new kids on the MAN block Abley and Taylor had progressed this season. Unsurprisingly the shock-factor tradition of LCM Day One was fulfilled, but thankfully, to our satisfaction, it was not shock over substance. Within the layered stylistic diversity of the whole MAN show, was a gloriously strong and exciting start to the week.
Bobby Abley presented a refreshing case of fashion whimsicality with a dark and intriguingly grim edge. Said to have been inspired by Mickey Mouse's Haunted House adventure, Abley’s fun but feisty collection was like a trip to Disneyland, taking a ride on a night-train rollercoster then going for candyfloss and ice-cream afterwards. Splashed with Disney font references like 'Brains' and 'Dream On,' his bubble-gum pink, furry fabrics created fluid shapes and bold silhouettes, which have not only evolved from last season but are also bang on the blatant sportswear trend reference for AW14. Teamed with horn-adorned baseball caps, and disturbing metal mouthpieces, ensuring the models walked and drooled simultaneously; and we loved the perhaps wearable (not for the timid) brain print baby-pink trousers!
Inspired by Brian Eno’s 1975 album ‘Discreet Music’, designer Richard Nicoll opened his AW14 show with a signature nod to the English gentleman, presenting subtle monochromes and a one-colour-per-look pallet, saturating the structured silhouettes and considered tailoring. Yet with every perfectly styled model's entrance on to the catwalk, his reinterpreted British classics soon evolved into a kaleidoscope of deliciously strong hues; neon yellows, turquoise greens and deep reds. There was a deliberate but careful balance between the discreet and bold, maintaining masculinity with heavy wools and statement sweaters, whilst still delivering a directional and self assured sense of contemporary styling, with elegant jacquard fabrics and pastel ruffle dress shirts. An array of oversized shorts, bright fur collared pea-coats, checked tuxedo shirts, slogan sweaters and refined suits – an exciting and grown up show, bringing a fresh dimension to LCM in amongst some of the more standard shock-value orientated shows. This was a collection which confidently ticked all the boxes for wearable yet directional, smart tailored looks, with an excellently accomplished (and essential for this season) reference to sportswear.
With the perfect soundtrack of Missy Elliot’s ‘Hot Boyz,’ even before the first model stepped out we were rife with anticipation to see how Astrid Andersen had approached her already signature streetwear / American hip-hop style for this season. We weren’t disappointed. This collection had taken the previous nod to sportswear up a notch, unapologetically playing with volume, luxurious fabrics and relaxed yet bold layering. With the models aggressive facial expressions and long shiny hair flowing as they walked; a blend of strong shapes and a sumptuously soft colour pallet, this collection presented juxtaposition between power and sensitivity. Encapsulating both elegance and oversized extremes, Andersen showcased her collection of pieces to covet, with valid confidence. Structured tailored college jackets, a new cropped take on last season's fondly remembered ‘Astrid’ logo sweats, a delicate lace overlay and our favourite - the head turning ‘Kopenhagen’ fur coats which embodied maximalsim, well… to the max! While some pieces were not for the faint hearted, the latter half of the collection seen in a monochrome pallet offered a slightly paired down allure, ensuring her over the knee loose shorts and textured chunky tees stood out on their own.
With the dark, Salford-broad drones of the legendary musical poet John Cooper Clarke providing the soundtrack, and a front row of icons including Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Wood, Tinie Tempah and the man we all either want or want to be – David Gandy, this was the TOPMAN DESIGN show. And the second the lights dimmed, we knew they were going to be giving us something special. Their AW14 collection was unveiled, showcased by a beautifully hapless stream of models, all cheekbones and damp hair, walking along the puddle drenched catwalk with solemn faces.
The melancholic, sombre mood of the show and overall collection was immediately obvious, and emphasised further with the dark pallet of matt grey, black and navy, peppered with the occasional spurt of orange and turquoise. With baggy tailoring, wool duffel coats and glossy leather detailing, pvc finishes, touches of rubber and heavy chunky knits; the collection moved through coveted, wearable and brave. Woollen overcoats, bulked-up loose neck knits and hooded biker cut jackets all took a key place in the show, and no doubt will also hold a place in stores come September. The baggy billowing trousers were a personal favourite, in pastel blue and teamed with pale bejewelled holey jumpers; this was a rare uplifting moment within the otherwise entrancingly dark collection. The penultimate moment was perhaps in the show finale, when the bleak romanticism was really brought home with the purposeful down pour of rain, inside the venue, deliberately drenching the models whilst thankfully not dampening the excitement in the audience.