As London Fashion Week Men’s draws to a close, PETRIe rounds up the highlights for the Spring-Summer 2020 season. Standout shows came from the designers that adhered to their house conventions but reimagined their archive to propel the dialogue about identity. The mutual undertone was the idea of identity as a social construct; the results were said brands paying homage to themselves and their heritage.

Chalayan SS20 Collection. Photo source: Vogue Runway

Take Chalayan for example, whose Post-Colonial Body theme delved into the subject of dance within various ethnic groups, focusing on Japan and South America as colonised by the West. The influences were apparent but subtle, with a gentle nod to Japanese origami, and South American free-spiritedness imbued in the free-flowing fabrics. Without a booming soundtrack to unify the pace, models carried their individual mini boom boxes, each playing a rhythm of undulating breaths and distant voices that sounded as though they were counting steps to a dance routine. On-brand, the clothes were both slouchy and refined, amalgamating the concept of restraint and freedom. Two jackets echoed this sentiment as each had a displaced sleeve secured to the chest like a straightjacket, with the oversized fit allowing room for movement. Another look shows a white softly draped T-shirt with excess fabric that would billow beautifully in the wind, and other looks were paired with wide-leg trousers either tapered in at the ankles or featuring a drawstring to rein them in. The link to dance can be seen in how the clothes allow freedom of movement, but also limit it – mimicking the muscles and how the body can only allow you to move so much before constricting you. In turn, the pieces were practical and wearable, even with the unique ways of layering on offer – the muted colour palette made them more accessible for an everyday wardrobe.

Bianca Saunders SS20 Collection. Photo source: Vogue Runway

Bianca Saunders’ Character presentation was an explicit approach to the identity discourseinspired by the dialogue between her male friends about their interpretation of masculinity, seen in her film Unravelling. Her models were well groomed with hair slicked back, save for the wispy strands that made them appear softer and effortless. The contrasting elements permeated into the clothing, where the pieces were structural with a nonchalant feel. The highlights were a ruched mushroom-coloured two-piece and the cropped string vest styled under a leather trench and flared jeans. None of it felt forced; instead it conclusively painted the Saunders’ brand and customer clearly: assured and unpretentious.

Stefan Cooke SS20 Collection. Photo source: Vogue Runway

For this season, the Stefan Cooke duo also delved into the idea of characterisation through theatre for their show, Drama Major. The set for the show, designed by Zechariah Miah, featured a washing line installation of white cotton fabric that was an allusion to the stage curtain. The theatre tropes were deconstructed or reconfigured with couture disciplines; corsetry and trompe l’oeil, for example, were repeated more than once and reimagined for everyday wear, yet they didn’t feel like costumesThe collection was fun and revelled in the art of playing a character, even if it means wearing a pair of trousers sliced at the knees, a diamond cut-out knit vest in deep pink, or delicate, light-as-feather sheer vests with grey tracksuit and calf-high boots.

Alexander McQueen SS20 Collection. Photo source: Vogue Runway

Finally, at Alexander McQueen, the collection saw references from the ‘90s, and Japan, which has long served as inspiration for the house, as well as its womenswear counterpart. The half-pleated skirts on jackets were flattering to the body, even the black ruffled number that was made entirely of leftover fabric from a previous collection; it was excessive, but sustainably so. Despite the abundance of influences, the collection felt cohesive through Creative Director, Sarah Burton’s use of colour and transfer of fabric from one piece to another. One jacket had airy satin bomber sleeves, whilst a satin all in one showcased an intricate dragon motif on the sleeves. The odd hybrid made it the riskiest piece, as it could have easily fallen into the garish category, but the house’s signature tailoring gave it a sharp edge and the McQueen stamp of splendour. The tailoring stood out the most when a long blazer spliced in the middle was styled over another crisp white blazer; a look that could have easily looked frumpy, was streamlined and unfussy. The highlight was the dare-to-be-noticed, double layered fuchsia suit, and the all-white broderie anglaise suit that grounded the collection. Even when giving simplicity a go, Sarah Burton outdoes herself.

In a collective nod to self-assurance and the luxury that comes with it, the shows emphasised overall the ability of designers to explore a hybrid of influences, whilst remaining authentic.

Backstage highlights from London Fashion Week Men’s SS20 Collection. Photo by Jack Lee.

Words - Jane Chanakira

Copy edited by Elena Stanciu