Walking into the Phoebe English Man presentation felt like ascending to a space of order and purpose, which carried through the entirety of this capsule collection. With an emphasis on functionality and practicality, Phoebe English demonstrated the ability to elevate a garment from the quotidian to something impeccably, yet effortlessly stylish. Waxed cotton tunics rendered in a glorious royal blue, slim jogging trousers with oversized gathered cuff, a loose coat with the belt marginally higher than the waist – all unexpected features seeming utterly in context. The juxtaposition of form and texture saw fresh, crisp cotton shirts in white and blue stripes set against unctuous velvets and corduroys in earthy colours. Fabric and design were used with utmost understanding and constraint, starting off the AW17 experience with an overall sense of modernity, functionality, and coherence.
Xander Zhou's AW'17 explores garments interacting with weather and organic environments, specifically rain. The degree of vulnerability and the protection they might provide was investigated, as some of the models appeared half naked, while others were totally covered in utility-inspired boiler suits. The models stormed down the runway at an almost uncomfortable speed, like boys racing to avoid a storm. Their gait was lolloping, urban and almost aggressive, adding to a feeling of uncomfortable exposure. The collection featured fabrics toying with the notion of moisture, from demi matt polished leather, mohair jumpers glistening with shimmers, hair slicked back and heavy with grease, ties swept over the shoulder as if push back by driving wind, and metallic trench coats reflecting light like rivulets water. Zhou used form to create a provoking subversion of masculinity: triangular forms, a shape associated with the male body, appear in kimono-style jackets and structured cropped shirts, interestingly evoking the female form. The collection was deliciously twisted and intriguingly uncomfortable.
About as complete a departure from today's creations, Bobby Abley's collection is placed at the unlikely border of childlike vulgarity and a '90s acid house. Logos synonymous with childhood were spliced with subculture rave symbols, perhaps to highlight the similarities between the two. Bright, primary and neon colours, monogrammed hoodies, and fabrics begging to be touched: all make up a non-cynical celebration of the childlike fascination with the obscene. Despite it being challenging in tone and style, and rather underdeveloped, the collection was a joyous display of colour and texture, refreshing for a day otherwise defined by sombre, uncompromising, and functional design.
The final show was an equally intoxicating exhibition of neon. Liam Hodges melded classic design with highly modern colours, patterns, and textures. The use of high waisted paperbag trousers and bowler hats, along with dark eyeliner smudged below the bottom eyelashes, is reminiscent of a Charlie Chaplin figure, dragged kicking and screaming into 2017, via psychedelic '90s streetwear. Hodges' collection seemed more cogent, possibly because larger, than Bobby Abley's, and the intricacies in design ensured its overall complexity. The clash of neon, designed to illuminate and expose, with camouflage, designed to conceal and protect, created an aesthetically satisfying confusion around the outfits: hesitating to be exhibitionist, yet giving the entire collection an air of surprising intimacy, despite essentially being the most urban of the collections today.
Words: Flora Walsh
Copy edited by Elena Stanciu