‘Middle finger up to gender!’ The exclamation printed on a bold men’s outfit told the story of the colourful, crazy, free-wheeling menswear at the London colleges’ graduation shows this season.
Rachel Siggee from Nottingham Trent University made that statement at the Graduate Fashion Week awards show. But she was not alone in her attitude that menswear now has a sense of wild freedom, more recently associated with a woman’s wardrobe.
In fact, the male looks are taking over the runways in style and in numbers. Space-age menswear with a metallic silver finish won the ‘Gold’ award at Graduate Fashion Week for Hannah Wallace from Manchester School of Art.
In all areas from knitwear to textiles, clothes for men are now the fighting force.
At London’s Central Saint Martins BA show, colour, pattern and texture exploded across the runway. Challenging gender stereotypes was the issue, from the first outing of soft, shiny men’s sportswear in sweet pink from Gabriel Castro through to the giant, tent-like garment in shocking pink and pattern from Milligan Beaumont. Equally crazy colours on oversize outfits with wild patterns came from Wataru Tominaga and Angus Lai.
I felt the spirit of the Eighties in many of the giant silhouettes. But the digitalisation of print, laser-cutting and 3D pattern-cutting has changed fashion dramatically in the 30 years since Japanese designers — Yohji Yamamoto, for example — faced those issues.
I was frustrated in all the college runway shows about the lack of technological information — especially since I was a judge at Saint Martins.
The single word ‘knitwear’ or ‘print’ was just not enough to define the workmanship. And I still don’t know how student Han Kim created giant ‘wings’ — nor whether, because of their weight and huge size, the outfits should be seen as artistic sculptures rather than clothes.
The same applied to Susan Yan Nan Fang’s intriguing ‘mobile’ clothes, with threads hung on wires like an Alexander Calder mobile. Or another decorative treatment of super-fine metal mesh in an all-scarlet collection from womenswear designer Jim Chen Hstang-Hu.
I WANT fashion students to stretch their designs — actually or metaphorically — to the limits of their imaginations.
And the fact that menswear is given just the same wild, bold, intense treatment marks a new stretch of fashion wings.