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June 19, 2016

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A nod to British seaside towns

SUITS worn over fishnet tops, tiny tailored shorts, loafers and sunburnt noses — Topman Design went to the British seaside for its latest collection at the four-day men’s fashion show in London.

J.W. Anderson, Christopher Kane, Barbour and some of Savile Row’s top tailors are among those showing at this season’s London Collections: Men, the twice yearly celebration of masculine style in the British capital. Topman Design, part of the Topshop high-street fashion stable, opened the event with a show featuring cropped sweaters in soft pinks or blues, washed denim jackets, boxy puffa jackets and jewelled white tracksuits.

Described as a “celebration of Britain and its glorious seaside towns,” the clothes were adorned with emblems of anchors and skulls, while the models were made-up to look like they had spent a little too long in the sun.

The collection of sportswear and suits was influenced by casual fashion from the 1980s as well as Teddy Boys and the Mods, youth tribes from the 1950s and 1960s.

There was nostalgia for another lost tribe at the launch of a book of punk photographs by Derek Ridgers, marked by an exhibition hosted by British designer Paul Smith at his Mayfair shop. Smith said the black and white photos, capturing the energy and attitude of fans and bands in London clubs in 1977, were a reminder of the importance of self-expression.

“Punk was a great example of just people doing things because they wanted to be different. But not with lots and lots of money — just through doing it,” he said.

“I think the world is desperate for self-expression again. It’s become so homogenized. So many young people are living life more like a business plan. It’s very considered, there’s not so much self-expression.”

One designer who cannot be accused of playing it safe is Charles Jeffrey, who presented a riotous collection from his Loverboy label that celebrated what he called “peacocking extremity.”

Jeffrey, who is supported by Topman and Fashion East through the MAN scheme for young designers, put his male models in corsets and full skirts, boxer shorts embellished with crystals and chainmail headdresses. “We’re pushing ourselves,” he said in a statement.

Men’s fashion is increasingly big business, accounting for 25 percent of Britain’s total clothing market, according to Mintel research cited by the British Fashion Council. The market grew by 4.1 percent in 2015 to reach 14.1 billion pounds (US$20.2 billion), up from 13.5 billion pounds in 2014 — compared to growth of 3.7 percent in womenswear in the same period.

The changing nature of men’s style was highlighted this week by the announcement by US bank JP Morgan that staff no longer had to wear suits, unless they were meeting clients. Casual trousers and polo shirts are acceptable although athletic clothing is still not allowed.

Paul Smith, who is known for his idiosyncratic take on traditional styling and is popular for his suits, said he has no worries about his core business.

“We still sell a lot of suits. It depends how you wear it. I’m wearing a suit tonight but with trainers and red socks,” he said.


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