London Fashion Week Men’s has been relatively mellow this year. With the loss of Craig Green – who is showing for one season in Florence as guest designer for Pitti Uomo – it seems the showcase is lacking some much-needed pizazz. In comes Chinese designer Xander Zhou and his crew of pregnant extraterrestrials. The designer has been gaining momentum for a few seasons already, delivering strong shows after strong shows, and it seems now is his time to shine.
Zhou is most adept at building a compelling narrative around his collections. For SS19 he crafted a world inhabited by stylish aliens. The show opened with a male model sporting a generous baby bump with a tee-shirt rolled over on top that read “New World Baby”. As a woman’s voice saying “I am digitized” started playing on a loop as the show’s soundtrack, you were instantly hooked. The models who followed were for the most part wearing bright blue contact lenses and we were even treated to a mutated specimen with four extra arms.
Sci-fi has often been a point of reference for Zhou, but this time he leaned more clearly towards the B-movie side of the genre. The tongue-in-cheek humour at play was the cherry on the cake for a presentation that offered a convincing proposition for what casualwear of the future might look like.
Futurism in fashion is harder to pull off than it sounds and it is quite easy to fall into cheesy territory. Thankfully, Xander Zhou’s designs have always been forward-thinking in a way that is also wearable for the here and now. In many ways, this collection felt like the laid back answer to his SS18 show on dystopian office style.
Boxy fit uniform shirts are Zhou’s bread-and-butter and they abounded here, deployed in striking colours or full logo. They were paired with shorts that finished either high on the thigh or at knee-level with extra padding. Similarly cod pieces on top of leggings gave a new context to his tracksuit jackets. Take away the layered and sometimes outrageous styling and they were plenty of covetable pieces. Best thing is, you don’t have to wait for the world to be overtaken by aliens to wear them! Although it might take an otherworldly being to pull off those edge-of-your-seat sunglasses designed in collaboration with Korean brand Gentle Monster.
Elsewhere, Zhou also explored a more feminine side of his aesthetic. Drapery was incorporated to shirting which softened the workwear looks, while multicoloured tulle trailed along the back of a black sleeveless tank to dare-I-say-it romantic effect. Most compelling to me was the combo of long-sleeved pleated tops worn under polo shirts. They made for a very appealing silhouette, the kind of subtle innovation men’s fashion could use more of.
Is it too early to call best show of the season?