LFWM: Xander Zhou SS19

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

LFWM: Daniel W. Fletcher SS19

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Daniel W. Fletcher showed his first full-fledged runway show on Saturday at London Fashion Week. It’s been a long time coming for the CSM graduate who has quietly but surely been making a name for himself on the London fashion scene. As a result, he comes to the big stage with a clear point-of-view. But instead of offering us a greatest hits, the designer – originally from North England – wisely chose to push things one step further.

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Fletcher is known for his casual take on luxury. Part-sporty part-nostalgic the D.W.F boy is just quirky enough to warrant a second look. In a nutshell, British boyishness for the 21st century. The designer has also been smart enough over the years to chime in on current political affairs during his presentations. Most memorable was his “STAY” cap released prior to the Brexit referendum. Fletcher has been particularly savvy in balancing the building of his own brand (establishing a clear aesthetic as an apt purveyor of playful contemporary menswear) and conveying his personal socially-aware voice to his audience.

In the age of social media, the highly-coveted Millenials are spoilt with choice, and as such good product no longer suffices to attract customers. Young people are craving for “authenticity” – however fraught that concept might be – and want to know their favourite brands share the same morals and values as they do. Hence Gucci announcing they are going fur-free earlier this year. In that respect, Daniel W. Fletcher has nothing more to prove and, for his first runway show, he focused on the clothes.

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This collection took the D.W.F boy down a new – slightly perverse – path. Fetish has always been an underlying current in Fletcher’s work – take for one his obsession with skimpy sports shorts – but this time it took centre stage. Tonal leather-on-leather play, corset-like laced-up vests, skin-tight halter-neck tops, graphic printed shirts (in collaboration with American artist Caitlin Keogh)… There was much evidence to show that Daniel Fletcher’s usually well-behaved garçon had taken a walk on the wild side.

The fetishization of the male – and in particular the young male’s – body in high fashion is nothing new. The overt sexualization of youth is a luxury’s brand’s most conspicuous trick. Only rarely does this intense – not to say unhealthy – fixation touch the audience it is supposedly mirroring. Instead, grown men past the age of 40 (the ones who hold the actual spending power) will buy into juvenile-leaning marketing in hopes of recapturing their lost teenage years. It’s a wicked game.

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As such, it was refreshing to see Fletcher’s use this common trope to an almost opposite effect. Indeed by making his protagonist more clearly sexualized than before, Fletcher moved him down the path towards adulthood and the collection focused heavily on tailoring. Sharp suiting (with Fletcher’s signature piping) was cut long and lean with slashes at the hem for added panache. The body conscious silhouettes were still youthful but with a more mature approach to dressing than we’ve seen Fletcher take in the past. In the age of ubiquitous streetwear, there is plenty of room to modernize tailoring. and this proposition is not to be discounted.

LFWM: Craig Green AW18

Craig Green Fashion Show, Menswear Collection Fall Winter 2018 in London

Craig Green has become the golden child of London Fashion Week men’s. Second time winner of the British Menswear Designer of the year at the British Fashion Awards, Green is one London’s most unique and creative voices. His influence can even be seen on the new generation of graduate students. The best thing about him? He never disappoints.

Craig Green Fashion Show, Menswear Collection Fall Winter 2018 in London

Let me start by saying a few words on those famous wooden structures harnessed on the models’ bodies. Those are in many ways symbolic of Green’s approach to design. Their base might be quite plain but their various adornments elevate them into something altogether otherworldly. Just the same, Green likes to take codes of man’s uniforms (workwear, military etc) and transfigure them into visions of exotic beauty. The bones of each garments are rooted in something familiar – and therefore wearable – which then gives Green carte blanche to push the limits of his imagination, without ever alienating his audience.

AW18 was, in a lot of respects, a continuation of his previous collection. The closing looks – those nomadic outfits – were pure Craig Green and a strong reminder of those unforgettable tropical prints from SS18. More than anything, they showcased Green’s prowess as a colourist, marrying muted tones of grey, beige, green and pink with acidic yellow, orange and blue to enchanting effects.

Craig Green Fashion Show, Menswear Collection Fall Winter 2018 in London

Green cited as direction for this collection military uniforms and a sense of childlike wonder. The constraints of rigid formality are subverted with delicate details, like the thin white strings on a light beige parka. Green always knows how to appeal to our inner child. I would argue that’s probably the main reason why his clothes always feel so emotional. Who, as a little boy, didn’t dream of being an explorer or a samurai warrior? Green makes those long lost dreams come back to life in the most wonderful way.

For AW18, Green also further pushed his recent experimentation with texture. Intricate sets of jacket and trousers with long tubular panels made for striking silhouettes. Just as graphic were the knits. Cut close to the body, the jumpers stole the show with colour-blocking, crochet embellishment and sensual exposed-shoulder cut-outs. If those might sound difficult on paper, in practice – when paired with Green’s now staple wide-legged denim – they were incredibly desirable. Conceptual yet wearable, Green’s winning combo.

Craig Green Fashion Show, Menswear Collection Fall Winter 2018 in London

 

 

 

LFWM: Alex Mullins AW18

Brain Damage.

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Alex Mullins’ shows often play out like an LSD trip. Everything starts out fairly normal and little by little the British designer distorts and re-imagines everyday garments into abstract creations. From common clothing to wearable artworks, Mullins can do it all and often enjoys experimenting with that fashion spectrum.

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For AW18, he found inspiration in our brain, and more precisely the duality between left and right side. The former controls our sense of logic and analysis, while the latter is in charge of our creativity. That was the perfect departure point for Mullins to take us on a joy ride.

The show opened with a section of muted grey tailoring. A square-shouldered double-breasted pinstripe suit modelled by Finnlay Davis looked particularly sharp and modern, with its boxy jacket and narrow trousers. A 90s silhouette updated au goût du jour if you will. For extra flair, most of the jackets featured buttoning on the back. Cream and camel puffer jackets with notch lapel rounded up this fresh take on a working man’s wardrobe.

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As soon as the first tie-dye balaclava (true fact) walked out on the runway, you knew things were about to go bonkers. What followed was a shirt in the same print but with a major front hole, revealing half of the model’s torso. A risky move even for the most fit amongst us. For its part, the full look rainbow tie-dye velvet suit set might go down as one of the best party outfits we’ve seen all week. Trader goes to a rave is the new look, guys.

From then on, Mullins played the balance between smart and creative, mixing classic beige corduroy with graphic acid yellow prints to achieve that retro look very on trend at the moment. Overall there were plenty of serviceable garments with a twist that the designer’s fans will appreciate.

The show closed in true (surreal) Mullins fashion. After last season‘s overblown prints on giant silk draperies, he once again surprised us with some fantastic collages. After photographing smashed ceramic plates featuring his past muses, Mullins printed the pictures on shirts and jackets to give a most gorgeous broken mirror effect. The right side of Alex Mullins’ brain is a wonderful thing to behold.

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LFWM: Christopher Raeburn AW18

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Sustainability is a hot button issue in the world of fashion. Progress on that front has been painstakingly slow, although not completely inexistent thanks in part to high profile names like Stella McCartney and impactful documentaries such as The True Cost. Yet few brands can boast of their achievements in that area the way that Christopher Raeburn can.

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Indeed, since the inception of his label, Raeburn has made a point to put sustainability at the core of his business ethos and design process. His materials are sourced all over Europe – most of the time from military surplus – then re-cut and re-assembled into one-of-a-kind garments, which form his REMADE line. These unique pieces then filter down to his main collection of everyday utilitarian-chic clothing.

AW18, titled IMMERSE, encapsulated Raeburn’s capacity to amaze, following a sustainable production model. This collection immediately brought to mind Raeburn’s AW15 show. During this cornerstone season for the brand, the designer repurposed actual military life rafts to craft iconic bomber jackets and coats. From the use of vivid orange to the aquatic theme there were many parallels to be drawn between these two collections.

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Most of all today’s runway was a nice reminder of Raeburn’s talent for showmanship. For this season’s REMADE line, he reworked neoprene immersion suits into a women’s anorak and a men’s overcoat. The effects were jaw-droppingly good. It was all the more satisfactory that Raeburn had somewhat veered away from these high-octane pieces for the past few seasons, in favour of building a more recognizable (i.e. commercial) brand identity.

It is no surprise that he turned the volume back up for AW18 considering he is now one of the biggest names on the LFWM schedule. If anything, this collection proved how symbiotic the relationship between creativity and functionality can be. Take for instance one short parka remade from Royal Air Force winchman coveralls. On top of the technical qualities (water resistance, breathability etc) one expects from such garments, that coat also had a front zip which opened asymmetrically to reveal this season’s animal mascot, the giant squid, woven onto a merino wool jumper. It’s precisely this kind of tongue-in cheek humour that makes Raeburn such a delight to follow.

His assured voice came through loud and clear in this season’s uncharacteristic-yet-savvy use of branding. Indeed, many of the garments were adorned with tape that read REMADE REDUCED RECYCLED RAEBURN. A clever way to tap into the current logomania trend without cheapening the brand’s core values.

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LFWM: QASIMI AW18

BLESSED.

Qasimi Fashion Show, Menswear Collection Fall Winter 2018 in London

In my post about JOHN LAWRENCE SULLIVAN, I talked about how now is the time for smaller brands to shine, as some of London’s biggest names have left the schedule in favour of the women’s Fashion Week. More than ever the spotlight is on labels like Qasimi to show what they’re made of. And the Central Saint Martins alum certainly rose up to the challenge for AW18.

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His message this season was less overtly political than it’s been in the past. Nevertheless Qasimi quietly made the point that cultural diversity is something to be embraced rather than feared. This UAE-born designer has made it his bread and butter to bridge the gap between Middle Eastern and Western cultures through clothing. His talent resides in taking elements from both and fusing them into a look that is whole-heartedly modern and desirable.

This season’s point of departure was checks. We might think of them as a rather commonplace pattern. But dig deeper and we come to realize checks have been used by various cultures around the world since centuries. They might hold different meanings depending on the time and place but they also have a universal quality to them that goes beyond cultural barriers. Using primarily gingham and madras, Qasimi gave his checks a dynamic energy, playing with scale and proportions.

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Speaking of the latter, the collection aptly balanced between oversized and cropped fits, both very popular in menswear at the moment. Wide pleated trousers paired with chunky knits were exactly what you wanted to brave the current hellishly cold London weather. Similarly, soft-shouldered oversized coats were the epitome of cosiness. The closing look comprised of a “BLESSED” slogan jumper and super baggy camel trousers was as on point as can be.

Finally what tied the collection together so perfectly was its rich and enticing colour palette. Warm tones such as brown, camel, dusty pink and burgundy were contrasted with touches of acidic yellow and orange. Savvy styling married it all together in one very pleasing to the eye package. My aesthetic taste buds are feeling amply satisfied.

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LFWM: JOHN LAWRENCE SULLIVAN AW18

Psycho killer qu’est-ce-que c’est?

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JOHN LAWRENCE SULLIVAN officially opened the AW18 season this morning at London Fashion Week Men’s. In spite of the freezing cold, I had no regrets dragging my butt to the BFC show space as JLS’s new collection packed a punch. For those who don’t get my terrible pun I should mention Arashi Yanagawa (founder and designer of JLS) used to be a professional boxer.

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For AW18, Yanagawa got inspired by the concept of psychopaths and multiple personalities. The show notes mentioned Twin Peaks and Taxi Driver as cinematic references. Personally, I was reminded of that cowboy serial killer movie Killer Joe with Matthew McConaughey as the collection drew heavily on Americana and Western motifs.

The opening section of the show played around with raw denim and leather to create the perfect 90s maniac look. Half-denim half-leather jeans embodied to perfection the fractured psyche of this season’s main character. Tiny sunglasses and ominous black gloves put the cherry on top of this most devious cake. Much like horror movies do, this collection drew you in through the dark side. Afterall serial killers are charismatic figures that intrigue as much as they revolt. Who doesn’t want to take a walk on the wild side once in a while?

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But this collection’s allure didn’t come solely from its penetrating narrative. Yanagawa made a strong display of his talent for traditional tailoring with an edge. Boxy cut suits and coats hit all the right notes in wool, corduroy and even delicious velvet. From boys to girls (as this was a co-ed show) the same ideas flowed seamlessly and many of the garments came in his and hers versions. It is hard to make tailoring feel rock’n’roll without looking like an ersatz of Hedi Slimane. But this is the way to do it.

Overall this was a confident showing from JOHN LAWRENCE SULLIVAN. In many ways it is brands like these that will benefit from the “lightness” of the schedule this season. Now that heavy players like Burberry and J.W. Anderson have left to show during women’s Fashion Week there is more space for smaller designers to make their voices heard. And this one more than deserves the recognition.

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LFWM: LCFMA18

[NOTE: Please forgive the most acronymic blog post title EVER]

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London College of Fashion kicked off London Fashion Week Men’s today with its MA showcase. 10 graduate designers from the school’s MA fashion Design Technology Menswear course presented their collections in John Smith’s Square, nearby Westminster Abbey. It was a good excuse for a resident Londoner like me to indulge in some out-of-character sight-seeing. Get caught up in everyday life and you sometimes forget about the beauty that surrounds you.

And part of what makes London such an exciting city, is its young talent. More than any other fashion capital, London nurtures and puts the spotlight on emerging designers. Attend one of those graduate shows and you might very well catch the next J.W. Anderson.

It’s also a good indicator of what the young fashion crowd is thinking about. Interestingly enough, there wasn’t any of the streetwear most big names are obsessed with at the moment. Instead the overall trend leaned towards tailoring. It is not easy to find a fresh take on sartorial dressing (the constraints of menswear being much narrower than those of womenswear) but the young designers took on the challenge with aplomb.

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One of the standouts was Hanni Yang (@hanniyangg), who tackled the cumbersome art of draping. Such techniques can be particularly tricky to apply to the male form, but she did so beautifully. Her clothes had both grace and panache, in other words a quiet sense of drama which will surely resonate with customers.

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Another crowd pleaser – and personal favourite – was Yingyi Lu (@louise_looo), who delivered a collection of revised Victoriana. References to sailor dress were pushed to fetishistic levels, while armhole cut-outs gave an almost armour-like quality to her jackets. Elsewhere she repurposed the bottom half of a blazer as corset. Veiled hats, tied around the models’ faces with pretty silk bows, completed each of the looks, in this collection that explored the boundaries of masculine and feminine. A conservative colour palette of navy white and camel grounded the collection. Light yet sophisticated.

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Humour indeed played a big part in today’s proceedings. Yixin Zhang (@jang123xy) opened the show with fuzzy oversized outerwear done in bright colourblock. Each look came with wooden (yes, wooden) top hats and matching neckties, which wouldn’t have been out of place in a Tim Burton movie.

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In Sohyeon Park’s (@sssoh2222) collection boys were playing dress up in their dad’s closets: big ties, baggy trousers tied high up on the waist, coats falling down… Calculated sloppiness, down to nifty asymmetrical closures.

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Xubo (@x.u.b.o) closed the event with some well, literally showstopping metallic numbers. The eye catching sets in monochromatic lace or textured jacquards were topped off with pompom-like stoles. It’s good to know the new generation can innovate with their textiles and make us smile at the same time!

Links to the rest of this talented bunch:

@xu_han__ @cogauthier @fushiy @hengminlu @minglai_lee

 

 

Seoul Fashion Week: Blindness SS18

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The quest for newness can be the bane of many a fashion designer. We live in the age of the “everything has been done before” and of the designer-as-curator. Brands copying one another is not so much frowned upon any more but has become a necessary evil. Thankfully, one can turn to the Internet and Instagram accounts such as the excellent @diet_prada for a modicum of accountability. However, it remains that “referencing” is now a commonplace crutch for designers lacking in imagination.

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Consequently, when a truly new voice emerges on the scene, its impact is all the greater. Such is the case of South-Korean label Blindness.

Designer duo KyuYong Shin and JiSun Park have rapidly made a name for themselves since they emerged last year as one of Seoul Fashion Week’s most promising outfits. Eclectically mixing streetwear and tailoring, and with a radical approach towards gender-dressing, Blindness has also attracted international attention after making the shortlist for the 2017 LVMH prize.

Shin and Park showed no sign of stopping their revolutionary take on menswear with their SS18 collection, recently unveiled at Seoul Fashion Week. As a matter-of-fact, referring to Blindness as “menswear” is beside the point. As the show demonstrates, these clothes work just as well on men and women and that’s precisely what’s so appealing about them. Shin and Park made their point loud and clear with tee shirts baring phrases like “Fuck Gender” or “Blind Gender Roles”.

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While high-fashion slogan tees generally tend to be make my eyes roll for their blatant commodification of political issues, that is not the case here. Indeed, the message conveyed in those tops is not a cash-grab attempt at creating buzz on social media. On the contrary, it is well and truly integrated within the collection as a whole. Genderlessness is actually an incremental part of the brand’s ethos.

Beyond this refreshing post-gender approach to design, Blindness stands out for the exquisite beauty and intricacy of its pieces. Unafraid to push the envelope, Shin and Park artfully play with conventions to deliver highly desirable collections. There were plenty of Blindness’ now signature codes on show for SS18, such as pearl detailing, mesh net tops, creative shirting, ruffles galore and a whiff of bondage thrown in for good measure.

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Stand-outs included sheer bombers with classic Blindness crystal beading, a beige mock neck coat with a giant asymmetric red ruffle appliqué, a transparent pink poncho with frayed hem and plenty of great tailoring (most of it with dramatic puffed shoulders). One of my favourite looks came towards the end (Look 28), a grey set of shorts and round jacket with dropped shoulders, paired with a vivid red sheer ruffle dress.

Blindness is without a doubt one of the most exciting fashion labels of today. Their unabashed showmanship coupled with a progressive and inspirational take on gender-dressing makes this brand one to watch.

 

See the full collection here.

Blindness is now available at Selfridges.

Top 5 Womenswear brands/designers I wish did Menswear

Have you ever looked at a women’s fashion show and thought “damn, I wish I could wear one of these pieces?” No? Well, maybe it’s just me… Sometimes a brand’s aesthetic can resonate so much one wishes said designer would expand their creative geniuses to men’s garb. At the end of the day, great design is great design no matter the gender. So why not spread the love? After reviewing the SS18 women’s shows for a few weeks now, I thought it’d be interesting to compile a fantasy list of womenswear brands I wish did menswear.

  1. Proenza Schouler

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This New-York based brand, run by designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, is one of my all-around favourites. I love it so much that their Kent bag was my first big purchase when I moved to London. Often inspired by contemporary art, Proenza is consistently pushing the envelope in terms of fabrics, techniques and proportions. As a result, the collections are as visually striking as they are cutting-edge. McCollough and Hernandez know how to nail It-bags and cool girl dresses that’s a fact. But pieces like this stunning FW17 asymmetrical coat with logo zip pulls make me think they could make the leap to men’s anytime.

  1. Nicolas Ghesquière (Louis Vuitton)

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Louis Vuitton already has one of the best menswear designers on the market in the person of Kim Jones. Yet, I am intrigued by what his womenswear counterpart, Nicolas Ghesquière, could do were he to try his hand at the men’s. I have been a big admirer of Ghesquière since his iconic and much critically-acclaimed stint as creative director of Balenciaga (1997-2012). One of the most influential designers of his generation (and probably one of the most copied by his peers), Ghesquière combines a knack for tailoring with a forward-thinking approach to design. His work is often imbued with futuristic elements and, as a result, his collections always feel fresh and innovative. By putting Jaden Smith in his SS16 women’s campaign, Ghesquière has only made my longing to wear his designs stronger.

  1. Miu Miu

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This one is a bit of a cheat, considering Miu Miu has actually put out a menswear line in the past (it was shut down in 2008). But I would argue it might be ripe for a reboot. Indeed, Miuccia Prada loves to riff on menswear in this sister line of her main label. Remember those man-ish check coats with ruffle appliqués from Spring 16? Moreover Prada men’s and women’s collections of late have enjoyed a playful back and forth. With the continued success of Alessandro Michele’s Gucci, it is not so far-fetched to say that Miu Miu’s take on awkward boyishness wouldn’t be so out-of-place in today’s fashion landscape.

  1. Rodarte

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Kate and Laura Mulleavy, of LA-based fashion brand Rodarte, might not be the first designers you would consider to create menswear. Afterall, their work – with its dream-like spirit and couture-level techniques – is undoubtedly feminine. But who says men can’t be woodland creatures too?

This polarizing label is not everyone’s cup of tea, but when they’re good, boy, are they good. Most of all, I appreciate the Mulleavy sisters’ dedication to storytelling which gives their collections a cinematic quality. As of now the only chance for guys to get in on the action is through their line of unisex jumpers and t-shirts. And although these are nifty, wouldn’t it be nice for the Mulleavy sisters to conjure up supporting male characters for their heroines to play with?

  1. Paco Rabanne

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This entry shouldn’t come as a suprise considering Julien Dossena (current creative director at Paco Rabanne) has been a long-time protégé of Nicolas Ghesquière. They share a similar design sensibility and, as such, I have very much enjoyed watching Dossena bring Paco Rabanne back to the forefront of the fashion conversation. A futurist at heart, Julien Dossena is a perfect match for this fashion house which was built on chainmail dresses in the 60s. Combining clever cutting techniques, early noughties references and sportswear-tinged designs, Dossena has made Paco Rabanne relevant again. So relevant in fact that I wouldn’t mind going down this new space-age route myself.