Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Christopher Shannon Menswear Autumn/Winter 2012

Those who attended the runway show for Christopher Shannon’s Autumn/Winter 2012 menswear collection on 23 February 2012 (as part of London Fashion Week) left with the feeling that this was undoubtedly the designer’s most accomplished collection so far. Some even felt that Shannon managed to redeem himself from the previous Spring/Summer 2012 range of clothes that had been criticised for failing to even suggest the creative and technical potential of the young designer.

Liverpool-born Shannon undertook a Masters course at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design (where he was awarded a full scholarship from Professor Louise Wilson) and upon graduating in 2008 he received the Dunhill Menswear Award. Before studying at Saint Martins, Shannon had worked as design assistant to Richard James and spent two years on Kylie’s creative team where he collaborated with his teen fashion hero Judy Blame. Over the last few years, Shannon has refined his sportswear-orientated aesthetic whilst working on collaborative projects with Topman, Eastpak, Asos, and Reebok. He received Newgen Men sponsorship for his Autumn/Winter 2010 menswear collection, which allowed him to exhibit his designs at London Fashion Week for the first time.

Shannon has always been influenced by a council estate/ghetto/street wear aesthetic and his latest collection was no exception. He stated that the key references for his Autumn/Winter 2012 menswear comprised Mathieu Kassovitz’s gritty 1995 film La Haine (set in a Parisian banlieu), the 1998 photographic exhibition catalogue W’Happen by Jason Evans, and the analysis of European urban dress codes. However, the young designer allowed the influences of working class life in the 1990s to be translated into sartorial creativity and talent in the form of adroit combination of colours, fabrics, and careful choice of silhouettes.

The opening to the runway was decorated as a decadent tableau vivant conceived by artist Julie Verhoeven that celebrated an atmosphere of after-bachelorette party trash: body parts of live female models bathed in pink lights were surrounded by abandoned car tyres, clothes were draped over partitions, and heart-shaped balloons hang from the floor. To accentuate the atmosphere of 1990s social rebellion, the show opened to the sounds of police helicopters which gave way to songs by Sinéad O’Connor and The Talking Heads.

The silhouettes of men that followed during the next few minutes were casual and yet sharp, a development of shape and fit from previous seasons. They included Shannon’s menswear staples, such as jacquard knitwear, graphic sweatshirts and an emphasis on outerwear (including bomber jackets, parkas, and Harrington coats), whereas thick wool trousers incorporated the cut and details of tracksuit pants. The influence of sportswear (as appropriated by the Chav look) was evident in the trousers’ elasticated ankles, and in multi-zipped, bonded seam and laser cut pocket details normally found in high-performance wear.

The collection relied on a toned down palette, with predominant white, grey and black accentuated here and there with cream or blue. Fabric blocking abounded, with plain colour fabrics coexisting in the same garment or contrasting with checked patterns. The Christopher Shannon brand could also be found writ large in white words printed across garments, in a nod to 1990s typeface and notions of style. In addition, and in a playful way that blended street wear with old-fashioned high elegance, Shannon resorted to prints that simultaneously evoked the urban tribalism and historical workwear connotations displayed in bandanas and traditional Broderie Anglaise patterns and techniques.

In addition to the clothes, Shannon unveiled a new partnership with footwear makers Kickers, where the Kick Chunk boot was reworked in a variety of fabrics and colours. These completed the looks alongside Christopher Shannon-branded mittens and neck warmers.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Agi & Sam Menswear Autumn/Winter 2012

One of the most popular menswear runway shows during London Fashion Week is the one that Fashion East and Topman organise under the moniker MAN to display the work of three promising and emerging labels. Shown over the last few seasons in the elegant environs of London’s Royal Opera House, the initiative has run for 14 seasons with the intention to champion the best and brightest new menswear talent. Over the years, MAN has showcased gifted designers (including James Long, Christopher Shannon, and JW Anderson) who have gone on to exhibit their collections on the main runway of London Fashion Week. This year’s labels were selected by an illustrious panel of industry experts presided by Lulu Kennedy (Fashion East director and founder) that comprised, amongst others, Tim Blanks (Style.com), Luke Day (GQ Style), Nicola Formichetti (Vogue Hommes Japan), Alister Mackie (AnOtherMan), Charlie Porter (Fantastic Man), Ben Reardon (GQ Style), and Gordon Richardson (Topman).

Owing to the fact that three labels are shown in succession, there is usually an instinctive tendency for the audience to pick one. At the last fashion week for Autumn/Winter 2012/13, all eyes were on young label Agi & Sam, not only because of the playful and vibrant colours paraded on the runway but also for the detailed and proficient tailoring evidenced in the garments. The collection, titled ‘Darwin’s Theory of Why the Chicken Crossed the Road’, used polyester fabrics made of recycled plastic bottles that were woven in a way that replicated natural fabrics such as cotton and jersey. Print variations of vividly coloured Linton tweeds and large-scale traditional tartans were engineered to create what the designers behind the label described as ‘brightly tribal modern menswear’. Prints also included a variety of tessellating repeats (inspired by the work of the artist M.C. Escher), and representations of chickens and ducks in either cartoon or classic watercolour versions. The tailoring was overall sharp, with strong outerwear and suits in single and double-breasted styles and slim-fit trousers. The colours chosen (bright oranges, greens, and blues against shades of cream and grey) accentuated the playfulness of the collection while highlighting its elegance.

Agape Mdumulla (who hails from Yorkshire) and Sam Cotton (from Stratford-Upon-Avon) founded Agi & Sam in January 2010, and had produced three collections (two of which were shown at Fashion East Menswear Installations during previous editions of London Fashion Week) before taking to stage at the Royal Opera House on 22 February 2012. Agi studied Fashion Design at Manchester School of Art and Sam studied Illustration at University of Lincoln. They worked for designers including Alexander McQueen, Karl Lagerfeld, J.W. Anderson, Armand Basi, Blaak Homme, and Carolyn Massey before deciding to venture into the fashion world on their own.

At the MAN show, Agi & Sam stood out from the other two designers in the way that they injected humour into their collections, believing that fashion should not be taken too seriously. However, this attitude (which had pervaded their previous collections) did not mean that Agi & Sam are negligent about creativity or production processes. In truth, the duo strive to create unique and yet accessible pieces with a commercial edge, and, as proof of their attention to creative detail and consumers’ needs, they are already sold in a number of stockists in the UK and Japan, not to mention online retailers. The Style Examiner believes that this is a menswear label to watch and looks forward to seeing them taking to the main runway of London Fashion Week soon.

Photographs courtesy of catwalking.com

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Vintage Frames Company x Ultra Goliath 2: Snow White Project

Late in 2010, as part of their Dr Shapiro Collection, Montreal-based Vintage Frames Shop released the first of a series of limited editions of the Ultra Goliath 2 glasses.

Campaign for the Vintage Frames Company x Ultra Goliath 2: Snow White Project
Originally produced in 1977 by Stan Besner, the initial Ultra Goliath’s unconventionally large frames quickly made the sunglasses popular pieces of eyewear. Amongst those that have sported the glasses over the years, one can count actors or musicians such as Darryl McDaniels of Run DMC, Michael Caine, Harry Carey and, more recently to portray film characters of the 1970s, Robert de Niro (as Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein in ‘Casino’) and Elliott Gould (as Reuben Tishkoff in ‘Ocean’s Thirteen’).

A few months later, Vintage Frames Shop released the second limited edition of Ultra Goliath 2 under the name ‘Snowdon Deli’. This collection of see-through frames paid homage to the deli founded by the Morantz brothers in 1946 in Montreal, Canada, that Corey Shapiro, the owner of Vintage Frames Company, used to patronise from an early age.

The latest range, just released in a limited run of 50, goes under the name ‘Snow White Project’, and is produced in the same factory in Holland that produced the original Goliath 2 mould. White vintage acetate was chosen to be the base for these vintage frames that still retain their oversized frame. 

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Topman Autumn/Winter 2012 Live Exclusive!

Don't miss the live streaming of Topman Design Autumn/Winter 2012 runway show brought to you by The Style Examiner! The show will begin streaming here at 12.15pm (GMT) on Wednesday 22 February 2012.

DAKS Womenswear Autumn/Winter 2012

For her DAKS womenswear Autumn/Winter 2012 collection in the year that the brand celebrates 50 years as holder of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Royal Warrant, Sheila McKain-Waid took inspiration from the inherent dichotomies and similarities that are found in British landscape and architecture. The focal points of this very elegant collection are construction and the geometry and shapes created by sophisticated seaming, smoking and pleating techniques.

McKain-Waid studied Apparel Design at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology and completed a BA (Hons) degree in Textiles Design at the University of Kansas. Before DAKS, she honed her skills in dealing with luxury materials and craftsmanship at Halston, Donna Karen and Oscar de la Renta. With a personal appreciation for architecture (and citing Zaha Hadid as a role model), it is no surprise that her latest collection for DAKS is heavily architectural.

The layering and pleating effects evidenced throughout the collection rely on precise geometric balances that evoke twentieth century architecture movements such as Modernism and Art Deco. The overall shapes are elegantly elongated and made stronger by manipulating contrasting shapes, fabrics and colours.

In fact, the entire collection can be understood as a study in contrasts at many levels: Fine silk crepe dresses and blouses are paired with voluminous wools tweeds; delicate linear pleats are worn under cocoon-shaped coats; traditionally crafted Scottish knits are complemented by innovative laser-cut bags; modern technical nylons are traditionally quilted; rich layers are set against the clean lines of cutaway silks; fluid drapes are paired with soli knits; and rich reds and vicunas contrast with stark black and ivory.

As a whole, this is a highly accomplished collection of garments that embody a very different tone from the playful and colourful ambiance of the previous Spring/Summer 2012 range. Appointing McKain-Waid was most certainly a wise replacement to Giles Deacon (appointed in 2006 to design the womenswear range for three seasons) to keep the 118-year-old fashion house in tune with its tradition while keeping an eye on its commercial future.

Photographs courtesy of catwalking.com