This season's MAN designers — returning faces Liam Hodges and Nicomede Talavera, and newcomer Rory Parnell-Mooney — all took time in their notes to reference where they were from: Kent, Hounslow and Ireland, respectively. And those locations provided part of the impetus to each designer's collection, from Talavera's layered street wear to Hodges' boisterous market-town separates, to Parnell-Mooney's precise ecclesiastical vestments.
Each designer alluded to 'where' they were from, but none of them mentioned 'when'. And 'when' is arguably just as important; all three are young, twenty-something men fresh from the fashion school system and navigating the complicated world that is British menswear in 2015. They've been selected to represent what's hot, what's now, what's next. And what's next, if you were to believe today's runway, wasn't so much mere clothes as the idea of clothing itself. Take Parnell-Mooney, who opened the showcase; his clean, flattened shapes were derived from religious vestments, which are — at base — potent, abstracted symbols rather than actual garments. Or Hodges, whose battered, tape-seamed anoraks and thick, bright knits stayed true to his emphatically constructed aesthetic (but whose stretched proportions and scattered detailing steered him into far less pragmatic territory). Or Talavera — on paper, the most abstract of the three — whose cut-off overcoats and pin-striped, layered shirts were anchored with sweatshirts anchored by a single word: SUCKER.
As the models stalked up and down the long runway, each designer's garments stood out in stark relief against those worn by the audience — a background of familiar, fixed things that we've learned to call ‘basics’: peacoats, turtlenecks, Chelsea boots, skinny jeans, biker jackets. The runway collections were anything but basic, despite their simplicity; collections made by a generation tired of the same old symbols, and attempting to formulate an iconography of their own.
It was interesting, too, to see the shadows of influence that hang over this mini-generation: Helmut Lang, Rei Kawakubo, JW Anderson, Rick Owens, Christopher Shannon. There were times during the show when the clothing seemed to say less about the designers themselves than it did about those who have shaped them — those who have shaped the broad context of contemporary menswear, and who have created or refined the language with which these newcomers speak.