Masculin Féminin

I didn’t expect menswear at Molly Goddard. Giant dresses — and those were there in spades, densely smocked explosions of tulle in primrose and watermelon, raspberry and cornflower blue. But amidst the froth were four male models in slim two-piece plaid suits, worn with boldly-striped sweaters or cropped Fair Isle cardigans.

That might have been that. But then Rejina Pyo did the same just a few hours later, inserting menswear variations on her soft tailoring and purposeful outerwear into her show. And two hours later again, Richard Quinn opened his spectacular production with a Pearly King, embellished from head-to-toe — and followed it up with slinky flares and glittering dogtooth suits.

For a successful womenswear designer to branch out into menswear (or vice versa) isn’t remotely surprising. Most of the established brands on the London schedule do both, after all — as does nearly every international fashion powerhouse. And the menswear market, as we’re continually being told, is growing globally at a rate that's rapidly outstripping that of womenswear itself. But those other, established businesses were often built from a fundamentally genderless base (like Burberry’s rainwear), or have an androgynous sensibility woven into their DNA (like Margaret Howell).

While Goddard, Pyo and Quinn have wildly different aesthetics, however, the success of all three is founded on their distinctive, resonant interpretations of twenty-first-century femininity — Goddard’s playful froth, Pyo’s sleek contemporary separates, Quinn’s fetishistically exuberant celebration of print and colour — and on their knack for intuiting, to use a well-worn cliché, what women want. So what was interesting about their shifts towards menswear was their refusal to tone down the sensuality, and playfulness, and wit their womenswear embodies. Quinn’s men wore the same marabou feather tunics and glittering, rose-splashed corsets as his women; Pyo’s shared the womenswear line’s palette of retro florals and rusty shades; and Goddard’s models, male and female, looked as though they’d shrugged in and out of each other’s clothes. It will be intriguing to see how this plays out with retailers and customers in coming seasons — but in a world where gender definition feels like it’s simultaneously expanding and retrenching, it felt powerful to see designers delivering their visions with such ease and aplomb.

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