Ever since I’ve been come back from my Christmas break, I’ve been afflicted with the strangest dreams every night. Some feature death of love ones. Some are more surreal as I waft through imaginary theme parks and mish mashes of places that I’ve been to. Some are scarily real – like when I woke up thinking I was late for a show and had to file 3,000 words that very morning (in actual fact, I was late for a meeting and had a deadline for 1,000 words). When your dreams are extra vivid and the nocturnal thoughts of your over-active brain permeate into your day, it’s no wonder that they enter into a consciousness when designing collections.
This is what struck me when I was looking back at the menswear shows I saw at LC:M last week – that dreams, emotions and more often than not, hard-to-articulate thought processes were woven into some of the best collections of the week. These internal monologues are hard to write about and probably even harder to translate into solid garments but a handful of designers captured the complexity of their dreams and lateral thoughts into clothes that won’t need such analysis further down the line.
Has the act of sleepwalking ever been an inspiration point for a designer? Craig Green might well have notched in a first with his A/W 15-6 collection that was an ode to “introspective dreamers”. How else to explain the carrying of duvets, whip-stitched puffy pillow bags and fastenings on quilted trousers and eiderdown-esque jackets that resembled duvet openings? Thankfully you didn’t feel soporific. With a warming palette of military khaki, terracotta and ecru and with textures like comforting seersucker, washed silks and leathers, the effect would have been soothing, were it not for the tension created by the flailing laces, unfurling sleeves and tightly drawstring hoodies. This language of release and restriction is evident in Green’s work right from the start of his career. By entering into a state of sleep, he has found new ways of expressing that.
Another dreamer was Jonathan Anderson. His are more fanciful though, much to the scorn of some Grindr users, who might have happed upon the livestream of the latest J.W. Anderson menswear show on Sunday morning upon logging into the hook-up app. Apparently, peeps on Grindr aren’t ready for furs made to look like cartoonish ermine and dozy creatures popping up on shiny organza.
More’s the pity because this was one of the more fascinating collections from Anderson’s own menswear line for a while. Only something plucked from Anderson’s complex internal thoughts could pit painted snails on a hard ’n’ fast techno nylon jacket or S&M plastic chokers paired with snagged wool cardigans. Or how else would you imagine the strange ugly snoozing monster that was one of the collection’s central motifs? Anderson’s head was definitely somewhere balaeric when he envisioned cloud-shaped pockets on techno club wear. He did spend time in Ibiza over the summer, where he opened a surprising Loewe pop-up store. Anderson even shot for the stars with a grey Mao-suit painted with rockets. Weirdly rich, strangely cute and oddly comforting – these juxtapositions are de rigour for Anderson. Grindr may have had a field day with the collection but being universally loved isn’t the end game for Anderson. You could call it a sort of masochism.
Grace Wales Bonner called her collection “Spirituals” although there was a worry that showing on a catwalk as part of the MAN show might have dented the spiritual aspect of her storied designs. In continuation from her investigations into the representation of the black male, her man took on a less tangible and spiritual form. It takes a brave mind to process Sun Ra, choral chantings of African slaves that were mean to reach out to God, kora resound ceremonies from West Africa and other touchpoints of Afrofuturist psychedelia. Although Bonner’s work is best seen as one with her in-depth research, here the clothes stood on their own – throbbing with sensuality in their flared-out silhouettes, tactile textiles and Swarovski encrusted embroideries. Sure, they were designed with far-removed spiritual enhancement in mind but could also easily walk – nay, strut – the streets with a new sort of masculine grace. It was a collection that justified the surprise awarding of the Emerging Menswear Designer award at the British Fashion awards last year and showed a maturity that makes Bonner an exciting prospect indeed.
Charles Jeffrey lives out his dreams at his club night Loverboy at VF Dalston. And are unlikely to inspire others to follow a starry path to the freeing lights of London’s nightlife. Alongside a set of cardboard totems created by Gary Card, Jeffrey sent out an array (or deliberate disarray?) or “drunk” mis-proportioned tailoring, painted abstract jeans and taped-up Aran knits as well as a shrunken cropped silhouette that is met with a high waist. Both DIY rebellion and a respect for tradition permeate this collection that makes Jeffrey, fall right in line with fashion raconteurs like Vivienne Westwood. It’s the sort of idiosyncratic spirit that feels like it’s fast being eradicated from British fashion today, but thanks to Jeffrey and his Loverboy ethos, we too can have a bloody good time with what we wear.
There were two bucolic dreams that caught my eye. One was by upcoming duo Matthew Dainty and Ben Cottrell’s label Cottweiler. They imagined a future where society goes back to the ideals of agriculture, combining man-made technology and the neolithic way of life. The fabrics directly correlate to this as natural fibres like waterproof shearling get encased in tinted cellophane and single sheafs of straw appear on farmhand-appropriate tracksuit tops and bottoms. It’s certainly a new take on agricultural attire.
Then there’s the imagining of Edward Crutchley’s native Yorkshire – perhaps unrecognisable from the reality. Crutchley works with the live-and-well crafts of the region to create a languid collection that represents an idealised take on this picturesque part of Northern England. Hats by Lock & Co, silver badges by Toye & Co and fine wool suiting from Yorkshire and English-made cashmere and fully fashioned knits assert Crutchley’s respect for ethnographic craftsmanship. The spirit animal of the Yorkshire Dales – the ferret even makes its way across the back of a silk satin dressing gown. It’s a Yorkshire dream, rooted with British artistry.
A collection themed around boredom that isn’t… boring. In fact, it’s the opposite of, as according to Alex Mullins and his press notes, “boredom is provocative.” Featuring a set of photos by Hazel Gaskin printed onto denim or over-washed in an acid bright colour palette, bored expressions stare back at you from every surface. It’s the expression of a mind that goes into that state of being frustrated by wintry temperatures, dull surroundings and buses/trains that are never on time. But Mullins manages to rejoice in this feeling because there is definitely an exuberance to these bored faces. Bored.com never looked so good.
And finally, an ode to the ultimate dreamer whose internal thoughts are well-documented… Sibling’s brilliant hand-knitted robe covered in Jean-Michel Basquiat’s graffiti-esque scribblings is a triumphant finale piece – one that already has customers lining up to buy it.