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Saturday, September 20, 2008

London Fashion Week: MAN

Daryoush Haj-Najafi...

London Fashion Week concluded Friday with one of its biggest draws, MAN. In its seventh season, the Topman-backed group show spread its international wings, joining forces with Parisian store Colette, which brought French design collective Andrea Crews to the party and its conceptual Parisian take on the recycled-fashion/performance-art axis.

Cause for celebration—but also concern about the state of menswear—was Topman Design's easy dominance. Shouldn't someone underground be changing the game? If only more designers would follow Topman's lead. Not that there wasn't plenty of English street in Topman designer Gordon Richardson's collection, which was easily the most desirable, most wearable of the show. Proper and dandy, yet youthful and affordable—like Paris seen through a British prism—is exactly what the market demands. Just one objection: where do you buy Topman Design, a common and much repeated objection. Please, Topman, make it easier.

Best of the rest was James Long's second collection for MAN, though too many noted that, while it was great, they wouldn't wear it. Then who would? Probably someone in Primal Scream circa early 90s, and that's a compliment. James has something going on, something extraordinary, underscored by his dark-rock soundtrack, and something involving and leather shorts—always a good look but also transparent harem pants less so.

Christopher Shannon's collection was a tale of two halves, one which looked like a Kim Jones for Umbro rework (Christopher is a former assistant, after all). The other half elevated sporty suits to a minimalist luxury level, an enticing proposition. Men spend massively on coats and jackets, and the gap between their street phase and their suit phase is seriously under-served. Shannon would do well to keep his nerve.

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