London Collections: Men – London’s biannual menswear event – continues to go from strength to strength. Last month it showcased the AW15 collections and saw designers exploring femininity and masculinity, playing with perceptions of gender norms and revelling in make-believe.

Designer Kit Neale invited us on a foray into the dressing-up box, complete with hats and gems and vibrant faux furs. Taking circus costume as a reference point, the designer created playful proportions by pairing heavy footwear with cropped trousers and matching jackets in primary tones of orange, red and navy, topped off with coordinated pork-pie hats.

Recognised for his wild print, his vibrant palette and visual references to childhood, Neale turned to slogans and words – rather than motifs – for inspiration. Jackets were embellished with patches reading “Greatest Show on Earth”, slogan t-shirts screamed “No teddy bears were harmed in the making on this coat” and letter ‘K’ badges were attached to pockets.

Neale utilised his print background for the same ends, producing jackets, shirts and sweatshirts in alphabet print. There was a punk element to the collection, evidenced in classic Doc Marten shoes, tartan patches and frayed edges. But there was no escaping the sense of make-believe and dress-up, apparent in colourful faux fur teddy boy coats and giant gemstone earrings.

Wales Bonner’s collection, as part of Fashion East (an organisation that supports and funds emerging design talent), continued the theme of costume and dress-up with her 1970s inspired line of leather jackets, crushed velvet and cream suits, featuring high-waisted flares and diamond-encrusted cummerbunds.

Grace Wales Bonner, the Central St Martin’s graduate behind the brand, debuted her distinctive aesthetic, which draws on the 1970s, disco and Voguing, at her graduation show last year. This season she returned to these themes, exploring feminine and masculine aesthetics and blurring these constructs through the use of rangy silhouettes, diamanté chokers, handbags and wigs, all worn by male models.

Edward Crutchley, another of Fashion East’s designers, produced a pared-back collection, more ‘dress down’ in its flavour, but with enough innovative textures and sumptuous colours to make the garments feel really special. Quilted ochre kimono jackets, burgundy short-sleeved shirts and navy layered loose-fit trousers were suitably autumnal in tone. Silk bomber jackets featured exquisite Japanese embroidery of birds and fauna. Crutchley’s collection spelt purity and refinement.

Another designer sharpening his aesthetic was Royal College of Art graduate Liam Hodges, who brought his fourth on-schedule collection to LCM. His usual blend of British cultural references was apparent, but streamlined for the AW15 collection. The designer played with the traditions, aesthetic and practical needs of market tradesmen: models wore aprons and A-boards and the dregs of old newspapers became motifs on sweatshirts and a flat cap complemented each look. Weather-proof parkas in navy and black, ribbed drop-shoulder sweaters and coordinated tracksuits in vivid orange, white and black, were commercially viable interpretations of Hodges’ recognisable masculine silhouette.

After establishing itself as a fundamental part of the British fashion landscape, LCM and its participating designers were able to have fun with menswear for AW15, challenging gender norms and exploring the male identity.

londoncollections.co.uk (Designs by Kit Neale)

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