MAN is undeniably one of the hottest tickets of London Collections: Men. It's the place to go for fresh, young talent and straight-out-of-college experimentalism. Where else would you get bonkers British dukes in dog prints and rubber galoshes alongside crazy carpentry headpieces? MAN exemplifies what London menswear is all about - innovation.
The line up for Autumn/Winter 2013 was absolutely stellar. Opening the show was MAN veteran and RCA-alumnus Astrid Andersen. This season her signature sportswear took on a retro bodybuilder theme as she played with the competitive nature of how many modern men dress. Nylon bombers came decorated with mink and fox fur, while gym-ready tracksuits were covered with maximalist prints. Teamed with those metallic painted lips, which resembled the solid gold teeth favoured by American rappers and posers, the looks could have been straight out of an era when Puff Daddy was toast of the fashion crowd. Excessive logos hammered home the collection's deliberate vulgarity, and will ensure Anderson her fair amount of inches on next season's street style blogs.
Offering a sharp contrast to the swag and shine of Andersen's offering was Craig Green's debut collection. Echoing the madness of his graduate collection - he closed the Central Saint Martins show with models completely encased in house-like structures - Green had his men sport large wooden body sculptures. But behind the head-line grabbing head-wear there was a remarkable simplicity to this collection. Green took many of his pieces back to their original toile-like state to show off his craft prowess and technical aptitude. Additionally, looks were mirrored from colour palette to palette, giving the collection a mature cohesiveness that one wouldn't expect of a designer so young. The real strength of the showing came from Green's talent for textures. Cottons in various densities came both waxed and matt, and were paired with crinkle pleated separates that had been heat-bonded with vinyl stripes and lambswool knits. The general effect was to make us critics want to touch, and then naturally wear, the pieces. Given the focus on layering and deconstruction it would have been easy for Green's looks to feel familiar - after all, monochrome, ripped, unfinished garb is the playground of iconic houses like Comme and Yohji - but the freshness of this collection is a testimony to Green's talent. His debut felt clever and considered, and is sure to mark the beginning of a very special career.
Last but not least were Agi & Sam, who took their final turn on the MAN catwalk with a collection inspired by the idiosyncrasies and quirks of British dressing. Drawing inspiration from farmers and aristocrats, the duo oscillated between tradition and innovation by reworking classics with fresh, witty touches. So tailored jackets came equipped with a chunky zip down the spine, while slim trousers were contrasted with oversized goose-down gilets. At points the collection veered into familiar territory - there were some problematic whiffs of Prada - but all in all the showing proved that the duo have sufficient pizazz to manage their own London brand. That said, it's a shame that a pair of such great talents couldn't retire from MAN with a collection based solely on their print skills and cohesive colourful vision, rather than one that sought easy laughs with kooky casting and gimmicky styling.