The strength of London menswear is its diversity and never is this better reflected than on the runway of the MAN show. This season's line-up featured two MAN virgins - Dublin-born tailoring enthusiast Alan Taylor and Ravensbourne grad and Jeremy Scott alumnus Bobby Abley. Back for a second run was Craig Green, undeniably the most-hyped talent on the London menswear scene - a extraordinary feat given he only graduated from Central St Martins in 2012.
But the fuss around Green is deserved, despite what David Gandy may think. He was the standout star of this presentation and will likely be the highlight of the whole of London Collections: Men - bold parise given he showed on the first day. Green certainly has a penchant for showmanship that feels very 'London' - he'd adorned many of his models with his signature painted wooden and cardboard constructions, maybe just to stick too fingers up at The Daily Mail and David Gandy crew - but much of what he's doing is actually the anthesis of what our capital is known for. There's no digital print or tricksy innovations, Green rejects these outright, and instead champions DIY. The collection was comprised of one-off fabrics, carefully and painstakingly hand-dyed. Edges may have been raw, but there were no cut corners in this collection - each piece was perfectly constructed, from the simple, easy outerwear in high gloss nylons to the hand-sewn cotton knits. One particularly striking detail was Green's choice of hosiery - a sock that had been completely deconstructed to leave only the elastic ankle band. Maybe this was all part of his appreciation for the unadorned, but I'd like to think he was making a slightly punchier statement than that and was having another jibe at the suited and booted, fancy-sock-wearing brigade who find his work so shocking.
So what about the newbies? Well, Bobby Abley's ode to Disney was certainly fun and fresh. The collection celebrated - or maybe make that fetishised - the youthful spirit of London with its cartoon crowns, beanie baby bears and chirpy birds. This brand of slouchy streetwear certainly has a market, and Abley proved himself enough of a comic and storyteller to suggest that he has something unique to bring to the already riotous sportswear table.
Waving the flag for London's suiting history was Alan Taylor, who offered up a collection full of shrunken tailoring in tweeds made by Ireland's Magee Tweeds, a heritage weavers based in Donegal. While it's certainly exciting to see a young designer exploring tailoring, the idea behind those upside down garments sewn like a mirror reflection onto trousers and jackets lacked the authenticity and impact it had when originally explored on the runways of houses like Comme des Garcons and Viktor and Rolf. The more subtle pieces, such as the sheer organza jackets, had a quieter, though somehow more natural, appeal.