MAN, the Topman-funded talent hub that supports three fledging designers each season, had had a shake-up for S/S 15. Its star designer Craig Green had moved on after three solid seasons. Who could fill his big beautiful boots?
Well Nicomede Talavera - a classmate of Green's from the prestigious Central Saint Martins MA - was giving it his best shot. He'd tried hard for his debut and the effort showed through in the impeccable finishes. There were ideas there to back up the skill but at some points it was hard to trace whose they were. Talavera's or the design greats that dominate fashion - Mrs Prada, Raf Simons, even Yohji? The influence of Green could also be felt. The long line tunics and layered silhouettes that Talavera had crafted so well felt familiar when just a few seasons ago would have shocked. That shows the market is ripe for someone like Talavera, who'll hopefully grow in confidence enough to reveal a more unique perspective next season.
While Talavera was looking forward and speaking to a new generation of shoppers, Liam Hodges was peddling something that at first looked more nostalgic. His collection was the biggest crowd-pleaser and it's simple to see why it had appeal. Boy scouts, lost boys, and feral forest kids roamed the runway - sweet character inspirations that translated into easy commercial pieces like baseball t-shirts, loose shorts and patchwork sweatshirts, plus some more adventurous show crowd-pleasers such as bottom baring chaps. Amusingly, the show notes cited, 'a big butterfly net full of whatever Liam's been slobbering over online, pulped and reformatted into something nice and strange.' Maybe that's why this felt, at points, a bit like pastiche or costume rather than a real deep exploration of any genuine topic or idea. Speak to any art college fashion tutor and they'll tell you the trouble they have with students doing research on google rather than in the library. It's never as thorough or genuine, they say. But that skim-the-surface approach is very modern. And Hodges is speaking to, and eventually probably selling to, a generation that picks and pulls its references without true respect or care for their origins and throws them together in a jumble with the main aim of winning a healthy number of social media likes. This was about fun and giggles, nothing more. Kids these days love 'Lols', so they'll love this.
Then to Bobby Abley, the oldest MAN designer but ironically the one with the most basic, immature aesthetic. He's a Disney fan who churns out simple sportswear with simple, borrowed graphics. For S/S 15 the tale du jour was The Little Mermaid. Aptly given his shallow, surface-centric approach Abley has just watched the movie rather than read the book, so his take on the tale focused just on Ariel winning a hot man. In fact, the original story is about her thirst for a human soul. Abley has missed that, but then that lack of depth is wonderfully appropriate. His are clothes without soul or substance.