MAN, Lulu Kennedy and Topman's support system for talented young menswear designers is 10 years old. That's something worth celebrating - the organisation has been instrumental in not only convincing buyers and editors that London merits its own menswear week, but also nurturing and launching the careers of the kind of designers who now form the establishment at LC:M - J.W. Anderson, Astrid Andersen and Christopher Shannon. That's just a few of their alumni - other notable talents who have, in their way, shaped and twisted the great narrative of London menswear include Cassette Playa and Kim Jones. You couldn't help but feel their spectres over today's show and reflect on the ways in which their brave confidence to push out the sartorial boat allows many of today's young talents to thrive. Would the work of Liam Hodges feels quite so relevant without the marks carved out by Shannon and before that Jones? Would the quiet sensuality and poetic sensibility of Rory Parnell Mooney feel so strangely accessible without the now infamous gender-bending of Anderson?
That's not to say these two were copying. Indeed, today’s show felt fresh, confident - it suited the 10 year celebration. Central Saint Martins graduate Parnell Mooney in particular lived up to the hype started last season. He’s making quality his signature - the exceptional fabric techniques of A/W 15 were there again and once more one wanted to reach out and touch the pieces, explore the frays and weaves and try things on. It was truly tactile, even if this season’s boy had a slightly menacing, gothic feel. The given inspiration may have been Suprematism, but aside from the geometric jewellery, this was a decidedly fluid collection that draped and hung from the body. It was part naive (especially in the deliberately awkward state of undress some models appeared in), yet also intriguingly fey. It feels like there’s a space for Parnell Mooney in London, a city that’s cluttered with talent. That messy opulence and seductive gothicism has strong champions in Paris, and it felt refreshing to admire it on home turf.
While Parnell Mooney was pushing the outsider, Liam Hodges - now on his last season with MAN - was catering to boisterous lads. You get the sense that his boy - all kitted up in football gear and combats - would bully Parnell Mooney’s poetic misfits. But there’s an odd sensitivity to the Hodges man too. Hodges is speaking to the kind of guys who are keen to be defined as ’lads’ yet are totally obsessed with clothes. The ones who share and discuss fashion and style with the same enthusiasm they do football, music or girls. It’s a different type of geek - one that isn’t quiet or cerebral, but one that can make or break a brand. Hook those boys in the way cult brands - whether Palace or Supreme - have and you’re on to a winner. Those guys will like the loudness of Hodges pieces, but they’ll be most impressed by the quieter references, the subtle nods to cultural touch points, from the witty buckle details to the vaguely retro camo motif, updated with jacquard. Hodges cited pirate radio as his theme this season - a suitable motif for a designer who’s not afraid to reject the mainstream while still making his voice heard.