Topman Design, the catwalk arm of the high street brand, is aiming to “change the perspective” of menswear with its collection being unveiled on the opening day of London Fashion Week Men’s.
At an event on Friday night entitled Transition, invitees snaked through east London’s Truman brewery for an exhibition by the photographer Nick Offord, a film by Max Wallis, an installation by the Rhythm Method musicians and a pop-up shop, before eventually finding themselves in a presentation space, with models wearing the spring/summer 2018 collection.
Later, the models formed part of the crowd watching the Rhythm Method on stage. This was an immersive, 360-degree view of a brand designed, so said the notes, as “a dialogue with the new breed of men”, the ones typically found in the Topman store. Unusually, once the fashion crowd has gone, the event is open to the public this weekend.
The lavish Topman event makes sense when you look at the menswear market, which grew at twice the rate of the women’s equivalent last year. A Mintel survey released this week has forecast a 12.3% increase in UK menswear sales between 2016 and 2021 to reach £16.3bn. Globally, it is expected to contribute £380bn to the industry by 2020. Topman’s twenty-something demographic are the men making this happen – so reaching them directly is vital.
Gordon Richardson, the creative director of Topman, said the brand worked with the young artists and photographers “to sum up the zeitgeist that Topman is always referencing”. The collection moves on from the 90s rave nostalgia of last season to something that engages with a generation of young men increasingly comfortable with clothes that feel gender-fluid.
Richardson looked back to another time when this was the case – the early 80s – when models wore brightly coloured makeup and mismatched shoes. “Boys wanted to be looked at, they wanted to be adored,” he said at a preview of the collection on Friday afternoon.
Richardson admitted that his customers were still fond of the skinny jean, but said he hoped to coax them away from the tired silhouette. “We want to change the perspective of what male fashion can be, but ground it in understandable shapes.”
Next spring, he hopes to see Topman customers in wide-leg, Bowie-like trousers, voluminous tent-like shirts falling to their knees, and tracksuits with vibrant prints inspired by Robert Rauschenberg’s work.
Phoebe English and Edward Crutchley also showed on Friday, two examples of the newer talent taking the place of established names including Burberry, Tom Ford and Alexander McQueen, who have left the London fashion week men’s schedule. English’s presentation featured models making shapes out of clay in her boxy take on minimalist streetwear, while Crutchley proposed corsets and crinoline for men.
London fashion week men’s is a biannual, four-day event taking in shows, presentations, events and starry parties hosted by Mr Porter and David Furnish. If it began with tailoring as its focus, the hype now is around streetwear (Christopher Shannon, A Cold Wall, Cottweiler) or those designers who look at gender identity and other high-minded concepts preoccupying Generation Woke. These include Craig Green, Charles Jeffrey and Wales Bonner. The latter, designed by 26-year-old Grace Wales Bonner, is arguably this year’s hot ticket. Her show takes place on Saturday evening and is highly anticipated.