Entering a Casa Loewe, as the Spanish brand’s flagship stores were recently and redolently renamed, is a transcendental experience. Among the knick-knacks and floral displays made not by Loewe’s creative director Jonathan Anderson but by a rotating roster of artisans he admires, lives a universe that feels above the transactional nature of ‘fashion’ while remaining synergistic with it. Transcendental isn’t a word we throw around often. But in Loewe’s case, it seems right.
In roughly six years, since being appointed creative director of the brand, Northern Irish-born Anderson has tended to Loewe with the compassion and curiosity of a farmer tasked with returning a tired crop to full health. Today, Loewe’s menswear exists somewhere between totally wearable and completely arcane; a very sensible, exquisitely tailored black wool dinner jacket might float down the runway just before a full-length poncho-dress in multi-colour stripes (this actually happened at Loewe’s SS20 show). Where some brands rely on logo-heavy releases to fund their wackier pursuits, Loewe has found a way to dodge this splintered model by making eccentric things that are both charming and covetable.
While brands compete to produce a constant supply of newness, Anderson – a rabid collector of both ancient and contemporary craft – is creating clothes that offer something of a reconnection to our pretty much severed primordial roots as makers. That luxury brands seek out ancient techniques for creative reference is nothing new. But instead of using them as a springboard from which to double-somersault into something thrice removed, Anderson’s Loewe involves the craft’s inventors in the making of the thing, whether it’s a watercolour print t-shirt or a keychain shaped like a hot dog (in hand-stitched leather, of course). The brand’s annual Craft Prize and new range of sustainable menswear reinforce the fact this is a label that doesn’t just preach.
Which is why, be it a technicolor poncho or simply a visit to your nearest Casa, we could all benefit from a little more Loewe in our lives.
So entwined are the identities of downtown New York and Eckhaus Latta that it’s hard to consider one without the other. That being said, the ‘so-fashion-it’s-anti-fashion’ spirit of Zoe Latta and Mike Eckhaus’ brand travels remarkably well; in eight years it’s accrued an international fan base of cool kids, many of whom have walked in the brand’s wonderfully provocative shows. Sure, the printed turtleneck and butt-hugging jeans are nice. But it’s Eckhaus Latta’s tribe-vibe that gives it that elusive air of cool.
Daniel Lee’s 2018 arrival at Bottega Veneta was impeccably timed. There was a black hole left in the fashion universe by the departure of ‘Old Céline’s’ Phoebe Philo and Lee, having been Philo’s right-hand-man at Celine for years, was a shoe-in to fill it. When Bottega was looking to shake things up after the departure of long-time creative director Tomas Maier, Lee’s destiny as menswear’s hottest new creative director seemed all but assured.
To everyone’s surprise, Lee didn’t take the easy route. Instead, he opted for the far more high-stakes option of establishing a design vocabulary that, despite the occasional Philo inflection (which is most welcome), is entirely his own. Sportier, highly streamlined and charged with a tide of desirability that’s almost electric, Lee’s first collection for the Italian atelier stood on its own two feet – as did his second and so will, we imagine, his third.
Bottega Veneta is a leather goods house at heart and Lee has effectively dipped into the brand’s archive, reviving heirlooms without losing sight of fashion’s current and future context. Bottega’s intrecciato method, which involves weaving delicate strips of leather in a criss-cross fashion, is just one sleeping signature that Lee has roused. Fashioning it into interesting tote bags, wallets, leather boots and even slides, intrecciato’s been reinstated as the mark of Bottega. And it’s selling like hot cakes, too. In the third quarter of 2019, the brand’s sales were reportedly up by almost 10 per cent.
But it’s for another reason that Bottega is a brand to watch. While Lee’s first two collections have been original and inspiring, they’ve also been packed full of promise. The few things that didn’t gel for AW19 were tweaked and perfected – not abandoned – for SS20. There aren’t a lot of designers working today who have the guts and conviction to do this, nor are there companies with patience enough to support them. That Kering, Bottega’s parent company, is placing such faith in Lee can only mean there’s much more where the first two ‘new Bottega’ collections came from.
At a time when fashion can’t afford not to be political, Pyer Moss’ Kerby Jean-Raymond might be the most outspoken designer there is. His collections have become both spectacles and statements, where boxy shoulders and sporty silhouettes tell the obscured histories of African American icons like Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the godmother of rock ’n’ roll. No surprise then that he’s just been appointed artistic director of Reebok’s newest division ‘Reebok Studies’.
For a menswear designer, the talents of Grace Wales Bonner have been in high demand among the womenswear contingent this year – the British-Jamaican was tapped to design the dress Meghan Markle wore when presenting Prince Archie to the world. Yet, her menswear continues to occupy an exotic realm of its own – the otherworldly elegance of her tunics and tuxedos is unmatched, as far as we’re concerned.
Simon Porte Jacquemus’ first-ever menswear campaign featured no Jacquemus menswear. Instead it had Yoann Maestri (French rugby player and brother of Jacquemus’ boyfriend, Marco) emerging from an ocean dip with a brawny-looking dog in tow, wearing nothing but a pair of white briefs.
That neither Maestri – nor the dog – were sporting designs from the Frenchman’s then-imminent debut men’s collection didn’t matter. If anyone knows how to sell clothes without even using them, it’s the man who Instagrammed a photo of Emily Ratajkowski wearing little more than a straw sunhat with the circumference of a 44-gallon drum, prompting such a demand in sales that his hat manufacturer literally ran out of straw.
The difference here is that beyond the sensual façade of Jacquemus’ men’s collections, there’s an unequivocal sincerity. Jacquemus is Instagrammable beyond doubt – the tropical prints, cleverly proportioned accessories and suntanned garçons that appear on the brand’s social media are total catnip to a generation that aches for rectangular photos of pretty things. But unlike the bulk of Instagram, this is filter-free. The sun, the sea, the suntans and the itty-bitty bags – this is Jacquemus’ life.
Jacquemus’ designs translate to real life, too. A stint selling clothes at Paris’ Comme des Garçons flagship had more to do with this than design school did, which Jacquemus dropped out of after the death of his mother in 2008. His shirts are perfectly puckered, his cargo pants are hard-wearing yet handsome and his multi-pocketed utility vests make up for the slightly less practical nature of his micro neck wallets, which have become an ‘It’ item anyway.
Jacquemus’ is a rare story. After starting with very little, Simon Porte Jacquemus became one of the youngest designers to stage a solo show at Paris Fashion Week, which he did at the age of 22. The brand reportedly expects to bring in between $37-40m in sales this year, and it’s still independent. Self-made (and sustained) fashion brands might be getting harder to come by, but Jacquemus is proof they can survive – and thrive.
On the surface, Craig Green’s clothes might seem challenging. But scratch a little deeper and not only will you begin to get it, but you’ll feel your mind blown. The designer’s brain works in ways us mortals can only dream of; cerebral yet industrious clothes that are known to trigger an emotional response from those in Green’s front rows are the physical manifestations of this. Yet his namesake brand is barely seven years old, an indication of the effect his designs have had on an industry that’s not easy to crack, let alone seduce.
Everything the three-time British Menswear Designer of the Year-winner does is anchored by the idea of uniform. But for Green, who was born and raised in North London, uniform isn’t an indicator of social status but a levelling agent. His runway shows have become the platform from which he interrogates these ideas – and the drawcard of London Fashion Week Men’s.
The interesting thing about Craig Green, though, is the way he essentially runs two separate lines (the mainline and the commercial collection) but manages to operate them in a symbiotic way. Where his runway shows can feel more like wearable art than wearable fashion, the Craig Green workman’s jackets and printed T-shirts are the epitome of practical. But their relationship to the main line is discernible in the details. For example, the padded ribbing of a conservative black quilted jacket evokes the contoured panels on a two-piece suit that were designed to replicate the human muscular system, like those in Green’s Spring 2020 collection.
Another cool thing about Craig Green? The brand’s most popular size is XL. In an industry still trying to work out how to flatter a taller, broader man, Green is light years ahead. The only real prerequisite to looking good in his clothes, then, is excellent taste.
Menswear began as a small accompaniment to the women’s collections for Sander Lak, the Brunei-born, New York-based visionary behind the silkiest suits in fashion. But since debuting its first men’s pieces in ‘17, Sies Marjan’s all-or-nothing approach to colour and love of eccentric flourishes found him so many male fans that, for SS20, he just had to stage his first standalone menswear show. Naturally, it was a hit.