London Fashion Week Men’s commenced in London on Friday, bringing the brightest talent of the UK’s menswear industry to the capital. The British Fashion Council, which organises the biannual showcase, will however be hoping the spotlight on homegrown talent will shine a bit brighter this season, thanks to the presence of its new ambassadorial president David Beckham. The former footballer was brought on board last month to promote the British fashion industry around the world and he has been put straight to work.
“Our menswear and the craftsmanship that goes into it is recognised around the world for being original and truly creative – from Savile Row tailoring to streetwear and everything in between,” Beckham told the Guardian on Thursday. “We have it all, and weekends like this are really important for both international audiences but also for celebrating the incredible level of talent we have in the UK.”
Now in its sixth year, there has been speculation surrounding the future of the showcase after several big names to draw international buyers and press – including the award-winning JW Anderson and LVMH prize winner Grace Wales Bonner – have either opted to show in a different city or at a different time of year during the womenswear shows. Dylan Jones, editor-in-chief of GQ, is unperturbed and cites the “innate” wealth of UK talent rising through the ranks as the source of “constant regeneration”.
“I think that one of the most extraordinary things about Britain and about London is our ability to continually produce a constant array of very talented young fashion designers. It’s something that you really don’t see anywhere else,” says Jones, whose role as menswear chair of the BFC involves encouraging emerging designers all over the UK. “Take the Italian fashion industry for example. There are very talented fashion designers but very few under 50. If you look at London, it’s full of designers in their twenties and their thirties with an abundance of talent.”
One of the few under 50 in Italian fashion, however, is James Long, creative director of Milan-based fashion house Iceberg, who relocated the brand from the Italian city to stage the first show of the weekend on Friday night. For Long, an LFWM alumni who showed at the very first event in 2012 with his eponymous label, bringing his adopted brand to London was something of a homecoming.
“This year I want to travel around lots of different countries with the collections and London was first after Milan, the brand’s hometown,” said Long, who returns to see former interns including Daniel W. Fletcher and Charles Jeffrey stage their own shows this weekend. “I love the creativity of London; the gang, the other designers. When you first go to another city like Milan, you are very on your own, it’s almost like a big security blanket to come home.” Speaking to the Guardian ahead of the show, Long said his plan to send his models straight off the catwalk on Friday night from the home of LFWM, 180 The Strand, on a parade towards Trafalgar Square, was a celebratory bid to bring his “really bright Italian clothes” to iconic hotspots of London.
The shows in London are the first in a month-long presentation of the spring/summer 2019 collections that will move to Florence, Milan and Paris in the next couple of weeks and come as menswear increasingly dominates the fashion headlines. According to the BFC, last year the men’s clothing market grew by an estimated 3.5% to reach £15bn, and is forecast to grow by another 11% by 2022. But, while two of the biggest shows this season will take place in Paris – as Virgil Abloh debuts for Louis Vuitton and Kim Jones unveils his vision for Dior Homme – Beckham is backing the rising stars of the showcase, including Per Götesson and Paria Farzaneh who will show as a part of the BFC’s NewGen sponsorship programme.
Beckham said: “I am looking forward to celebrating the British fashion industry this weekend – in particular at an event to celebrate NewGen talent on Monday. I have met a few of the guys over the past couple of months and I am learning so much. It is just so energising so I hope to use my position to shine a light on this talent to the international audience that come in for LFWM.”