Monday, June 17, 2013

BEAUTY: Clothing--The MAN Show, London Collections: Men

And here we go!

The summer shows have officially started with yesterday's premier day of London Collections: Men. The MAN show, as usual, featured three designers. And although these designers are ostensibly presenting stand-alone collections, it sure looks as if these three got together and plotted out a story to tell... the story of how a boy grows into adulthood.

First up was designer Bobby Abley whose œuvre normally includes primary-colored references to cartoons. His infantilized collection for Spring-Summer '14 featured sheer material and pieces that resembled pajamas. The collection prominently featured his favored teddy bear motif, while Disney-esque birds (nearly the exact ones who attended to Snow White) appeared on clothing, and on the bodies of the models in the form of tattoos. These motifs mixed with fleur-de-lis and a fun trompe-l'œil basketweave... and somehow, it all makes sense. One shirt proudly proclaimed the wearer to be "KING" and models sported paper crowns, which of course brought to mind Max being crowned King of the Wild Things in Maurice Sendak's classic children's book WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. The final look of the collection saw another slogan shirt but instead of celebrating childhood and make-believe, it said simply THE END, marking not only the end of the collection but the end of childhood and innocence as well.

This was followed by Alan Taylor's smart collection of clothing seemingly from adolescence represented by school boy uniforms (I particularly like the sheer blazer) and tunics that resemble shop aprons in utilitarian grey and white.

And the final act of life, adulthood, was expressed well with Craig Green's confusion-inducing creations. Not so confusing for us, the viewers, but confusing for the models: they were sent down the runway either blindfolded or wrapped in sculptures made from painted cardboard that impaired their vision. What a statement for adulthood: we are all flying blind, just learning as we go, doing the best we can, maneuvering life's obstacles. (Green employed a similar presentation last year for the MAN show, wrapping his models in headpieces of splintered shards of lumber, seen here.) The tie-dyed prints, a staple of hippie or Grateful Dead culture, could be mistaken for a happy, fun element but in this instance, the disorienting explosions of the tie dye strike me as a metaphor for chaos and uncertainty, things we as adults must face daily.

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