For the last three seasons my London Fashion Week has begun with an elongated visit to the ever fruitful, Touba Distrubution curated, Showroom Next Door. Why should AW11 be any different? So, before I was seduced by the charms of b Store's reimagined, My Own Private Idaho inspired functional menswear whilst nodding along to the sounds of Blood Music (more on that later), I explored the latest Showroom. Spread over two floors on Grosvenor Street, the space has once again became my dream walk-in wardrobe.
The Showroom space exemplifies everything that I find exciting about menswear design in London; namely it's diversity and constant sense of sartorial evolution and revolution. This season is is no different. In fact, I'm pleased to say that it has managed to improve and grow further. Fode, Yuko and Trevor strive to showcase a diverse collection of international designers but above all seek to provide a platform for both established and exciting new British talents. The AW11 lineup reflect their hard work and passion. Casely-Hayford, Mr Hare, Mohsin Ali, Armando Cabral, H by Harris, Chauncey, Hannah Martin and Bunney read like a who's who of men's fashion. These are undoubtedly exciting times for menswear and I'm so pleased that there are platforms like the Showroom Next Door that help to showcase the obvious and abundant talent that call this capital of ours its home. Over the course of the coming week, whenever I have a spare moment, I will locate myself in these inspiring surroundings and speak with each of the designers in turn for more in depth posting. However, whilst the initial excitement bounces around inside of my enthused brain, I have to share my initial thoughts on the highlights of the season...
Chauncey is a Brussels-based menswear label and combines the talents of designer Nathalie Bouhana and her photographer partner David Sdika. It is a relatively recent discovery for this blogger but it is a label that I've been hearing an awful lot of good things about so it is great to finally be able to marvel at it in person. Having previously designed knitwear for Hermès, Salvatore Ferragamo and Anne Valérie Hash, Nathalie certainly has an eye for luxury knits. Creative, minimalist but exclusive, Chauncey prides itself on European craftsmanship. Aside from the rich colour palette there is no eccentricity, just quality and modern design. Extreme precision and the highest quality yarns and manufacturers. An "elegant gentleman traveler" look with a slice of Belgian surrealism. These are knits that your skin longs to touch.
Unsurprisingly, I'm particularly fond of the polka dot number in grey.
H by Harris
The H by Harris label heralds the new school in desirable contemporary accessories. Harris designs aptly uses the term 'luxury fatigues' to define his unique style. Regular readers will recall that the debut H by Harris collection comprised itself of two lines, the Q hand quilted nappa leather and the SH wax hide leather collection. Both left me wanting to sell an organ or turn to a life of crime just to have one hanging off his arm. Since then, Harris has slowly but surely added new styles to covet.
With a prestigious Central St Martins design education and a handful of awards behind her, it should come as no surprise that Hannah Martin is shaking up the world of luxury jewellery as we know it. Her luxurious and decadent collections are described as ‘jewellery for men, that girlfriends will steal’ and if I had a piece in my possession I would certainly sleep with one eye open from fear of Susie pilfering it. The look is elegant yet decidedly rock n’ roll. Each time I see her well crafted designs I am utterly blown away. Every collection has a strong narrative and I cannot wait to speak with Hannah to hear all about the character behind the latest offering.
Andrew Bunney longed to create objects that look like something one may be used to yet recast in a new light with precious metals, becoming new, yet at the same time, familiar. Ultimately, Bunney was drawn to the idea of coming up with something everybody or anybody could wear...even nervous individuals like myself. For the last few seasons, he has been quietly navigating an elegant and refined men's jewellery offering that have grabbed my attention and left me experimenting. The Bunney offering has evolved from a single item - a large size silver pyramid stud which came in a set of three to something of a magpie's haven. For the latest season, the fruits of his search to create series of padlocks can finally be enjoyed. Inspired by the practice of Love Padlocking in Paris and beyond, Bunney sought the last bastions of British craftsmen to create his precious padlocks.
A beautifully crafted lucky rabbit's foot. The ideal way to mark the year of the rabbit.
Oh Mr. Hare, how much we love you and your creations. The brand has been close to our hearts the moment we heard that our favourite shoeist was creating something out of his obsession. Since then, the brand has deservedly gone from strength to strength. His fine leather creations can now be found across the world in an expanding selection of much loved retail outlets, from Selfridges to Colette to Beams. In his continued quest to dominant the world of shoes, Mr Hare has unveiled his latest collection and there might be a few surprises. Given our affection to the brand, I will merely tease with a few looks before going in to great detail with the man himself very soon.
Beautiful boots, subtle branding (check out the four hares and a swan) and even a Vibram sole. Stunning stuff from our favourite shoeist.
Now in its sixth season Casely-Hayford is undeniably forging a new handwriting of modern English style and here they serve up a huge collection. The father and son design duo have created a signature style of relaxed masculine proportions and exquisite tailoring, all the while fused with an injection of the raw energy of London's dynamic culture that constantly inspires them. With each season, the design duo begin with the desire to capture, play and experiment with the duality of English Sartorialism and British Anarchy. In creating a new collection their driving motivation is to capture the feelings of an ever-changing environment and to communicate society's natural inclination to move forward. The clothes start from a traditional stand point, but rather than being nostalgic and whimsical, they choose to reflect the spirit of twenty first century gentleman - a character conscious of many reference points yet someone who chooses to distill his style into a concise statement. Things have moved on since the days of the Duke of Windsor, and although he is a great inspiration and a foundation for the brand, the modern sartorialist has a different appetite. Their requirements, desires, and practical needs are frequently drawn towards a synergy between the formal and athletic. For this collection, the duo include the requirement and need of protection and comfort against the elements. This sartorial cocktail runs throughout the outerwear, tailoring and accessories. There is always a narrative at the core of what they do, connecting each collection to the last and making foundations for the next.
As always, the collection is designed in London and made in Japan. Fine English fabrics are combined with the signature House cut and Japanese artisan construction to create a unique design statement and commitment to enduring quality.
The fabric combination are always a delight. Each item is full of details. I could literally spend hours closely examining the contents of each rail.
With a collection taking up over three rails of Showroom space, Casely-Hayford now offer the complete wardrobe. But that is not enough. Now, we have some exciting news to share. The design duo are launching their first luxury sneaker for AW11. The house have created a new streamlined Hi silhouette on a unique last with a modern minimal aesthetic. The sneakers have been designed to compliment the relaxed masculine proportions of fine tailoring and jersey suiting that the brand has become renowned for. Premium grained leather and fine quality suede trim dominate the upper, set on a sole crafted from a unique vulcanised rubber that will undoubtedly become a defining feature of the signature Casely-Hayford Hanbury sneaker. These will be available in select stores from July 2011 but here's a sneak peek...
The Showroom Next Door is an inviting and vibrant place where fashion, art and craftsmanship collide and can be appreciated side by side. If you are in town and have a spare moment, please do drop in. However, do not despair if you can't it in yourself, over the course of the next week I will be enthusing over the highlights in detail. In the meantime, I'm off to bed and long to wake up with the Showroom as my wardrobe.