Over the last few years the LCF BA show has emerged as a real calendar highlight as we've been introduced to a plethora of real design talent. Year after year, the pulse of my eyes is left racing. With the likes of Baartmans & Siegel, Asger Juel Larsen and Jade Jung Sun Kim as recent alumni, the moment we enter June my blogging stomach begins to rumble in anticipation. The Class of 2012 did not disappoint. As many eyes drift eastwards with the Olympic countdown ticking on, the show itself shuffled from its usual home inside the V&A to Hackney House but despite this move it was business as usual. As the latest crop of graduates inaugurated the new space we were treated to innovation and promise at every turn. For me, the standout menswear talent of the year is John Alexander Skelton.
Entitled British Lion, John Alexander Skelton's accomplished collection explores the depths of a familiar working class style. Growing up in Margate I often found myself huddled against the railings in an anti-social formation on the long pavement that dissected the sprawling mass of arcades and the sweeping golden sands. Clad in the standard issue uniform (late 90s at least) of a crisp Lacoste polo shirt, black Nike jogging bottoms tucked in to the whitest of white socks and a pair of Reebok classics, I engaged in social camouflage. However I felt about myself at the time or even now, from the outside at least, I would have appeared the archetypal chav. Away from the coastal seafront of my youth and the sartorial stereotype, Skelton was drawn to the uniform worn by two notorious gangs from Liverpool and offers progressive tailoring that fuses minimalist tailoring and sportswear.
"The two gangs had gained media attention and notoriety for their use of extreme violence, even at young ages. I in no way deem any of this as inspiration as such but rather, I was drawn to the the clothing that they wear. I had read a number of articles about them over the past few years and slowly I became fascinated by their almost uniform way of dressing. They all wear all black, consisting of brand's such as North Face, Low Alpine and Nike. This is done so police have a harder time identifying who belongs to which gang. For me the aspect of taking something that is designed for a completely different purpose and targeted at a different audience in to this context is extremely interesting. The teenagers will strive to have these items, they have become fashion, this is now there fashion but it is also an item that middle class, middle aged man will wear on a camping trip."
Skelton was captivated by a particular working class style that is prevalent and thriving in so many areas across Britain but developed his inspiration to create a considered collection. Whilst drawing on examples of Brutalist architecture including the Barbican and Trellick Tower (used in the look book) "with their boldness and irregular block type formations in concrete are very beautiful, the cold structures and sharp lines provided endless inspiration," Skelton reimagines the chav style thanks to a refined eye. "Basically, it is what I would love to wear, I regard ease of wear as essential to my process. I believe that it is a very grounded collection that has a strong air of identity and sense of attitude," the graduate proudly adds.
As with so many of the LCF students, Skelton's Showtime profile is an absolute delight. A digital treasure trove of inspiration, illustration, look book imagery and even a film. Having acquainted ourselves with the talent and discussed the graduate collection in some detail, it is time to explore the concrete estate and take a closer look at the designs...
Lookbook imagery shot by Ben Benoliel and modelled by James Taylor alongside the designer's own FMP Illustrations and the film by Duncan Roxburgh.
Having recently discovered the design talent, don't be surprised to hear the name John Alexander Skelton uttered in the coming months and beyond. "I have a few projects which are ongoing at the moment, I am doing something with Nike involving a few established London based designers as well as my self which will be exhibited in September." Beyond this showcase and looking further ahead, Skelton talent reveals that he "would then like to refine my concepts and skills on the MA at St Martins or in industry, in order to launch my own designs into the market." However, much like Aitor Throup announced this season, he has a growing problem with the concept of collections and is likely to explore an alternate path. "I would like to approach fashion in a different way, something interesting and exciting to challenge the tediousness of what is current." An exciting future is guaranteed.