London has always had a passion for Asian based designers and many of those designers have been equally passionate about both showing and having a physical presence in the capital.
Maybe it all began back in the late 80s and early 90s when a section of young London eschewed the tye dye and dungaree uniform of “The second summer of love” and instead chose the deconstructed magnificence of designers such as Yohji Yamamoto, Kenzo and Michiko Koshino as their clubbing wear of choice.
However, that connection came about, it continues to this day with an increasing number of Asian designers stamping their imprint across both the London Fashion Week and London Fashion Week Mens schedules.
London Fashion Week Mens SS20 was no different and I attended three on schedule shows which showcased the talents of Asian designers, new to me. The three displayed very different aesthetics but all shared a common purpose of fusing Eastern and Western sensibilities to produce collections with global appeal.
The first of this triumvirate was MÜNN, who appeared as part of a collaboration between Seoul Fashion Week and the British Fashion Council. The MÜNN mission is one of “luxurious defamiliarization” which manifested itself by re-imagining both the cut and workmanship of classic 1960s tailoring through the prism of very 21st century silhouettes and a gender free aesthetic. Sixties classic suiting was paired with hot pants while shirts came in chiffon or with lace effect. Accessories such as asymmetric drop earrings and chokers completed the androgynous theme.
Since 2012 the “GQ China Presents” initiative has provided new generation Chinese designers with a platform to showcase their collections. Current luminaries given this opportunity in previous years, include Xander Zhou, Pronounce, Staff Only and Private Policy.
This season saw Li Gong invited to bring his 8on8 labels “San Junipero” collection to London for their first international catwalk show. The hype was further heightened by the attendance of Hu Bing, the International Ambassador for London Collection Mens. Described as retro-futuristic, it took its inspiration from 1980s graffiti art and club culture, the dystopian nightmares of cult TV series “Black Mirror” and computer games. These disparate reference points meshed together to imbue the labels signature boxy tailored silhouettes with energetic and adventurous 80s prints and washed out and worn effects. It was a collection which referenced 1989 but which was totally 2019.
HLA x AEX by JD.COM displayed what was possibly the most commercial and most traditionally masculine collection of the three, but one which was equally appealing.
JD.COM is Chinas leading retail platform whose ethos includes a commitment to support and promote brands whom they believe have the potential to succeed on the global stage. HLA x AEX were identified as such a brand and their collection entitled “Made in China” certainly repaid JDs faith in the label. Advanced outdoor fabrics and high-quality materials such as ultra-fine cashmere were used to produce classically tailored suits and overcoats, many of which were also infused with contemporary detailing to give a 21st century twist. Super wearable, HLA x AEX are a further example of an Asian label which can only be on an upward trajectory.
Based on what I saw this season, Asia’s emerging designers’ energy and vision continues to enchant London front rows in the same way that their pioneering predecessors did. In turn, London continues to recognise Asian designers’ importance to our industry, providing them with a welcoming platform to showcase their creativity.