For an Autumn Winter 2012 collection it was early, even considering it was a menswear show... but maybe that's just what Ben Sherman needed; the time and the place to shine. No competition, no stressed schedule, no harrowed fashion press - just a room full of enthusiasts in a jolly holiday spirit. Set in an amazing concrete hangar at Brick Lane's Truman Brewery, creative director Mark Maidment and his team made the crowd dress up in white boiler suits when entering the venue. It added to the feeling of the crowd being part of a sartorial experiment, participating in something new and unknown to mankind.
But as it turned out, the only human experiment taking place was Maidment's attempt at fusing two sub cultural DNAs with one another. Ben Sherman's traditional mod look was injected with a dose of the harder biker element. The test run was successful and everyone enjoyed a parade of rolled-up raw selvage denim (sometimes with just a white beautiful T-shirt on top. Less really is more), 50s check shirts, camel overcoats, block coloured knits and a gorgeous bottle green army parka with black leather sleeves. For his grande finale, Maidment dug out a tuxedo. But it wasn't the elaborate evening wear that impressed the most, it was Ben Sherman's evident talent for making a strong sub cultural look - two, actually - wearable and relevant today. It might have been the first of the menswear A/W12 shows, but it set the standard high for brands to come...
Dazed Digital: What's up with everyone wearing white protective overalls? Is this some kind of experiment we're all taking part of?
Mark Maidment: You know when you go to a fancy perfume store and they give you coffee beans to smell in between scents to cleanse the palette? This was the same idea. Kind of the same as with ginger and sushi. I thought it'd be great for everyone to come in white boiler suits, it's a fun idea but it also means that all everyone will be visually focused on what's happening on the catwalk.
DD: Tell me a bit about the collection, there's a strong 50s feeling to it...
Mark Maidment: Yeah, but we've actually called the collection 'Mods Meet Rockers' - it's almost like an introduction between the two! They're like oil and water... we love taking two things that clash in that way. No-one have actually mixed them before. We have a heritage with mods but not with rockers, so for us it's very exciting.
DD: Was there anyone or anything in particular that influenced you?
Mark Maidment: I love what the stylist Ray Petri did in the late 80s, early 90s for Face, i-D and Arena. And one thing he did was taking Anthony Price suits and putting biker boots on them. I remember thinking 'they are not supposed to go together but it looks great!'
DD: So sub cultures are obviously an important part of the brand, would you even say it's what defines it?
Mark Maidment: Yes we've always been associated with them but also been phenomenally lucky to be linked with the youth cultures through five decades. There's been times when the brand wasn't relevant and that's what we are doing now, making it modern and relevant. It's evolution with the spirit of revolution!
DD: So this is the Plectrum by Ben Sherman line... for someone who isn't familiar with the brand, how is this distinctive from the main line?
Mark Maidment: The price point is higher and that's because we've been able to experiment more with the quality of fabrics, the fit, detailing, buttons, lining and all of those smaller but very important angles. We can play around with the design a lot more, breaking rules and that's what the brand is all about...
DD: Do you have a favourite piece?
Mark Maidment: Plenty of them but I think the piece that sums up the collection the best is the green parka coat with black leather sleeves, perfectly summing up the clash between the mods and the rockers!