Spotting some experimental and daring designs at the men's shows in Paris and Milan just last month, it's safe to say expectations will be running high come London Fashion Week, now only heightened by the arrival of a thee day menswear event run by the British Fashion Council in June. But as the menswear industry continues to expand, competition will undoubtedly be getting tougher, which makes initiatives such as MAN, a collaboration between Fashion East and TOPMAN, all the more necessary. Having previously showcased the work of J.W. Anderson, James Long and Christopher Shannon, all of which now show independently, MAN's 14th consecutive season sees Shaun Samson, Agi & Sam and Astrid Andersen under the spotlight. In an exclusive set of interviews, we speak to the designers to discover the inspirations behind each new collection, and find out which menswear trends they predict will be making an impact this year.
For A/W12, I'm visiting the social and anti-social sides of growing up. I'm using a lot of sports fabrics that reference high school sports uniforms and the sports jerseys that kids were wearing in the streets. But there's still a lot of Southern California Latino influence with calligraphic gothic lettering and oversized silhouettes. Fabric is a main focus for this season for me with the use of sports mesh, nylons and fleeces. I've never used faux fur before, but I'm really getting into it. It's become a fetish. While researching for the collection, I was surfing the Internet for some old school music videos and came across a Bone Thugs-N-Harmony video. I'm reinterpreting that thuggish ruggish swagger they had.
Agi & Sam
We have been looking at evolution, in particular that of man and innovation. Evolution was a key word in our concept, concentrating heavily on the communication between natural and synthetic. In tow, our fabrications inter-weave between the two, but not in an expected way. Fabrics that may appear to the eye and touch as natural are actually synthetic, and prints that appear natural, are actually ridiculously man made. We have been searching for a way of digitally printing onto Melton wool since we started and we managed to find a way this season.
I've been inspired by the urban group mentality. A big part of the inspiration this season was the ancient saying in China that a Shaolin monk in battle is equal to 1,500 men. I think strength and confidence are always masculine ideals I have in mind when designing. There's a lot of burnt oranges and reds taken from research into the Shaolin warrior monks I just mentioned, and I've used steely greys and reflective material by 3M who produce the reflective textiles for work wear as well to bring in a more contemporary angle. Simon Foxton styled my graduate collection, which was a huge honour and mid-season I learnt that I'll be able to work with him again on my collection for MAN.
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