Launching in the run up to an eagerly anticipated debut London Collections: Men this June, a dedicated three day schedule of the UK's menswear catwalk shows, the British Designers Collective opened its first pop-up menswear store at Bicester Village. Featuring the likes of Jonathan Saunders, James Long, Lou Dalton, E. Tautz, Margaret Howell and B-Store amongst YMC, Heritage Research and Sunspel, the boutique is a strong overview of the current British menswear landscape. The pop-up is a benchmark for the younger men's designers emerging from the UK, aimed at giving them the retail presence they need in order to establish and grow. Dazed Digital caught the train to Oxfordshire with the designers (which was champagne-hamper fuelled, courtesy of Bistrotheque) and spoke to menswear writer and editor, member of the BFC Menswear selection panel and supporter of young British talent, Charlie Porter, to about the importance of the space.
Dazed Digital: What is the idea behind the BFC opening up a men's store like this?
Charlie Porter: I totally believe in the fashion show side of things but retail is as important. The more young brands can do to understand retail the better. The thing about being at Bicester is that the idea of an outlet store is completely part of fashion, and in this setting we have the younger London brands next to Céline. I think that says it all.
DD: What sort of an impact do you hope it will make?
Charlie Porter: The main thing I want is for British designers to become normalised. In women’s stores it is much more natural to have Michael Van Der Ham next to Stella McCartney, but on a mens floor its not natural to have Christopher Shannon next to Balenciaga. I hope that's what today might start to influence. It's great to see James Long and Lou Dalton alongside brands like Margaret Howell or YMC, all stocked at the British Designers Collective pop up, but then also on a wider scale here at the park, next to brands like Prada and Marni.
DD: Would you like to see something like this in central London?
Charlie Porter: Yes, but I also want to see younger brands being stocked in big designer stores. The thing with menswear is that its a really, really, slow ship to steer. Mens store buyers buy safely and cautiously because they think that is what sells and that men aren’t ready for something different. The buying in men's stores is quite passive and I think it should be more active, almost like curating for people to buy.
DD: Is that something that you think will come out of the london collections men?
Charlie Porter: Hopefully. It does also need the buyers in the store to make the leap, they still need to look at their budget and give it allocation.
DD: What are you looking forward to from the Mens Collections?
Charlie Porter: I'm looking forward to the designers being shown at the same time as those in Milan and Paris, being considered on a level equal to those shows and having new eyes look upon the London collections. Of course, I'm excited about seeing the designers I love, like Agi & Sam, Lou Dalton, James Long and Christopher Shannon. Plus the fact that Meadham Kirchoff are doing menswear again.