Menswear bids goodbye to suits and takes its cue from the street

The UK menswear market has grown by 4.1% in the last year and it is predicted to grow by 22.5% between 2015 and 2020 to reach £17.3 billion.

british fashion council london collection men 2016

Powered by article titled “Menswear bids goodbye to suits and takes its cue from the street” was written by Lauren Cochrane, for The Observer on Saturday 11th June 2016 23.05 UTC

London Collections Men, the capital’s men’s fashion week, played out this weekend against a very British backdrop: the Queen’s birthday celebrations and the first England match of Euro 2016. Among the editors in the front row, however, sartorial patriotism was noticeably absent. Instead, Vêtements – the Parisian streetwear label notorious for putting a T-shirt with the DHL logo on the catwalk – was the buzz brand.

Vetements put a DHL T-shirt on the runway last autumn
Vêtements put a DHL T-shirt on the runway last autumn. Photograph: Rex

Founded by Georgian-born designer Demna Gvasalia as a collective in 2014, Vêtements has become the last word in cool by doing away with hackneyed concepts of Parisian chic. Borrowing from street culture, branding and the deconstruction pioneered by designers in the 1990s, it regularly puts on shows in distinctly inelegant venues – including a Chinese restaurant – with friends of the designers as models. Some pieces are deliberately unisex and the hoodies – oversized and often with the kinds of visual gags that play well on social media – are the it item in London for this week.

Editors, bloggers and designers wore them, and one participant was spotted wearing a fleece actually from logistics company DHL. Sweatshirts with gothic script on the sleeves were popular, and Luke Day, editor of GQ Style, wore a design with the logo of sportswear brand Champion reworked to say Vêtements. He says there’s an insider exclusivity that those in the know – and on the front row – will understand, even if passersby see just another hoodie with a logo.

“The branded items have a very ironic pop-culture feel but are expensive,” said Day. ‘That makes them exclusive and covetable. They’re clothes for Instagram.”

Nick Grimshaw (left) with Henry Holland in a House of Holland hoodies.
Nick Grimshaw (left) with Henry Holland in a House of Holland hoodies. Photograph: David M. Benett/Getty Images

Even when the labels didn’t say Vêtements, the influence was there. Where once the suits and pocket squares of traditional British tailoring dominated, now the mood was streety casual, with hoodies, trainers and tracksuit trousers by labels including Stüssy and Palace.

“There’s a perception that Vêtements is more real,” said Rob Nowill of fashion website “Men are tired of suits: they don’t feel modern. There’s not such a line between streetwear and fashion now.”

Nick Grimshaw, the radio DJ and London Collections ambassador, wore a hoodie for House of Holland’s presentation on Friday, and even model Oliver Cheshire – known for his suited and booted style – had a sporty look. He wore a cream knitted hooded top yesterday.

“Fashion has become more functional. I feel like I can wear something like this to a show now,” he said. “It’s also there in the City. Friends of mine who used to wear suits to work are now about to wear more relaxed clothes.”

London menswear designers could be credited with starting the trend Gvasalia and Vêtements have crystallised. British design duo Agi & Sam featured bomber jackets in their collection, while models at Nasir Mazhar showed tracksuits and cargo pants as part of a street-style-influenced look. Christopher Raeburn’s collaboration with German accessories brand MCM had an outdoorsy influence, with hooded ponchos and macs in dazzle print.

The men’s shows continue, with JW Anderson and Grace Wales Bonner highlights on the schedule.

Model Oliver Cheshire in cream Christoper Raeburn knitwear.
Model Oliver Cheshire in cream Christoper Raeburn knitwear. Photograph: Jonathan Hordle/Rex © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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