I’ve been out of the country for most of the past couple of weeks.
While I was away, I saw on Twitter many people outraged by comments David Gandy made about British menswear designers on the Channel 4 TV programme Alan Carr: Chatty Man.
A comedy talk show broadcast on Friday nights in the UK.
David Gandy is an ambassador of the British Fashion Council.
I couldn’t watch the programme abroad, and only managed to see the clip this weekend when I got back.
It’s been a funny couple of days to return home.
Conservative MPs, grandees and activists denouncing gay marriage, ahead of the parliamentary debate which begins today.
Of the news programmes I heard, and newspapers I read, it seemed like Conservative opponents of gay marriage were given free airtime.
Rarely did you hear a voice celebrating a gay marriage, the changes it’d bring, and what it’d mean about our country, and our belief in acceptance and equality.
Meanwhile, around 12.30am on Sunday morning, there was a violent hate crime in South London on Christopher Bryant and his partner Damon Truluck. The couple were assaulted and told to “stay down faggot”. They were coming home from Christopher’s 42nd birthday celebrations.
Here are the results of the attack on Christopher.
In New York on Friday night, a gay man was murdered in a hate crime killing in Greenwich Village.
32-year old Marc Carson was called “faggot” and “queer”, before being asked, “do you want to die here?”
He was then fatally shot in the cheek.
The photo of Carson that has accompanied most news stories show him wearing a pair of Jeremy Scott for Adidas sneakers, with stars and stripes wings attached to the ankle.
He seemed like a man who enjoyed expressing himself through what he wore.
The assault happened on West Eighth Street near Sixth Avenue in Manhattan.
Last Saturday night, I’d walked that same block with a friend.
It was with all this happening that I finally got to watch the clip of David Gandy being asked about British designers on Alan Carr.
Here’s everything that was said.
ALAN CARR: You know all that bollocky stuff that you see on the catwalk. Looks a bit crap.
DAVID GANDY: [laughs] I don’t know what you’re talking about.
AC: I mean look at this. [A monitor between them shows look 14 from the Sibling autumn/winter 13 show]
AC: This is some of the crap that’s on the catwalk. Look at that. I mean the people in the BBC have to wear those gloves now [he's presumably making a joke about the recent paedophile scandals at the BBC]. And this one takes the. I mean look at the, that is genuine. [Shows look 1 from Craig Green's debut catwalk show, as part of MAN autumn/winter 13]
DG: I was at that show actually. I actually got a bit sort of pissed off, by actually, I actually thought, who does that,
like who, like I would never of, sort of, like, if someone said, put this in front of your face,
I would have gone [David first waves his hand in front of his face as if swatting something away, then gesticulates with his thumb pointing it over his shoulder, he says quietly in all this "..... off"], walk off
AC: You can actually say that, you can say that if someone said wear this shed on your head?
DG: You do what you do
AC: So if someone said to me I want you to look like a shed, look like a, you can say no, no way, forget it. Have you got that much power as the top male model in the world.
DG: I used to do that before having any power whatsoever. I was a stunning little sod. so um, maybe it was out of principle, I don’t want to look like a shed today, thanks. [They start to talk about something else]
You can see the clip by clicking here, and heading to around 37 minutes in.
Rather than defending the work of British designers from the presenter’s comments, or talking as an ambassador about the importance of creativity, he turns the conversation to how he would feel if he were asked as a model to wear the work of Sibling or Craig Green, and says that he was “pissed off” during the MAN show.
The great triumphs of menswear in London since MAN started in 2005 has been the acceptance of difference and diversity.
It’s become the norm. Brilliant people have been allowed to do brilliant things on an increasingly global platform.
The integration of radical design among the more straight-laced is one of the successes of London Collections: Men.
It’s a happy mix.
And one that’s not needed explaining, or justifying.
But there’s antagonism in the air. Maybe it’s time to make some wider points.
I’ve long been of the opinion that the AIDS crisis stopped British menswear disappeared for around two decades.
That there were no menswear shows in London when MAN started in 2005 because of the damage wrought by AIDS through the 80s into the early 90s, before combination therapy was introduced and the disease could be managed.
So many died, from young designers who never even got the chance to show what they could do, to the young men who would have bought and worn the clothes.
No designers, no customers, no legacy, and an idea of radical menswear in this country disappears.
It’s not just radical menswear.
Savile Row has never regained the natural velocity given to it by Tommy Nutter, who died from AIDS complications in 1992.
The young menswear designers who have shown at MAN and LC:M since 2005 are restoring a broken link to the radical fashion halted in the 1980s.
With their designs, they are allowing for all that is diverse, different, complex and often unsaid. Sometimes the work is uncomfortable or challenging. Often it is celebratory. But it creates a dialogue, and promotes further freedom and creativity.
It’s these things which show the importance of fashion as a bellwether, not of superficial trends, but of actual societal change.
There will be gay men of the right wing reading this thinking, oh shut up.
What they crave is masculine normality through tailoring and what is deemed as conventional clothing.
Probably because aping normality was the only way for them to gain acceptance and approval from their family, and from their peers, as they grew up in the 80s or 90s.
(Hello, Conservative Party in 2013: divided over something as fundamentally obvious as gay marriage.)
(When you hear those Conservatives denouncing gay marriage, you just feel sorry for any kid in their household or wider family growing up gay.)
I’d rather not be having to point out the fundamental importance of radical design. I’d much prefer for radicalism to infiltrate of its own accord, as it has been doing in menswear the past few years.
But when antagonism increases, you have to say something back.
Aside from all this, there’s the cold rational commercial value of radical showpieces.
After years of hard graft, Sibling are beginning to build a business selling pieces which commercialise their more radical concepts and colours.
They are also proud of the fact that they can produce for sale every single wild piece they show on the catwalk. And men do buy them.
Craig Green is only one season in – he hasn’t even had the chance to build his brand and commercialise his work before he’s mocked on national TV by an ambassador for the British Fashion Council.
His collection was one of the cleverest of the entire season. The sweaters knitted with denim so the cloth will fade over time. The hand-painted stripes. The simple unlined black jacket which, in the showroom, looked incredible on anyone trying it on. And there were many.
The wood headpieces do their own work of creating drama, mood and tension, and expressing something unsayable.
But beneath them, there are real clothes too.
I interviewed David Gandy years ago, when he’d become the face of Dolce & Gabbana.
He’s a thoroughly decent chap who I think at the time was living in Fulham, West London.
Far removed from the brooding Italian conjured by his image.
I mean no insult when I say he has made an excellent career from not talking.
His appearance front row at LC:M shows has helped make them Daily Mail friendly. He helps to get the shows talked about.
But if he’s talking about them, it would help if he understood the wider societal implications of radical fashion.
He may not like it. That’s fine. No-one’s asking him to wear it.
But he needs to understand the equilibrium that allows radical fashion to flourish.
And that any antagonism adds to a general air.
(I’m not going to talk about Alan Carr’s role in all this – he has no links to fashion, so his comments are irrelevant to the discussion)
(Other than, wouldn’t it be lovely if there was some place for actual fashion on TV?)
You can mock Sibling and Craig Green, or you can celebrate them.
It’d be great if he chose the latter.
Their diversity and difference is the crux of LC:M.
Why it will always be more than just a load of safe suits.