The Visual Election: it’s less than 50 days until the UK votes. Can you tell any of our male politicians apart?

In 49 days time, the United Kingdom votes in a general election.

It is uncharted waters for the country – the first time that a coalition government will more than likely be replaced by another.

Unless something unexpected happens between now and polling day, gone are is the era of overall majorities in British politics.

It’s also a depressingly male election – Theresa May seems no favourite of Lynton Crosby, the man running the Conservative campaign on such a narrow economy-focused message.

A message he wants to be told by men.

I realised the other day I never see these men, and the men in supposed opposition. My news source is the radio. If so read something online, I scroll quick past the pics.

The closer in age I get to those that are in power, the weirder I find them.

Why do they look like that?

I know the thinking: certain jobs – solicitors, politicians, news journalists – require a certain tailored look. It’s so their words have authority, that they are ready for any eventuality (I remember someone on a news desk telling me once he had to always be dressed appropriately in case he needed to go to a funeral).

But I also know the cynicism of their appearance: that politicians purposefully dress averagely, so they don’t appear flash.

It goes into every aspect of life. A friend of a friend was a parliamentary candidate, and was  told not to serve too fancy biscuits at home, in case anyone thought they were above themselves.

Here are some of the men of the election, their faces obscured.

Can you tell who’s who?

1) To begin, a casual look.

So strange, that active choice to dress the neck with the frame of a button-down shirt, then unbuttoned, then a V-neck.

With jeans.

Why?

Presumably the shirt is there to show this man is always ready, always prepared.

So strange.

2) Next, a recent TV appearance.

The sagging line of that shoulder.

3) Another casual look.

The setting might be a giveaway.

4) In the Commons, the choice of a high rise suit jacket.

Why such a short lapel?

To make him look more barrel through the chest?

5) The sport of friends.

6) A TV debate.

7) His combatant.

8) Back in the Commons.

9) At the TV studio.

Can you tell?

They are, in order:

1) Nick Clegg

2) George Osborne

3) Ed Miliband 

4) George Osborne

5) George Osborne and David Cameron

6) Danny Alexander

7) Ed Balls

8) Ed Miliband 

9) Nigel Farage 

The last one is particularly fascinating – Suzanne Moore has written brilliantly in today’s Guardian about his diminishment, and how Nigel Farage now “looks like every other politician”.

It’s this weird world of the importance of non-appearance.

Doing everything they can to not stand out, to not look good, to not look like there is any representation of character.

And yet these men are so desperate for attention. 

The psychology is so strange.

Of course, they’d probably claim there was no thinking behind it. That their minds are occupied with more important things than clothing.

This from men who have their hair trimmed and styled as often as most male models.

There is actual effort here to not look good.

The danger of this is for tailoring.

The mode of dressing that evolved to show the male form at its best.

Being used by as a levelling tool of averageness.

Let’s keep an eye on clothing, and how it is used, as election day approaches.

Lou Dalton’s just launched her own on-line store. It’s ace. A look at hers, and those of others

Lou Dalton’s just launched her own on-line store.

It’s really jolly.

That natural chance for her to control what she stocks, as opposed to what other stores select.

Like this distorted petal jumper.

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It’s £350, click here etcetc.

This collarless navy jacket.

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It’s £495, click here etcetc.

Her mesh panel sweatshirt.

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It’s £221, click here etcetc.

Charm Charm Charm.

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It’s £80, click here etcetc.

VERY JOLLY.

It’s exciting that Lou’s tier of London designers – those who pioneered menswear in the city before the launch of London Collections: Men – are now in the position to be launching their own online stores.

Christopher Shannon is another such.

His stripy knit.

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LOVE.

It’s £310, click here etcetc.

(btw do you want something to listen to while we’re shopping? The new Levon Vincent album that came out last month – OBSESSED)

Back to the wares of Christopher Shannon.

Patch pocket sweatshirt.

SWEAT09A£125 for said gorgeousness, click here etcetc.

ENJOY.

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It’s a knit, and it’s £390, click here etcetc.

JAMES LONG!

Another recent online store launcher.

A ribbon-patched denim jacket.

(And yes I know the picture is a bit smaller – pretend it isn’t happening and that everything lines up and that I’m a professional and stuff).

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It’s £350, click here etcetc.

A ribbon-taped knit.

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It’s £290, click here etcetc.

Taped denim shorts.

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They’re £280, click here etcetc.

BEYOND JOLLY!

J.W Anderson is another.

His white horse landscape knit.

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The top is £865, click here etcetc.

It’s a big deal to open an online store.

There’s a lot of backroom stuff to be done.

For most, it does seem to mark a certain stage in their career.

Most designers who are still at the NewGen stage of support don’t have them.

Craig Green doesn’t.

Nor does Astrid Andersen.

Nor Nasir Mazhar.

It’ll happen in the right time.

A rarity is those nice young men Agi & Sam.

They’ve had an online store since their very first outings at the Fashion East Presentations, when London menswear was just a day tagged on the end of the women’s schedule.

The DICK OIL hoodie from their excellent SS14 collection.

Back view, obvs.

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It’s £140, click here etcetc.

Watu Nguvu T-shirt.

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It’s £95, click here etcetc.

Very jolly!

How do you feel about the Levon Vincent album?

Are you obsessed?

OBSESSED.

You can get it at that Phonica on vinyl for like £32 or something.

Worth it.

 

Gender is the main message for AW15. If you’re male, that is. Where was the gender talk at womenswear?

There is a clear, defining message from the fashion industry for AW15.

Gender.

Or at least, that’s how things seemed back at the end of January, when the menswear shows came to a close.

It had been led by Gucci, and was apparent at Saint Laurent, Loewe. The show by Raf Simons was one of many where it was often hard to tell if the models were male or female.

I found myself often being irascible about this gender play, and that worried me. Shouldn’t I be in favour of experimentation?

But this didn’t feel like experimentation responding to natural and individual curiosity.

It seemed more the inevitable result of more brands sending out female models in pre-collection during their menswear show.

Thus saving on production budgets – no need to have a separate women’s pre-collection presentation.

It was like this added oestrogen had its effect on the men’s designs.

Like those old scare stories about oestrogen in the water supply.

After the men’s shows, I wrote about real life “gender neutrality”.

How, if you look on the street in London right now, you’ll see men and women in versions pretty much the same clothes – jeans, sneakers, sweaters, a winter coat, maybe a brave attempt at a lighter layer instead.

Crucially, not the exact same garments, but a female or a male cut of jean etcetc.

It’s something separate to the catwalk dare of men being encouraged to wear women’s clothes.

But more of a utilitarian, unified response to the way we live our lives today, whether we’re male of female.

I presumed that, come womenswear, the gender questioning would continue.

And hey! Maybe there’d be some new menswear in the shows.

Because those women’s looks at menswear weren’t just a way of saving money and barging in on our time, were they?

Like, there’ll be some equality, right?

Oh.

Aside from the novelty of Gucci, which was a better-made rerun of its he/she menswear show, the only gender issue at most of womenswear was how designers could make things as pedestal-feminine as they could possibly be.

As in, the only purpose of clothing being to beautify/objectify women.

So many dresses, so much decoration, so little clothing that seems to have anything to do with the way women dress today.

Or at least the women I know and admire.

During the shows, I kept an eye out for anything that could possibly be positive gender neutrality.

I thought the tailoring at Louis Vuitton looked so fresh.

!!!UPSIDE DOWN PHOTO ALERT!!!

***AS WITH ALL CATWALK IMAGERY, I TURN IT UPSIDE DOWN***

^^^SO YOU CAN LOOK THROUGH THE RECOGNISABLE IMAGE TO SEE THE CLOTHES THEMSELVES^^^

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(pics nicked from vogue.it)

I’ve already written about the white shirt/black pants that underpinned the Junya Watanabe show.

They also fit with this idea of gender neutrality.

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At Saint Laurent, the gender neutrality look was vampy.

On the rail, the garments will be super gender neutral – one of the reasons why so many women are right now buying its ready-to-wear.

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But really, it was hardly anywhere.

Perhaps one of the reasons the Vetements show had such a hold over the season was its advanced gender neutrality.

Its pieces were often gender neutral, and yet were also resolutely female.

Coat, rollneck sweater, jeans.

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A powerful combination of intent.

Padded coat, hoodie, trackpants.

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People went crazy about this show.

Like it was completely different from anything else they were seeing.

A compliment to Vetements, and also a diss of everyone else.

Because really, it’s just how so many women dress today.

Corduroy pant suit, zip-up track-top.

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Long black coat.

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This is gender neutrality that feels like an advance.

While most of the rest of womenswear was stuck in the stagnant waters of the prettified dress, over-elaborate unnecessary  decoration, or the banal and depressing world of fur, making fashion the bellwether of a contemporary society divided between wealth and poverty, haves and have-nots.

I was in Milan and Paris for a few days during the shows, and was often I was asked why I didn’t write about womenswear.

I haven’t done so seriously since 2004.

The reason is obvious: I have no understanding of what it means to wear these clothes.

Often, fashion makes me angry.

In menswear, I can use my own experiences of clothing to understand what’s going on.

And not just the nuts and bolts of what I wear, but male subconscious and psychology, desires and fears.

I can see how things have ended up that way, and what change is possible, or reasonable.

It’s not something I can do with womenswear.

It’s impossible for me to understand the female subconscious desire for decoration, or frivolity.

The psychological twists that Phoebe Philo taps with such deft skill to create those clothes of such weird desirability at Céline.

And so when I find women’s fashion frustrating – as I did with most of the month of shows that just passed – I don’t have a basis of emotional understanding to mount a calm, solid argument.

I end up sounding like I’m on a high horse.

Which is really unproductive.

And so I stay quiet.

This also tells me there’s a limit to “gender neutrality” – as much as I can try to understand what women wear, I can only really speak truly about men’s clothing.

These women’s shows have consolidated my fears about the emptiness of the gender questioning at menswear.

Because if fashion is truly interested in questioning gender, it needs to involve women as well as men.

And to reflect the moves towards equality in real life, rather than present men as demasculinised, and women as objects to be dressed.

The Alexander McQueen show Savage Beauty at the V&A is a triumph. It reveals how his work was all about the line

The triumph of the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty show, previewing today at the V&A, is how it allows for a clear study of line.

So often, McQueen’s garments were defined by the absolute clarity and fearlessness of his line, either cut or constructed.

A coat from Dante, AW96 – a work of extraordinary tension and control.

It is the line at the waist, the lines down the chest, and the feat of that jutting line angled out to the side.

A jacket from The Dance Of The Twisted Bull, SS02, with a jacket from La Poupée, SS97, behind.

The cut sleeves of that jacket from La Poupée.

A frock coat from McQueen’s graduate collection, Jack The Ripper Stalks His Victims, 1992.

Consulting curator Andrew Bolton said this was one of the garments added to the show since it debuted at the Metropolitan Museum in New York in 2011.

Behind it is a frockcoat from No13, SS99.

Another piece from his 1992 graduate collection.

Line as cut and construction: the wrap and sash belt from What A Merry-Go-Round, AW01.

Line from slashes – a slash-sleeved jacket from Dante, AW96.

I’m fairly sure Andrew said this was a new piece.

As are the looks in the new opening room, which focus on his early London shows.

And all of which show the importance of line.

A slashed skirt from The Hunger, SS96, the lines of the cut a provocation.

A slashed dress from Highland Rape, AW95.

Jacket and skirt from Highland Rape, AW95.

The construction of the shoulder.

The severity of the Highland Rape cut – jacket and bumsters.

The exaggerated line of It’s A Jungle Out There, AW97.

Bumster skirt and trousers – the definitive line that dissects the body.

From No13, SS99, two experiments with the trouser: the Kick Back, and the S-Bend.

The S-Bend trousers are from Amie Witton-Wallace, McQueen’s PR through the 90s and much of the 00s.

Lines to create character – a jacket from Joan, AW98.

The eloquence of line – this simple, distorted jumpsuit from La Poupée, SS97.

All of these pieces are in the first two rooms.

This morning, once the preview crowd had passed through, I was able to spend time with these pieces pretty much on my own.

The power of his line is all around, and informs all else that follows.

A few pieces from the very many.

That swooping fanned-out line from No13, SS99.

Extraordinary slashed and draped lines from The Hunger, SS96.

Boxed and wrapped lines from Voss, SS01.

The stitched line that gives macabre narrative to a bodice from No13, SS99.

The decorated line of that famous jacket from Voss, SS01.

A close up of the chrysanthemum cloth, the flowers allowed to create their own line.

The lines of ruffle down the dress from The Widows Of Culloden, AW06.

The lines both severe and decorative of one of his very last dresses, from AW10.

Once you start looking for line, it is everywhere.

Alexander McQueen’s strength of line was in each of his decisive acts.

It his great legacy.

I’ve just checked the website, and there are a few tickets available towards the end of the run, click here etcetc

Or become a member of the V&A and visit as often as you like – much the jollier option.

I thought I’d seen all the shows before I left Paris. But then came Comme Comme, and the extraordinary – and secret – first mini-show by Noir

I’ve been in Paris on a busman’s holiday, here for work and catching some shows at the same time.

After yesterday’s can’t-believe-I-saw-it Comme des Garçons show, I said to a member of its staff that I’d see them in London.

What about Comme Comme, they said.

Ah!

In menswear, there’s always a Comme SHIRT mini-show the next morning.

For women’s, it’s Comme des Garçons Comme des Garçons.

At 9.15am sharp.

This morning.

It was lovely.

A track top.

A leopard coat.

Lace over white, a real life take on many of the garments in the Comme show itself.

There was music, and the music was suddenly switched off, and it was over, and everyone clapped.

But then there was more.

Upstairs, in a new space in the Comme showroom, was the first ever mini-show by Noir, a label that’s been running for three or four seasons under the Comme umbrella.

It is the work of Kei Ninomiya, who was given his own label by Rei Kawakubo.

For this first show there was no invite, no fanfare, a changeable start time.

Most of the audience were clients.

There were meant to be no press, but a few of us were invited in – three I think, including myself.

It began at sometime around 9.45am.

No music.

The work was feats of construction.

It was one of those shows that caused conflict: take photos, or just watch?

I did half half.

A dress.

A zip up coat, the knots creating petals.

A jacket held together by studs, the construction providing decoration.

As is the beauty and density of black, many of the garments barely registered in the pics I took. 

It made it easier to put my phone down.

One dress was particularly extraordinary, with a line of fold and construction circling down the body.

The photographer Chris Moore was there, as were a couple of others.

Hopefully images of the collection will appear on style.com – it deserves wide attention.

An end to my time here I didn’t know would occur.

An honour to see.

And now home.

Junya Watanabe’s new women’s collection may appear to be pure fantasy. But within it, can you find pure logic?

More and more, I think about logic in clothing.

If what we wear can be reduced to logic.

Or if indeed the illogical is the attraction.

Junya Watanabe’s collection this morning was one of those that got me going.

His garments featured folded-out constructions, like paper lanterns, or 3D mathematical landscapes.

Each garment had the precision to allow the folds to sit with levity.

The logic of construction.

But in many of the best looks, there was a logic of dressing too.

I’ve been considering a successful formula for dressing: two parts sober, one part decorative.

Wierdly, it came to me when I was reviewing the Burberry men’s show for the FT back in January, and I was trying to explain a look that balanced sober shearlings and cords with pretty florals in the same garment.

The sobriety of the first two allowed for the decoration of the latter.

This happened today at Junya, albeit in a different way.

Underpinning the collection were some excellent crisp white shirts and black trousers.

They were worn with almost half of the looks.

And allowed the collection to be two parts sober (white shirt, black trouser) and one part decorative (garment of elaborate folds).

Here’s the look at its most simple, with just w decorative scarf of repeat mini-pyramids.

!!!!!UPSIDE DOWN PHOTO ALERT!!!!

***AS WITH ALL CATWALK PHOTOS, I TURN IT UPSIDE DOWN***

^^^SO YOU CAN LOOK THROUGH THE RECOGNISABLE IMAGE TO SEE THE CLOTHES BENEATH^^^

(Pics nicked from the wondrous style.com)

The decorative element became more extreme – here’s a long cape of pulled apart cuts.

But still, black trouser, white shirt.

The same effect on the sleeves of a grey biker.

A red cape top.

And yes technically there’s now a decorative headpiece too, but I don’t count this as a garment.

I think the two parts/one part logic still stands.

A coat with an unfolded open front.

View the whole collection, and there are of course many looks which defy this logic.

The importance of the illogical.

But I think one of the reasons the work was so successful were these precise and sober garments at its heart, balancing out the invention.

Most in the audience had to run straigh after, but I’m here in Paris on a busman’s holiday, only attending a handful of shows for my own pleasure.

It meant I could hang around the Palais de Tokyo.

It’s current exhibitions made the setting of Junya’s show there apt.

Much there was about balance, levity and construction.

A canvas by Takis that holds metallic cones in place, as if suspended in air, by magnets. 

The balanced rock sculptures of Bridget Polk.



The extraordinary Strandbeests created by Theo Jansen, which each summer walk on a Dutch beach powered by wind.

A Strandbeest on film.

In real life.

Some of its component parts.

A mist catcher created by Carlos Espinosa, which capture humidity in arid mineral areas to allow organic materials to grow.

And then some illogic.

The Chindogu of Kenji Kawakami.

Almost useful objects.

Like this Housework Sleeping Suit.

Or this toothpick cover.

Swiss Army knife gloves.

Blinds for face.

Shoe umbrellas.

The Ten Commandments of Chindogu.

Gloriously, importantly illogical.

Such are the things that are seen on a Saturday in Paris.

At the Undercover show in Paris just now, Jun Takahashi slashed, warped, draped and slashed again

Jun Takahashi just showed his autumn/winter 2015 Undercover show in Paris.

It was extraordinary, a proper show rather than a parade of product, as so many are nowadays.

Here are some images.

A trench, extended.



All the models had those face masks, by the way.

Can you see the knife on the left chest of this draped entrail coat?

More than a hint of the overriding theme.

BTW don’t the cut off jeans beneath look great?



A biker, warped at the back.



That back.



A warped baseball jacket.



I mean amazing.

A warped bomber.



Slashing sometimes leads to joining – a little jacket, jewelled collar and adjoining trench tails.

Not sure how what joins on to what exactly.



Similarly, a cardigan/shirt/slashed trouser/lining combo.

Kind of extraordinary.



Time for some real slashing.

Slashed plastic jacket, which walked out to a Hitchcock soundtrack.

(Those of greater Hitchcock knowledge would be able to say which film)

(I mean it’s obvious which one I want to guess but still)



A longer plastic coat.



The last looks came out to Johnny Cash’s cover of Hurt.

A shard coat.



A shard pantsuit.



Last look.



An unsettling, jolting, absolute pleasure.

And in creepy hand news, a couple of the looks had prints of that creepy hand I wrote about during menswear.

End of creepy hand update!

And, um, end of whatever this is!

Not a review.

Just me gabbling on really.

Anyway.

Whatever.

Done.

The menswear students at the Central Saint Martins MA show were exceptionally strong. Some pics

The menswear students in this year’s Central Saint Martins MA show were exceptionally strong.

It featured the work of the last students to have been selected for the course by Professor Louise Wilson, who died last year.

Each of the students showing menswear were unique and with their own voice, yet each were interested in showing garments, as opposed to an imposition of fantasy.

Their work instead was fantasy reality.

A suit by James Theseus Buck, with an added dildo from out of the fly.

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I posted a different pic of this look on Instagram last night, and @kikokostadinov said that the dildo was “resin casted with flowers in between”

Whether this is fact or conjecture I can’t tell.

More from James, whose course was actually Textiles For Fashion.

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A blur, but this look was feathered.

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An apron look.

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Layers.

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I loved the rigour in functionality of the work of Ben Rice.

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A keen control of proportion.

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Maximilian Riedlberger showed work that was super slick and assured.

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These wide trousers were excellent.

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He was playful too.

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Eric Litzén had great sense of colour and proportion.

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Crop and shine.

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Belted.

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Do you see what I mean about garments?

Even when they entered into experimentation, it was always grounded in an idea of actual clothing.

Which wasn’t the case in the womenswear students at all.

I found the men’s students so super exciting.

Their work felt alive with future possibilities of what menswear could be.

And the effect they can have on what men wear. In real life.