Carmen Bellot gives the low-down on the best of LFWM.

While the first weekend of January was welcomed at the end of a two-day working week, editors, stylists and buyers wilfully employed themselves to view the newest wares coming from London’s menswear design talent. Spreading across the breadth of the city, the cold winter weekend didn’t shy fashion heads away from viewing the Autumn/Winter 20 collections at sumptuous venues. Though early on in the season, London's range of rising stars levelled with offerings from LFWM schedule staples, Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY, Wales Bonner and Martine Rose, shows it's a weekend, not to be missed.

Designers opted for lively showcasings, encapsulating all parts of their cultural backgrounds through different arts. On day one, the notable Nicholas Daley showed his AW20 contribution within the legendary Earth venue in Dalston. Enlisting South London musicians, Rago Foot, Kwake Bass and Wu-Lu to perform as models clad in coin-embellished trainers and baker boy hats sauntered on stage, the show ending with the other models, and the designer himself, grooving to the soundtrack that reflected the black abstract art movement in its most playful and representative.

Diving into cultural heritage was another visionary, Grace Wales Bonner, who hosted a London-Jamaican social event for her show, offering native cuisine and Red Stripe to accompany the viewing. Blasting Lovers Rock (a music genre created by second generation Jamaicans in the UK) from a stacked stereo system, the designer sent out a mixture of her staple tailoring along with shirting and knit vests in rasta colour palettes. As a key figure representing masculinity through a black female gaze, her work has opened up the landscape for up and coming talent like Bianca Saunders. Her second presentation at the BFC Truman Brewery showed how her clothes perfectly fit and compliment the movements of the modern man, as her models danced for the entirety of her two hour presentation.

Family played a big part in the storytelling for the shows this season. Martine Rose closed the Sunday by showing in the classroom of a North London school, while pariah/FARZANEH granted us a witnessing of a traditional Iranian wedding ceremony, hosted in a school hall. The timing of her message for love between communities was especially relevant, as tensions between her home-country of Iran and the USA got jacked up to the highest possible degree to date. While the military style khaki trousers and double-hooded ‘balaclava’ jackets hinted to a rebels uniform, her traditional, paisley Iranian prints and use of recyclable plastics (she collaborated with Thermore to create linings made of five recycled plastic bottles) pointed to innovation in streetwear and a more sustainable future.

Trailblazer Bethany Williams continued to show that fashion need not ever be a selfish industry. Collaborating with the charity The Magpie Project - who support families living in temporary accommodation - her collection looked to motherhood and sisterhood for inspiration. With Melissa Kitty Jarram’s colourful illustrations displaying the relationship between mother and child, on garments made from only sustainable or reused materials, Williams' legacy of promoting social change through fashion is continuously commendable and inspiring. A collection which contributes to the improvement of children’s lives, can only show William’s views on who will effectively be creating change in the future.

While 'reflection' seems an obvious trope for the designers, as they present at the start of a new decade, the London-based menswear brands are looking at the past from different angles. For Qasimi reflection came in the form of the present. Since the passing of Creative Director Khalid al-Qasimi, his twin sister, Hoor al-Qasimi has made it her mission to continue his legacy. The classic brand notes still rang clearly, and its beautiful colour palette inspired by the hues of the Middle East, continued to be a signature. ‘Every sun has to set’ was embroidered onto the back of the final look, and with teary eyes the audience said their goodbyes to the first chapter of the Qasimi era.

For Stefan Cooke, reflection meant positive beginnings. Their show, ironically called ‘The End’, evoked 1920s glamour with boat-sash necklines while punk studded jumpsuits, chunky knits with slashed arms and little pleated skirts, gave attitude. This collection clearly enforced the end of their post-grad days, and that the brand, soon to be stocked at Matches Fashion, Browns and Dover Street Market, is moving towards a bright future.

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Tags: LFWM , AW20 , Carmen Bellot