Bondage. Crotches. Graphics. Leathers. Masks. No, I’m not talking about the styling for Rihanna’s latest music video. This is the DNA of Asian fashion designers whose radically creative aesthetics are beginning to thread their way into the fabric of British menswear – both on the high street and on the catwalk.
When clothing retail chain All Saints was fashion-forward and actually cool, the plunging tops, bleached knits and crushed leathers produced this unusual gothic charm for the high-street, and to wear an All Saints garment morphed you into the bravest, edgiest guy at the party because you were veering so dangerously close into the ‘feminine’ realm of dress-sense. Sadly, the label has since become abused by Russell Brand and a subsequent cattle following of wannabe rock stars, forcing the company’s image into corporate and frankly uncool territory.
In any case, I ventured further into the realm of androgyny, discovering Unconditional, a luxury fashion line whose fusion of the laidback and the edgy knits itself together each season with an unmistakable air of sexy grunge. I have developed a rather lustful addiction for the collection, which to this day I struggle to suppress. The signature drop-crotched jeans combined with zippers in often-humorous locations; the plethora of deconstructed tops which would make you question whether the designers have ever heard of ‘symmetry’ and straps so abundant you might as well be in a straitjacket certainly gave the brand its unique identity.
When we think of Asian designers we might reel off Juun J, Julius, Songzio. These are artists at the cutting-edge of the industry whose mix of architectural structuring with free-flowing drapes conjure futuristic silhouettes, a recipe for success which has almost become synonymous with the advent of ultramodern video and fashion direction in the music industry - think Black Eyed Peas dressed in arguably ridiculous-looking aluminum overalls.
But if you’re after some crazy hooded visor-mask jumper made from metallic yarn, you don’t need to fork out a fortune for it in the Superbrands section of Selfridges; yes, it might seem like the most radical thing that’s worthy not even of the fashion industry itself, but head over to Yesstyle.com and discover that there’s nothing extra-ordinary about these aesthetics in the Asian land of fashion. What we may consider to be daring over here is regarded across the pond as a kind of mainstream Topman equivalent.
Unconditional saw a golden opportunity and exploited it: take the trends from the Asian high street, slap a luxury fabric on it and become one of the most impacting new labels of the decade. It’s no surprise to see other contemporary brands like Sons of Heroes, Horace, Delusion, and Tuesday Night Band Practice follow suit – young designers who have instantly made their mark in both British and international markets. That golden reserve ain’t gonna last long though; you need only look to Zara, River Island and Topman to see how distilled the designs have already become.
Time to seek new formulas?