News from Britain of new styles for, almost of, men, goes unabated. In the realm of popular music, there is Morrissey, the bushy-browed lead singer of The Smiths, whose hair, cut flat and quiffed, and shirts, rumored to be ladies’ oversized, have already been emulated by English youth, and Pete Burns, of Dead or Alive, who sports long crimped locks, the slightest amount of makeup, and sometimes a patch. In the field of mere fashion, the English Menswear Designer Collections have emerged as one of the hot attractions on the international trade show circuit.
Seven of the group’s nineteen members were in New York last month, invited by the Designers’ Collective, to present their fall lines. While even within this sample representation there was great diversity of design, the English exhibitors seemed to share an honest, adventurous spirit that made them the talk of the four-day event.
Chairman of the organization, Roger Dack, with 20 years of rag trade experience under his belt, was the most senior of the designers, but by no means stodgy. Quite capable of the kind of quick talk and aggressive manner necessary to make government agencies realize the importance of the E.M.D.C.’s efforts to establish an international profile, Dack, nonetheless, spoke of a sense of humor as the highest need. Though there was nothing really ground-breaking about his Franklin collection of tailored, textured sportswear, there was, in his mixing of plaids and paisleys, an echo of the nervy, avant-garde nature of current English fashion.
It may be taken as a sign of just how advanced that Martin Cassar, who designs a division of Custom Shoes, was able to say, “I could have shown last year’s collection.” Compared to the kind of continental, low- vamp slip-ons being offered by other footwear exhibitors at the Collective, Cassar’s thick-soled boots and bootees, while of a traditional English sturdiness, appeared particularly ew.
Floral motifs, such as have been so intelligently handled by British women’s wear designers for spring, showed up in shirts by Clive Jennings and Jerry Richards for Empire Apparel as well as in the jacquard weaves employed by Charlie Allen. Su Nicholson, for the Sioux label, adhered primarily to solid shades in a collection of appliqued wool and cotton fleece. What was special about her line was the way she juxtaposed sporty and formal elements, suggesting a multi-faceted male who might at one time wear track pants, at another, a dandified bow tie, and at some other, both.
A native of Hong Kong who studied at the Chelsea College of Art and whose mother now lives in Toronto, Antony Kwok expressed the general excitement of designing men’s wear as the opportunity to break many rules and his particular interest as specializing in unusual, frequently luxurious fabric. Besides coats of soft black alpaca, jackets of soft blue llama, Kwok’s fall collection included some extraordinarily snazzy evening duds, among them, wing-tip shirts of silk jersey, metallic knit turtle- neck pullovers, and shawl-collared jackets of silk gauze in silver or turquoise.
Equally brilliant was a collection called Arkitect designed by the Moroccan-born Simon Abihissira. Hard to forget were jackets, in pinks, greens, blacks and blues, of wool in which were combined Welsh tapestry techniques and Islamic patterns and trousers of lustrous raw silk. Impossible to forget was the pink organza shirt featuring sleeve plackets snaking from cuff to elbow. The Arkitect fall line, as well as printed shirts from Empire Apparel, is to be distributed in Canada by Power Clothes Works, a Toronto agency that deserves credit for doing so.