Show one, day one at London Collections: Men—and thanks to Gordon Richardson’s team at Topman, we’re awash in enough references to merit an appendix. “Bombay City Rollers” was the title of a show that centered on two key ’60s/’70s touchstones. First were the souvenir garments brought back by a blissed-out generation of consciousness-expanders from the hippie trail: huge shaggy afghans from the East—ah, Bombay—and peyote-ready ponchos from the West, both with intensely patterned shirts beneath. More psychedelic visions swirled behind the models on the dot-matrix backdrop. Yet, as some off-message metallic-paneled bowling shoes hinted at, Topman’s proposition was richer than hippiedom alone (a good thing, given how well-trodden that trail has been in fashion).
After a mod-touched aside of slim-fit chalk-stripe suiting teamed with fine-gauge polos, plus some pleasing ombré mohair outerwear, the Venn overlap between hippie and glam was breached via the Bay City Rollers, the One Direction of their day. The band’s tartan rocked on a wefted and frayed sleeveless sweater, shook on Rollermaniac wrist scarves, then fair slapped you in the face on a chorus of turned-up-to-11 suits. One sweater—a red star on a shaggy black background—looked like a direct press-shot homage to lead singer Les McKeown.
Blessedly, though, this was not costume, and the bell-bottoms were studiously edited down a bit. Thus tweaked, it was interesting how compelling a trouser cut just that bit higher on the waist with a gradual outward taper that starts well north of the knee can be. Americana and Evel Knievel derring-do—a look the Rollers riffed on—throttled into the equation astride stars-and-stripes-patched trucker jackets, high-hemmed blousons printed with garage decals, and pit-lane boiler suits peppered with more patching. In the last look, a brave man’s yellow tartan two-piece fought it out with an afghan-denim hybrid overcoat, both supported by a pair of gold and silver lightning bolt bowling shoes.
If the above sounds like a lot to cram onto one runway, it’s that way by design. At Topman, this collection functions as an ideas laboratory for a team that dedicates the majority of its energies to meeting the voracious—but more commercially inclined—appetites of the chain’s customer. Richardson, Topman’s design director, said: “This is a creative outlet…and we are looking ahead so that at some point, a lot of these ideas will filter down. At the show I like to instill an atmosphere, create a feeling.” Mission accomplished: Shang-a-Lang.