It was only a couple of days before his S/S17 show that Craig Green told me, “We haven’t even put the looks together yet.” “It’s kind of mad,” he continued, “it’s still changing hour by hour.” In fact, it wasn’t until the day before the show that the structure of the collection finally took shape; fittings were still being done up until the last possible moment before the models took to the runway. If he wasn’t so open about it all, you’d never have guessed, simply because S/S17 had a grace that you can hardly imagine was created quite so close to the mark. Over recent seasons, Green has become the darling of London Collections: Men, his nuanced subversions of masculinity – explored through collections that, when dissembled piece by piece, are remarkably wearable – has offered some much-needed elegance in a week that can often feel a bit higgledy-piggledy. This season saw his aesthetic achieve its greatest heights yet: a considered development on familiar signatures executed with a gentle finesse in both fabrication and form.
There were trousers cut to the knee, leaving their fabric to flap around the calves, sleeves loosely bound to jackets, scarves gently dangling from the hands of the models – even when hoods were pulled close around the face, they felt far from constricting but, rather, free. The outerwear was created to look “as though it was a tent flying apart” and sometimes backs were completely left bare and just laced with strings, because “there’s something tortuous about wrapping someone in all that quilting in summer”. While extending straps and half-undone stitching have become signatures of Green’s, this time that looseness felt romantic rather than deliberately appearing rushed – and, with a single white flag of surrender providing the starting point for his inspirations, that serenity made sense both on initial impact and on closer inspection.
An Accredited Confidence
While last season’s show was rife with ominous undertones – sutured straitjackets and hazmat safety suits, padded coats constructed from punching bag leathers – this collection showed a graceful, almost monastic, surety. It can be no coincidence, then, that just last month Green won the BFC/GQ Designer Menswear Fund: a prize that extends beyond endorsement and offers £150,000 investment alongside business mentorship. Green won’t receive the funding until September, so “there’s not a direct influence” he says – but to ignore the confidence boost that must surely accompany such accreditation would be naïve, and it was transparently visible throughout the show. There was a quiet power in its gentle masculinity, a refined beauty to its thoughtfulness – and, while Green’s clothes always seem self-assured, this time they were entirely without the underlying anxiety that can often colour them.
An Exploration of Peace
So, to the colours. While Green started out making his name through saturated palettes, last season’s was subdued: silks hand-washed again and again until they felt exhausted. This time, too, the pieces were boil-bleached and re-dyed – but even when they were more vibrant they felt dusky and sentimental: North African bed sheets were love-worn and faded, turned into delicate patchworks for gentle jackets and relaxed trousers. Boyscout flags – first in reds and greens, later in peaches and mints – were bleached into “really strange colours that you would never pick at first” and draped around waists and torsos but, rather than constricting their models, they were carefully slung, completely harmonious.
“I see [the collections] as one big story, and every season is a reaction to the one before,” he said and, between the influence of flags and the exoticism of prints, Green’s boys moved away from their A/W16 armour and became explorers; they were a modern rendition of Captain John Noel’s documentation of Mallory and Irvine in The Epic of Everest, paying nostalgic tribute to British mountaineers and schoolboyish scout escapades. With such mammoth investment for the business of a small designer soon to arrive, it felt as though, with this collection, Green was preparing to embark on a similarly epic adventure. For a man who last week told Tim Blanks that he’d “never even heard of St Martins” before he ended up there, whose shows have quickly become such a hot ticket and who has found himself with global stockists galore (he’s now in 59 locations), you get the sense that he’s set to reach the summit.
A Score of Sentimentality
Another distinct development in the collection was the score: surging and swelling with emotion and transforming the runway into something distinctly cinematic; you almost expected credits to roll during the finale. While, ordinarily, Green spends the night before scrolling through YouTube for relevant tracks, this time the music was composed by the legendary Frédéric Sanchez – the man responsible for the auditory backdrops to the likes of Margiela and Marc Jacobs.
“I saw what he was doing three years ago and I felt very close to his world so I got in touch with him,” Sanchez explained, “I think he was surprised that I wanted to work with him, but I really like to work with people I feel I am close to in some way.” The parity between the two – between the collection and the score – is interesting; once Green had sent Sanchez some references (pictures of fabrics, of boy scouts, of utility clothes), Sanchez started to search for what could work to accompany it, “something that felt familiar”. He ended up mixing different versions of Roy Harper’s Another Day, adding and subtracting layers of sound, from Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel, from Elizabeth Fraser, from Oliver Coates. “I was washing the songs, like he was washing the clothes; I wanted to achieve this strange romanticism,” he explains. Harper himself is determinedly Romantic (with a capital R), and so there was a bizarre and powerful synchronicity with the Keatsian sentimentality of the collection, and its somewhat sublime narrative.
“I saw the response to the show,” says Sanchez afterwards. “And people were touched. It doesn’t happen like that all the time; I have seen that at some Prada shows, some Comme des Garçons shows, but it’s not always like that. It was special.” And special it was. “We are at a crucial stage where we’re almost at the end of NewGen,” Green reflected last week, “and at the end of all of the amazing people who have supported us, doing stuff for next to nothing. Now it’s time to build some foundations, and create a brand that is sustainable.” You certainly get the feeling that he’s well on his way to the top.