|Photography by Magdalena Golembiewska|
Heavily inspired by his time at art college; James Small's menswear collection was as nostalgic as it was eligible. Slick, chic and attracting the attention of some big names, James' Spring/Summer season proved no small force to be reckoned with. Striding to the beat of 'Watch Me Dance', the male models donned a highly tailored, sharply cut selection of suits, shorts and sheer shirts in a variety of prints and patterns. “Dapper, British gentlemen with a London edge” was the brief set by Small to head of hair styling; Jody Taylor and his team from Toni & Guy. Not a hair was left uneducated; slicked back locks, waves heavily set; the visage added a dapper twist to the schoolboy-esque line-up. It took an excess of “label.m volume mousse label.m holding gloss and the label.m serum” to keep the looks in place explained Taylor.
Moss, Hince, Winstone, Frost...The front row was a hive of energy, as some of the most influential faces rocked up to support James. Camera flashes went crazy as the room began to saturate, security was tight and seating plans rigorous. An unusual occurrence; the crowds began to whoop and cheer, and the lights had only just gone down. Was it the fact that it was the second to last show of the week; a kind of industry exclamation? Or was it simply the enthusiasm and excitement boiling over? I'm assuming the latter, yet regardless; people were here to make noise, and what a show to make noise about.
'Drop Outs' as James fondly titled the collection, began with a restricted splash of floral prints, almost bordering on a classic Liberty fabric, twinned with standard blazers and schoolboy shorts. Sleek, sheer silk, untucked shirts in deep purples, toned down nautical navys added an angle of romanticism to the juvenile line-up. One pair of camouflage shorts and one pair of leopard print shorts added a layer of militant playground games to the mix. Floral was not a subtlety, the prints took centre stage in what felt like a very personal interpretation of the man himself. Sleeves and trouser leg hems were rolled, like you would in a painting class and a light navy trench was tied open at the back.
My days in art college were heavily drawn by my passion for distress and mess, however Small's expression feels distinctly innocent and childlike. The fabric choices juxtaposed to the romantic bookish gentleman makes for a highly wearable dapper vision for the man of Spring Summer 2012. Who knows who we will see in Small next season; with the raucous applause of approval withheld to the end; we can safely say the entire front row. Even I wouldn't say no to a sheer shirt or two.
Speaking to James after the show; he described his creative process in more depth:
“I was just sort of, looking back to see what I would have worn and then streamlined it, tweaked it and sort of made it a little more fun. Obviously, to do the catwalk, you've got to sort of jazz it up a bit. I always sort of go back to rock and roll, and sort of festivals. That's always a recurring theme”.
Text: Madeleine Ayers