There is certain source material which appears on show notes that instantly induces eye-rolling. One is cult documentary ‘Grey Gardens’, the story of Big and Little Edie Bouvier Beale, relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy whose decrepit existence seemed a world away from the high-powered world of American politics. Another is the films of ‘Hairspray’ director John Waters. Waters and his muses have long been inspiration for fashion creatives across the board, from designers to photographers such as David LaChapelle and Steven Meisel. You’d think that this subject might have had the seat torn out of it by now, but when British menswear designer James Long namechecks Waters at the start of his show you’re immediately intrigued.
John Waters’ campy fayre isn’t an obvious route for Long, whose previous collections have had an intense, if dishevelled, masculinity. Luckily, the designer focuses on his recognisable signatures, rather than indulging in an OTT homage to Baltimore trailer trash.
Autumn/Winter 2013 at James Long is earthy in every sense, from the palette to the down-home easiness of the baggy cuffed pants, inspired by sportswear. Square quilting stolen from sleeping bags appears on nylon bombers, and printed shirts have a flashy, early-Eighties countenance. Coated fabrics feature throughout, a sheeny wipe-clean counterpoint to the rugged texture elsewhere.
As with every James Long collection the knitwear is the star, and it’s here where transvestite performer Divine, John Waters’ most infamous discovery, appears, pouting boldly from the weave of one piece, and printed in greater detail on a leather-sleeved sweatshirt. A beaded pink flamingo adorns another, whilst other knits reveal a criss-cross patchwork of fabric and leather strips.
This is James Long’s first collection flying solo, without funding or support of any British Fashion Council initiatives, which, in the current economic climate, is an achievement in itself. That it deserves to cement Long’s position as one of the most eagerly-awaited designers on the London menswear schedule is even more cheering.