Europe’s largest meat market was an unusual choice for Julien Macdonald to stage his dazzling spring/summer 2016 show, but as the crowd of Made In Chelsea and Strictly’s finest piled in, braving the background smell of raw meat as they did, there was a few more men in the front row than is normal. Menswear – a first for the Welsh designer – was on its way.
Julien knows his customer. Season after season, his dramatic, glittering gowns make them swoon, their unapologetic gaudiness escaping trashy territory due to their couture-level fits and details. This season though, the glamour took a sinister edge. Wet, slicked-back-haired models took to the bare meat market floor runway like Bond girls from the sea, but dark eyed, dishevelled and seemingly almost possessed. Laddered knitted dresses were heavily embellished, armoured and tassled. Every look was fitted perfectly to the body, a dark base highlighted with yellow or pink, crystals or metal, some so heavily-clad in the latter that their jangles could be heard over the show music as the models moved. As prints entered the spotlight, out came the boys.
No one could deny that a Macdonald menswear debut was risky. There would be glitter, that was for sure, but how would a man so perfectly adept at dressing the most flamboyant and feminine of red carpet beauties approach dressing the male? Quite bloody well, it would seem.
Silk shorts, robes, loose shirts with oriental collars and long buttonless styles – all in Balinese prints and shapes – made us wish for a long Indonesian holiday and strolls on the beach. The boys, wet-skinned and wet-haired like their female counterparts, wore gladiator style sandals and black painted toenails, which created a peculiar kind of masculinity that would rival Givenchy.
Later, the same laddered knitwear as opened the show on the girls was seen on men’s sweaters and shorts in black and khaki, some lightly embellished with the expected dazzle. The knitwear’s open cobweb weave over bare skin showed off the intricate detail while retaining the sexiness that is a Macdonald show must.
If sex sells, then Julien Macdonald has a new clientele and a sellout on his hands.
Cover photo by Kuba Dabrowski