The Lady had been booked by Coach, in celebration of its freewheeling, psychedelic but ultimately digestible collection, and not a moment too soon. After six to eight hours of fashion shows — roasted awake in the morning by a klieg-light rotisserie then ground through gridlock traffic from hither to yon, Charles Jeffrey’s afternoon-long club-night at the Institute of Contemporary Arts to Tom Ford’s tony Belgravia shop — you’re edge-of-tears grateful for a lager.
That juxtaposition of funk and finesse — as one local magazine editor put it, the difference between men’s fashion week and women’s is that for women’s fashion week, he washed his whole body, not only under his arms — is what has given the men’s shows here a welcome sense of possibility and surprise.
Besides the expected suits-and-boots of tradition (this season, Mr. Ford even created a pocket Apple Watch to go with his), it is possible, even likely, to discover something truly weird and wonderful, whether the genderless, sui-generis esoterica of J.W. Anderson or the poetic constructions of Craig Green.
But men’s wear here, as a business and as a statement, is becoming more serious. (The British Fashion Council emailed all its registrants a report bursting with figures to cite for anyone after statistical proof.) London Collections: Men, once the fledgling new kid on the block, is no longer either fledgling or new.
It expanded this season from three days to four, bursting with shows and with spectators, its attendance up from international buyers and media, said Dylan Jones, the chairman of London Collections: Men, more than 80 percent among Americans alone. No doubt that success is part of what inspired the Council of Fashion Designers of America to follow its example — right down to the colon — and put on its own event, New York Fashion Week: Men’s, in July.
The beer will still flow, no doubt, but London Collections: Men is smartening itself up and shaking off its scruff. For business, it’s a boon. But now it feels less like an off-kilter aberration than a full-fledged fashion week like any other, some of its peculiar magic siphoned away.
There are still designers who manage to hold themselves apart and ply their own insulated vision. Margaret Howell is one, a press-shy, long-serving English designer who quietly makes the kind of beautiful, simple-but-not-boring pieces that would make her the envy of any of her peers, if only she were demanding enough to grab their attention.
Though it is just the sort of thing to elicit eye rolls from those outside the fashion enclosure, lace-for-men is having a major-label revival at the moment. Here, displayed for a crowd that included Chiwetel Ejiofor and Samuel L. Jackson, in a bright raspberry blazer and his signature flat cap, it didn’t look very especially convincing. (Nor, for that matter, did the flowing Isadora Duncan-style scarves.)
But it didn’t much detract from the overall message. The show’s the thing, but the showroom, where the fuller, much larger collection is presented for sales, is the point.
“As you would expect,” Mr. Bailey said, “we have the in the showroom very simple, beautiful, classic white poplin shirts with a little bit of lace on them.”
That’s Burberry’s achievement: to dress up tradition for those who want it but keep the plainer stuff amply stocked. And while he insisted that there would be some guys who’d wear a full lace button-down happily, the jokey show wasn’t really a joke. Because other than those lace pieces, Mr. Bailey said, “I think it was pretty traditional.”
He played it straight after all.