There remains an unfilled gap in the London Fashion Week men’s schedule.
With Burberry showing its men’s collection during womenswear week in February, JW Anderson moving its show to Paris, and both Martine Rose and Wales Bonner skipping the schedule altogether, there has been a power vacuum in London for the past two seasons.
It has left a flock of young, promising labels with the challenge of shedding the "emerging" tag and growing into power players in their own right. Among those doing just that this season is Bulgarian designer Kiko Kostadinov.
Kostadinov had a big 2018. He released three successful sneaker collaborations with Japanese footwear giant ASICS, launched radio show-turned-streetwear collective AFFIX WORKS, and got nominated for British Emerging Talent Menswear at The Fashion Awards, losing out to A-COLD-WALL* founder Samuel Ross.
While the Central Saint Martins graduate is known for his utilitarian take on uniformed dressing, often in vibrant hues, his Fall/Winter 2019 collection — like last season's, shown at the China Exchange in London’s Soho — is a darker, almost sinister line of apparel, much resembling his work at British heritage brand Mackintosh, which he left recently after nearly two years as the brand's first-ever creative director.
“We’ve kind of been waiting to do the darker colors. It’s something I’ve been saving for a while,” Kostadinov told Highsnobiety after the show.
Titled “Midnight Stripe,” Kostadinov’s surrealist seventh men’s collection was centered around faceless characters, with long, black hair and jewels covering models’ fronts. It turned those walking into monster-like creatures, hiding by day and striking by night. Watching the show, you couldn't help but think of Japanese horror flick Ring.
The amphibian scales on the heel of one of the new ASICS models — there were two in total, along with a large ASICS apparel collaboration that included tops, pants, and baseball gloves — added to the horror.
The designer said he took cues from the hysteric glamor of Doris Day in 1960 mystery thriller Midnight Lace. Kostadinov had wondered how menswear would look if the film’s costume designer Irene Lentz, known for her use of stripes, designed today.
The result was a luxurious collection that included striped tailoring in all its forms, color-blocked knitwear, and removable cowl collars that doubled as protective scarves. And there was still plenty of workwear for Kostadinov’s loyal following. This time, it came in the old shapes of mid-century womenswear — think inverse-butterfly bomber jackets, cocoon shapes, and swing coats offered in maroon, black, and translucent gray.
“I wanted to start from scratch again this season and do a lot of new shapes,” Kostadinov told Highsnobiety. “It was quite a big collection this time, even though we tried to reduce.”
It was certainly his most mature collection to date, proving the designer has more to offer — this time to a wider audience — than wearable workwear and hyped sneakers alone, one that gave London something to be excited about.