That James Long is one of the most promising menswear designers currently working from London, is of little doubt. That is latest offering of menswear for Spring/Summer 2013 would be evidence that Long could take his creative talent even further, was an unexpected and delightful surprise. The collection was named ‘Kung-Fu Cowboy’ as a tribute to the song with the same title by Alan Vega that was also played on the runway show in London on 16 June 2012 during London Collections: Men. The admiration for Vega was clear not just in the inspiration that this specific song had for the collection (a trope that Long used before to great success, particularly when Glam Rock served as a background to his Spring/Summer 2012 menswear range), but also in the veiled way that Vega’s career as a sculptor played an influencing role.
In more ways than one, James Long’s Spring/Summer 2013 menswear collection worked the languages of sculpture and architecture to engender a range of garments beautifully anchored by the intention to play and explore the dimensions of structure. However, rather than restraining himself to its rigidity, Long reinterpreted the fluid dimensions of structure through effective tailoring and draping techniques that ultimately created elegant silhouettes for men. This application of sculptural and architectural motifs to fashion could be seen throughout the 20 looks produced for the runway show, and particularly in garments such as a white shirt printed with black abacus lines that was also embroidered with shimmering silver thread. Similar design strategies, such as geometrically placed beading and mirrors, served to embellish simple crew-neck sweaters.
The collection had at its sartorial core a range of stunning shorts where strategically positioned pleating and panelling invoked kung-fu or samurai garments. These wide shorts that reached below the knees were a stark contrast to Long’s offering for men a year ago, where shorts were fitted and tailored, not to mention significantly smaller (confirming that Long is a designer who enjoys exploring different shapes with each collection while staying true to his creative direction). At the same time, these garments allowed Long to reinterpret traditional masculine shapes and control volume by incorporating pleats that extended towards the raised waist and formed belt-hoops. To counter these elongated voluminous shapes in the lower body, the upper body (and particularly shoulders) were made to look athletic, especially in leather pieces such as a leather gilet with panels of polka-dot neoprene.
The collection’s palette included white, black, grey, and an astonishing emerald green whereas fabrics were highly textured and patterned with checks. Accessories included a range of leather clutches and sunglasses, and black leather sandals worn over black socks added an elegant touch to the collection. In addition, and as expected of James Long, a strong range of cotton and bamboo knitwear embellished with embroidery and metallic yarns confirmed his sartorial ingenuity and made this one of the most exciting menswear collections shown in London this year.