Jun 12, 2015
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Men's fashion week opens in London with eye on China

Jun 12, 2015

Sharp suits vie with streetwear and top brands at men's fashion week in London, which opens Friday with an eye on boosting ties with the lucrative luxury Chinese market.

A model presents a creation by Topman Design on the opening day of the Autumn/Winter 2015 London Collections: Men AFP / Justin Tallis

Burberry, Alexander McQueen, Tom Ford and Jimmy Choo are some of the big names showing over the next four days alongside Savile Row tailors such as Richard James, Gieves & Hawkes and Hardy Amies.

The first day opens with designs by Topman, the brother label of high-street label Topshop, up-and-coming designer Craig Green and Christopher Shannon, who last season presented models with plastic bags over their heads.

London Collections: Men grew out of the men's day at London Fashion Week and is now in its seventh edition, with 65 designers holding catwalk shows or presentations.

This season sees a new focus on promoting British menswear to China, with the appointment of the event's first international ambassador, Chinese model, actor, singer and philanthropist Hu Bing.

China was the fifth largest market for luxury ready-to-wear menswear in 2014, and is expected to become the second largest after the United States by 2017, according to analysts Euromonitor International.

Italian luxury menswear brand Ermenegildo Zegna, which opened its first store in Beijing in 1991, says China is already its biggest market worldwide.

Chinese investment has also given established British brands a new lease of life -- Savile Row tailors Hardy Amies, Kilgour, Gieves & Hawkes and Kent & Curwen are all now owned by Hong Kong's billionaire Fung brothers.

While Western labels are making inroads in China, only one Chinese designer, Beijing-based Xander Zhou, has been a regular fixure on the London menswear calendar.

In the past he has deliberately eschewed what he calls the traditional "dragons and peonies" for fear that he would be pigeon-holed -- but this is about to change.

In his spring/summer 2016 collection, to be shown on Monday, "I have found the courage to actually use oriental elements after using elements from many other cultures in my past collections", Zhou told AFP.

"The fact that I am ready now has to do with the way I have evolved, but also with the way the world has evolved in terms of stereotypes about 'Chinese designers'."

Zhou welcomed Hu's appointment and the focus on China, which will also see Beijing-based Sean Suen make his debut with a show sponsored by GQ China magazine on Monday.

"China is 'happening' in many ways.. and when it comes to menswear, London is where the new and edgy attract the world's attention and get people talking," Zhou said.

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