Alan Taylor’s design ideas fuse effortlessly with the craft of making clothes
Alan Taylor is a designer with multiplicities; not only does he present an individual menswear vision that stretches seamlessly over the past few seasons, but his attitude towards heritage and innovation is daringly synchronous. It takes a lot of skill to transform gentlemanly suiting into something that promises a vision of men’s fashion future. Taylor’s collections are visually stimulating in a mathematical sort of way; the cuts in his clothing boggle the mind through concepts of skewed space and don’t blink or you’ll miss it fabric construction.
Just like a mannequin trying to assemble itself an outfit from spare tweed, Alan Taylor’s A/W 13 collection shows innovation and a consciously ramshackle approach to said construction. His clothes exude typical ideas of youth, sex and intellectualism through a hall-of-mirrors approach to tailoring.
A grey tweed outfit is made youthful by the addition of a layer left to hang asymmetrically at the waist, like a teenager tying their jumper around themselves during a hot day.
Wearing a tweed jacket with a back-to-front aesthetic adds a gentle subversion to the collection. Taylor incorporates this idea in a way that the casual observer will find easy to understand. He stitches white netted fabric to the back of tweed jackets that mirrors the front and vice-versa.
There’s something very Alexander McQueen-ish about the upending of traditionally tailored appearance via darkly sensuous reds and blacks. Taylor layering of soft, intimately red netting on the outside of sleek black silhouettes is both sexy and mildly unsettling (it’s worth mentioning that Taylor has previously worked for Alexander McQueen).
And then there are the coats, one of which is coloured in with lines that zig-zag like a constellation in the night-sky, or an old MSN Windows screen-saver graphic. If Sherlock Holmes were a Time Lord he might wear this constellated tweed, bringing vibes from the fourth dimension.
Taylor cuts his coats tweed so it gapes open at the elbow resulting in the lower arm-length of fabric falling lopsidedly like a puppet when its string is slack. Just to disorientate further, Taylor elongates the silhouette of another coat but only on one side. The result is a collection with an odd and compelling humanity; you feel it could talk to you if only you’d listened hard enough.
It’s not just Alan Taylor’s heritage-skewing silhouettes that are forward-facing, but also his attitude to home-grown craftsmanship; the Ireland-born designer collaborates for the fabrics in his collections with Magee Tweeds, a Donegal-based six-generation spanning Irish mill-house.
It is a pleasing quality in the designer’s work, given that the textiles and manufacturing industry have faced a steady decline on British and Irish shores since the 60’s. The designer’s efforts to reclaim home-grown craftsmanship is part of a wider trend in UK fashion; embracing heritage and opening up new job opportunities for promising young people who would like to learn how to work in a garment-manufacturing environment.
For his MAN SS14 presentation, Taylor offered a restrained, Spring Summer appropriate, assemblage; an innovative approach to tweed outerwear which included silken fabric fitted for easy-breathing apparel. Askew silhouettes hybridised aspects of the collection into barmy but daring style-statements. An ankle-length trousers with a flared knee-length piece of fabric added on one leg recalls a glitch in software code; unexpected and mesmerising while it lasts.
Taylor has commented on his design philosophy in the past, expressing interest in the concept of the fourth dimension and witnessing all sides of an object at once. This fascinating idea comes across startlingly well in his work. You often hear of concepts in fashion that are either overwhelmingly obvious or unnoticeable in action; Alan Taylor’s design ideas fuse effortlessly with the craft of making clothes.
Personal favourites from the SS14 MAN show include a jumper that opens out at the bottom with extra fabric mimicking the head and shoulders of its upper half. Imagine a tasteful Halloween outfit that allow the wearer to appear headless and you’ve got the idea down pat.
A slate-grey outfit with double-breasted suiting flung upside-down over the front trousers is another favourite; the resulting aesthetic is what would happen if work-wear suddenly decided to mutate into something more refined. Imagine construction workers gambolling about at break-time in a quarry and Alan Taylor’s SS14 gains an amusing context. It’s classic and modern all at once, vibrantly so despite the subdued colouring.
Alan Taylor’s second and most recent MAN showing for AW14, played with elements of garish light and intimidating shade; neon splashes and worn fisherman knits went mano-a-mano with over-sized, ankle-length tweed coats, and glow in the dark gloves and shirts. His take on traditional suiting has evolved even further, bringing staple skirt/kilt flourishes that undermine any lazy comparisons to one of Taylor’s more studious and gentlemanly inspirations; Hardy Amies’ slick suiting. Hardy Amies is an influence, yes, but only in setting the foundations for what follows. French artist Henri Matisse also has an influence on Taylor’s cut-up fabrics and strange proportions; Matisse’s own experiments with paper cut-outs is a noteworthy influence on Taylor’s work of the last three years.
Up and coming designer Alan Taylor operates inside and outside his own boundaries, avoiding any obvious association with his perhaps over-hyped peers. His ability to define himself on his own terms while vibrantly acknowledging his heritage as a building-block for the future is exciting.
This article was written and submitted by Darren Millard for Round 1 of Modeconnect’s International Fashion Writing Competition. Darren was invited to take part in Round 2. Read all the published submittions.