Following on from Ben Whyman’s post on Masculinities at LCF on this blog in November  we held the inaugural event for the LCF Masculinities Research hub on 23 November.

Men's Tailoring at London College of Fashion

Male tailoring student seated on table sewing, c.1956. Photographer Unknown

Considering the wealth and breadth of approaches to the study of masculinities (an important plural that Ben had highlighted) and the importance and long tradition of menswear and men’s fashion at LCF this series of presentations and panel discussion offered perspectives from across the three disciplinary schools at LCF: Design and Technology, Media and Communication and the Fashion Business School.

Gieves & Hawkes, Number 1 Savile Row. The store's current design aims to combine both facets of the building’s cultural heritage: hospitality and a warm welcoming atmosphere mixed with a hub of exploration and gentlemanly exploits.

Gieves & Hawkes, Number 1 Savile Row. The store’s current design aims to combine both facets of the building’s cultural heritage: hospitality and a warm welcoming atmosphere mixed with a hub of exploration and gentlemanly exploits.

Our first speaker was Dr Natasha Radclyffe-Thomas who discussed intangible cultural heritage in relation to Savile Row tailoring. Focussing on Gieves and Hawkes, this examination of how the influence of the historic traditions of British bespoke tailoring has become a worldwide phenomenon and influenced tailoring across the world and formed a key part of London’s place as a premier city for menswear was contextualised with Natasha’s own experience of learning tailoring techniques in Hong Kong.

Homi, Klaus Nomi

Hormazd Narielwalla Klaus Nomi Power, 2015

Taking a different perspective on Savile Row was artist Hormazd (Homi) Narielwalla who also completed his PhD at London College of Fashion. Homi discussed how his own practice as an artist had been inspired by working with Savile row tailor Dege and Skinner and being given a collection of the tailoring patterns of deceased clients of the tailor which he constructed into collages that allowed him to ask questions of the processes and practices of menswear and tailoring and subsequently addressed men’s personal appearance. Homi also gave an overview of how he has utilised his practice using found tailoring and dress patterns has in questioning of masculinity, femininity and cultural identities

Continuing with approaches to the design and construction of men’s clothes Course leader for BA Fashion Design Technology Menswear at LCF Tom Adams began by outlining how his course differed from LCF’s Bespoke tailoring course in addressing different techniques and traditions of men’s clothing and fashion – a word that is sometimes contentiously used or omitted from discussions of men’s clothing. Tom outlined the ways that student on his course are challenging the conventions and traditions of the silhouette in menswear, pushing boundaries and asking questions about binaries of men and women, masculine and feminine through promoting innovative cutting, fabric sourcing and construction in both structured and unstructured clothing.

While not an official hub event, the in house catwalk show for the MA Fashion Design Technology Menswear   MA_N – that took place on 8 December revealed similarities in concern around the design, construction, use of  fabrics and technologies and questioning of traditional gendered binaries in menswear to those outlined by Tom in his presentation.

Itai Doron: Untitled from the series WaaHid In Jaffa, 2012–present

Itai Doron: Untitled from the series WaaHid In Jaffa, 2012–present

Moving away from men’s clothing to representations of men and forms of masculinity at the hub event, Itai Doron (Programme Director: Fashion Media at LCF) provided an insight into his latest photographic project of Palestinian youth.  Itai discussed how he spent time getting to know and photographed young men in Palestine and how he brought to bear his own cultural heritage and identity to this engagement and recording of a particular time and place in a political sensitive region.

Although these four presentations seemed at first glance to offer very different perspectives on how masculinities is addressed through particular personal practice the following discussion with the audience, made up of LCF students and staff and interested parties from outside LCF highlighted common themes and concerns that my co-organiser, Nilgin Yusuf and I are keen to develop in forthcoming hub events, especially our official launch to take place on  March 13 as part of UAL Research Fortnight. Details available soon on hub webpages

Shaun Cole is a fashion historian, curator and writer. He is Associate Dean, Postgraduate Communities at London College of Fashion.