It was clear, from the moment the first model took to the runway to the initial notes of Brian Eno's 1973 glam rock song 'Baby's on Fire', that the audience at James Long's spring/summer 2012 collection presentation was in for an outstanding sartorial treat. This was a collection that proved, once more, that Long is a talented designer and someone who seems to produce garments and accessories for men that get increasingly more accomplished and polished with each season.
Inspired by the surrealist concrete sculpture garden created by British artist and patron Edward James in Las Pozas, Mexico, and reflecting an almost hallucinogenic state of mind, the collection included luxuriant colours and textures that evoked the humid heat, and flora and fauna of the jungle. Printed cottons, linens, metallic yarns, and leathers featured prominently in the form of artistically worked paisley, leaf and floral patterns mixed with snake and leopard designs. The collection's colour palette included creams, gold, blues, purples, pinks and greens. This riot of colour and texture not only evoked the life of the jungle, but also echoed the exuberance of the early glam rock scene.
If one could argue that the use of wild animal and nature prints is not entirely original and has been often used over the last couple of years by numerous designers (including Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy, Versace, or Dolce & Gabbana), Long's collection stood out by providing expertly crafted and unique elements. The range of clothes comprised well-structured outerwear and an array of shorts and trousers (some of which in shades of grey or black as good grounding contrasts to the predominant fiery metallic fabrics and lavish prints) that generated a flattering look to the male shape. Unlike what many menswear designers predict for spring/summer 2012, Long avoided cargo shorts and cropped trousers, preferring instead to focus on tailoring that elongated the body and allowed a focus on garments conceived to clad the torso. Long's signature purposefully unstructured knitwear featured very successfully, and a range of clutches, backpacks, and tote and weekend bags in snakeskin print was a much welcome addition. Other accessories, such as thick-soled metallic gladiator sandals (worn over ironic skin colour socks) and a selection of vintage sunglasses added a sophisticated touch of 1970s luxury.
When all models took to the runway at the end of the show, it came as no surprise that the audience at London Fashion Week reacted by bursting into applause and a roar of praise to James Long's talent. Ultimately, this was a very strong collection that confirmed this menswear and accessories graduate from the Royal College of Art as one of the most gifted and promising designers around.