A transfusion of taste – Glass meets British menswear brand Blood Brother

DURING the recent LC:M, Aldwych Station in London received a transfusion of taste from nascent menswear label, Blood Brother. Tube stations are not the only thing to be given the kiss of life by the appropriately named label. Their debut London Collection: Men SS17 menswear, footwear, and accessories showcase revived everything from extinct summer holiday rituals to trench coats, tube stations to the pinstripe suit.

Blood Brother 5Looks from the Blood Brother LC:M SS17 collection

Setting their presentation in a disused tube station was a prudent choice by the London design house for a show entitled Homesick, a tribute to the tradition of the Great British Holiday. The collection is aimed at the busy London working man and this is a demographic that spends a great deal of time on public transport. However, no commuter uses the tube solely to get to work. Sometimes the destination is not as laborious. Many sea and countryside journeys begin with a tube ride to the next form of transportation.

Blood Brother 4Looks from Blood Brother’s SS17 collection on show at the recent LC:M

Brief commutes that bracket a weekend retreat are a time of contemplation. Outbound holidaymakers’ minds buzz with anticipatory thoughts. Inbound ones reminisce about the  the last few days. Either way, it is while on the underground that many holidaymakers find their thoughts and body in disparate locations. The tube is a like psychological departure and arrivals lounge for the weekend interloper.

Thus, the designers Nick Biela and James Waller choose an ideal arena in a defunct train station. Their sartorial tribute turned this station in central London into a portal to pebble beaches, Punch and Judy, and piers abuzz with activities. While Waller recently returned from Vietnam and Biela’s fondest holiday memory, is of Rio de Janeiro, Biela says he “likes nostalgia and has a great connection to things from the past”. This affection translates into the spirit of the Homesick collection.

Blood Brother 3A Look from Blood Brother’s SS17 collection on show at the recent LC:M

Biela started out preparing for a different career that would, also require him to pay attention to the demographic of young, urban males – he  was  studying criminology with a view to becoming a police officer. He did his training at the London College of Fashion where he met his co-designer Waller over a game of football in Brixton. When asked what inspired the radically different career pursuit, Biela’s candid answer was that he “realised it (a career as a police officer ) wasn’t for me. Fashion seemed like a whole lot of fun and I have never regretted the decision to follow my gut instinct.”

According to a recent survey entitled Beach Retreats, 30 years ago, 75 per cent of holidaymakers sent postcards on their break. Only 30 per cent do now. Perhaps there will be a revival of handwritten holiday missives since the designers featured images of vintage postcards acquired in Ramsgate and Margate on various tops and sweatshirts.  Other retro features of the collection include oversized buckles on high-waisted trousers, wider legs than we are used to seeing on sportswear, and exaggerated two toned cuffs on these trousers.

Blood Brother 2A look from Blood Brother’s SS17 collection at LC:M

Nothing mars the stolen extensions to holiday time one sneaks whilst on the last leg of their journey like a soggy Hawaiian shirt. A white linen on white linen getup goes from faux-sophistication to no-sophistication when squelched by a bomber jacket. These faux pas are symptomatic of an unseasoned traveller. In a busy city like London, it is not unheard to see people make sheepish cameos on public transport wearing a mish-mash of seasonally contradictory looks. Do not expect to see the Blood Brother wearer doing this – their look is equally at home on the weekend jaunt as it would he stepping back into the office on Monday morning.

Why such a focus on work? Because the seamless transition from business to pleasure is at the helm of the Blood Brother ethos. Utilitarian pieces which serve the urban workforce yet promise to uncomplicated a fishing trip were included for the hobbyist on holiday. For example, a fisherman’s gilet with some oversized pockets . As the prototype client for the season is a “blue-collar guy” in his heyday, this item of clothing would surely prove as useful on the job as it may at a festival. The designers even used fabrics and shapes they consider blue-collar, ‘ for example, the working man’s fabric – denim. However, the jeans featured has large , turned-up cuffs and high waists like their other trousers. While the  Blood Brother look may be important but according to the label “comfort and functionality are the qualities at the core of the label’s technical and utilitarian designs”.

Blood Brother 1A look from Blood Brother’s SS17 collection at LC:M

Living in London, we all know how quickly one can go from being drenched in Vitamin D to wading through a deluge. Nobody wants to lug a bulky coat around with them, especially when manoeuvering a travel-bag as well.One of the most popular garments in the collection is the light-weight, waterproof trench coat. In a market brimming with tartan lined trenches, an item immortalised culturally by not so fashionable symbols (think Inspectors Gadget and Colombo, that slither of society who wear nothing but a trench), Blood Brother offer a waterproof, light alternative which might prove a lifesaver for someone travelling straight from a weekend of sunshine into the office on a more inclement day.

Part of the label’s appeal is owed to the fact that the looks can easily be dressed up or down. Blood Brother achieves this by breaking conventions. In fact, breaking conventions is perhaps the only convention would could ascribe to the label. If there is one thing Blood Brother are noted for, it is their propensity towards hemorrhaging ingenuity into all of their looks.  A perfect example is their resurrection of another seemingly passe look: pinstripes. Creating a whole look with the usually staid fabric,  one of the stand-out looks in the show was pinstripe blazer with a zipped up base layer bomber, paired with three quarter length shorts.

One of the most unlikely fabrics was a revival of the broad stripes seen on a deckchairs at the beach. Telling somebody they are dressed like upholstery outside of  the context of a Blood Brother look would be considered pejorative. However, this is a rare instance where one would feel gratified by winning a round of Who-Wore-It-Better that features upholstery and has them pitted against a chair.

When Biela spoke of his experience in Rio for Carnival last February, what appealed to him most  was the “totally electric atmosphere (due to) all ages, genders, and ethnic groups” mixing as one. This passion for diversity was represented in the casting for the show. Breaking convention yet again, the models cast hardly screamed “summer holiday”. However, their look did trumpet “London” as well with a sallow skinhead, a few mods included as well in the show’s multi-ethnic casting – all looking more like they were on the outbound leg of their summer exploits, were part of a cast of unusual but relatable-looking models. Part of the charm of Blood Brother is how down-to-earth the designers are and this was very well-represented in their casting.

When asked how it felt to be a part of this prestigious event for the first time, Biela says, “It was really exciting to be able to be a part of LC:M in the form of a presentation, we felt really proud of ourselves.” Anybody privileged enough to have seen the event would agree that they are entitled to this sense of pride.

“We are an independent label, and have worked really hard to be able to show our work in this format – I think that we have certainly developed as a brand and know that we feel extremely positive about the future,” he continues.

The brand has 90 stockists worldwide and a cult following so naturally the next question is: what does this future hold?  It seems a pre-Carnival party this month to also celebrate their fifth anniversary is on the cards. After resuscitating so many concepts and objects with their unwavering vitality, it seems only fair that Blood Brother plug-in to the pulse of London – Notting Hill Carnival.

by Yasmin Bilbeisi

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