Advocates: London's Ladies

By Alex Galan

Originally published on Advocate.com April 06 2009 12:00 AM ET

Girl power in full force at U.K.'s Fashion Week.

London's fashion week was defined by bolder visions of strong women than we've seen on the runways in some time, and the theme was bolstered by the number of bold-faced lesbians making a splash. Gossip's Beth Ditto announced the launch of her new fashion line in collaboration with British plus-size retailer Evans. Hot British designer Giles Deacon sent out-and-proud '80s supermodel Rachel Williams down the runway as his first look (the position is a runway show tone-setter), tough and chic in a gray flannel dress and black Conan the Barbarian fur gauntlets. Her girlfriend, Alice Temple, a former professional BMX biker and cult musician, also strolled the catwalk. We've seen the rise of the American lesbian media darling (DeGeneres, Orman, Maddow). Now enter dyke chic.

From Whole ClothThe fashion establishment has deeply rooted the idea that "Made in China" means inherently cheap, while anything custom must be lavish and expensive. Jeff Horowitz, 28, and Coley Dale, 27, founders of online suit-maker Dress Monkey , believe these two seemingly opposite ideas can coexist, with a made-to-order menswear service that allows customers to select their choice of fabric, cut, and essential details, from the width of a lapel to the choice of lining. This Internet start-up goes out of its way to educate men and make them feel comfortable with safely designing a suit of one's own. (They won't tell you that you've laid yourself an egg, but they offer enough advice to prevent most disasters.) Dress Monkey's emphasis on value and customization is a fresh idea that makes a compelling argument for the future of online fashion. The company gives clients an alluring taste of a future that combines the resources of mass industrialization with the luxurious notion of bespoke.

Union Suit The subdued menswear trend is practical -- on purposeIn Fashion Week seasons past, the idealized man who served as the inspiration for many designer collections was likely to be an iconoclastic aristocrat, a man of adventure, or a playboy peacock. But the fancy man gave way to a variety of blue-collar and ascetic heroes during the recent New York Fashion Week in collections exhibited for fall 2009: gas station attendants at Richard Chai's shows, newsboys in John Bartlett's collection, starving artists at Loden Dager (my label), leftist French university students at Band of Outsiders, and in the case of Patrick Ervell, butch lesbians. After generally bright spring collections, the offerings for fall withdrew to a palette dominated by moody grays, dark blues, and sober burgundy, along with a smattering of classic plaids and restrained patterns. There is a pragmatic ethos to a blue-collar wardrobe. These are clothes meant to be worn often, so they shouldn't stand out too much -- lest they seem like tired reruns.