“We’re only waiting for two blankets—one with a dog on it, and one with a woman doing a wee,” said the designer Edward Crutchley with a laugh from London, calm as ever just 24 hours before his second-ever presentation of his namesake label at London Fashion Week Men’s this weekend.
He may be only two seasons deep, but with 13 years of working with luxury brands like Louis Vuitton under his belt, Crutchley’s two-pronged approach—what’s sure to be commercial, and whatever catches his fancy—is one he’s already more than sure will succeed. In the hours of preparation before his presentation, Crutchley, who prefers to finish his collection a month in advance, was keeping cool despite a photo shoot that morning, a casting with no less than 375 male models, and getting stuck in an elevator to boot.
After all, Crutchley, 36, has only ever learned from the best. After showing at Fashion East in 2015, Crutchley made his official debut last season with a presentation hosted by none other than Kim Jones, the men’s style director of Louis Vuitton, the house that's kept him splitting his time between London and Paris since he became a men's consultant there in 2007. Jones came on board in 2011, and has been a mentor to Crutchley ever since. Indeed, he’s the reason Crutchley even started his label in the first place.
“Kim is such an inspirational person to work with, and I just got so much spark in my mind,” Crutchley said of his brand's beginnings. “I thought, I want to do this, I want to show what my ideas are, and I think I have something that’s relevant and interesting to say. We were talking about it and he said, ‘Go and do it, I 100 percent support it.’ So it really started from there.”
Those ideas would soon morph into a brand with “the French and Italian level of luxury, but done in a very British, contemporary way.” Last season, that came across crystal clear in a wooly, woven homage to his roots in Yorkshire, where he grew up before moving to London for Central Saint Martins, which he graduated from in 2003. This season, though, his heritage is a bit less explicit.
“It’s still there, but that’s now just become part of my handwriting,” Crutchley said of his “very clean, northern English aesthetic,” which is the reason for the more subtle details, like covered buttons and hidden plackets, paired with Crutchley’s more wide-ranging influences, like Japanese shibori and Korean hanbok. (His fall 2017 offering, which was produced entirely in England after being dreamed up in a factory in north London, also features collaborations with two British brands: sunglasses with Blyszak, and logo-based jewelry with the designer Hannah Martin.)
Jones wasn't the only legend to plant the idea for sleek luxury in Crutchley’s head. Clare Waight Keller, Chloé’s beloved designer, also made her mark on Crutchley back when the pair worked at Pringle of Scotland in London. “She changed my taste level completely,” Crutchley said. “She was the first person who really made me appreciate beautiful fabrics.”
His knack for them, too, has since become more than clear, even earning him the recommendation to work with the late designer Richard Nicoll in a stint for Kanye West. Take this season’s “cashmere tracksuits that are like wearing a cloud,” produced with the 18th-century Scottish mill Johnstons of Elgin; silk and polyester brocades that are “almost slippery” and studded with sprigs of flowers; and Italian camel hair so thick it’s “like a big teddy bear,” making for “the heaviest coats known to man.”
Crutchley is sticking with menswear for now, but much to the delight of his stockists from Tokyo to Singapore to Galeries Lafayette, women are increasingly picking up on his designs, too. “I’m not going to lie to you: I don’t put little rah-rah skirts in a menswear collection thinking that a menswear store is going to pick them up,” Crutchley said, aware as ever of the commercial reaches of his label’s offerings. This season, they include floral skirts inspired by both the work of the 18th-century textile designer Anna Maria Garthwaite and a surreal Renaissance portrait of Elizabeth I, plus a "see-now, buy-now" t-shirt with the London boutique Browns.
Again, the thinking behind all that circles back to Jones. “He makes commercial clothing, but it’s never bland,” Crutchley said, an approach he’s clearly adopted as his own.
“I’m not a designer—I’m a creative director,” he added, enthusiastically admitting he’d love to get to a similar level—something it’s increasingly clear he has the chops to do. “It’s either right or it’s wrong—you know it, and you don’t have to think about it,” he said. “That’s generally the way I work.”
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