LONDON (AP) — In the world of women's fashion, London often plays second fiddle to other style capitals — it lacks the allure of Paris's haute couture or the polish of Milan's luxury labels.
Yet when it comes to dressing the gentleman, no city can rival the British capital's heritage.
Alexander McQueen on Monday led the new season's menswear catwalk shows in London, a four-day fashion display that mixes trendy labels like Tom Ford, Burberry and Moschino with traditional tailoring houses that have been perfecting their craft for decades.
Organizers want to highlight both new talents and London's status as the historic home of men's fashion — a city that has dressed a long list of kings and the world's wealthiest men and invented classic items like the tuxedo jacket, the bowler hat and the three-piece suit.
McQueen showed stark white lab coat-like jackets accented with sporty prints and squiggle shapes, and punk-influenced outfits in red and shiny black leather — clothes that at first sight appeared anything but traditional. But many of his looks, like the waistcoat worn over an untucked shirt and the fitted double-breasted suit worn with sneakers, were clever takes on the best of classic English tailoring.
It's no wonder the brand keeps reaching to the past for inspiration. Its late designer trained for two years at Savile Row tailor house Anderson & Sheppard when he was just 16 years old, and many have attributed his success to his ability to fuse subversive designs with excellent tailoring.
Many young design students continue to apprentice at London's pedigree tailors, learning the foundations of cutting and sewing from the best in the business.
"When we talk about work placements, the first thing a lot of my students mention is Savile Row, because it's so classic," said Chris New, who teaches menswear at London's prestigious Central Saint Martins college.
The central London street, lined with more than a dozen tailors, is a living museum of the English love affair with luxury menswear. It's a long-standing tradition that's closely tied to a history of royal dress, military uniforms and gentry sports like horseback riding and hunting.
One example is the tailcoat, whose cutaway front was originally designed for ease of movement when worn as an equestrian coat. And the brogue shoe, which came from rural Scotland, became fashionable as urban wear after Edward VII — a fashion trendsetter in his time — sported them on his golfing trips.