Oliver Spencer Fall/Winter 2016 London

It’s fascinating to observe firsthand the trickle-down effect in fashion. This time last year, J.W.Anderson’s slit ankle flares and chocolate box of browns from milk to bittersweet signified a high-concept high fashion re-embracing of the ’70s for Fall 2015. How so many sniggered. Yet come Fall 2016, Oliver Spencer offers the same and nary an eyebrow raises.

Spencer’s inspiration was rock: Ginger Baker, the founder of Cream and drummer for Blind Faith, who wound up immersing himself in the world of Afrobeat. I didn’t get that, but I did get that Spencer’s ’70s redux checked every box: the peat bog palette, a knitted tank top, rusty corduroys and velours, patched suedes, a dangling Doctor Who humbug-stripe scarf. Check, check, check.

Spencer is a pragmatist at heart: He lasted only six months in art school before breaking out on his own to hawk wares on a Portobello Market stall. Hence the fact that his ’70s was easily digested, palatable to the everyman—the diverse casting, of all colors and creeds, multiple ages, and even different heights (a fair few of Spencer’s models were under 6 feet, and many had beards tinged with gray) reflect that broad customer base. They also provide what some would term brief respite, others calculated distraction, from the homogeneity of gangly schoolboys marching like automata up and down runways across five cities over the next few weeks. Because here you wound up focusing more on the men than, perhaps, the clothes.

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But again, we’re back to reality, and it felt like these were clothes men will really wear. Maybe men who aren’t slaves to fashion, or the incessant street style pap snaps that shutterbug outside the weeks’ key venues. Or men who just like brown. There’s a decided market for these kinds of clothes—but one questions if, really, a fashion show is doing Oliver Spencer any favors. I’m sure there were neat details in his collection, in the finishing of the tweedy jackets and slim coats in faux astrakhan, velvet, or that super ’70s cord, but this runway often swamped them.

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