Single flames illuminated the faces of John Alexander Skelton’s models on Tuesday night as they walked through the scaling halls of a 12th-century church, a fitting location for the designer’s annual off-schedule show which takes place every January – although last year, Skelton chose not to stage a runway show, instead hosting an intimate presentation in a dilapidated townhouse on Brick Lane. 

This season, Central Saint Martins graduate sent his usual cast of gentlemen down the aisles of St Bartholomew Church in Barbican. The models walked while clutching lit candles that provided some much-needed light to the gloomy church interior. They donned historic silhouettes constructed from eco-friendly, yet luxurious textiles, coloured in rich reds, deep blacks, and muted mustards. These sartorial shapes were playfully dark and conjured up images of 19th-century folkloric fantasies. Every double-breasted jacket, waistcoat, and trouser was carefully constructed and gave hope to the persistence of tailoring in the modern world. 

Skelton often turns to the library for inspiration, as was the case for his graduate collection which drew its theme from a mid-20th century anthropological survey, but for this show, he took a different approach. Collection XVI was a visual manifestation of Skelton’s “emotional response to the music” of This Mortal Coil, a British music collective which formed in the 1980s.

Their quintessentially new wave sound is tinged with a pensive sadness that lends itself perfectly to the world in which Skelton’s work resides, and despite its considerable contrast to the setting of the show, it felt appropriate bouncing off the walls of the church – even if only as an introduction to those unfamiliar with the group.

This inspiration manifested in a buttery black velvet fitted jacket layered on top of a vibrant old-world printed set, a buttoned-up shirt in starched linen, cut off at the elbow by a pair of elongated leather gloves, and a thick knit cardigan scraping the knee of a coordinated black suit. Embellishments accompanied each look, reviving long-forgotten menswear accessories such as the brooch, the waistcoat cinch, and the circlet.

John Alexander Skelton’s dedication to merging the past with the present has seen the designer forge his own path in London’s creative landscape. Collection XVI exuded a sense of life, experience, and wisdom, and we can’t wait to see what the designer does next! 

By Emma McDonough

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