Skepta confessed he hadn’t eaten in more than a day at a preview of his Mains collection in his Soho studio. It was a little over 24 hours before the artist presented his debut LFW show in the Art Deco confines of London’s Banking Hall, and he was feeling nervous. “I’m feeding off butterflies,” he said, stretching out on a bench surrounded by samples, while his head of design, Mikey Pearce, added rivets to a pair of leather shorts in one corner, and siblings Oscar and Emilia Boateng tried on looks in an impromptu casting in the other.
There’s a lot riding on the reboot of Mains for the British grime star, currently enjoying a new side hustle as a house music DJ in Ibiza, though he insists he’s already achieved his goals for the label. These included securing a magazine cover (he wore Mains on the cover of ES Magazine, the style supplement of the London Evening Standard); nailing a cult product (he claims the caps he designed, which will go on sale exclusively at Dover Street Market on Sunday, have prompted numerous inquiries since they debuted); and concocting an iconic campaign photograph (they shot the campaign in New York last week and he’s pretty sure they nailed it).
A quick recap: Skepta founded Mains in 2017 with support from a major sportswear brand. When that relationship ended, he spent a year or so wrestling back sole control, then negotiated a new deal with Puma. The German sports brand is providing production assistance, and he’s collaborated with them on a sneaker. But the embroidery comes from his own deft hand. He whipped out a sample with the M of the Mains logo traced in beads and rhinestones. “This took me, like, two days. For me, creativity is attention to detail, patience, and library digging,” he said. “I don’t restrict my talent to one thing.” Besides, he used to make his own clothes when he was a kid.
The collection was inspired by things Skepta wants to wear now, spliced with some Miami references, influenced by a recent trip. He describes his style as “hood luxury.” He explained: “No matter how nice I think I am, I walk into a room and people look at me and they’re like, ‘You’re that guy from the streets.’ Doesn’t matter what I do. So I like to elevate—tracksuit with a shirt and tie.” Other things he’s feeling right now: ’90s-style leather pants, baggy embroidered indigo denim dungarees, school-uniform-style sweaters and shorts, white bouclé wool suits with a sportswear attitude.
The denim and leather looks chimed best with the audience at this show, held on a giant Astroturf tennis court in the middle of Banking Hall. His friends were out in force to support: His former girlfriend Naomi Campbell sat front row, just down from Givenchy creative director Matthew Williams and designer Ozwald Boateng, musicians Stormzy and Little Simz, and broadcaster Louis Theroux. But the best ensemble had to go to Alton Mason on the runway, showing off his Naomi-inspired strut in a slouchy suit with Puma sneakers, a metal-tipped umbrella clutched dramatically to his chest. The Mains team would do well to lean further into that jazzy vibe next season. Still, as Skepta wisely put it, this show was more of a mood setter: “We’re just trying to make a great brand, so that if people say the word Mains, it’s a nice feeling. Don’t want to run too fast.”