These days, 'less is more' and 'more bang for your buck' are phrases often seen among advice from much coveted opinion informers of the fashion world. While that is sensible advice in these economically austere times, it seems that the opulent world of couture is in a galaxy of its own, far away from the typical restraints of budgets and bills.
The dichotomy of ready-to-wear and couture has been slowly algamated in 2012, in conjunction with the rapidly increasing number of people … this fusion of often whimsical, yet beautiful exclusivity, might not seem the perfect match, but examples of this way of dressing show that the middle ground between the two sides of fashion can produce truly individual and innovative outfits.
To call this blend of fashion a trend, is to diminish it to some sort of fad that may or may not last into next season. Instead, teaming haute couture and ready to wear garments is a question of what one thinks of themselves. Do they value tradition? Are they afraid of creation ex nihlo?
Today, there appears to be a particular emphasis on high-end luxury that causes some collections to lack vitality and risk-taking. The more playful, less restricted (in a snobbish sense) ready-to-wear garments give outfits comprising of these two opposing facets of fashion a new lease of life. Together, they are a formidable force.
Giorgio Armani is often thought of as being responsible for the birth of the first ‘fashion’ suit of the ready to wear kind, where the structure and lines that defined British tailoring were taken out, and a softer, more relaxed approach to the most formal of men’s attire, floated onto the pages of fashion history with the weight of its influence made apparent by its reverence worldwide.
Ozwald Boateng sees himself among the first “men’s couturiers” as they were “creative tailors”, seeking to harmonise their cloth with the customers body shape through an agreement between the tailor and customer that saw the individuals style best represented. A time not so long ago, men’s fashion was in violent conflict between tradition and modernity that have been resolved through Boateng’s fresh approach to a previously purely bourgeois service.
Many still think of haute couture as a designers playground, where highly skilled creators or ‘couturiers’ are employed to craft garments that transport our minds momentarily to another world. However, runway shows over the past few years have show that the line between the aesthetic of couture and ready to wear has become increasingly blurred as ready to wear can be incredibly elaborate, and couture shows particularly understated.
One reason why many fashion critics despise the word aesthetic is because it detracts from the painfully labour-intensive, detail driven production of couture’s mesmerising beauty. With couture analogous to religion, haute casual can be seen as the modern day liberal believer, where their passion and patience are matched by their acceptance of other ideas and beliefs. Both require a sense of value, but haute casual allows for a little less respect for tradition and a permeable skin that can be infused with a fresh blast of insouciant air.
Ready-to-wear seems to be aimed at celebrities more and more these days, with their endorsement being channelled so as to profit from the marketing industry and thereby fund their adverts, fabric sourcing and designs. As many of you question, the extravagant nature of some of the designs that grace the catwalk season in, season out surely cannot be seen as conceivable purchases for even those blessed with a lot of money. And it is not just the ladies who are guilty of such excessiveness. As recent collections illustrate, the desire by some designers to experiment with new fabrics and different cuts and drapes, means some clothing is purely art, with no regard for wearability.
On the other hand, couture (effectively a synonym for bespoke) channels its labour intensive efforts solely to produce the most luxurious garments that are designed and made exactly as the customer wanted. Of course, there is a premium for such personal tailored service, and with the requisite fabrics of a finer kind meaning that haute couture houses operate at a loss; the first-come first-serve nature of these garments makes them more exclusive still.
There appears to be two sides to haute casual: on the one hand, there is a humble sense of luxury, where nods to subtle craftsmanship can be observed by the detail junky sartorialist; on the other hand, there is an excessive, ostentatious side that is brought down to earth by a statement of simplicity, often in the form of staple leather sneaker or a block of neutral colour that contrasts with the vibrant green of a Boateng suit.
An obvious outfit example is one all of you will have come across before, and most of you will either love it, or hate it: suit and trainers. In this instance, suit, tee shirt and trainers. The juxtaposition of formal and casual clothing taps into the magically real character that makes haute casual so divine, yet agreeable.
For this outfit, fit and quality is key. Well, fit is a prerequisite of any outfit, and to channel this haute casual outlook, the best quality you can afford means you will be set to adorn yourself in a number of different styles, formal and casual, with a suit that will last you for many years.
Mohair is very much the fabric of this season, with Nicholas Hoult swathed in a white mohair jumper showing just how delectable the wool is in Tom Ford’s A Single Man. Another easy to combine tailored sophistication with throw-it-on cool can be achieved by simply slipping into those tailored wool trousers you all should own, preferably in a slim fit to conflict with the more casually fitting jumper in the most beautiful way.
The easiness of the outfit should continue with the foundations of the outfit. In this instance, I would have the shoes correspond with the more formal aspect of the trousers with a pair of brogues or oxfords, but undoubtedly with a twist, whether that is a vibram sole or a colour other than black, brown or tan. Think outside the box.
This is an outfit of intrigue mainly owing to its apparent simplicity, which is one way of showing off inherent style without actually having been born with it.
Hopefully this does not pigeonhole any of you, as you have learnt that it such style is more evident on the streets and at the shows than first thought. However, as boys and men interested in how to maintain healthy skin as much as they are in choosing the most stylish clothes, it would be foolish for you to pertain that you are uninterested in adding a boiled cashmere jumper to your wardrobe. For that is the way stylish men think, with their feet on the ground and their heads in the clouds.