Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Haute Casual

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.

Outfit One:
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.

Outfit Two:
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.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Streetwear influence

It is not often that I write about such an unrefined subject, yet streetwear – a more casual alternative to menswear – fascinates me in a way no other trend-led topic does. Streetwear’s best feature is how it encourages personal style, indeed there is no other style than one created by one’s self. Streetwear’s roots can be traced back to the 1960s here in Britain and as far as the West Coast in the 1980s, but it is still a relevant style in its own right as has no pretences about what it is not, in fact that absence of something is exactly what it is. Shawn Stussy, considered the pioneer of streetwear for many, said in a 1992 interview with The New York Times, “Me and my friends don't put much money into clothes. We don't want to look like we're trying too hard, you know, to be garish and trendy.”

What I am focusing on in this article, is the new type of streetwear. Some might even say, the new type of menswear as this style is making waves across the oceans as it announces its arrival with a splash of foppishness, and a breeze of coolness. Streetwear is different to street style in the simple sense that street style represents what style we see on the streets. It is not influenced by high fashion – its nature is an amalgamation of popular art, music and politics. For example, in the infamous 60s, the evolution of ‘Mod,’ ‘Rocker’ and ‘Hippie’ were reactions to these components of society which developed all in one decade.

So what is streetwear and who came up with the term? Well you are not going to find a one-line dictionary definition if that is what you are expecting. There are those of the opinion that streetwear is simply a by-word for ‘one of the gang’ who finally felt they could channel their inner fashionisto, but away from the girly world of fashion with a more macho label. Conversely, those who are a part of the streetwear culture dismiss such a notion and believe it was a blanket term applied to an already existing ‘thing’ in an attempt for society to classify to put themselves at ease, as the unknown is far more terrifying.

 I argue that the new streetwear is a combination of streetwear with its original connotations from new ideas in the 60s, and skaters in the 80s, to the recently burgeoning menswear whose focus on lasting quality and style means that the younger generation are combining the two with the latest unlined, soft-shouldered, DB jacket from Reiss and Limited Edition suede Nike Dunk High Tops. Browsing through the latest blogs, tumblrs and our very own street style edit, confirms this.

Considering the boundaries of all those definition are wider than Lords Cricket Ground, it is imperative to distinguish the differences between streetwear and menswear. Menswear according to Jian DeLeon “is driven by trends disguised as authenticity and classicism… its marketing disguised as realness”. Here, DeLeon drives at a very real point that many catwalk shows are directed towards editorials and represent another form of art that is to be held in awe at their ethereal beauty. This ties into DeLeon first descriptive about trends lacking realism, as it has become public knowledge that a number of menswear fashion houses reuse each other’s patterns like crazy. It would be a sweeping statement to say that menswear is becoming more and more predictable, but as the menswear game habitually looks to the past, it is the men on the street that could be the future of menswear.

Now I am not belittling the international shows, as I look forward to them as much as the next sartorial gent, but I am referencing the almost ignorant power streetwear has at its disposal on men’s fashion. Its organic nature gives it the opportunity to flourish into a hegemonic power, not dissimilar to the ostensive power media has over menswear, but without the obvious restrictions. And that is the beauty of something so outside the usual spheres of influence: it is constantly exposed to introspection. 

There is so much opinion visually apparent on the street; there is a kinetic sense of frenzied motion, and its restless nature means that it is constantly evolving but in a totally disordered manner that can only be controlled by ones personal style. It is this self-awareness that keeps streetwear culture far more accessible than menswear, and thus holds a distinct fascination for many of us because it has such an impulsive nature, where personal taste dictates one’s uniform as they set out onto the street ready to take on the world.

If thought out with an affectation of meticulous nonchalance, a synthesis of menswear and streetwear is a peerless combination. With that in mind, I have come up with outfit ideas that hopefully all of you can take something from and be inspired to come up with your own spin on a streetwear outfit.

You’ll have noticed contradictions in the article; such was the internal debate I was having about two very important facets of twenty-first fashion. It is now time for you to get involved and tell me whether you think menswear in high fashion and streetwear can mix successfully and stylishly, or whether this conflicting fusion of style will, or perhaps has never materialised.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Rise of True Style Icons

As many of you point out without fail or misinformation, many of our style icons in the eponymous series suffer from the fatal flaw of being styled by someone other than themselves. This new series is guaranteed to represent purely original and eclectic style, with each true style icon an encouragement to us to follow suit, and form your identity from your own background, jobs, past times and interests. After all, that is what true style is, isn’t it?

Thankfully, there are men with serious style credentials who fit this bill. Whereas in the past, actors, musicians and artists found themselves being the poster boy for many a fashion house or … these ‘real’ style icons, who include Sam Lambert and Lino Ieluzzi, are known first and foremost for their unique sense of style, and as a result are photographed no matter their location or purpose.

Blogs, the source of these men’s fame, have been on a meteoric rise in terms of influence on the industry. They give people without the connections and/or looks, a chance to comment on anything related to fashion, imparting knowledge to the ignorant male keen to learn more. In turn, those already with their own perspective on style and trends engage in a diverse battle entailing the influence of culture and background, origins of style and ambiguous definitions. Such commentary requires confidence, charisma and of course, a great deal of style. People like Joshua Kiss of Street Etiquette, embody these characteristics and are responsible for a community of admirers and inspired men.

Of course, blogs inspire possible outfits with pictures of clothes worn in an unprecedented manner, with imaginative combinations, as noted by Scott Schuman with his new feature ‘If you’re thinking about...’. The accessible nature of blogging on the net has undoubtedly played a huge part in encouraging different approaches to dressing and observing that of others, as well as supporting the wider menswear industry with the rise of stylish and knowledgeable men keen to play a part in the future of menswear.

Style is a visual medium that means people have to see an outfit they like to be inspired by it. Furthermore, style as a concept (I know, ugly word) is a very personal thing, and as such, men with style easily channel their personality through their clothes, meaning that we never see two stylish men dressed the same. The same cannot be said for celebrities dressed by overpaid, overhyped, demi-celeb stylists.

Therefore, honest interviews about their inspirations from everyday life – hearsay or not, it is feasible that clotted cream inspired O’Shea to don the much forgotten cream coloured shirt – coupled with photographs of them with their distinct posture and expression, makes them far more relatable to us. Sure, many of them, like celebrities, aren’t going to be worrying about the increase in energy bills, but at least they live in our world and make their own mistakes.

Furthermore, people like Lino Ieluzzi, Shaka Maidoh and Angelo Flaccavento look as comfortable as they do impeccably dressed, not because they’re wearing the softest wools, but for the simple fact that they are in their own clothes! We can relate to these guys in the liberating confines of freedom of thought and expression.

They try to look at ease as previously foreign cameras start clicking and videos rolling, in fact, these guys do look at ease as cameras click and videos roll on. That is because they are wearing clothes they want to wear, dress that reflects who they are and by extension, their ideals and standards. Those who think such a description may be a tad superfluous, are ignoring, by enlarge, the well-trodden path of young men still exploring themselves from teens to their 30’s, where they tend to have a rather eclectic taste in clothes, as well as art and music. 

Conversely, men who have established their own style of dress, taste in art and music, tend to be in their 40’s and continue to replicate such facets of personal style in subsequent decades.
These faces appear on many blogs and runways, deservedly replacing those green-eyed stylists, and will continue to do so for a number of years to come. The real breakthrough will be when magazines, with many more commitments and tenuous ties to capitalist establishments than the user friendly, unbiased world wide web, expose these men to the printing press with the same relish as they flag up the latest exploits of relatives up and coming in the industry.

Originality is a much-used word when talking about menswear, and fashion in general, but isn’t it strange that there are still so many references, even actual garments, embracing nostalgic icons like James Dean and Paul Newman as if no one had any new ideas of their own? Now these guys have earned the aesthetical respect society so lavishly gives them, but it is time that we appreciate equally as impressively styled men, with their own mode of style that at least means that the boys of this world can grow up excited to be in this period of menswear.

After all, you must realise that these guys are held to such a high standard because they were breaking boundaries at the time with attitudes befitting their attire. Fortunately, there are real men keen to rise out of the ashes of those intimidating yet inert forces that are partially responsible for such a stagnant period in men’s style. I will write a few words to sum up the man and his style of four of my favourite ‘real’ style icons.

The Fantastic Four

Lino Ieluzzi:
A sought after subject of photographers world over, Lino is renowned for his double breasted jackets and ties with the number seven sown into them. As an Italian it is no surprise that he has a love of tailoring, preferably separates, and consistently turns out in the most classic pieces menswear has to offer, all perfectly fitted and finished off typically with a sumptuous pair of double monk straps. Colours tend to be understated with little details providing points of interest.

Sam Lambert:
Best known for always wearing a hat as well as a beard, Sam Lambert is the jovial face of smart dressing with a twist. He always imbues his outfits with a little of his personality that, matched with a little sartorial know how, breaks boundaries in a distinctive but not ostentatious way: an enviable combination.

Angelo Flaccavento:
He says himself that his “choices have become stricter, but tailoring softer”, as he approaches forty. Even so, his style is eclectic in its silhouette, colour and juxtaposition of fabric, but altogether he tends to dress in a quirky fusion of classic style and individual preferences, such as short trousers with a wider hem. Just like our other real style icons, he is a firm believer in one not looking like her tried to dress to impress.

Justin O’Shea:
Probably the most rebellious dresser out of the four, O’Shea channels a rock n roll meets biker vibe that means roll-up t-shirts and dark raw denim are the essential elements of his wardrobe. Facial hair and muted colours play on the darker themes of his attire, and he mixes up casual and formal outfits depending on his mood, rather than his location which says a lot about the power of the man.

These real style icons are the result, as much as they are the means, of a booming interest in menswear interest and profits. Such men are set to have growing interest in the direction of men’s fashion for the foreseeable future, having laid the foundations for a more stylish and perceptive menswear community as we speak. It’s safe to say, we are in good hands.

Friday, 26 October 2012

The Evolution of Savile row

Style. Classic style. For many of us, these are the first words that come into our heads when we think of Savile Row. Savile Row is steeped in tradition, that much is certain. Built between 1731, and 1735, according to many fashion critics, its aim was to provide the world’s best tailoring the capital of England, which one hundred years later, was to be the capital of the world. Of course, only the best was good enough for British gentleman, and as times and many fashions have been and gone, the genius and resilience of tailors and cutters on Savile Row has seen them only put their name to tailoring that would bypass any era, watching from afar with a mixture of amusement and confusion.

What is clear, is that the resurgence of Savile Row is meant to synthesise timeless style with the bold approaches of fashion and all of its controversial nuances that help split opinion and mean that no one person dresses the same. Bold colours, voluminous cuts and extraneous details go alongside traditional tailoring pieces that have been well established and accepted.

With an influx of new designers, and a younger generation more interested in the new world of fashion, the identity of Savile Row began to change. For some, this started with Tommy Nutter, the original “Nutter on the Row”. Having opened Nutters of Savile Row in the late 1960’s, Nutter defied convention, designing and cutting completely original suits not seen or comprehended quite like Tommy. Tommy attracted many celebrity customers, whose wide lapels and broad shoulders were reminiscent of the glamorous 20’s and 30’s. But of course, as a pioneer of modern tailoring on the traditional golden mile of tailoring, he did so with unprecedented charisma, cut, drape and juxtaposition of fabrics.

Since then, the introduction of ready-to-wear garments in menswear can be perceived as the catalyst for the changing of the guard as Savile Row slowly started to lose its customers, and its money. Giorgio Armani’s rapidly growing influence in menswear certainly played a part in this, with his off-the-peg suit of the 90’s proving to be incredibly popular, denting the influence Savile Row was used to having when it comes to the most powerful of attire. There is no surprise therefore, that with the resurgence of influence from Savile Row, the Italians have been involved.

Chester Barrie, who has been on Savile Row since 1937, is opening concessions in an upmarket department store in three sizeable Italian cities, including Milan and Venice. Hackett has also opened up a shop in Milan recently, and Jeremy Hackett has been quoted as saying: “It is said the best dress Brits are Italians.” Veteran Neapolitan tailor Mariano Rubinacci says that the Italians have always “considered the British style a guideline”, but adapt the more military dominated Savile Row style to suit the relaxed lifestyle of the Italians. Just as menswear shows coming to London belatedly reflected the passion with which us sartorial gents have for fashion, the diverse nature of our cities capital attracts all sorts of talent with their own ideas and designs contributing to innovative tailoring that slowly but indefinitely changes the landscape of tailoring on Savile Row.

Everything related to Savile Row seems so far detached from the turbulent nature of fashion, and yet without fashion, it isn’t far from the truth to state that slim fitting garments, good quality jeans, the ‘classic’ trench/pea/duffle coat (apply as you see fit), wouldn’t be associated with style if it wasn’t for their origins in fashion.
Style and fashion are intrinsically linked, that much is clear, but what influences the other the most is far vaguer. Personally, it seems that time has a crucial role to play in some thing’s progression from  experimentation to establishment, with personal and cultural influence and wide-spread appeal have each aided the development of both fashion and style, but it is the Savile Row has certainly stood up to the test of time.

Nothing relayed the message of a blend of tradition and modernism like Hackett’s recent Gatsby inspired collection. Infused with pops of preppy colour, making up the more current element of the show, the models wore wider trousers and an array of complimenting three piece suits with slim fitting jackets and preppy footwear. These outfits show a change in ethos at Hackett, whose chief designer confesses modern-lifestyle often passes him by. And if this is what we will witness in the coming years, then long-may Jeremy Hackett continue to adapt to 21st century life.

Another eminent name in menswear, and an award winning designer as well as Savile Row tailor, Patrick Grant, aired his thoughts on this subject. "Savile Row used to be progressive; those tailors showed the world how to dress and pushed new shapes and silhouettes. We came full stop and ground to a halt. Post-peacock generation it stops, it retreats. Savile Row lost its confidence."
No doubt things are brighter and bolder under Patrick Grant’s leadership, with his focus on "simple pieces, made by hand in the U.K.”, with an attempt to fuse “Savile Row cutting with sporting and military traditions”. 
This influence has filtered its way down to more contemporary designers such as JW Anderson, who said of his A/W 12 show “sometimes you have to make things wrong to move forward.” Now, whether you think Anderson means wrong in the true sense of the word depends on how traditional you think of menswear. What isn’t in question is today, more and more men perceive “wrong” as different and original.

Designers and tailors alike scour the globe to find inspiration and source new fabrics, as shown by Ozwald Boateng’s recent A/W12 collection focused on tailoring with an Eastern twist. Said collection was particularly muted and dark, far removed from his usually ebullient work. The way of aforementioned tailors and designers are in harmony with Boateng’s motives in combining traditional British elements, and something completely unprecedented, in his own words “to create something new, something directional.”  There is no denying that he has been successful in his efforts, and while getting on a little in age, Mr Boateng consistently provides an exciting, youthful spin on tailoring in the most sophisticated environment, and in my opinion can be regarded as the biggest influence in the evolution of Savile Row.

Style evolves far more than most people realise. And so it must, for otherwise it loses its timeless body. While in some aspects this seems contradictory, style’s inner core survives on its ability to adapt and evolve, and just like humans, does so subtly and assuredly, which gives the impression of seamless transition to the untrained eye. The most recent progression of Savile Row style makes it a quite formidable force in the international world of fashion, placing it back up there where it belongs.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Holiday musings

Artists have to be extremely self assured; confident of their ability and who and what they they are and represent; driven to raise their game and consume new experiences; and most fundamentally of all - they have to be passionate.

A good loser is someone who loses often.

Misplaced trust is a schoolboy error made by men of all ages.

Fear restricts most, inspires the rest.

Fear of failure plagues most,
fear of success hinders the rest.

The unknown is a fear for some and a thrill for others...
Either way each step should be taken with controlled anticipation, a prudence that would gain the approval of the fairest of them all, resulting in the butterflies being a wing down.

The fewer certainties there are, the more deductive one has to be.

Can instinct be trusted? It is a raw, primal emotional, can you trust human nature?!

The only suitable life philosophy is adaptability. Inherent in that is the nature of human evolution.

And the brain ticks on...