Wednesday, 5 March 2014
Here it is, the long awaited arrival of my latest bespoke suit by
tailor's the Cad & the Dandy. With the final suit here, you can get a sense
of what was spoken about in the two earlier posts in the series, when I
talked through the central elements of the suit's design. The finished suit has
a modern, sharp quality (a pleasant surprise to me as it happens - I thought it'd look more traditional) whilst still
maintain some features more readily associated with the signature 1930s
aesthetic that I like to maintain in my clothes; extremely broad, sharp peaked
lapels with a nice rounded belly, straight cut jetted pockets, a deep-cut
single rear vent, turn-back cuffs, high waisted trousers with pleats, vertical cut welt pockets, and finished with chunky 2" turn-ups (designed specifically to
match the width of the pocket jets and turn-back cuffs).
I made a number of gambles in this project and I'm pleased to say that they have paid-off, I am thrilled with the suit, both its cut and its quality. I specified whopping great lapels at 4.5" wide (this was the widest that the Cad & the Dandy would let me have them) with a high 2.5" gorge. The effect, I feel is very impressive and sharp, whilst still maintaining something of a Jazz-Age quality (helped by the dual buttonholes on each lapel which were factored into the design). I am also very pleased with the decision to cut the suit with turn-back cuffs to add a dressy quality (when dressed up, this makes a wonderful second cocktail suit alongside my chocolate number) and I'm also pleased that I kept the pockets simple, to prevent the suit from becoming too busy. I'm also very pleased with the decision to opt for a chunkier 2" turn-up than my usual 1.5" on the trousers, and that I opted for a single reverse facing pleat. I'm not usual a fan of either of these features, but the boxy quality they produce compliments the double-breasted cut of the coat.
Where I am most happy is the choice of cloth. As you will know, this suit was a somewhat snap decision on my part and I didn't design or plan it as thoroughly as I normally do before I place an order. Nonetheless, the decision to run with Dugdale's solid, dependable English worsted was a very satisfying one, the suit drapes well, feels solid without being too heavy or constricting and I love the pattern. The use of dark navy as opposed to black in the dogstooth, in my opinion, creates a softer, yet more distinctive pattern and is an inspired move by Dugdale's. I also supplied a pure purple silk satin fabric which I bought cheaply on holiday in
Marrakesh to be used as the lining. Initially, I was terrified that it
would clash, but I think you'll agree that the effect is rather lovely. The
quality of this lining, and the fact that its very breathable, has made this
suit extremely comfortable to wear, the dogstooth cloth itself is a heavy 14oz,
but having worn it several times since I collected it a few weeks ago, I have
not overheated once.
This being my third suit, my pattern is so perfect by now, that the forward fitting became the collection fitting, hence the reason that there are no photographs of a forward fitting to show you! I actually walked out of the shop that day, after the rear-vent setting had been tweaked slightly whilst I was still there, to help it sit more neatly, this being the only alteration necessary. The Cad & the Dandy turned the suit around for me within an hour, whilst allowing me to sit, browse some new swatches and enjoy a cup of coffee - their service was uncompromisingly helpful and efficient. My only tiny complaint, is that although the fit of the sleeve is excellent and feels like its been pitched perfectly, there is a tiny bit of excess in the rear of the sleevehead around the top of my shoulder, which creates a tiny bit of creasing when my arms are relaxed, which is not ideal - I had this on my first half-hand made blue suit, but not my second chocolate suit, so hopefully we'll be able to correct this on my next order. In all other respects, the fit is simply marvellous. the sleeves are nice and slim, the chest is cut full with a strong hourglass waist and there is a nice strong line to the shoulder and the lovely high roped sleevehead that I like on my suits. The suit drapes beautifully around my middle with no pulling and sits neatly through my back; no mean feat due to its strong curvature.
I also must point out that the Cad & the Dandy were extremely accommodating throughout; I set a very tight completion date on the suit (in order to wear it to a wedding) and the company pulled out all the stops to ensure that it would be ready in time, the whole service was extremely fast for a bespoke suit (from placing the order to the final fitting) and always I would highly recommend the Cad & the Dandy for their impressive service. They take their business very seriously, and in my experience always strive to live up to their identity as a luxury London tailors - they certainly do appreciate the value of providing a high standard of customer service - I always feel valued when I go in there.
Overall then, I can attest to yet another very enjoyable and satisfying experience with the Cad & the Dandy, and to the quality of their product. I have written about this before, but I would like to re-emphasise that there is, in my opinion, relatively little which separates the Cad & the Dandy from other more expensive
tailors. It is true, that more expensive or exclusive tailors offer more
fittings, and can refine the finer points of the fit, beyond that which is
feasible for the kind of price that the Cad & the Dandy offer. There is no
point pretending that this is the same kind of bespoke suit that Huntsman or
Norton & Sons produce, but it is nonetheless a suit of impressive quality,
and the real worth of the Cad & the Dandy is in its extremely impressive
value for money. I do not know of anywhere else where you can get a fully
canvassed bespoke suit which fits very closely, with a hand-padded chest,
lapels and hand-set sleeves (as well as all the other elements of hand-work
expected of a British bespoke suit) for under £1000.00. I always leave the Cad
& the Dandy feeling extremely special, and like I have an extremely
precious piece of clothing in my possession, which a lot of care and skill has
gone into and that, I think, is the essence of the bespoke experience.
Thursday, 27 February 2014
Corduroy's a funny thing. In my experience, people either love it, or hate it. Furthermore, those who hate it would never even consider wearing it and this is a real shame. For this reason, I thought that it might be worth producing a piece wherein you can find some suggestions on how to wear it in a modern, accessible and attractive fashion. The danger with corduroy perhaps, is that its synonymous with old fashion 'fuddy-duddy' dress. This, I feel, is an unfair association. Corduroy is a deeply tradition cloth it is true, but it comes in many different colours, weights and thicknesses, which make it extremely versatile and easy to wear in a number of different ways - both traditional and modern.
Let's begin with the name, 'corduroy'. This has its origins in the French 'cord du Roi' (or 'cord of kings' - hence my ever so witty title)... It is unknown whether this is due to the cloth's historical association with a French monarch, or whether the name is simply derived from some kind of French folk tale. The 'cord' element of the cloth is fairly obvious, the cloth takes the form of a series of vertical stripes, woven into a cotton canvass by weaving tufts of very soft, fine and glossy cotton fibres into the fabric, between the plain 'channels' of the base canvass. The density of these tufted fibres creates the jacket's pile. The 'pile' (a term that you'll hear applied to velvet cloths too) refers to the thickness of these soft and glossy cotton tufts. The denser and thicker the tufts, the finer the pile.
The other important thing to get your head around when it comes to corduroy is the 'wale'. The wale refers to the width of the individual cords of the cloth, and the higher the number of the 'wale' the more cords can be fitted into the length of an inch. Thicker, more traditional cords associated with countrywear, will measure in at around 8 wale, whereas a more modern 'needlecord' will generally be around 12 to 14 wale. Due to the thickness of corduroy cloths, they'll often weigh in as quite heavy, between 14 and 16 ounces. Corduroy is essentially a slightly more rigid and durable form of velvet and this of course makes it more wearable. It will require less maintenance - most corduroys are machine washable - and more easily steamed or pressed on their reverse than velvet. Some corduroys can be very luxurious, blending in silk or even cashmere (again, the same principle follows with velvet) but given that corduroy is often chosen for its durability over other cotton cloths, more expensive cloth mixes tend to be reserved for velvets.
My first principle for you to absorb here. The higher the wale of the corduroy, the finer it is and the more modern and fashionable it looks. The second rule of corduroy clothing, is to keep everything slim. The third, is that its versatile; corduroy is not solely the preserve of the casual trouser. Having said that however, corduroy trousers are most certainly a good place to start, being perhaps the most ubiquitous use of corduroy today. I tend to wear cords over jeans, because I find them fundamentally more comfortable and as you will have gleaned from this blog, I don't go in much for casual denim. I'd suggest that to prevent yourself from falling into the baggy-trouser trap, keep the wale fine (wearing 'cord' or 'baby-cord' as opposed to chunkier corduroy) as the slimmer stripes on finer cords look more modern in themselves. Similarly, keep the cut of the trouser slim and fitted, with a relatively low, modern rise. For more on getting the trouser silhouette right, see my latest Mensflair column on the subject. When I say slim, I really mean that the legs of the trousers should be as fitted as possible for a neat, clean line through the leg - I don't expect you to pack yourself into skinny-fit cords. My own legs here are a good example; anything but slim, but the cords I'm wearing were tapered by an alterations tailor to slim the legs down.
In a similar vein, corduroy and tweed are (let's face it) a classic combination, but again, there's a way to do it right. Obey the rules set out above: slim legs, a casual, soft fine wale cord with a contemporary rise (for a chino-like trouser) solid, smart-casual boots (these plain, whole-cut Jodhpur boots are a suitably contemporary choice) teamed with rolled-up hems on your trousers keep the look modern and debonair. If you're not rolling up your trousers, then I'd suggest keeping the hem's plain (as on the lighter blue trousers above), as the soft, textured nature of corduroy, and the fact that it'll almost certainly be thrown through a washing machine a couple of times a week, means that the cloth tends not to do formal turn-ups very well.
With bright colours in mind, I have another suggestion. To get the best out of a corduroy blazer, keep the wale very fine, look for a good quality cloth and pick a rich colour. There's nothing more dull than a predictable brown or beige cord jacket that gets worn to death, but corduroys come in such a wealth of colours that giving some bolder options a try really can make for a wonderful centre piece of your smart-casual wardrobe. I wear this jacket a lot, and it will go anywhere and do anything; its relaxed in terms of the informal colour and cloth, but its highly structured and the cloth is beautifully wear-resistant. Thus, it's formal enough to sit alongside tailored trousers for the office, and again, the colour gives the jacket a hint of fun, suitable for dressy dinner or drinks events too. For pure casualwear, there is also something very reassuring about a fine baby-cord shirt, its soft, comfortable and something about just feels luxurious, yet very easy to wear. Many high-street retailers offer a couple of options each season, and they can make for an excellent change to classic cotton shirting fabrics. The forest green option with a casual button-down collar shown above, lends itself to a casual ensemble, with its acid-washed cloth and unstructured collar and cuffs.
That's essentially all there is to it - my suggestions for modern corduroy pieces. Experiment with bright and unusual colours, use fine wale cloths and keep everything fitted and slim - simple really.
Monday, 17 February 2014
I attended a wedding last weekend, and at the reception was introduced (amongst many delightful people) to a gentleman with whom I predictably began to talk tailoring. We were talking about what makes brands (particularly menswear brands) feel truly special to us, and one of the many interesting points made by the other party, is that he likes to be dressed (and I gather have suits made) by some friends of his at Hackett, because the staff there are confident enough to say 'no' to his requests when they don't think he's right.
Image courtesy of Cad & the Dandy
This is something we agree is extremely special, and it leads me to a shopping recommendation - when you first visit a tailor or a menswear shop, do not be afraid to pose questions and make suggestions specifically in order to test how the staff react. Every salesman aims to accommodate his customer and ultimately to sell their product, but should a salesman advise against certain things - this often is an indicator of real expertise and integrity - a sure sign that you'll receive the best service by staff who really understand what works for their customers.
This is hugely important with menswear, because, as the gentleman I was chatting too put it 'it gives you the confidence to walk out in style, knowing what you're wearing is right' and I don't believe that you can put a price on that. With the best will in the world, even the most obsessive customers (myself included) can come up with a wealth of ideas and inspirations for how we would like to dress, but barely any customer can claim to be an expert. Finding a service which can offer true expertise, and the confidence to say 'no' to a customer when something isn't right, rather than just make an easy sale, is therefore a real boon.
The basted fitting of my latest suit, review coming soon...
For the gentleman I was chatting with, the latest 'no' was a refusal by his tailor at Hackett to slim down his trousers more so than he already had. The tailor did not wish to spoil the line of the trousers by making them too skinny, and the trousers had already been slimmed down (and rightly so - take a look at my latest Mensflair column for a view on this) by him already. I myself find that my tailors politely say 'no' and direct me to alternative ideas on a frequent basis, and it has helped me to learn about what works and what doesn't.
The first time I walked in there, I ordered a three piece, and requested that the waistcoat have full-darts - the answer came back that I didn't need them, as full-darts are a means to enable waistcoat to sit on fuller figures, and so half darts it was. Similarly, the trouser pleats I asked for would look better as twin pleats, rather than single. On my latest suit (a review is coming soon to here and Mensflair.com) I requested 5" lapels - thankfully I was beaten down to 4.5". It seems then, that luxury menswear is one of those few remaining industries, where you really can't put a price on expert advice, and it is a real privilege to find an outfitter who is prepared to say 'no' in order to offer a service with true integrity and get things right.
Monday, 10 February 2014
Why do we buy suits? Because we need them? Because we find one that we like? In the most simplistic terms, yes of course - the product has to be right, and the demand for it has to be there. What is it that drives demand for any product? Without diverging too deeply into the realm of economics, I'd suggest that the answer is desirability. How do you make a product desirable? Answer: build a brand for it which gives it prestige and value, and market it appealingly.
Image courtesy of www.daks.com
Sounds simple doesn't it? And really it ought to be. Unfortunately however, as I discussed in a pair of recent Mensflair columns (one of which is reproduced below), twenty first century branding and marketing seems to be uncharted territory for a number of luxury British menswear retailers and tailoring houses. As someone who is looking to develop a career in menswear branding, you'll probably appreciate that I find this damned frustrating; these are my favourite companies retailing my favourite product, and all too often the brand and product image is way off the mark.
It is hugely encouraging then to see that a number of firms have recently been showing a significant new awareness of the power of their own brands. Furthermore, it seems that both niche luxury advertising and digital marketing strategies are beginning to emerge into play for a number of British luxury menswear retailers, who's online presence has been hitherto minimal.
This brings to me onto some examples of those firms which, refreshingly, are getting it right and to a company which I wrote on when this blog was in its infancy: Daks. My already considerable respect for the firm increased significantly when I discovered that they have recently transformed their website, and are now adding an online retail experience to said site. What really excites me about the new website, is the company's obvious awareness and marketing of their extremely rich and historic brand identity. An entire section of the website is devoted to promoting the company's rich heritage and history and this is perfectly complimenting by an acknowledgement that the company's brand values hold a timeless appeal: 'Today the same brand values still apply and Daks offers an array of high quality suiting and tailoring together with outstanding service, where nothing is compromised'.
Image courtesy of www.daks.com
Another, perhaps even more exclusive brand who've recently undergone a digital transformation is Savile Row tailors Huntsman, whose Creative Director Roubi l’Roubi has encouraged the development of a new, contemporary and inviting online presence; including Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram accounts, in addition to an active blog - by which I mean one that doesn't just post something banal once a month, which defeats the point of digital marketing. Likewise, the company has revamped its website in a similar way to Daks, giving customers a sense of the company's heritage, identity, retail experience and personality. All things that I'd argue discerning customers like to be able to access and get a sense to online.
Furthermore, this has been complimented by the release of a new luxury off-the-peg collection 'archive' collection which is presented beautifully, and pitched at just the right level. There is an acknowledgement that although these products cannot match (and therefore undermine) the company's core bespoke business, which remains 'at the heart of what we do', Huntsman have used digital marketing and promotion to emphasise that the same quality and attention to detail has gone into their off-the-peg collection. They have evidently understood also that it provides a valuable service; access to Huntsman's unique clothing and Savile Row quality, when there is no time-frame or possibly budget to order full-bespoke. The provision of an off-the-peg collection is also an extremely savvy move; the tailors' is showing that its all too aware of how to draw future customers into the business; for many discerning gentlemen, enjoying off-the-peg clothes leads into wanting to try personal tailoring and inevitably, experiencing personal tailoring leads into ordering the full bespoke, completing the retail hierarchy as it were.
For someone who is passionately committed to the development of the luxury British tailoring industry, this indicates an exciting start as far as I'm concerned. I still feel however that a number of valuable marketing tricks are being missed. Social Media (even for the most exclusive of firms such as Hunstman) is still being fundamentally misused by the majority of luxury British tailoring companies. The entire point of social media is that its 'social' - it is not solely about staid promotion - the release of the new collection, or the opening of a new store every three months. It provides the opportunity to communicate with the customer and offer something truly personal and individualistic. It provides a practical way to give a real insight into the beating heart of the company, and start to create a brand with a real personality as Hunstman are doing; you can see inside the shop, you can get a sense of the team who are committed to building the business, you get a real sense of the quality and value of the product, and you get the sense that the company actively wants to attract and value customers with its personality, rather than complacently waiting for them to walk through the door, as if by magic.
In essence, my point is that its no good tweeting boring, pre-prepared and generic advertising material a few times a week, or ignoring all those customers and admirers who enthusiastically tweet the company. Customers need to feel valued and want brands that they can engage with and even lose themselves in. That is how a retailer can get customers aspiring to own some of their product. This requires a rich brand identity and starts with the provision of an intensely operated and committed, personal social media presence and digital marketing to match. Keen customers need to be kept hooked, one blog post every three weeks won't suffice, but twice a week will most likely hit the spot. I myself have learned from this blog, that many followers are keen, and if you want to sell anything (or in my case get people to keep reading) you ahve to give your target audience what they want. Many sartorial menswear brands, need a greater appreciation of the power of social media, when its given the resources and attention required to build business. I firmly believe that investment in active and responsive social media platforms is one of the most successive and cost-effective ways to engage customers and attract sales.
Branding of this sort offers the opportunity to create a company which has enough depth in its brand for the customer to really engage with; it is so incredibly important that customers of luxury products feel that they are not just buying a soulless or anonymous product, but that they are buying into a life choice or style decision, a piece of craftsmanship and heritage. And its not just about selling a good quality suit, every luxury menswear company sells a good quality suit - its about distinguishing the design traits and identity of your product from those against which it competes.
To put it plainly, if the brand has a strong, compelling identity then the customer associates this with the product, and this drives sales - and I have high hopes for British menswear when this catches on a little more.
Tuesday, 4 February 2014
The white shirt is a funny thing, and I must confess that given my penchant for statement dressing, until fairly recently I have overlooked the simple white shirt. For years, ever since I started dressing formally for Sixth Form, I've almost always opted for a coloured shirt (albeit with a white collar and cuffs) around which to build my formal outfits.
The times are a-changing however. The recent menswear presentations at London Collections Men have confirmed (for me at least) that modern tailoring revolves around the ever more reserved application of colour, and that the white shirt is in ascendancy. Although I often relish the prospect of using colour to stand-out a little, taking-in some of next season's oncoming collections has helped me to discover the joy of the classic white shirt. If done right, it adds an unmistakable ease to one's formal attire, and feels crisp and clean. It will quite literally go anywhere and do anything when dressed in the right way: from the office, to the pub, to the opera.
The shirt on show here is a classic
Windsor collared Italian cotton twill shirt,
in a slim darted fit, with a split yoke, classic button placket and double-cuffs. The classic cut of
the collar enables it to be worn with a collar bar. I am hoping to experiment
with shirt collar and cuff styles over the coming months, and try out some
deeply pointed and penny collar shirts over the coming months; a revelation
that comes courtesy of Chester Barrie's excellent presentation at LC:M.
The key thing to keep in mind when wearing a white shirt is that it is a classic piece, and also that as such it is distinctly understated. With no colour on show, cut and cloth come to the fore, so its extremely important to style the shirt elegantly. Experiment with collar bars and collar shapes as well as cuff options and in your choice of cufflinks. Also be picky in your choice of cloth; I often think that its much nicer to have a shirt with a textured weave, rather than a plain poplin or Oxford. Look for herringbones or twills (as with the shirt shown here) to add some subtle interest. Note also that choosing a cloth with a fuller weave, will help the shirt to resist creasing and iron-up nicely.
Having established that the white shirt is an understated garment, I feel compelled to emphasise that there is one essential rule with any minimalistic approach to dress, which unfortunately I often find few people appreciate - understatement or classicism does not work with cheap clothing. Essentially, the trouble with a white shirt, given that is that its a blank canvass, is that the quality of the cloth and the fit (or the lack of) becomes very obvious when its worn. Hence why the white shirt can look both terrible, and impressively crisp and well cut.
Its one of those pieces where it really pays to invest in better quality options, and ensure that you pay attention to the fit of the shirt and shop around to get it right. Its often deceptively difficult to find a shirt that fits well through the body, but which doesn't feel tight or constricted across the shoulder blades. Sleeves should reach down beyond your wrist to about a good inch away from the base of your thumb. The collar itself should be tight without feeling constrictive, and with no space between the edge of collar and the neck visible within.
Pay attention to your shirt's cut and cloth, dress it well around equally crisp tailoring, and you're onto a sure-fire sartorial success.
Wednesday, 29 January 2014
For the second piece in this series of commentaries on the latest 'London Collections: Men' showcases, we come to an exploration of Savile Row's own presentation, representing what will be the Row's likely aesthetic take on tailoring for Autumn/Winter 2014. The presentation was artfully staged within another iconic symbol of
Britain, The Cabinet War Rooms. The backdrop provided the perfect place for Savile Row
to present an extensive selection of each house's bespoke garments in an ambitious
event that must have surely taken months of planning and preparation, simply
to design and create the tailoring on display.
This season's presentation sported a heavy 1940s influence (again making the War Rooms the perfect location) with heavy-weight flannels and tweeds woven with mossy, earthy and sombre colour tones running throughout the collection. Patterns and stripes were kept simple, and textured donegal tweeds, micro checks or plain twills dominated. Suiting sat alongside lots of crisp white shirting with classic cut collars (reflecting the fact that coloured shirting was minimal in the 1940s and the cut-away collar was largely yet to make an appearance) sober, sartorial ties and equally sober cuts of suit. All in all, the outfits on display felt reassuringly tough and wintery, bringing a sense of 40s austerity to Savile Row's elegant style. There was lots of structure and heavy amounts of canvassing in evidence (as you'd expect of Savile Row's approach to winter-weight suiting) as well as a number of full-cut overcoats and lots of strong, straight notched lapels.
It is difficult to analyse the Savile Row showcase like I might others, simply because each of the pieces on display has been cut by a different tailoring house, using their own house cut, and preferred methods of construction. There are no set cuts, silhouettes, prevailing aesthetics or construction techniques which unite the work on display. Instead, the tailors are told to prepare a selection of work for the show, to their own individual specifications, taking inspiration from a 1940s theme. What is in evidence though, is the beautiful fullness of balance and structure that only an expertly crafted British bespoke suit provides; photos like the one beneath reveal the perfect silhouette, sculpted lapel, shoulder, skirt and waist inherent to the handmade and cut Savile Row garment.
All this is of course elementary, and it is also a simple fact that this presentation showcases the finest tailoring that Savile Row can produce; the quality of the clothing is self-evident. To my mind, what is most important about Savile Row's participation in LCM, is that not only the clothes themselves are on display but the fact that all the major houses in Savile Row come together in one place, to represent (with considerable force) the Row itself.
I have written at length on Mensflair, about the dangers that lie ahead if Savile Row fails to modernise and publicise itself, and I am pleased to say that the en-masse embracing of events like LCM, provides a rare occasion when Savile Row shoes what it can really do. With this presentation, Savile Row presents a remarkably powerful image of British tailoring craftsmanship, quality and style; it becomes a far more attractive proposition to potential customers, and far more of a threat to the big off-the-peg brand names than it otherwise seems.
Savile Row's recent decision to participate in LCM over the last few years, has helped to firmly establish the Row's dominance in the global luxury tailoring industry, and it is also slowly helping to establish a stronger brand identity for those tailors who want to start marketing themselves as the creators of a more relevant, contemporary or fashionable product. As ever, this LCM presentation indicates the sartorial power of Savile Row tailoring, and acts as a welcome reinforcement of the quality and style that Savile Row emanates.
Wednesday, 15 January 2014
Given that I thoroughly enjoyed writing on Chester Barrie with my last piece on Autumn/Winter 2013, I thought that it wouldn't hurt to write one more piece whilst I'm at it, and give you a flavour of things to come. I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend Chester Barrie's Autumn/Winter 2014 Collection presentation for London Collections Men at the Ivy last week (my first taste of an LC:M show) and its safe to say that Chester Barrie's 'Tailors of the Unexpected' show really hit the spot. Lots has been written on the show since last week by the likes of Vogue, GQ, and none other than Mr. David Gandy himself, and, although highly complimentary, little has been said about the actual contents of the collection itself, so I thought it prudent to take some time to actually dissect it.
A/W 14 marks a significant change for Chester Barrie, a sartorial menswear label which over the last three years or so, has already totally transformed itself into one of the sharpest names in British luxury off-the-peg tailoring. I was lucky enough to chat to Executive Buyer and Designer Christopher Modoo, and another of the company's Buyers, Mike Darcy Hughes (who also runs a menswear blog) was actually kind enough to talk me through the collection upon my arrival, and it was immediately apparent that the presentation's title, 'Tailors of the Unexpected' was the perfect choice.
I was genuinely stunned by the quality and design of the new collection, which far surpasses the company's current, (and already marvellous) work. In simple terms, as Mr. Hughes explained to me, the collection is 'unexpected' for two reasons. Firstly, Chester Barrie have tried to create a tailored collection filled with unique pieces, which focus on providing masculine, striking designs aimed at the confident dresser who really cares about his clothes. Secondly, the brand has taken this approach and for the first time, developed a line of equally impressive casual wear, to compliment its tailored pieces.
Nonetheless, as you would expect, at the core of the collection is Chester Barrie's luxurious and almost obsessively crafted tailoring (for more on the quality of cut and construction - see my previous piece here). A collection of beautifully cut and finished two and three piece suits, overcoats and formal tailored jackets are available, and for A/W 14, the brand has chosen to cut its garments from even more luxurious cloths than previously. Suits have a full-cut, sharp peaked lapels and sweeping notches which make a real statement (the broader notched lapel is a new introduction, which means that the firm now offers two sizes of notched lapel, giving the customer even more choice), and the collection focuses heavily on providing the customer with a variety of evening wear and cocktail dress options, alongside its core business suiting. Two separate cuts of dinner suit are available; both three pieces (again, a distinctive choice); either with a sharp peaked lapel, or an extremely glamorous shawl-collared jacket with turn-back cuffs: a feature which again, is seldom seen on off-the-peg garments. These suits sit alongside a selection of sumptuous cashmere velvet jackets (shown directly above), no cotton velvets here, but cashmere!
Alongside these particularly dressy options, there's a versatile pure camelhair sports-coat, shown above with the perfect accompaniment - a teal merino wool roll-neck (roll necks are available in a variety of colours to offer a dressed-down, sophisticated alternative to formal shirting) and a selection of very sharp suits. My two favourites are shown below and above, and offer the ultimate in statement suiting; a handsome mid-weight charcoal birdseye woven with a subtle teal windowpane check (this suit is exhibiting the aforementioned, new cut of notched-lapel) and a dashing charcoal chalkstripe suit, crafted from cloth woven especially with an open weave, to allow the suit to drape when the stripes are turned horizontally. The effect of this suit with broad peaked-lapels and bound rather than jetted pockets is extremely impressive - the choice to use bound pockets in particular being very clever (providing the illusion of keeping the hips and waist slim and offering more variety in the collection).
As you would expect, all this tailoring is supported by a handsome range of shirting and accessories. The new silk paisley print scarves are particularly fine, and the selection of shirt collars on offer, from penny-tab, to pointed collars worn with the company's signature collar-bar, to full cut-away collars is commendable. Again, offering such a selection reveals the brand's determination to cater to those discerning customers who really do want something striking in their wardrobes.
Casual coats were also a strong feature, and I particularly like the concept behind the grey flannel change-coat shown below, and the rain-proofed Loro Piana flannel quilted jacket in taupe (above) the pockets of which were lined in velvet for the ultimate in comfortable pocket linings! Equally striking was the casual gillet on offer, worn over a sharp navy blazer and the flannel utility shirt, in a beautifully soft yet practical cotton twill flannel. The company is supporting its casual wear with a range of very contemporary 'wool jeans' - some very sharp and slim, low-rise tailored trousers, cut with frog mouth pockets in some clever two-tone dogstooth cloths, intended to be smarter alternative to casual denim.
It seems then, that once again, Chester Barrie are offering something unique, supremely stylish and truly desirable. In short, the 'Tailors to the Unexpected' are set to fulfil even the most particular connoisseurs' expectations with their new collection. I can't wait to see it in the shops!
Over the next few weeks, I'm going to be producing similar pieces dissecting a number of LC:M collections, so that we can keep our fingers on the pulse of luxury menswear and hopefully, in the process, enjoy exploring at some truly beautiful clothing. Watch this space!