Wednesday, 15 January 2014

London Collections Men I: Chester Barrie, 'Tailors of the Unexpected', Autumn/Winter 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!

3 comments:

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