Androgynous tailoring (Financial Times Weekend)

There’s a sophisticated, masculine tendency developing within women’s tailoring. It’s partly linked to the pared down mood in fashion as a whole, partly a reaction against the extreme body consciousness of recent seasons. Celine, Jil Sander and Balmain are among several labels with winter collections that have reinterpreted the male suit, while the classic brogue has eclipsed many heels as the shoe of choice. Paul Smith features a particularly chic buffalino tan pair as part of his Men Only capsule collection for women, a tailoring range he created in response to the demand from women who had been buying his menswear in smaller sizes.

Thom Browne – celebrated for his accomplished reworking of mid century modern men’s tailoring, with shrunken proportions and a meticulous fit – has just launched a capsule women’s collection. The new line echoes elements of the women’s suits he’s already been creating for the high end Black Fleece label at Brooks Brothers: a little bit Mad Men, with a lot of grey flannel. ‘I like the idea of men’s tailoring on girls,’ says Browne. ‘It’s very strong and sexy in a non-overt way.’

Flannel is also one of the most popular fabric choices at hip, modernist London tailors Pokit, which attracts an increasing number of women clients. ‘They initially look to our men’s suits,’ says Pokit’s Bayode Oduwole. ‘But we show them that our women’s styles have more elegant proportions and are truer to the “garconne” style they are trying to achieve.’ One of Pokit’s biggest selling items is the unisex slip-on Horace brogue, bench made and Goodyear Welted in Northampton.

Traditional Mayfair tailors Gieves & Hawkes collaborated with Preen this season to create eight garments, all crisply tailored in a loose silhouette, with oversized lapels and strong shoulders. They were created using specially adapted menswear blocks and catwalked unbuttoned and voluminous with high heels – a look reminiscent of Giorgio Armani’s early, radical forays into women’s suiting.

More experimental designers are consistently blurring the line between men’s tailoring and womenswear. Philip Stephens of Unconditional reports that much of his men’s tuxedo-redux tailoring was selling to women, ‘so we resized it all and slightly feminised it for them’, while rock-star couturier Todd Lynn has had requests from stores for women’s versions of his men’s line. His is an aggressive but insouciant style. ‘The whole basis of my collection is set in menswear,’ he says. ‘And many of my female clientele want suits and the strictness of menswear  – Courtney Love says that when she wears my clothes she feels like David Bowie.’

Maria Cornejo’s work is similarly directional, and her label, Zero + Maria Cornejo, exhibits a frequently avant garde approach to proportions, but in a fluid, relaxed way. Last year she railed against high heels and constrictive womenswear trends, saying ‘it’s boys dressing women – my client is an independent, intelligent woman, she’s not arm candy.’ Tellingly, when she launched an androgynous capsule menswear line at the start of this year (pictured above), many of her female staff preordered items for themselves, in small sizes, and much of the range has sold to her regular female customers. ‘I design for myself,’ says Cornejo. ‘I’m a mother and I have a career. I don’t want to look like someone has dressed me up. Sometimes I just want to wear a white shirt and a pair of boy’s trousers. It can still be interesting and it can still look sexy.’


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