Archive for Pokit

The new man’s outfitter (FT How to Spend it)

Posted in Fashion with tags , , , on June 27, 2013 by markcoflaherty

There is a well-thumbed book on the counter of the Soho store Pokit, entitled Why a Man Should be Well Dressed. Written by the Austro-Hungarian architect and modernist thinker Adolf Loos, it contains a paragraph that Pokit proprietor Bayode Oduwole has marked in bright-blue highlighter pen: “A completely new type of shop has been introduced – the outfitter. In a well-run gentlemen’s outfitter one can expect to choose an item completely at random and not end up with something not in good taste. A true gentlemen’s outfitter cannot make any concessions to the needs of the masses.”

“That was written in 1930,” says Oduwole. “But it’s more true than ever.”

The term “gentlemen’s outfitter” is as evocative as the oft-cited “most beautiful phrase in the English language”: “cellar door”. It conjures up images of leather Chesterfields, wood panelling, tailors’ dummies and mahogany-framed glass cabinets. Though that style never truly disappeared, it’s now being revisited and adapted by a new wave of high-end retailers who are distancing themselves from fast fashion and anonymous shopping. They are redefining the one-stop shop for men, selling newly timeless looks that don’t disappear onto sale rails at the end of the season.

The Bespoke Room at Hostem

The Bespoke Room at Hostem

“We live in an age where you can order something online and it arrives within three hours,” says James Brown, owner of east London store Hostem. “That’s a great service, but it’s devoid of any experience and enjoyment. We want to focus on interaction.” In March, Brown launched Hostem Bespoke, operating out of the shop’s Chalk Room and bringing together the talents of – among others – tailors Casely-Hayford and shoemaker Sebastian Tarek to create one-off and made-to-measure pieces. Here customers can be measured for a head-to-toe outfit and order luggage by Globetrotter (from £725) at the same time.

The new style of men’s outfitter is the antithesis of big-brand seduction. “What people wear is often motivated by status and aspiration,” says Tarek. “My shoes are minimal and modern, and use traditionally tanned leather that ages beautifully. I create them for men who enjoy having something made personally for them. The cost of my shoes [from £1,500] is a result of the materials used, time and care, not the profit margins of a multinational luxury group.”

“The consumer benefits from direct interaction with the creator,” says Joe Casely-Hayford. The Casely-Hayford label – designed by Joe and his son Charlie – sits somewhere between the world of classical tailoring and the accessible end of high fashion, which is where many of the new men’s outfitters are positioning themselves. “Our work has a clear aesthetic. We both studied at St Martins, while I designed clothes for bands such as The Clash, and then more recently I was creative director at Gieves & Hawkes. Our style sits where these two worlds cross.” Casely-Hayford suits at Hostem (from £1,250) are fashioned from four different blocks and made to measure from a choice of hundreds of fabrics.

While many elements of the traditional outfitters have been co-opted by chain stores and watered down to create a kind of ersatz Jermyn Street, Hostem has energised the ambience and style. Yes, there is a buttoned leather 19th-century sofa, but the space has been reworked by interior design duo JamesPlumb and a long wooden table has been incorporated into the sofa itself. The timber and metal textures are rough, dark and dramatically 21st century.

Some might find Hostem intimidating. Similarly, the huge skull above the front window and the rock’n’roll imagery that decorates the interior of tailor Tom Baker’s shop in Soho isn’t to all tastes. There are electric guitars on the walls covered with backstage passes, and a (fake) blue plaque commemorating Sid Vicious. Alongside the swatch books from English mills Scabal and Dugdale Bros that Baker shows to his bespoke clients, there are also oversized hats (£150) and quirky ready-to-wear pieces (tailored jackets from £275) by Child of the Jago, the label designed by Joe Corré (Vivienne Westwood’s and Malcolm McLaren’s son), and a wall full of footwear by Jeffery West (from £240), including what Baker calls “bastardised brogues” (£325). Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin comes here for his suits, but then so do major players from the Square Mile.

“Eighty per cent of my customers come to me for a good business suit,” says Baker. “I’m known for my English Cut [from £2,700]: succinct shoulder, elegant waistline, slim sleeve and no excess on the chest; it’s often single breasted, with one button and peak lapels. Customers like coming to the store because they appreciate the association with rock’n’roll. They like a space with spirit and a heartbeat. Oddly enough, the huge skull outside the store works as a natural filter. I don’t get any time wasters. The sort of men who come in are confident and have money to spend.”

It’s not just attentive service, styling advice and the ability to buy everything from socks to weekend bags that make the modern outfitter special; it’s the freshness and the sophisticated twists in the tailoring. The Spencer Hart flagship in Mayfair can kit a man out from head to toe for weekends in the country as well as for deal-clinching power lunches, and specialises in what designer Nick Hart calls “Savile Row cool as opposed to Savile Row dandy – pared down, sharp and modern”.

Meanwhile, Brooks Brothers might be seen as the very epitome of the staid US men’s outfitter, but it has energised its stores around the world by having New York’s Thom Browne, renowned for the truncated hem lengths on his 1950s Hitchcock grey suits, design the Black Fleece range (from £130). For spring there are plaids, tartans, shorts suits, monochrome cardigans and, of course, business suits (from £1,350), all styled in a far more restrained way than Browne’s eponymous main line. “I think the role of the modern men’s outfitter should centre around good, timeless clothing,” he says.

The tailoring at Pokit also plays subtly with proportion, while otherwise classic Goodyear-welted brogues (£285) are elasticated and made to fit without laces. There are two-tone knitted ties (£55), a range of bright corduroy trousers (£179), three styles of white shirt (£154-£179), ridge-top Panama hats (£165) and four styles of Seven Foot Cowboy jeans (£225-£295) made in England from 15oz Japanese narrow-loom denim. “Jeans are a part of our style heritage,” says Oduwole. “The traditional men’s outfitter never stocked them, but jeans and a sports jacket are now key. And an outfitter is a one-stop shop.”

Ready-to-wear and one-off jeans – created in genuine bespoke style according to a pattern unique to each customer – are an integral part of the offering at Against Nature in New York City, a store with a wood-lined and Chesterfield-leather fin de siècle aesthetic that general manager Nathaniel Adams describes as “sumptuous decadence with a Victorian edge”. The space – named after the infamous Huysmans novel that led to the downfall of Dorian Gray – is the result of a collaboration between four designers who between them cover all of the main bases of any outfitter, old or new.

Amber Doyle and Jake Mueser tailor suits (bespoke from $3,250) and shirts (custom from $350) with what they describe as “a manly silhouette with strong shoulders, a trim waist and long legs”. Ryan Matthew creates custom-made and ready-to-wear jewellery, cuff links and belt buckles (from $250), while Simon Jacobs is responsible for the denim lines (from $275 ready to wear). There is also an extensive range of leather luggage, as well as footwear (from $550) by Jeffery West – more classic than the range at Tom Baker’s in London, but still with a twist.

The store looks like Oscar Wilde could walk in at any moment in the company of Keith Richards to order a cashmere cape. There are stuffed white peacocks, drawers full of shirt collars and paisley ties, tables covered in antique metal shoe trees, and rows of those aforementioned crisp dark-blue jeans. “We use the strongest raw and selvedge Japanese denim,” says Jacobs. “But all the jeans are single-needle stitched and pressed by hand. We make sleek and clean designs that men can wear to the office.”

Just around the corner from Against Nature, off the Bowery, is Freemans Sporting Club, well known in the city for its wide range of slick, high-quality, workwear-inspired casual clothing and accessories, from boots to bags (from $40). The shop is also the first port of call for men with appointments for the FSC BenchMade Bespoke Studio, which is a little further down the alleyway, accessed by a staircase in Freemans Restaurant and through a door disguised as a bookcase. Here bespoke suits (from $3,950) are commissioned and made on site. The factory is attached to the studio and is on view, via an open wall between the spaces. “If customers are trusting us to construct a bespoke suit and committing to the process,” says Kent Kilroe, FSC’s managing partner, “they should be able to be part of the experience.”

The name Freemans has had a place in the New York zeitgeist since 2004, when the of-the-moment, off-the-radar restaurant of the same name opened. So what flagged up the gentlemen’s outfitters as the “next big thing” for them? “I think it’s about people looking for integrity in what they consume,” says founder Taavo Somer. “They are highly knowledgeable about where and how their food is grown and raised. Likewise, they make an educated choice to buy a suit crafted by hand before their eyes in New York City, rather than a mass-produced ‘mystery meat’ child-labour product.”

The Bespoke Room at Hostem

The Bespoke Room at Hostem

Alongside the bespoke, FSC has two new off-the-peg offerings – the House Cut suit (from $2,875), which is displayed in store without a collar or sleeves, to be finished after fittings with the customer, and a made-in-the-US, ready-to-wear suit (from $1,200). Remarkably, at a time when fused linings – which can lead to fatal creasing at the hands of a dry cleaner – are to be found in many a rack-bought jacket, FSC’s new ready-to-wear suit is fully canvassed.

One of the things that makes the space such a destination for men on Manhattan’s Lower East Side is the adjoining FSC Barber. The true men’s outfitter is always so much more than a tailor and accessories retail unit. It is the male, no-nonsense equivalent of the spa – a place to socialise as well as somewhere for grooming. The barber at FSC, like the in-house barber’s space on the top floor of Bourdon House, the Alfred Dunhill “Home” in London’s Mayfair, couldn’t be confused with any kind of salon. It’s the classic cinematic set-up, with foot-operated leather chairs, white basins and pomade: no hairspray, just hot towels and cut-throat razors. It’s luxurious (at Dunhill there is the offer of “something stronger?” before your appointment), but in a prosaic, masculine way.

Alfred Dunhill, which might have been the ultimate original men’s outfitters, might also be the ultimate modern one. You can dine in the club, have coffee in the cellar bar, get a massage and buy everything from Denon headphones (£650) to alligator-skin-cased mah jong games (£10,500). Away from the bespoke room, there are tussah-and-mulberry-silk-mix zip-through casual jackets (£550), two cuts of jeans with red selvedge detailing (£225) and new-season ready-to‑wear crease-resistant suits in high-twist wool (£1,450), perfect for the travelling-light, globetrotting businessman. And, of course, lest you be in any doubt that you are in a gentlemen’s outfitters, along with all the brass pillars and wood cabinets, vintage-map wallpaper and other HG Wells-esque detailing, there are those omnipresent Chesterfield sofas.

Against Nature, 159 Chrystie Street, New York, NY 10002 (+1212-228 4452; www.againstnaturenyc.com). Alfred Dunhill, 2 Davies Street, London W1 (0845-458 0779; www.dunhill.com). Brooks Brothers, 150 Regent Street, London W1 (020-3238 0030; www.brooksbrothers.co.uk) and branches. Freemans Sporting Club, 8 Rivington Street, New York, NY 10002 (+1212-673 3209; www.freemanssportingclub.com). Hostem, 41-43 Redchurch Street, London EC2 (020-7739 9733; www.hostem.co.uk). Pokit, 132 Wardour Street, London W1 (020-7434 2875; www.pokit.co.uk). Spencer Hart, 62-64 Brook Street, London W1 (020-7494 0000; www.spencerhart.com) and branches. Tom Baker, 4 D’Arblay Street, London W1 (020-7437 3366; www.tombakerlondon.com).

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Androgynous tailoring (Financial Times Weekend)

Posted in Fashion with tags , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2010 by markcoflaherty

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.’

www.paulsmith.co.uk

http://www.pokit.co.uk

http://www.preen.eu

www.thombrowne.com

www.toddlynn.com

http://www.unconditional.uk.com

http://www.zeromariacornejo.com

The discreet revolution in menswear (Black Card)

Posted in Fashion with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 20, 2009 by markcoflaherty

Bryan Ferry, known for a smart whistle or two, once explained why his attire has rarely deviated from a simple, impeccable Anthony Price suit: ‘Because a suit is the only thing that doesn’t look ridiculous in photographs twenty years later.’ Fashion may be something of a nonsense to even the mildest of cynics, but there’s no denying that the suit is one of those alchemical devices, whether the transformation is geared around upgrading the physique or persuading a magistrate that the individual in front of them is more accustomed to roaming miscellaneous halls of power than a sink estate.

TOM FORD STORE 2 SMALL

A suit is a suit and unless your surname is Furnish or you’re an authentic dandy, the design concerns of menswear that aren’t exclusively concerned with fit and creating flattering proportions can never extend past ‘classic with a twist’. And yet… men’s fashion has moved on. Over the last six or so biannual seasons (like dog years when you think of the rollercoaster trend-speed of corresponding women’s fashion), there has been a hugely significant change in the male silhouette… The times they are a-changing.

The most radical move – and no eye rolling please, we’re not about to start talking men-in-skirts here – has been a long overdue move back towards the double-breasted ensemble. There may be some of you reading this for whom the double-breasted suit has never lost currency. So be it. If it ain’t broke, and all that… But in terms of what looks both current and forward thinking (two attributes anyone in business needs to exude by the bucket load, now more than ever), it’s been a solid twenty years since double breasted was the norm. In the 1980s the likes of Thierry Mugler championed an aggressive single buttoned, single breasted jacket that looked every stitch like the future and resigned double breasted to the charity shop along with the shoulder pad (‘the flares of the eighties,’ as David Bowie so correctly diagnosed at the time).

So what happened to bring it back? Well, the return of double breasted is very much a part of the return to favour of traditionalist dressing. It’s conservative and luxe, but with a fresh twist. One of the upsides of the free market discovering that the world was, despite so much circumstantial evidence to the contrary, flat, and that it was sailing right over the edge of it, is that the more ridiculous element of menswear departments is shrinking fast. The market for £800 jackets that make you look like Sgt Pepper just isn’t there anymore. People want to look serious, not frivolous.

When Tom Ford opened his first standalone store in New York City it aped an upscale classic gentleman’s outfitters rather than the Studio 54 tart’s handbag of his Gucci stores. Ford, backed by Ermenegildo Zegna’s meticulous manufacturing arm, has been at the forefront of the double-breasted renaissance. Ford’s styling and shape is sleek, modern and high fashion without smacking of the fashion victim. This is where Cary Grant would get kitted out if he were around today, and where the current James Bond does.

The edgier international designers are also embracing and fast tracking the change in style. For this autumn Alexander McQueen showed sedate but perfectly handsome double-breasted suits (styled tieless but with top shirt buttons fastened, very au courant) while Martin Margiela, whose artisanal white-on-white Mayfair boutique with lab coat wearing shop assistants is a temple to the avant garde, has embraced a mature and serious aesthetic with his capsule Sartorial collection. Sartorial utilises the kind of tailoring expertise more commonly associated with the very best of Milanese bespoke to create discreetly luxurious suits and coats that work well with the other similarly less showy and publicised pieces in the Margiela canon: the Perfect White Shirt and the Perfect Black Trousers. And who hasn’t gone shopping for those simple pieces and given up when faced with racks of over fussy details that have been tacked on gratuitously to differentiate the current season from previous ones? No wonder so many of us, when dabbling with off the peg, dash straight back to our tailors to get what we want.

Around the corner from Margiela’s London store, on Savile Row, Gieves and Hawkes is pushing the new look with its ready to wear range in the form of a beautiful dandy-meets-neocon chalk stripe double breasted suit and, more excitingly, double breasted black velvet evening jackets – something that Giorgio Armani has also been doing for his Emporio label. The double-breasted evening jacket is the epitome of dressy, and its resurgence points to things having come full circle from the 1980s. It’s shamelessly showy but not vulgar. It has to be tailored at the Savile Row level to be done well though – a cheap knock-off has all the panache of the Nigerian wedding outfits that line the shop windows of Dalston Junction.

The one problem with double breasted is that it can be unforgiving if you have a paunch. Like fine gauge knitwear (particularly cardigans) it can add pounds on top of already surplus pounds. Far more forgiving is the other main strand to the new traditionalism that is reappearing in men’s suitings – the three piece. This really has taken off over the last couple of seasons, and its formal, slightly fogey quality has been spliced with a just-the-right-side-of-outré selection of fabrics. Paul Smith has mixed the look up for this winter with Wind in the Willows mismatched tartans and bow ties while Ralph Lauren has taken a power broker stance with his top-end Purple label – monochrome checks and charcoal greys, cut slim but muscular, that look like they, and their wearer, really mean business. The label also boasts some of the best double-breasted suits around. That Ralph Lauren has shown these suits in an advertising campaign styled with a bowler hat speaks volumes. There’s been a resurgence of the bowler amongst east end kooks and wannabe flaneurs in 2008, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if it came back properly, Steed-style?

While half of the men’s fashion world has been looking to the pre-micro chip past to create a well dressed future, the remainder has been reworking the minimalism that the likes of Jil Sander and Miuccia Prada have made their own over the last decade. You could call it the Scandic-American look, even though it stems from a German and an Italian designer respectively: the silhouette is currently being refined by Swedish designers, like Filippa K, and Americans, like Thom Browne. The Scandic elements are in the narrow cuts, monochrome palette and never more than two buttons that all of the suits in this category have. The American element is in the change in proportions that have been taking place. The trousers break above rather than on the shoe and the jackets show a good couple of inches of shirt cuff. What Thom Browne does shouldn’t really work. Essentially he makes shrunken suits – stuff that doesn’t fit. As New York magazine says, ‘he dresses like an insurance adjuster circa 1957,’ and he dresses like he designs. There’s a touch of the Pee Wee Herman as well as the mid century modernist about Browne, but he’s dead clever and a skilled tailor. To see his own label at New York Fashion Week is to see it in what one could kindly call a ‘pure form’ – overstyled to the point of the risible. And if you aren’t stick thin and over six foot, forget it. To see it at Brooks Brothers, where Browne designs the Black Fleece range, is to see it in an entirely wearable form. The quirk is there, but the Black Fleece man is resolutely a serious Eames-era, super-stylish Hitchcock villain, made modern. And then there’s Browne’s double-breasted suit, bringing it all together in one look, straddling both schools of design. This is very possibly where men’s fashion is ultimately going – a little bit minimalist but more than a little bit traditionalist, but with the confidence to bring the elements together in a brand new way.

No matter where it ends up, menswear has moved on. Men will never be slaves to fashion like their wives – mercifully the silhouette and proportions of menswear move at a pace that you’d need Peter Greenaway stop-motion cinematography to chart – but the only thing worse than having no interest in fashion is not knowing anything about it. Despite the metrosexual revolution, the explosion of the men’s style press and the popularity of the personal shopper pour homme, the city of London is still full of men wearing clothes that are badly made and don’t fit. No Swedish or Italian businessman would ever keep wearing a suit that only fit them before middle aged spread took hold. For this very reason, your wardrobe needs to be reassessed every year. The fact that small details change season upon season also means that only the most bland of suitings avoid becoming, eventually, trite. Look at the flared suits of the 70s. Or the pegged and pleated trousers of the 80s. Or Bowie’s shoulder pads.

A young generation of men, fashion literate but with more experience of the high street than Savile Row, is demanding a higher quality of design and finish in menswear. The likes of Pokit, with smart but decidedly casual HQ on London’s Lamb’s Conduit Street, is a fine example of the change in the market. Pokit tailor suits for the kind of man who might work in typography, photography or furniture design, but for whom the idea of jeans every day is as unthinkable as a baseball cap. Their customer is likely to mix one of their suits with a Margiela shirt, a Mulberry bag and Uniqlo socks. Ultimately, there is more choice than ever out there off-the-peg, which means there’s no excuse for merely making do with what’s in the wardrobe when you haven’t bought anything new for five years. Go shopping. Make sure it fits. Make sure it flatters. And finally, make sure you’re wearing it, not vice versa.