Focus On: Husbands Paris

First of all, I’m not a suit guy. I usually hate ties and don’t feel comfortable in blazers. My personal style is rather this: a vintage cashmere knit, Lemaire-ish, over-sized pants (a big no to any sweatpants!), a big coat and Raf Simons sneakers. I yawn at all Zegnas and Brionis (although I respect them), as men’s tailoring is quite uninspiring to me. But there’s one exception. And it’s Husbands Paris. Whenever I see their posts on Instagram, I’m obsessed. Everything is a dream, really, from their signature knitted ties (they might be an ideal option that wouldn’t make me feel out of breath) to the most delightful trench coats. You’ll find Husbands between the orbits of tailoring and fashion, plucking the craftsmanship from the former and stories from the latter to fill an otherwise uninhabited space of the industry with culture and style. The mind behind it, Nicolas Gabard, is as clued up on the technicalities of suit making as he is on the depths of Francis Bacon’s art. This understanding of two worlds has allowed him to birth a bespoke identity of design. In an interview with GQ, he says “craftsmanship is the secret of styleHusbands comes from an obsession with the body – of precision and details. We keep the full canvas of tailoring and its construction because it guarantees a lasting garment. Technically, we offer a perfect piece, but its life comes when the wearer composes something with it.” That’s where the culture comes in. Gabard views fashion as an outlet for “phantasm” and, after stitching on the roots of tailoring through one eye, he seals his designs with stories through the other. They originate from expressive interests, like llistening to The Smiths and Joy Division or watching films by Eric Rohmer. Husbands is proposing the thread of forever intriguing style icons, like Serge Gainsbourg, and then using it as a hook to dig people into exploring the possibilities of their own identities. The label sources its materials from England and manufactures its suits in Naples, but Paris is the base that provides an essential interplay with the individual’s state of mind. As Gabard says, “you don’t have to live the life of other people and that’s the same for clothing – you have to wear your own garments with your body, your culture, your dreams, your past, your phantasm.

Discover the brand here or visit their store in Paris on 57 Rue de Richelieu (in post-lockdown times, of course…).

Collage by Edward Kanarecki, photos sourced from Husbands Paris site and Instagram.

Colmar x White Mountaineering

The wait is over… White Mountaineering’s Yosuke Aizawa x Colmar A.G.E AW20 collection, as first glimpsed earlier in the year during Paris Fashion Week, is out. Founder and creative director of the Tokyo-based brand, Aizawa, known for his uncompromising rebellious yet elevated utilitarian menswear, has served up an eye- catching collaboration for the Italian Alpine brand Colmar A.G.E project. Colmar, known globally as the leading technical ski apparel and style pioneers sees its cutting- edge expertise and industrial fabric innovation prowess channeled into a 6-piece unisex collection. Finding common ground between Aizawa’s love of winter sports and Colmar’s almost 100 years of ski apparel expertise, the White Mountaineering x Colmar A.G.E AW20 collaboration serves up looks that feature a sense of two sides of the same coin. The result is a collection which reveals homogeny and full intersection between high performing, technically aligned fabrics and elevated streetwear.

Reimagined from the extensive Colmar archive this utilitarian collection does not wallow in the past instead it meets the needs of the modern style landscape with a nod to heritage. Consisting of a longer length parka plus a thigh length jacket, both water repellant and waterproof, with metal hardware vents, a patchwork of panel pockets, and an impressive warmth-to-weight ration. It’s only fitting that the spirit of invention that defines this collaboration sees both styles come in either padded filling or insulated with down so you choose the best weight outerwear that your lifestyle demands. Each style comes in either a muted black and grey hue combo or a bold biscuit colour with shots of pink and blue inserts. Buttons and zips are personalised with both labels’ emblems and the silicon logo of both brands runs discreetly along the storm flap, with the journey of the two houses joining forces found on a Tyvek label inside each piece. Additionally, the collection contains a brushed cotton pant, wool cotton mix sweatshirt and tee, as well as a boldly branded soft-shell under-jacket equipped with design features to suit a variety of conditions.This is a collection that is uncompromisingly functional in design and performance which collides harmoniously with utilitarian streetwear fashion making each piece an essential part of any wardrobe.

Honesty and Intelligence. Prada Resort 2021 + Men’s SS21

In her last solo “show”, before Raf Simons enters the role of co-creative designer in the September collection (I really, really, really can’t wait for this match to finally happen!), Miuccia Prada delivered a collection that was absolutely 100% Prada vocabulary. “As times become increasingly complex, clothes become straightforward, unostentatious, machines for living and tools for action and activity.” So said the press notes for The Show That Never Happened, which was a digitally delivered group installation of five Prada-facing films by Willy Vanderperre, Juergen Teller, Joanna Piotrowska, Martine Syms, and Terence Nance. They were all made at the Fondazione Prada, the company’s museum of contemporary art collection and the place of all Prada events. The film – which ran consecutively with the addition of a quick final walk at the end before Mrs. Prada’s usual fleeting, half-lateral bow – came to 11 minutes, the ideal duration of a live fashion show. The collection was all about pure elegance, simplicity and a sort of detox from fashion noise. Many looks were identical to Miuccia’s autumn-winter 1995 show, which forever became the image of 90s Prada. Architectural, 1950s silhouettes mixed with a touch of feminine cliché (of course, done in Prada’s ugly chic manner) for resort, and smart, business ready tailoring with a touch of nylon for men’s summer – ta-da, a collection that really got me obsessed in the last few weeks of digital presentations. The press release continued with more food for thought chez Miuccia: “I think that our job as fashion designers is to create clothes for people, that is the honesty of it. That is really the value of our job – to create beautiful, intelligent clothes. This season, we focused on that idea: It is about clothes, about giving value to pieces. The clothes are simple, but with the concept of simplicity as an antidote to useless complication. This is a moment that requires some seriousness, a moment to think and to reflect on things. What do we do, what is fashion for, what are we here for? What can fashion contribute to a community?” As Prada and her peers (plus Raf Simons, of course!) work to anticipate how change alters the specifications of taste and clothes it will be fascinating to watch the architecture of fashion change too.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Kim Meets Amoako. Dior SS21

While the digital fashion month of men’s spring-summer 2020 collections is full of sleepy look-books, there are some line-ups that make my heart skip a beat. I was quite on fence with Kim Jones‘ menswear at Dior, but the new collection is brilliant. And it redefines the word “collaboration” in 2020. Jones invited the 36-year-old Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo, whose stunning huge-scale portraits of Black subjects – partly richly finger-painted – have a skyrocketing reputation in the contemporary art world. “It’s a portrait of an artist who I greatly admire,” Jones said. “[The gallerist] Mera Rubell introduced me to Amoako last year in Miami. I really loved his work and wanted to work with him because of my own links to Africa. He lives between Vienna, where he studied, Ghana, and Chicago. So we sat down and discussed.” The first results – a collection fusing Boafo’s art with Dior artisanship, a look book, and a documentary film shot at the artist’s studio in Accra and at Jones’ home in London- are launched in a more intimate, in-depth and intelligent way than could possibly have come across in front of the usual roar of the crowd and show hustle of the Paris collections. In the video, Boafo is in his studio in Ghana as he paints and describes how he captures friends and family, “and people who create spaces for others to exist.” He speaks about the flat colors he uses to silhouette his figures, and, he explains, “how fashion inspires my work. I tend to look at characters who have that sense of style.” Friends hanging at Boafo’s place are wearing pieces from the collection, and the artist is working in a faded wallpaper print Dior Men shirt, whose pattern has bounced back in a creative arc from portrait to garment. The collection is smaller and more edited than it would have been – which actually works better than nearly 100 looks shows Dior has every season. Jones was working out of his Notting Hill house with a small team and long distance with Dior ateliers in France to get it done over the past months. The result: clothes saturated with uplifting color and print, which pinpoint Boafo’s signatures within the language the designer has established for a Dior man. Celebrating and platforming Boafo’s work for a luxury fashion market meant, among other things, transferring the tactile energy of his finger-painted heads into two intensely embroidered sweaters. The pattern from a semi-sheer fil coupé jacquard shirt sprang from a close-up Jones had taken of Boafo’s brush work. He also lifted subtle inspiration from haute couture – the gray taffeta blouson being a renewed, more youthful and summery iteration of the opera coat which opened his last show.

Still, even without the Black Lives Matter uprising which is fundamentally changing the way all institutions are being interrogated now, a collaboration like this was always going to demand detailed explanation. This one is tooled differently from the usual artist-brand collab. Behind it is an exchange with Dior which was stipulated by Boafo. “He said he didn’t want a royalty [for himself], but help to build a foundation for young artists in Accra,” Jones said. A donation made by Christian Dior (the sum was not specified) backs up Boafo’s activism. In using the leverage of his market power to lift up African art and artists, he is one of the new generation of Black artists who believe in the transformative empowerment of cultural education. In May, Boafo raised $190,000 (three times the estimate) with an online auction of his painting, Aurore Iradukunda, to benefit the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco. The initiative will consist of a building that will host Boafo’s studio, a residence, and an artist-run gallery, supporting young artists in Ghana and their studio practice. “The change needed right now is to support young people through college and training to give everyone equal opportunities,” Jones said. The focus of this project is close to his heart, and, he says, to part of his own upbringing as the son of a hydrogeologist who worked throughout the continent. “We moved to Ethiopia when I was around three years old, spent time living there, and then moved around east Africa and then Botswana. I’ve kept going back for the rest of my life.” Underlying his motivation – using Dior’s fashion broadcasting capabilities to enlighten a broad audience about the vitality of contemporary African art, as well as facilitating a project with cash – is a quieter salute to Jones’s father, who recently passed away. “The fact that we are working with Amoako Boafo, from Ghana, which was one of my father’s favorite African countries is,” he said, “a fitting tribute to the man who introduced me to Africa and the world.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki; artworks by Amoako Boafo.

Men’s – Humanity and Craft. Loewe SS21

What Jonathan Anderson orchestrated yesterday around the launch of Loewe’s men’s spring-summer 2021 collection (and women’s pre-collection) felt like a long-needed quantum leap into the new world of open-ended possibilities. Where would a designer who’s always talked about Loewe as ‘a cultural brand’ and his links with artists and artisans go? How can the truth of tactility and emotion be felt when digital is the only option? On one level, what he came up with felt like dipping into a 24-hour Jonathan Anderson-curated worldwide live summer festival of arts, crafts, and conversations on Loewe’s Instagram page and website. “My whole thing is to do something in each time zone,” he told Vogue from his London home via Zoom. The program rolled from Beijing time onwards, connecting with (amongst others) crafts-collaborators Kayo Ando, who showed the art of Shibori, paper artist Shin Tanaka from Japan and the basketweave artist Idoia Cuesta in Galicia, Spain. There was music curated by Adam Bainbridge (aka Kindness), who showcased a calming ‘medley’ comprising different versions of Finnish musician Pekka Pohjola’s Madness Subsides, performed by Park Jiha in Korea, performer and producer Starchild, French-Malagasy pianist and bandleader Mathis Picard, and American harpist Ahya Simone. Lots more roved through live chats between Anderson and the actor Josh O’Connor, and, later, a conversation with contemporary textile artists Igshaan Adams, Diedrick Brackens, Anne Low, and Josh Fraught. And on another level, there was the Loewe Show-in-a-Box, a cache of paper-art discoveries delivered as a tactile substitute runway experience to the doorsteps of the industry insiders (it was a grander follow-up to the JW Anderson show-box he sent around last week). Inside was a pop-up show set, a flip-book of photos of the clothes on mannequins, a paper-pattern of one of the garments, print-outs of sunglasses to try on, textile samples, a set of paper pineapple bags and looks to stick together to make your own 3D ‘models,’ and a pamphlet listing Anderson’s art history inspirations. Slipped alongside was a packet of cut-out paper portrait silhouettes he’d had made of Loewe staff members. “I like that they’re kind of immortalized in this moment,” he said.

What about the collection? With their sculptural volumes, twisting, looping, and wrapping forms, the line-up read as Anderson’s push to convey the 3D presence of garments through the limitations of a flat, 2D medium of communication. Some of his references had been taken from El Greco and Velázquez, and his absorption of high Spanish art in the Prado in Madrid; others from his admiration of Issey Miyake’s pleats, and from wanting to showcase the painstaking handcrafts his collaborators bring. The leather-workers helped him evolve a basket-weave top and a soft, suspended bag that folds itself around one side of the body like an apron. The Japanese Shibori print radiates from the side of a tunic.“I have actually really enjoyed this process. It has made me be way more humble about who I am in this industry,” he concluded. “If I look at before the pandemic, I was slightly struggling. I was going out to prove that we are doing something. I think what’s been good about doing this is that I’m closer to the people who make the bags, to the pattern cutter.” Holding it all together in the digital space is turning out to mean more sharing of the glory, less behind-closed-doors mystique, more proof of the humanity, time and ingenuity that goes into making things, he believes. “I think that fashion now has to get rid of all the layers and just say, ‘This is what this brand does, and we’re going to do it with conviction.’ It has to be real. I think it’s bigger than the collection. I’m really proud of it because it’s very honest, it’s our humility. And it’s actually about finding that I love what I do.”

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.