April 30, 2012

INTRODUCING: MILS

In anticipation of tomorrow night's group menswear show at Australian Fashion Week, Manuscript met with Mils, the menswear label of Singaporean designer Sunny Lim. Mr Lim's presentation will be made up of his debut collection, following graduating from college three years ago and enforced military enlistment in the years following. Despite the designer's youth, his unique take on tailoring makes him one to watch as he continues to develop his aesthetic and stockist base. As he says of the collection, "it explores asymmetrical forms, with suits that follow softly-structured lines with detailed tailoring." 




AUSTRALIAN FASHION WEEK : KSUBI : SUMMER 2012

After a year hiatus from the Australian Fashion Week schedule, Ksubi returned on Monday night with a men's and women's collection. The focus, after some brand restructuring and the addition of designer Guy Hastie and consultant Christine Centenera, was on the designer fashion side of the business: Ksubi showed in an intimate venue so as to showcase the tailoring and direction that has become as much apart of the collection as distressed denim. Manuscript's Bowen Arico and Jolyon Mason exclusively photographed the men's collection for our winter issue, out next week, but in the meantime, photographer OhJamie captured the scene backstage pre-show. 










April 29, 2012

AUSTRALIAN FASHION WEEK : STREET STYLE : DAY 01

Our photographer on the ground, Jamie Wdziekonski of OhJamie, captures Australian Fashion Week's most stylish gentleman on the first day of the five-day event, running through Friday. 





THE EDIT: BALLY SAPEI BRIEFCASE

With Fashion Week upon us, accessories become more important than ever, and the discreet elegance of Bally's 'Sapei' is the perfect addition to any gentleman's arm. The briefcase, in smooth or grained leather, features a brass security lock and removable shoulder strap, and is available in store and online now. 

April 26, 2012

THE EDIT: THREE OVER ONE

With Australian Fashion Week fast approaching, today we dedicate The Edit to one of our favourite Australian designers, Jim Thompson of menswear label Three Over One. Mr Thompson's rugged, masculine aesthetic is not only completely original but, when he set up his business in 2009, was revolutionary in the stitched-up men's market. Here we feature our favourite looks from his current winter collection in which he continues to reinterpret classic menswear.




April 19, 2012

THE MEN'S ISSUE: PART TWO

Yesterday I debated the place of menswear at Australian Fashion Week, questioning IMG's capacity to cater for menswear designers. Responses were mixed: some of the designers and PRs that contacted me in the aftermath agreed, noting that in their experience there was little return on investment as a men's label, while others said that the event itself was fine, if only it was scheduled a few months earlier. Today I spoke with Jarrad Clark, Global Production Director of IMG, the organiser of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia, who offers answers to some of the questions raised in my original piece. 


MOS: Where does menswear fit into MBFWA? 
JC: We've always been a fan of getting menswear on the schedule. Over the years we've had menswear represented by virtue of [designers] showing both men's and women's collections, but we're glad to have a group menswear show this year. Hopefully that will encourage more menswear designers to do an individual show. Of course, it needs to make sense from a business perspective, and the menswear as a category is a bit smaller, but with the likes of Ksubi and Song For The Mute showing [this season], hopefully we'll see this area grow. 
MOS: But the return-on-investment must be there for a designer, and most of the international delegates are from the women's side of the business. 
JC: One of things with buyers is that whether they're buying for a specific category or not, if something is great they'll report it back to their business. And with the advent of online coverage, people can access it. So much of the collections is shown instantly to a very wide audience via social media, so people don't necessarily need to be front row at the show to learn about a brand. 
MOS: Is IMG in a position to stage a menswear specific day, or an event of its own? 
JC: Well, look, we've had men's specific days before, but then you run into problems within that, such as restrictions on the number of models available. Having men's spread throughout the week is a much greater reflection of reality, and like our fashion weeks in Berlin and New York, we have a smaller percentage of men's shows than women's. 
MOS: Many of the designers that I spoke with mentioned timing being a big factor in choosing not to show at MBFWA. 
JC: Timing is a big ongoing conversation, and we did survey menswear designers at the end of last year along with women's and the broader industry, and that's something we're talking about at large. I think when menswear designers see the success of those showing on the runway this year, we'll begin to attract more. People do like to see clothes on a model in a runway format, and I'm a big fan of Australian menswear so the more at Fashion Week the better. 


-Mitchell Oakley Smith
@MrOakleySmith

April 18, 2012

THE EDIT: DRIES VAN NOTEN SATCHEL

We couldn't walk past Elizabeth Bay's Meanwhile without noting this leather Dries Van Noten satchel in the window. From the Belgian designer's current spring/summer collection, the rust-coloured bag in soft leather retails for $800. For more details, contact Meanwhile, 02 9357 3071.

THE MEN'S ISSUE


With all the brouhaha surrounding designers Josh Goot and Dion Lee - the jewels in Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia's crown, according to The Vine - withdrawing from the schedule with only two weeks until kick-off, it brought to mind what else is missing: menswear. Not that it's ever been vastly different - last year there were around five men's labels showing - but with the rise of men's retail in the country, an indication of Australian men's interest in fashion and style, one assumes that with it would come a greater presence of men's fashion at what is debatably the country's leading fashion industry press and sales event. 

The week, of course, is not completely devoid of menswear, but there's very little of it, and with the exception of Song for the Mute - who have garnered much attention with their 2011 win of the LMFF Designer Award and subsequently showed their collection during Paris Men’s Fashion Week - the designers showing men's looks are doing so only as a component of their overall collection, the other, larger part being womenswear. Those designers include Ksubi, who this year have opted for a more intimate presentation, choosing instead to focus on the 'fashion' element of their label, the result several years brand rebuilding and the work of designer Guy Hastie and consultant Christine Centenera of Harper's Bazaar; and Christopher Esber, who'll show a series of men's shirts, an extension of his growing womenswear label. Kirrily Johnston typically includes a sprinkling of men's looks in her shows, which are, with all due respect, really more unisex samples than they are a serious study in menswear, but this has been nixed in favour of more female looks for 2012. Fernando Frisoni, once a mainstay on the men's fashion circuit, has turned largely to womenswear, and is opting this year for a party instead. Romance Was Born often showed tokenistic men's looks but, as per last year, they're dedicating their energy to womenswear. 


There is, interestingly, a dedicated men's group show, but the quality of some its participants is questionable to say the least and, in my opinion, group shows do little to adequately represent a designer’s vision or aesthetic in any real way. It’s simply too much altogether, and by the time the last designer sends their models down, most the audience has forgotten about the others. 


We were provided a taste of From Britten at last year's LMFF, and their take on traditional suiting – light, relaxed, modern – is interesting. It might have made for more of a statement for the label to show solo, but of course cost may have had something to do with prohibiting that. Or, perhaps, they’re testing the waters of showing in Sydney. Perth's Zsadar, which seems a fusion of draped androgyny and traditional tailoring, will make its east coast debut, and the growth of the label suggests they might be onto something. There's a few relatively unknowns - Injury, Kalb & Etiw, Nathan Paul Swimwear - and Singapore's Mils which, despite the lack of information readily available given its youth, shows real promise. Some might ask what it's doing on the schedule of an Australian fashion week, but if the event is ever to become truly international it must welcome designers from other countries, making it a more attractive destination for international delegates.


But as for the menswear component of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia, the real question is why it’s so slim.


For a brand like Ksubi, any such public outing surely proves its worth in media return, given the hype that surrounds it. Song for the Mute will be able to ride on the media profile accumulated from the LMFF win, and Mr Esber's collection, by virtue of doing something new in showing menswear, is definitely something people will be interested to see. But beyond that, I'm not so sure of the value provided by showing, and perhaps that why many choose not to. Menswear does, by virtue of its history, more suit a winter-focused runway, which IMG hasn't, since 2007, offered in Australia. And with five days of largely female-focused shows and events, menswear seems to get lost in the crowd at Australian Fashion Week. Does it warrant its own event? And if so, who would attend? Or, perhaps more importantly, would it be worth the designers' time and money, given the small number of men's fashion retailers in the country, and smaller still number of media outlets? 


Huw Bennett, one third of Vanishing Elephant, which has, since 2009, quickly become one of the country's leading and most broadly distributed menswear labels, says that the label's non-presence at Australian Fashion Week is simply to do with timing. "We’d be interested in showing if the dates were more in line with our selling season," he says, noting that his team finished selling the spring and summer collections in early March, two months prior to fashion week. This is the case for the vast majority of labels that show - something that some designers, such as Easton Pearson and Willow, have spoken publicly about - but for menswear labels, the lack of dedicated men's press makes showing so as to obtain media coverage redundant. "There's simply not enough publications to warrant such an expense," says Mr Bennett. Brent Wilson, the designer behind the Sydney-based label of the same name agrees with Mr Bennett, despite having shown at Australian Fashion Week when launching his label in 2004. “At the time,” he says, “it was a great platform to enter the market and gain some recognition, through both the Mercedes-Benz Start-Up program, but having now secured all of the accounts in Australia that we desire and built strong relationships with [the press], we find that our money is better spent on other ways to push and promote our collections.” Mr Wilson recently showed his collection at Project, the US trade show (“with a great return on money spent,” he says) and is stocked already in over 50 stores in the Australian domestic market, most of them larger groups (he holds accounts with 24 David Jones doors, for example) as well as his own Sydney store. 


Last year's inaugural trade show The Wearer's Right went some way to providing a local platform for menswear labels. It's offering was unisex and a mix of local and international, but it brought in the collections of such labels as D.A.C., Limedrop, Marshall Artist, Neuw Denim, Orri Henrisson, Nom*D, P.A.M., Song for the Mute, Saint Augustine Academy, Stolen Girlfriends Club, Three Over One, Trimapee and Vanishing Elephant – a considerable number even by international standards. The response, however, was lukewarm, with some labels suggesting that the event has some years to go in attracting the quantity of retailers that a trade show of its kind should. The Wearer’s Right has since considerably downsized its operation and sold its license to another company, with its future currently in the air, but perhaps an event like that – whether an existing trade show of sorts, or a new event altogether – would be in a better position to stage a men’s fashion event, comprising shows and sales, than MBFWA is.  



-Mitchell Oakley Smith
@MrOakleySmith

April 17, 2012

INTRODUCING: KELVIN HO


In a few years, Kelvin Ho’s name has become synonymous with retail store design. Thankfully for Ho, he works in the upper echelons of the fashion system, collaborating with forward-thinking labels like Sass & Bide, Willow and M.J. Bale and, in doing so, creates spaces that blur the line between traditional retail and immersive experience. Mr Ho never set out to work in the retail sect of the design industry, but his ability to translate a business’s aesthetic into a broader environment is unparalleled. It makes then that the architect should find himself working on several hospitality and tourism projects, least of all a luxury resort in the Maldives that comprises private villas, bars and restaurants. As Mr Ho explains: “It seems like a natural extension from the fashion projects as you have the same objective: to create a three-dimensional image that both inspires and challenges.” Having proved his talent for pushing boundaries since launching his own business, Akin Creative, Mr Ho’s first hospitality project came in the form of the Merivale-owned Ms. G’s restaurant in Potts Point, which required the conversion of an a long-vacant restaurant space in collaboration with interiors stylist and author Sibella Court. Mr Ho and Ms Court are again collaborating on the creation of a bar in Sydney’s nightlife-desolate CBD. “It’s fascinating because we’re part of a shift – quite early, I think – towards a small-bar scene in the city,” says Mr Ho of the project, which is located in the basement of one of the city’s many heritage-listed buildings. Given the existing architecture and the trend for smaller, somewhat secret drinking holes, Mr Ho is drawing inspiration from the era of prohibition for his design. Mr Ho was awarded the contract of designing a luxury resort in the Maldives, one of ten architects that was shortlisted, at the end of last year. “We are redefining the luxury resort experience,” he says of the project, imagining the final product as refined and low-key. “The hospitality and tourism sector is full of interesting projects, and people are happy to experiment with ideas. The aim is to create spaces where people can have a good time.” 

Mr Ho photographed by Bowen Arico on 02 February 2012 at 
The Rat's Nest in East Sydney, Australia.

April 16, 2012

RETAIL RENEWAL

In line with the transformation Sydney CBD's retail sector over the past year, Emporio Armani has this week unveiled a revitalised store in its existing home at 4 Martin Place. The two-level store, which houses the Emporio Armani line for men and women alongside Armani Jeans, the sports collection EA7 and a selection of accessories, now sits reflects its international counterparts, the redesign conceived and directed by Giorgio Armani and his team of architects. According to a release, the store, which will be toasted at an industry-event tomorrow evening, is made up of decadent finishes: light marmorino ceiling, glossy stone flooring, black crystal wall coverings, glass shelving.

BLUE BEARDS

The season's preeminent colour is showcased in full bloom. 

Mr Hall wears JAC + JACK sweater, BURBERRY hat. 
Top: LAGERFELD sweater, BURBERRY shirt & pants, CK CALVIN KLEIN shoes.

JAC + JACK sweaters, COLAB glasses. 

BALLY shirt & jacket, THREE OVER ONE tie. 

BRENT WILSON shirt, ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA jacket, GIORGIO ARMANI pocket square. 
NICK HALL/LONDON MANAGEMENT | PHOTOGRAPHY ASSISTANCE PETER PLOZZA

April 15, 2012

INTRODUCING: PAGEANT

Every once in a while a fashion label emerges that makes you realise exactly why you love fashion. The cleverness and innovation and artistry all rushing back, dressing becomes a distinctly appealing proposition. Unfortunately, these moments happen all too rarely, particularly in menswear, a genre of design where newness in large doses doesn't make for a viable business, and viable businesses don't often call for newness. What a welcome surprise then for Pageant to enter the market, offering that cleverness and innovation and artistry that fashion, particularly at this moment in time, so needs. There's so much that makes Pageant interesting. Firstly, it's a label created by two women, Amanda Cumming and Kate Reynolds, for men. Secondly, Pageant, as a clothing label, forms only one part of what is a multi-disciplinary practice. This, Ms Cumming and Ms Reynolds believe, helps keep things fresh. Having met after graduating high school, the pair entered RMIT University's Bachelor of Arts in 2002, both graduating, after a gap year, in 2006 with a Bachelor of Design (Fashion Design) with no less than first-class honours. LIke many creatives in their early years, Ms Cumming and Ms Reynolds did it tough. "We lived on almost no money and worked our asses off in London for two years," says Ms Reynolds of the time in which they interned with designers of the calibre of Christopher Kane. "All our experience gave us the confidence to do it ourselves." And so they did, launching Pageant with a spring collection in late 2011. The designers repurpose casual sportswear - running suits and windbreakers, for example - in tongue-in-cheek ways, making modern styles that seem inherently linked with 1990s youth culture. "There are so few menswear labels in Australia that we felt it was a unique opportunity for us to create something  Australian but with an international sensibility," says Ms Reynolds, noting that the act of designing not for themselves makes the project an enjoyable challenge. The designers are interested in the rite of passage of progressing from a boy to a man, and raw inspiration from the men in their lives - boyfriends, fathers, brothers and friends. "I guess it is our interpretation of how men would like to feel wearing clothes," adds Ms Cumming. "Of course we can't experience the majority of our collections, which pushes us to really explore cut, fit and shape." 

Ms Cumming and Ms Reynolds photographed by Jordan Graham on 22 January 2012 in Melbourne, Australia. Pageant's autumn/winter 2012 collection, Wet Dream, below. 






April 7, 2012

DENIM DICHOTOMY



For what is essentially a high street fashion label, Topman - the male counterpart of Topshop - puts many more traditionally esteemed design houses to shame with their innovative approach to and embrace of creativity. What differentiates the British powerhouse from other fast-fashion outlets is that its offering is not second-hand; Topman supports the work of talented designers as opposed to ripping them off. What this means for independent designers is an opportunity to present their wares to much greater customer base, helping to build their own, not to mention a (sometimes much-needed) financial injection. Just in time for the long weekend, Topman announce the Denim Jacket Project: a series of, obviously, denim jackets available in store and online, designed, in this instance, by six of the world's leading menswear designers that have collaborated with or been supported by Topman (by way of its Fashion East initiative MAN) in the past. That line-up - including Oliver Spencer, Katie Eary, Mark McNairy and Shaun Samson - is evidence of the talent that has been fostered by Topman's philanthropy. As Topman's design director Gordon Richardson explains: "We all own one but this project is the perfect excuse to re-evaluate the most iconic of all wardrobe staples. Left to the dexterous hands of six leading menswear designers, we have reinvention on a great scale." Our pick is Mr McNairy's cut-and-sew raw denim number, which seemingly fuses two different jackets together to create one, but the offering is so vast that, dare we say, there's something for just about everyone. 







From top: Mr McNairy's design; Katie Eary; Lou Dalton; 
Oliver Spencer; Shaun Samson; Topman Design.

April 4, 2012

A NEW DAWN

Brisbane-born menswear outfitter The Cloakroom may have closed its outpost in Sydney's Surry Hills, but yesterday saw the launch of a standalone store in Brisbane's new Wintergarden complex, housing its ready-to-wear line Pistols at Dawn. Andrew Byrne, The Cloakroom's founder and director, has essentially divided the business with the opening of this store, dedicating the location on Brisbane's Edward Street to made-to-measure suiting and the new store to off-the-rack garments, making the overall offering more complete. For winter, there's a brilliant selection of cotton chinos and cords, new shirting styles and a heavier range of jackets. Congratulations to Mr Byrne and his team on this milestone.