Tuesday, August 10, 2010

BRAND PROFILES - Menswear Designers to Watch

Menswear never ceases to amaze me. Just when you thought that if you were to see another bright colored cardigan, slim blazer, or updated bomber jacket you were going to kill yourself, a new wave of designers pops up and re-invents the wheel. And when I say re-inventing the wheel, I mean it.

Menswear is beyond difficult. Not that I've ever designed, but I can say without a doubt, from the consumers perspective, and an avid and informed consumer at that, it is still hard to get my attention and keep me coming back for more (especially at a designer price point). Designers struggle to stay consistant in order to develop a brand identity, while trying to stay current in order to gain the attention of the press, but not tend towards the trends too much at the risk of alienating a more conservative customer.

For all of menswear's trials and tribulations, these three designers I am presenting to you have succeeded in capturing my attention, both in store and in the press, and if I can find their wears again this Fall, I will definitely be investing. They have each followed their own paths, succeeding through connections, collaborations, and in all cases, a design aesthetic that is unique from anything I have seen on the market, yet tamed and focused enough to appeal to a wide variety of consumers. As it is my 100th post, I thought it fitting to address the future of menswear and get a little personal. I will try to be brief, but please excuse me if I gush, as these three men have swiftly become my top three favorite designers in menswear today.

Antonio Azzuolo - "a. a."
Born in Montreal and schooled in Toronto, Atonio Azzuolo has had a very mobile fashion history. After working at such esteemed fashion houses as Kenzo and Hermés, Mr. Azzuolo most recently lent his talents to Ralph Lauren as design director of their Purple and Black labels. Now there is resumé my friends! After a stint in Milan he was presented with the opportunity to move to Paris, which is where he launched his line, a. a., with its first presentation for Fall 2008.

Azzuolo's defining characteristic, in my view, is his playfulness. His first collection, which I remember stumbling upon a few years ago, was chock full of beautifully tailored suits, lucious coats, and slim pants and jackets. Azzuolo put his own spin on the already effortless garments by adding fur, and pounds of it at that: Giant fur mittens, fur vests, fur collars, fur double breasted overcoats! I wish words could really express how happy this made me the first time I saw it. This designer had made beautiful clothes that would stand alone on any menswear runway, but he chose to add a controversial fabric that could possibly turn off a whole host of customers. Personally, I don't wear fur, but I would wear everything and anything else Mr. Azzuolo touched because, in my eyes, it turns to pure design genius. The fur makes the collection, but it doesn't make the clothes. That's what grabbed me back in 2008 and what has led me to follow Antonio Azzuolo's career to his most current collection for Fall 2010.

Now let's fast forward a little bit. For this coming Fall season, Azzuolo has taken us into the scene of a stylish western. Cowboy hats served to set the stage, but the aztec colored nordic sweaters, supple waffle knit Henley's, gorgeously tailored blazers and slim dress pants speak for themselves. Bright colors are displayed in cardigans, fingerless gloves and blazers, popping in a collection that offers mostly dark blacks, navy's and grey's, suited for the colder days of the Fall/Winter season. Playfulness in this collection translates to shorts with high socks, fur lapels on jackets, and heavy chains piled around the neck.

Azzuolo should be every man's go-to for the fitted school-boy blazer, slim dress pants, chunky knit, and fur (if that's your thing). No matter how expensive his clothes may be (and judging on the look alone, I'm guessing very expensive), I can assure you they are worth every last penny. These are the pieces that would get you noticed. Not because they are flashy or pretentious, but because they are beautiful.

To hear more about his beginnings and get a closer look at his Fall 2010 collection, check out his interview video on Arcade 44.

BUY FOR FALL - All of Look 4 (pictured below)

Victor Glemaud
Victor Glemaud has been in the fashion industry for years. Having worked under Patrick Robinson (now of Gap fame), as well as the storied houses of Versace and Alexander McQueen, and most recently Tommy Hilfiger, Mr. Glemaud knows his way around apparel. This much has remained evident with his collections for his eponymous label, which debuted in 2006.

Glemaud is famous for his knitwear. Luxe henley's, drawstring pants, vests, and turtlenecks populate his runway in a multitude of gorgeous patterned knits. His staple piece, the Double Layer Cardigan, is, in my mind, a sweater revolution the likes of which should be worn to death by every man.

Judging by the press tab on his website (more of an archive), having a staple certainly hasn't hindered Mr. Glemaud's success. He's even popular with the ladies, affording him the opportunity to create a capsule collection of knits for Henri Bendel (back in the day when they still carried ready-to-wear). A line of sweaters for Earnest Sewn and a group of special edition swim trunks for Quicksilver are also on the list of collaborations Glemaud has racked up over the years.

Mr. Glemaud keeps his collections of mostly knitwear intriguing with bright primary colors and the use of rich heritage brands such as Levi's, Gucci, and Dr. Martin's in his styling. Through this, you can already see every one of his pieces fitting into your wardrobe. His prices fall in the luxury category with his Double Layer Cardigan priced at approximately $590, cashmere polos running around $400, shirts around $185, and pants in the neighborhood of $290.

Mr. Glemaud's collections are instantly eye catching and charming. Not only are his wears beautifully designed and fit to perfection, but they are standouts for their rich hues, quirky features (i.e. moth holes), and geometric patterns. On the other hand, they can also act as supporting pieces, blending seamlessly into one's uniform to add a chic and refined element.

His stocklist demonstrates the approval from the retail elite with placement at both Colette in Paris and Odin in New York. Overall, his line is a standout and a new direction for knitwear, and menswear as a whole, that is all things comfortable, wearable, and fashionable.

BUY FOR FALL - All of Look 6 (pictured below)

Simon Spurr - "Spurr"
Ah, to be blessed with such a great name and such a clean and crisp design aesthetic and ability as Simon Spurr. It's going to be hard for any of his menswear peers to stand up to this tailoring juggernaut, aptly trained at YSL (under Heidi Slimane) and CK Calvin Klein. And did I mention that he's British? Ya, good luck guys. A quick review of his Fall 2010 collection (his first official runway outing), offers a window into the Spurr lifestyle. British gents in expensive and expertly cut versions of the dandy sartorial gentleman's wardrobe.

Come to Spurr for the perfect coat, suit, pants, bags, jacket, jeans... I guess the perfect everything now that I think about it. He makes three-peice suits look youthful, double breasted leather jackets look urban and effortless, and man bags look unquestionably masculine.

And let me just quickly linger on the jeans. His denim is exceptional. The cut is slim, but not circulation strangling, the washes are essentials (white, grey, black, faded, and raw), and all of the styles are fitting for both casual and dressy occasions. While his price tags may be heavy for most (around $325 for denim and up for almost everything else), his pieces are classics with modern features that will keep you looking in-the-know, but last you well beyond the now.

For full disclosers sake, I will admit that Spurr is the only brand of the three addressed that I have actually invested in as of now (A button down shirt and a pair of jeans). The jeans are my go to, and my dad has officially stolen the shirt, proving that his styles work for all ages.

With powerful connections (Anna Wintour stopped by backstage at his show), an enviable stocklist (Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys to name a couple), and a concise vision for his brand (watch his behind the scenes video on his website to see more of what he's all about), Simon Spurr is destined for great things in menswear.

BUY FOR FALL - All of Look 39 (pictured below)

I encourage you all to follow the links to each designer's respective website and explore their wears, even if it's only to marvel.

Photos courtesy of T Magazine, Interview Magazine, GQ, and the designers individual websites.

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