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The value of fabric in defining a man's style, the must-haves of the male wardrobe, the diktats of a perfect tailored suit: a chat with the former creative director of Gieves and Hawkes

His professional history has always been in men’s clothing, mainly formal and tailored. Over the years he has consulted for many brands, both in the UK and overseas. He has known the world of Tollegno 1900 since immemorial time having started his career as a designer and working with tailoring products. Today he owns his own creative consultancy: no one better than John Harrison can give some tips on what style is and what elements define it, starting from the choice of the best fabric for a garment that wants to be remembered.

When is a garment defined as luxury ?

In recent years the word luxury has been used many ways, and applied to many items. A luxury garment generally has craft and quality at its heart. The fabric, detailing, and construction. Generally it is associated with price, but this is not so true anymore, quality and emotion are also embedded with luxury. Modern luxury garments need to address the environment, as much as the opulence they once used to be defined by.

What characteristics must a fabric have, to be chosen to create an outfit within a luxury brand ?

Any that relate to the luxury brand in question. For example a luxury sportswear brand will not be so interested in the micron of the wool, more the technical qualities of the cloth. So it can be very varied. Having said that,  the finish, performance, touch, drape and overall appearance will need to be of a certain standard. More and more relevant will be the traceability,  environmental impact, and the transparency of fabrics, which will appeal to luxury brands, and the newer consumer.

Does a fabric define the men and women who choose it ?How?

In a subtle way, always. Everybody make a decision about  colour, pattern or texture, and in a way it is defining. It becomes more obvious when we begin to look at Bespoke, or “Su Misura”. There the individual makes much stronger defining decisions about what the fabrics says about them. Confidence, type of career, character, all play a part in this selection

What types of garment does the contemporary man look for in his wardrobe ?

Depending on the man, his life, age and outlook, he is looking for adaptability, flexibility, comfort and performance. A garment that can be used for different occasions, not just a single use outfit. Garments that are produced with sustainable and low planet impact, will be important .

How to define style? Is there a public figure who represents it?

Modern mens style is very varied, and growing much more individual, less uniform and grouped. The acceptance of this has impacted style, so many more men are comfortable with mixed outfits; blending tradition, sports, natural and synthetic. Style is individuality. Obviously there are many public figures who ooze style, but Riz Ahmed sums up the new variations here really well.

What characteristics must the fabric have to create a perfect “tailored” suit?

Mainly it is the relationship between the fabric, make and internal construction. Firstly the weight of the fabric must be just right for the type of tailored garment, especially if it is to be a lightweight suit, a more substantial cloth can be manipulated easier than a fine cloth that can show even the smallest tension. Secondly, the set of the fabric is essential for moulding and shaping the garment, the way it hangs. Thirdly its stability. If it is a pattern cloth, warp and weft balance are essential to match pattern within the garment.

3DWOOL by Tollegno 1900 is often used to make tailored garments: what makes it suitable?

The 3DWOOL technology, and process to weave the cloth makes it very stable for tailoring, without losing the wool characteristics of drape, touch and resilience. The end product is always clean and will not alter in time due to humidity or wear. It is a great blend of tradition and technology, producing a very versatile cloth either for formal pieces or sports inspired clothing.

What is the garment that should never be missing in a man’s wardrobe? What about a woman?

Some type, or even a few types of blue jacket, or blazer. These garments are super flexible and can support so many uses. From wool, linen, cotton, jersey, all have must have place in a man’s wardrobe. The uses are endless, dressed with a white and navy T shirt for a cool nautical look, through to bow tie prep. I asked my wife about the must have in her wardrobe. Always a black cashmere rollneck.

Smart working has also led to a change in the needs of look: to stay at home we look for comfortable, often not very sought after clothes. How do luxury brands respond to this change of direction?

A big proportion of a luxury brands appeal was the “ be seen “ factor, from red carpet, parties, even a simple Sunday brunch. So in some respect that will not change too much when we can mix and go out again. Some may argue that there will be even more show when life gets back to normal. Luxury brands may not need to change their DNA too much, but to be prepared for bigger E-com business, and better digital interface. To offer expensive “ stay at home “ items will appeal to a few, but the general consumer will not invest. Even wealthy consumers are trading down, so luxury brands need to focus on the authenticity of the brand and value of their product. The planet impact and sustainable should be a good play for luxury, as often the item is an investment, new consumers will look for more transparency here.





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