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Monday, March 5, 2012

Gieves & Hawkes Goes Back To Its Roots

Gieves & Hawkes Goes Back To Its Roots

Try to imagine the owner of an esteemed Savile Row shop being told about this newfangled thing called London fashion week. Can’t you just see him, the posh old bloke, sitting there at the dinner table and pray-telling some junior interlocutor to explain himself the way Maggie Smith’s Countess Dowager did on Downton Abbey: “What is a wee-kend?”

Well, there’s no such sniffy skepticism at Gieves & Hawkes—the centuries-old tailors were the storied street’s only representative at LFW this year. But then, they’ve got reason to show their stuff. Design director Barry Tulip, who joined the company last spring after stints with Zegna and Dunhill, has plugged G&H into the fashion world with a Fall ready-to-wear collection that brings a hint of designer point of view to the house’s firmly bespoke tradition.

By shifting some focus off the suit and on to military-inspired outerwear, G&H is actually getting back to its roots. James Watson Gieve began his distinguished career in 1835 making navy jackets. This helps explain the choice of venue (Somerset House’s Navy Board Rooms, where onetime customer Horatio Nelson did his war planning) and the fact that an eight-button admiral’s topcoat served as the presentation’s centerpiece.

That coat is made out of fine cashmere, with horn buttons that reference Admiral Nelson by way of a nautical rope motif, and it’s perfectly contemporary. It comes across as less nineteenth-century than 1960’s, an era that a lot of the London tailoring world has been feeling lately. The slightly wider, drop-notch lapels on sport coats pay homage to swinging-London menswear icon Tommy Nutter, Tulip explained, and the geometric patterns on the collection’s silk ties and pocket squares were inspired by sixties decorator David Hicks. Even the lookbook is shot in a portrait style that brings to mind the photography of David Bailey and Lord Snowdon (and, to this reporter’s eye at least, features a model with a striking resemblance to a young Michael York).

All of which is to say that Gieves & Hawkes seems to have embraced the idea that when it comes to ready-to-wear, even tradition-minded men of means crave a little designer sensibility. As Tulip said, “To put it well, bluntly, or, you know, in a crass way, I suppose it’s value for money.”


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