The Big Idea: Dressed to Impress, Again
In the mighty tome Dressing the Man: Mastering the Art of Permanent Fashion by Alan Flusser, the author posits the rules of dressing well for the modern man in 13 gorgeously illustrated and deeply researched chapters. From proportion as the foundation of style (Chapter 3) to an entire section dedicated to the dress shirt, you’ll find it in here. But Flusser wrote it BC (before Covid), when the work-from-home gambit played out in all its slovenly glory as half-dressed people had meetings in pyjamas and wore sweats on Zoom calls (if they wore anything at all, with everyone from lawyers to senators appearing in flagrante, if you will).
In the turn of the recent decade, for obvious reasons, athleisure became the most popular subsection in fashion to take off, and sweatpants were no longer la moda non grata. Many a Gucci, Rick Owens, Moncler, and Brunello Cucinelli wool and cashmere iteration was sold and Net-a-Ported. With a curiously raised eyebrow, we thought of Karl Lagerfeld, who famously said in Vogue, “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life, so you bought some sweatpants.” Well, in the defeatist pandemic years, casual wear sold in the millions, as did oversized silhouettes, streetwear, problem patterns, and logomania. Celebrity collabs reached their zenith-slash-nadir. The new diktat of fashion was that there are no rules as the hoi polloi embraced all in the name of comfort.
But that was then. What’s the current state of affairs?
From the ashes, in 2022, something interesting emerged on social media in various permutations of the term street style (or street chic), where buyers far and wide commended effortlessly elegant struts down the streets of Milan, London, New York, Tokyo, Beijing—and, dare we say it, Hong Kong. Fine tailoring, exquisite detailing, vintage; a return to form and function, to sartorial elegance. Men with pocket squares and cashmere scarves, polished shoes, and tone on tone dressing. It wasn’t a vintage reel being replayed but a live show. As people returned to work, they returned to structure.
This was backed up by the annual reports from Retail in Asia, Jing Daily, Business of Fashion, and others, which noted that though popularity on social media may have gone to trending brands and sponsored KOLs, strong sales went to the long-standing arbiters of style like Ralph Lauren, Zegna, and Hermès. Zegna’s total revenues for the third quarter of 2022 were up by 27.5 percent to €357 million (HK$2.96 billion). On the Chinese mainland and in South Korea, Ralph Lauren sales soared, while demand for Hermès, despite the economic downturn, stayed consistently high as sales rose 24 percent to €3.13 billion (HK$25.9 billion) propelled by Asia.
CEOs and designers continued to play musical chairs: most notably, the abrupt departure from Gucci of Alessandro Michele, while Prada picked former Dior executive Gianfranco D’Attis as chief executive officer for its flagship. Whatever happened behind the seams, the bottom line for the best and biggest brands remained on an incline.
Of course, sales figures aren’t the best indicator of the best clothes, but it’s pleasing to see the success of houses that remain sagaciously committed to quality and refinement. As is oft said, fashion is temporary, style is forever. With that in mind, cheers to the perfectionists.
It’s hard to pinpoint when exactly Louis Vuitton sneakers jumped ship from hip-hop must-have to blue-chip commodity. The brand gets a shout-out in so many R&B albums, it’s an urban hero: see the name drop as far back as 1992 in the lyrics of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s Swap Meet Louie, and, of course, Drake created a song for the house in 2017. By the time the late lamented Virgil Abloh was on board, the unique nuptials of street chic and high fashion were set to gospel.
Of the many accessories that stood out last year, we’ve joined the chorus in showing our love for the best version of the LV Trainer sneaker, which combines monogram leather with calfskin embossed with the brand’s Mini Monogram pattern. Designed by Abloh, the iconic model was inspired by vintage basketball sneakers. Its elaborately constructed upper, with its rich detailing and Louis Vuitton signatures, takes seven hours to stitch. This is not a mass-produced accessory but one for those curating a collection.
And there’s great value to it beyond fandom, with Abloh’s Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force Ones auction by Sotheby’s raising US$25.3 million (HK$197 million) in February 2022, one pair selling for US$352,800 (HK$2.7 million). It’s not just a shoe, it’s an investment.
PS: While compiling this collection, we couldn’t let go of the brand’s signature bags either, particularly the City Keepall in LV Aerogram leather, dyed a blazing shade of saffron yellow. From the tone-on-tone metal LV monogram to the leather tag and the signed Jacquard strap, it’s one hell of a manbag.
Images courtesy of Louis Vuitton.
Celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, homegrown Ascot Chang has come a long way since opening its doors on Tsim Sha Tsui’s Kimberley Road in 1953. With multiple locations now dotting the globe, what was once a small bespoke suit and shirt maker has become a globally recognised phenomenon.
Every country has its own signature style in tailoring that’s unique to it; think of the classic Italian masters, the rigid uniformed perfection of Savile Row, or the athletic yet relaxed features of American outfitters. With Hong Kong being a melting pot that caters to multiple cultures, the vast library of Ascot Chang is second to none and the selection it provides of fabric, cut, and silhouette caters to all.
To choose a bespoke tailoring house in a city with multiple options may appear as folly, but stepping into this noble house and seeing the precision, alacrity, and finesse with which the team executes orders always makes a convert.
Image courtesy of Ascot Chang.
It’s impossible. Not one of the editors could pick the definitive look from the Alexander McQueen Spring-Summer 2023 menswear collection and crown it the pièce de résistance. The collection presented 29 polished looks, inspiring jaded fashion scribes to sing praises as spring suits and summer casuals appeared one after another in razor-sharp silhouettes.
A Double-breasted Tailored Coat, crafted in black double diamond print cady suiting enhanced with a shirt in double diamond print cotton poplin and cigarette trousers was “the one” for some. Others tipped their hats to an Asymmetric Tailored Jacket and Wide-legged Trousers in ivory grain de poudre. A collection usually has ebbs and flows, but to see every look honed and hued to perfection is a rarity.
The statement released by the brand read like a sartorial sonnet, if not an extended double haiku: “Science and structure, the dissection of tailoring, deconstructed and reconstructed. Supernature, the cosmos and the night sky. Muted colours reminiscent of the evening glow.”
Gun to our head, the jury broke stalemate and finally selected the Double-breasted Tailored Jacket in black fluid twill, underlined with a classic shirt in white cotton poplin and Wide-legged Trousers also in black fluid twill.
Image courtesy of Alexander McQueen.
This is the year of Oasi Cashmere, and we’re spooling back the threads to reach the centre, just as Zegna intends to in its traceability and accountability. All the brand’s cashmere will be responsibly sourced, from remote farms around the world to innovative manufacturing in Italy, and fully traceable by 2024. While there are a few fashion entities that have been called out for greenwashing, Zegna’s reaching for receipts.
“Oasi Cashmere is a central development on Our Road to Traceability,” said the official statement from the brand. “As industrious masters of fabric, we take the world’s finest raw materials which are manufactured in Italy: this is a part of our legacy of action ignited generations ago.”
It’s staggering how well Ermenegildo Zegna does in Asia, being one of the first luxury brands to launch on the Chinese mainland as far back as 1991, with a fan following for its impeccable suits and fine fabric—the very fabric that’s now essential in the brand’s vertically integrated business model.
There are more than 70 pieces in the Oasi Cashmere collection, which is crafted in an earthy, sombre, sophisticated colour palette and in timeless silhouettes. The expression that there’s no accounting for taste might be smirky, but we’re all in for this brand that’s not only been a giant in the industry, but a model to follow.
Image courtesy of Zegna.
A Duc carriage with a horse led by a gentleman in that hue of happy citrus, the Hermès emblem and colour is instantly recognisable from a mile away. The emblem speaks to its heritage in leather goods and accessories, but our occasional contrarian spirit has led us to something less predictable: the brand’s Fresh ankle boot in calfskin and light parachute fabric with rubber sole. A bright pop of colour that can pause traffic, it’s comfortable, sporty, yet so chic. And it adds those rare attributes in high fashion, durability and practicality.
According to the brand, “Optimism, lightness… This collection expresses a heartfelt desire for oxymorons and sophistication, contrasting materials, and superimposed elements tumbling after each other. The designs—hybrid, reversible—accompany each of life’s moments.” Indeed.
A brand that also made headlines for its modern movement to the metaverse (and filed for a trademark application that will cover all things Web3, including NFTs) as well as for hiking up its prices, Hermès can seemingly do no wrong; it’s one of the few luxury houses that saw a spike in sales and profit this past year.
Image courtesy of Hermès.
A chat with a peripatetic fashion colleague who saw the preview of Tom Ford’s Autumn-Winter 2022 collection before we did in Hong Kong revealed that the iconic designer’s suits really stood out this year—watch for them, she said. “A suit?” we thought. “Sounds so muted for Ford.” But when we saw the satins, the sequins, the velvet, the furs, the jewel tones… ah, that’s the Ford we know. In a mood to get the party started again, this welcome return to rich, decadent fabrics and colours and glitter, as well as the overall polished perfection of the collection, carried the colour palette of his summer vibe forward.
Perhaps not everyone can pull off a bold floral velvet Cooper jacket, but Ford provides options for the bold and the dutiful, including a dark viscose velvet Shelton cocktail jacket. For the lion-hearted, this plum neck-to-toe look is a must-have, a celebration of the finest fabric and tone on tone.
Image courtesy of Tom Ford.
When Kim Jones joined Dior in 2018, every fashion editorial noted that he was going to shake things up in the storied brand—and how he has. “I am deeply honoured to join the house of Dior, a symbol of the ultimate elegance,” said Jones in the announcement, which came soon after his tenure at Louis Vuitton. “I am committed to create a modern and innovative male silhouette built upon the unique legacy of the house.”
While others slowly rise from the medicated somnambule of the pandemic, Jones showcased his Pre-Fall 2023 menswear collection against the backdrop of the Giza pyramids in the first week of December. Opting for the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the World as backdrop for 75 male models to strut and showcase a thoroughly modern, avant-garde menswear collection, Jones fast-forwarded the concept of a destination luxury fashion travel show to an audience that might have been reluctant to travel at great lengths in the wake of the pandemic.
The turnout was brilliant, as was the breathtaking show. Dior’s signature dove grey appeared in many a wardrobe staple, and it’s no easy task to pick what’s best from the house’s vast 2022 portfolio. As a token representing the brand’s statement that “the celestial collection celebrates a lifelong passion for travel,” we’ve opted for this Dior Lock Micro Case in Dior Gray CD Diamond Canvas and Smooth Calfskin. After that show, we see majestic pyramids everywhere, including in the triangular print of the accessories.
Image courtesy of Dior Homme.
“Before you leave the house,” said Coco Chanel, “look in the mirror and take one thing off.”
We looked at this multi-layered full look from Kiton and we wouldn’t take a damn thing off. Every piece can be a stylish staple and can mix and match with something else in your wardrobe effortlessly. Let’s start with the Black Parka, created in performance fabric with shearling lining, perfect for daily use. Cut, assembled, and sewn at the Kiton facility in Collecchio, the finesse is unmistakable.
Speaking of finesse, beneath the parka is a luxurious Grey Glen Plaid Single-breasted Suit in cashmere, wool, silk, and linen. Finely crafted textiles have historically been a cornerstone at Kiton, whose wool mill in Biella, Italy spins innovative textures and fibres. The brand has also paid attention to sustainability and mindful sourcing since long before they became buzzwords. Each Kiton suit is a celebration of bespoke sartorial arts: entirely cut and sewn by the expert hands of master tailors in Naples, it requires dozens of hours to ensure maximum quality, and an obsessive degree of attention to detail—look for the linen pocket square with hand embroidery.
Completing the look is a Dark Grey Long-sleeve Polo Neck Pullover in silk, cashmere, and linen. Kiton knitwear is crafted according to a precise process that includes 22 steps, half of which are executed by hand. It’s the sort of care taken from the minutest detail to the overall look that sets Kiton apart in a country replete with exquisite tailoring.
Image courtesy of Kiton.
Last year, much ink was spilt on features covering the Giorgio Armani Neve (winter sports) collection that catwalked (cat-sloped?) down St Moritz as the man himself, Giorgio Armani, presented ski and après-ski gear with womenswear head Silvana Armani and menswear head Leo Dell’Orco, forming the holy trinity of the mega-brand as it showcased its fusion of technical gear with supremely elegant luxury winter wear.
But then, Armani offers so much and there’s so much to unpack from the all-encompassing lifestyle brand: accessories, perfumes, Armani Exchange, Collezioni, Casa, Dolci, Fiori, Junior, Baby… a life and lifestyle showcased like no other. To cherry pick from this orchard?
Well, we went back to the basics: a contemporary classic head-to-toe suit from the one whose own standards of artisanry are so high, anything less than perfect is unacceptable. Put up the lookbook and throw a dart at any page, and you’ll find a timeless elegance like no other. We’ve honed in on a Single-breasted Suit with Peak Lapel, in a blue wool herringbone. The ensemble is perfected with an Italian-collar shirt in a geometrical blue and grey print, paired with a waistcoat—well, a V-neck Double-breasted Vest with Contrast Details, realised in blue velvet.
Image courtesy of Armani.
Do you see British tailoring and a Peaky Blinders vibe when you see the Polo Originals by Ralph Lauren? Well, so do we, but with a uniquely American approach to styling, seen in how the quintessentially American brand mixes the rugged with the posh, crafting indelibly American Ivy League uniforms that blend the classic and the modern. There’s a great sense of polish, savoir faire, and timelessness to the Polo Original collection that’s clearly inspired by the spirit of sportsmanship.
“A curated assortment of menswear that celebrates the return to Polo Ralph Lauren’s origins,” says the brand. And we’re celebrating the entire range here, but a few pieces do stand out: the Fair Isle Wool Sweaters are inspired by the fishermen of the Shetland Islands and have us dreaming of winter escapes; the Oilcloth Trench Coats tailored in Italy from British Millerain oilcloth evoke classic British walking jackets; and the iconic masculine silhouettes in custom-made Shetland tweed, crafted by heritage atelier Abraham Moon & Sons. It’s a collection for the ages.
Image courtesy of Ralph Lauren.
An explosion of multiple hues, fabrication, and startling full head-to-toe looks with glittering accessories; how do you pick from the Fall-Winter kaleidoscope presented by Alessandro Michele at Gucci? From our sometimes sombre and sophisticated sartorial selects, here’s a colourful aberration: the Gucci Fluid Drill Studded Jacket paired with a Boxy Shirt, Trousers with Stud Embroidery, a leather tie, and the full look’s cherry on top: a felt beret in red. What’s not to like in the fun and folly of…
Stop the press.
Alessandro Michele leaves Gucci after seven years as creative director.
As we were heading to print, headlines overflowed and the song stopped in an industry famed for musical chairs. Kering’s chair and chief executive François-Henri Pinault thanked Michele for his seven-year tenure. “His passion, his imagination, his ingenuity and his culture put Gucci centre stage, where its place is,” he said.
Indeed, Michele’s fun and flair seemed to be embraced by everyone with equal ease. The vivid colours and material, gender fluidity, celebrity collaborations—in particular that with Harry Styles, whose Ha Ha Ha Collection created a frenzy among Gen Z—gave us some needed razzle-dazzle, even if Michele’s tenure reminded us that fashion can be a cutthroat business. As of writing, we still haven’t heard who’s taking over Michele’s role or where he’s heading next, so until then, here’s a final signature on a storied time in the house of Gucci.
Image courtesy of Gucci.
Prada menswear doesn’t get as much media love as the brand’s iconic bags and womenswear do (we know what the Devil wears), but when Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons presented the Prada Fall-Winter menswear collection, the world took note. It was the year of collabs (The North Face x Gucci, Fendi x Versace, Burberry x Supreme, Louis Vuitton x Nike) but for menswear, we bend the knee for Prada x Simons. Men of all shapes, sizes, ages, and colours were not only in the audience, but strutting down the catwalk in impeccable, inimitable style.
For a splash of colour with a sophisticated twist, we picked the Oversized Leather Bomber Jacket as one of the collection’s standouts. The classic shape of the bomber jacket gets a novel twist: exaggerating volumes and proportions, it’s reimagined as an oversized coat, getting a padded design that’s characterised by a ribbed knit trim and a belt with a pouch shaped after the iconic geometric logo. The supple leather is hand-buffed to create its glossy finish.
The finishing touch is the Robot Jewels Saffiano Leather and Metal Earring from the brand’s famed accessories line. The contrast of hard metal and the refined, cross-hatched Saffiano leather emblematic of the brand makes for a striking piece. Finished, of course, with the unmistakable triangle logo.
Image courtesy of Prada.
In the great tome of the best of the British bespoke tailoring and ready-to-wear (with an entire chapter on accessories and that lighter that’s appeared in innumerable Bond films), Dunhill looms large. From a brand that whispers while others shout, the Fall-Winter 2022 collection was a return to fine form under creative director Mark Weston, who showcased an erudite sense of tailoring and head-to-polished-toe sophistication spanning the entire collection.
“That idea of a masculine uniform, its world of functionality as well as military ceremony, the roots of our British tailoring traditions are so much part of these very things,” said Weston’s statement about the collection. “It’s the power and rigour of clothing that makes you feel something and behave in a certain way. This collection is a return to a certain discipline and tradition, yet there is always a simultaneous sense of British subversion within what we do and in the person who might wear it.”
In this spirit, the all-black look may seem soporific from afar. It’s not. The rich fabrication, the meticulous workmanship, the sharpened silhouette, the polish; it’s formal wear in the guise of casual sophistication. In parts of the collection, you’ll find heady options of leather suit jackets, military coats, regimental ties, even armed forces colour palettes, but when in doubt, you can always head back to black.
Image courtesy of Dunhill.
Vox Pop: Alessandro Sartori
The way modern men dress shows that our needs and habits have changed dramatically over the past few years; I think it’s a wardrobe transformation that’s mirrored the changes in our lives. Customers are looking for different styles with fluid silhouettes and multifunctional yet comfortable outfits. Clothes have to transition seamlessly between indoor and outdoor to reflect the way we behave.
Zegna has always been recognised for its tailoring, but we understood that those silhouettes were moving forward to a new way of dressing, that boundaries between casual wear and formal wear were moving away from their traditional connotations, where combinations are becoming the suits of the next era.
So, we decided a new aesthetic was needed: fluid, ageless, and adaptable, where comfort matches perfectly with style. Our new identity is one where monochromatic looks and silhouettes are designed as elevated workwear, where practicality and pragmatism get a progressive spin on tradition and craft; we want to meet the modern man’s style needs in the form of a kind of “luxury leisurewear”, and create a new style language. I think our recent rebranding helped with this—regrouping our collections under one brand gave us the possibility to be sharper and to more clearly express our authentic values.
By Alessandro Sartori, Zegna Artistic Director