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Paul Stuart Phineas Cole fall 2011
Words and photos by Pete Anderson
When I asked Ralph Auriemma if I could get a shot of him in the Phineas Cole showroom, he smiled and politely demurred, but the clothing he’s put together for stalwart American menswear source Paul Stuart is not for the shy. Bold, color-rich plaid and eccentric eveningwear dominate the Cole collection for fall 2012, and the standard issue U.S. business uniform of navy suit, white shirt, dark tie has been left to the aughts. This is Auriemma’s eighth season as the creative mind behind the Phineas Cole line, and the origin story of Paul Stuart’s prodigal and colorful nephew has taken a back seat to clothes that speak for themselves.
When the Styleforum crew visited, sportswear and knits had not yet arrived at Paul Stuart’s flagship and offices at 45th St. and Madison Ave., so we were instead treated to Phineas’s tailoring, which has the quirks of custom and designer clothing at Paul Stuart’s reliable level of workmanship and at off-the-rack prices. Auriemma, himself in a bold pinstripe three-piece, walked us through this year’s models. The collection was conceived in three distinct parts--60s Savile Row, modern dandy, and city tweeds.
Even the room mixes patterns effectively.
All of the jackets are made in Canada, mostly of fabric British in origin and character. Although some bolts are custom and derived from fabric houses’ archives, Auriemma doesn’t consider it vintage costume. Auriemma was coy about Cole’s sources, but assured us that you would not find the same fabrics in tailors’ books or bolts. The “city tweeds” are not brash by sportcoat standards, but are more unusual found in a full, one-button, peak-lapel suit, most of which feature steeply angled hacking pockets, high arms, soft shoulders, a nipped waist, and flat front trousers adjusted with D-ring waist tabs. Some of the trousers have military details--leather patches on the inside of the leg (jodphur style), or frogmouth pockets with leather piping. Leather is also found in the coat buttons on the more rustic jackets; a subtle but unusual detail. Suits are more likely to have tonal horn buttons. Waistcoats are available--some in basic button front, some double-breasted and peak-lapelled.
Have a peak. Hell, have two.
Modified schoolboy stripe fabric.
Paisley in your pocket, lapels on your waistcoat.
The same jacket silhouette is used in the country component of the line, with purples, oranges, and golds complementing the usual tweedy tones of olive, brown, and rust. These modern dandy plaids are for major dudes only; I’d venture to guess some were marked “too loud; too country” and rejected from the horse blanket factory. The jackets pair with striped shirts in cutaway or higher, medium-spread collars, woolly ties, challis pocket squares, and brightly toned moleskins and cords, which will come in 12 colors. All jackets are double-vented, leaning to the Anglo flavor of the Anglo-American blend of Phineas Cole.
Wool twill shirt and tie in matching fabric.
The dinner jackets are where the Phineas line may really make its mark. The double-breasted, 6-by-2, shawl lapel dinner jacket in midnight blue velvet is a showpiece, and a wool/grosgrain version is available for those of us who might attend events at which it would be poor form to be dressed best. The silhouette of the shawl lapel sweeps down elegantly--it’s neither too narrow or too broad. Some jackets are finished with esoteric details like a turnback cuff. They can be worn with Cole’s dark gray (but not black) formal flannel trousers with a grosgrain stripe down the leg, and a formal slipper in matching dark flannel. Phineas Cole will also offer several colors of velvet bowties and formal shirts with pique or plain fronts.
Auriemma told us the jackets are half-lined, which he says works well for the summer but lets the coats drape better even in colder times of year, and not coincidently allows them to show off the workmanship in the jacket construction. The collars and arms are set in by hand, and the sleeves left basted for working buttonholes. Paul Stuart can tailor the jackets for customers in their own facilities above the shop, and made-to-measure is also available. Fok and I mentioned the recent prevalance of bold, softly tailored jackets in the Italian style, but Auriemma considers Phineas Cole more British. The silhouette is not a short V, but rather a slightly longer, almost hourglass shape. People looking for a trendier cut may prefer Thom Browne or Tom Ford, according to Auriemma--Phineas Cole is “youngified and sexified” Paul Stuart, but intentionally not runway, not designer clothing.
For those of us less inclined to ascend the peaks of Phineas Cole suits, the shirts and accessories may be a little more incorporable. Wool challis pocket squares, matte-finish wool blend ties, and even a cable-knit tie, could be matched to more subdued autumn jackets. Italian-made felt hats and luggage of purple boiled wool round out the accessories. Considering its heaping dose of flash, the whole collection is cohesive and mature.
Phineas Cole's boots suit.
Thanks to Ralph and Paul Stuart!
Paul Stuart locations:
Madison Avenue At 45th Street
New York, NY 10017
107 East Oak Street
Chicago, IL 60611
208 South LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL 60604
Pete Anderson is styleforum's Editor-in-chief, editorial content. You can read more of his personal ramblings at breathnaigh.org.