Hopefully, the current mini-boom, no doubt initiated by some clever marketing folks, for "bespoke" and traditional clothing, which is encouraging an obsession for hand-canvassed suit-fronts and other such "discreet" luxuries, will pass into history.
OK, I know it's a droll troll, but I have to have my little anti-rant: I think the current "mini-boom" represents two trends: first, the neo-aristocratic one, which I find no more or less offensive than any other anachronistic trend, and which will fade when the Next Big Thing comes along; and, second, the twin realizations that skilled hand-tailoring is actually superior to mass-produced machine tailoring, and that, as long as one is going to spend that much on a suit, one might as well get one's money's worth in construction as well as materials. This second trend is, IMO, a welcome one, and hopefully long-lived, not only because it's sensible, but because it helps to keep the art form that is fine tailoring alive. When the demand for bespoke suits tapers off, so will the tailoring apprenticeships. I don't see how that could be a good thing. Fortunately, the "new bespoke" is being embraced by such contemporary, street-savvy designers as Paul Smith and Alexander McQueen.
I wish people would read a little more fashion history and realize that the suit we consider the height of sartorial achievement was originally just casualwear (the jeans and t-shirts of their day, gasp.), that it became readily accessible because of the advent of *machine made* clothing and that it became a mainstay of the male wardrobe primarily as a result of the democratization of society.
Does the origin of the suit really matter now? I'm all for people knowing their history, but it doesn't change the present-day reality in which the suit has been elevated to a status once occupied by now-obsolete garments. Consequently, there's no reason not to elevate the tailoring and materials to match. For that matter, jeans and t-shirts have been elevated as well, from workwear and undergarment to mainstays of everyday casualwear and even pricey, status-y designer items. Should we only wear denim to mine for gold or herd cattle? And is buying $249 PDC jeans"”when you can get good ol' democratized, machine-made Levis for $30"”any less ludicrous than paying top dollar for a Kiton suit?
Too much reverence can be a bad thing.Â Mess up your Kiton shirts. Give a bit of a f*ck you to Ciro Paone and the editors at the Robb Report and their unabashed worship of the aristocracy. The future belongs to Hedi Slimane and Yohji Yamamoto and Martin Margiela, and to some young buck in his little studio in East L.A.
Granted, there's always a value to sticking pins in the self-inflated. Since institutions like the Robb Report exist solely for the anointed few to celebrate their own wealth while tauntingly dangling their shiny baubles just out of reach of the many, I'm all for taking them down. If that necessitates slicing and dicing some Borrelli and Barbera, so be it. But, let's not kid ourselves about two things. First, it's a heck of a lot easier to tear something down than to build something. Whatever classist baggage you attach to hand-tailored finery, the fact remains that it's exceptional clothing. If you paint a mustache on the Mona Lisa, you'll only diminish yourself without laying a glove on Leonardo. So, consider how little it accomplishes to tear a Kiton in half. (Besides, whether or not you did it first, the fact remains that Rei Kawakubo has already presented this conceit to the world and moved on. As an ideological fashion statement, that bit of punkism is over, while bespoke thrives.) Second, while Slimane, Yamamoto and Margiela may be more "forward-looking" from a design standpoint, they're hardly any less aristocratic. Slimane recycles late '70s/early '80s punk/new wave aesthetics, charging you hundreds extra to pre-rip the sleeves off his shirts for you; Yamamoto divides his attentions between couture garments so exclusive that he burns the overstock at the end of each season to keep the hoi polloi from getting it at markdown, and signing his name on stratospherically-priced sneakers that would otherwise fetch $50; and Margiela exacts haute couture prices for jeans dipped in paint and jackets that are life-sized reproductions of vintage doll clothing. There's nothing especially democratic about these designers. Their work is no more fiscally accessible to the common man than, say, Gianluca Isaia's, and conceptually it's far less accessible. When you consider that today's cutting-edge couture is going to look old in a decade, while a bespoke business suit will still look classically contemporary, you may have to reconsider to whom the future belongs. Of course, if tomorrow is the domain of the common man's garments, then the future belongs to Wal"¢Mart.