What are the greatest menswear brands of all time?

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by YoungAmerican, Sep 18, 2012.

  1. jeff13007

    jeff13007 Senior member

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    I agree with you if we are talking about the impact RL has had as a lifestyle brand. But if we are talking purely about tailored clothing i would have to argue for Brioni. Majority of the suits out there today are based on a cut (Continental Cut) that they invented, and they have consistently have had very high standards when it comes to fabric and quality level from their founding all the way till today. But if we are talking lifestyle brand then of course Brioni would lose out to RL.

    Edit: Was looking for this quote by Jay Mclnerney "Today, devotees of the subtle luxury of Brioni are as likely to be heads of state, diplomats, and stylish CEOs as movie stars, Still any male who has ever fantasized about being an international bon vivant aboard a yacht or in a convertible sportscar is probably picturing himself, whether he knows it or not, dressed in Brioni"

    That pretty much sums up why i think Brioni should be on the list, and high up on it as well.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2012


  2. johanm

    johanm Senior member

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    Does Brioni really claim to have invented a "cut" that anyone cares about? That is hilarious.
     


  3. jeff13007

    jeff13007 Senior member

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    Its not just them claiming it, many books and articles on menswear attribute this to them.
     


  4. Kaplan

    Kaplan Senior member

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    Makes sense. More of a 'one iconic item' than a 'greatest menswear brand of all time'.

    Anyone considered Drake's? Too niche?
     


  5. in stitches

    in stitches Kung Joo Moderator

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    i do not disagree per say, nor do i think brioni should not be on the list. i was just saying that that should not take away from the importance and great accomplishments ascribed to RL. :)
     


  6. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    Way too niche. While I like Drake's products, there are a lot of accessories companies I'd put well before them in terms of overall impact. Probably at the top of that list should be Hermes.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2012


  7. rach2jlc

    rach2jlc Prof. Fabulous Dubiously Honored

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    Good discussion; I especially like the turn it's taken recently to more analysis and discussion than just listing "the brands I like" and calling them 'great.'

    The idea and importance of a "lifestyle" brand cannot be overlooked; for the industry, I'd say it probably is as important as when RTW came out in the 1960's. Really, most of the "big" players, Valentino, YSL, Chanel, etc. first made their names with made-to-measure and couture. There was no such thing as a well-made RTW dress. What was available off-the-rack until they changed the market was mostly crap.

    Likewise, in the 1970's, none of the major players had anything in mind like turning their brands into an overall aesthetic or lifestyle to attract customers. True, they ALL nearly dissolved themselves with over-licensing, but that's not the same thing.

    RL's genius, and then others like Tommy Hilfiger who did it a little down-market, was to create a unique lifestyle, aspirational aesthetic that people liked, but that wasn't just licensing his name onto a bunch of crap, like YSL, Dior, and Valentino did.

    Given that all of them are doing it now, it's therefore important to remember who did it... perhaps not FIRST... but at least enough to create an empire. Armani, who is one of the very few to make his fortune by actual CLOTHES (most others do it through fragrances or accessories) didn't ever really create a lifestyle.

    Versace was another who came close, though his overall aesthetic (and price point) were always going to be a little too much for the average customer. RL's genius is/was somehow to have lines at all pricepoints, without any of them really diluting the others. I still have no idea HOW he's managed that.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2012


  8. in stitches

    in stitches Kung Joo Moderator

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    if the professor agrees with me, than i must be right. :)

    i dont think anyone really knows, hence, he is still the only one.

    very interesting about the RTW evolution btw, did not know that.
     


  9. rach2jlc

    rach2jlc Prof. Fabulous Dubiously Honored

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    They ALL tried, and mostly they all failed. Versace's "V2" didn't work; Ferre had Gieffeffe, which was a disaster, Armani had "Mani" that didn't work, etc. Some of them, Versace and Ferre again, created so many lines that they started to interrupt the brand vision and confuse customers. Halston is the most famous example; he made a low-priced line (sold at department stores) and pretty much it was what destroyed his company.

    And yet Ralph has Purple, black, polo, lauren, chaps, etc. etc. and somehow they manage to work.

    As for RTW and lifestyles, yes, long ago people didn't go to Valentino for the brand or what it represented as an "idea." Or, in other words, you didn't go to valentino to "browse." You went because Valentino made a particular type of dress in a particular style, with particular specifications/details you couldn't get elsewhere. If you needed a handbag to go with your Valentino dress, you went to a bagmaker (Hermes, Delvaux, etc.) If you wanted a watch, you went to XY Watchmaker. As such, when people thought of Valentino, they thought of a particular kind of dress, in the same way that they thought of a particular cut of suit with a savile row maker.

    With RL, what do we think of? Sure, we think perhaps of a polo pony, but overall we think of those dark-panel wood libraries, a leather couch, some attractive rich woman taking off a pair of tall leather boots next to the stable, etc. That's quite unique in the history of fashion that you think of an overall AESTHETIC before you think of an individual product. From a sales/marketing point of view, that's genius... it ensures you can get people to buy a whole RANGE of things from you...
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2012


  10. dieworkwear

    dieworkwear Senior member

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    Good points all around. Also agree about Stussy. They're probably one of the top five brands when it comes to real world impacts on how men dress today, but since we're sticking with tailored wear ...


    I agree.

    I'd like to explore this idea of John Paul Gaultier a bit more. I think it's worthwhile to talk about Armani, Jil, Lang, and Prada as having really big impacts on how suits were shaped in the 80s and 90s, arguably even a bit today, but did Gaultier's work have any lasting impact? I ask because I genuinely don't know. Much of the stuff I've seen and read of him seems to be very conceptual, and "confined" to the designer world. Again, not to say that conceptual contributions have no merit, but when trying to weigh ... say, how Thom Browne affected certain silhouettes in recent times ... I think it would be interesting to know.

    Also curious to know Fok's reason for including Gianfranco Ferre.

    Regarding Kaplan's suggestion of Drake's - I think this is one of those brands that we happen to like, but it would be hard to call them one of the "top 50 greatest menswear brands of all time" (of the caliber and influence of Armani, Ralph Lauren, Brioni, etc). I may take some flack for this, but I personally only really like the stuff designed by Michael Hill anyway; not so much the earlier stuff. Fok's Hermes suggestion is a really good one, though I think of them more as selling women's accessories.

    Incidentally, when thinking through these companies, it's kind of nice to remember how recent "clothing brands" are in the history of men's clothing. I think that's somewhat easy to forget in today's world, where essentially everything is a "brand."
     


  11. rach2jlc

    rach2jlc Prof. Fabulous Dubiously Honored

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    I'll bite on both of these. First, Ferre: it could be a tough sell, but I could see him included moreso than, say, YSL, Dior, or Valentino (who largely only had licenses for menswear until relatively recently). He, like Versace, had a dedicated menswear line from the start that wasn't just a license. Much of the 1980's large, structured, "sculpted" look, especially in outerwear, was a result of Ferre. Versace had romance, Armani had simple/unstructured, and Ferre had the exact opposite with big, structured, heavy... armor like clothes. He never really was as famous as Versace or Armani, both because the construction of his garments required a lot of time/expense, and because the aesthetic was a little harder to wear. Nevertheless, his collections were very influential and a lot of other designers and lower-market makers copied some of his ideas throughout the 1980's. I also think we forget Ferre because from about 1998-2008 he didn't keep up or advance as much as others, and only die-hards still paid much attention.

    I'll go out on a limb and say without Gaultier we'd not have had Hedi Slimane when we did. While the 1990's were all about minimalism with CK, Jil, Helmut, etc. the other side was the Gucci-esque romance, hyper-masculine or even gimmicky sexuality. Gaultier, from the 1980's on, was doing a darker color pallete, androgynous series of collections featuring strange cuts, "bondage" details, unique materials, and yet a very close attention to tailoring and couture details. Those early Dior collections, and the Hedi YSL collections, were quite similar. That skinny, asexual, "goth" yet classically tailored style was something Gaultier helped to pioneer.

    edit; quick example... here's a famous Gaultier piece... from 1985.
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2012


  12. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    rach summed up what I had to say about Ferre, and more, and really, did a much better job than did I about Gaultier. I credit this to his considerably more advanced age.

    BTW, that 1985 piece... man, looking at that, it's hard to overstate how contemporary that looks. It could easily come out on a runway today and look interesting and relevant.
     


  13. hendrix

    hendrix Ill-proportioned

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    I know rach has a point about CK predating Helmut Lang, but I consider Helmut's minimalism to be quite different to what I think of CK's minimalism.
     


  14. rach2jlc

    rach2jlc Prof. Fabulous Dubiously Honored

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    I've said before that it is a sobering, wonderful experience to find some GQ magazines from 1996 or 1997 in order to see how far we've come in menswear for the range of options, choices, and styles we have and consider possible for us to wear.

    For example, we look at this Gaultier piece today and it hardly shocks us. It's fresh, relevant, contemporary. However, in 1985 it was beyond shocking, in 1990 it was considered a corny gimmick, in 1995 it was giggled at and made fun of, until finally in 2002-03 it became a real choice for what a man might want to wear and "fresh."

    Looking at that now and our reactions to it, it's hard to imagine what it would take today to be called "l'enfant terrible" in fashion. I respect Gaultier for always sticking with his vision and artistry, regardless of the times (and, in the 1990's/early 2000's during the Tom Ford boom, Gaultier was considered a has-been). The entire industry has come around to Gaultier, not vice-versa, and now not only does he have his own Haute-couture house, he also does it for Hermes, while putting out under his own RTW lines some of the most underrated collections out there of really nice stuff.


    I agree, and actually (were we having a more detailed discussion) would not have put helmut in the "minimal" line. 1990-2002 Prada? yes. Jil? Yes. But, Helmut isn't really in that line. His stuff, up close, really is quite complicated with a unique silhouette that wasn't really all that slim, with detailed construction that was hardly minimal. Because he was one of the first to do a simplified color palette and introduce sportswear fabrics into his outerwear, he got lumped with the other minimal designers, but looking at his runway collections shows a big range of stuff... floral pattern pants, gold, silver, or copper colored leathers, LOTS of bondage straps, lots of pockets. etc.

    He was much more avant-garde than minimal, though in general discussion it's easiest just to lump him with Prada and Jil.

    Really, I'd say Helmut is closer to, say, Yohji than he would be to JIl Sander. Further, I'd say that Helmut is/was a true unique original... but unfortunately not all that influential in terms of changing the way we think about dress. Helmut did what Helmut did... and then he quit. Those who definitely took from Helmut's DNA... Neil barrett, Ennio Capasa for Costume national... aren't really that influential.

    If anything, Helmut's greatest design innovation and impact are in being one of the first to do "premium" jeans. Until Helmut (and Diesel, to a lesser extent) the idea of spending $150 on jeans was laughable. :(
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2012


  15. hendrix

    hendrix Ill-proportioned

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    Yeah, nice summary.
    I like to think the "nice deets bro" nerdery we have about interior construction might be partly attributable to him.

    Or maybe that's only on the internet. Certainly in menswear it seems that those things are part of the sell.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2012


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