Back to Britain: Gieves & Hawkes Autumn / Winter 2017 Collection
Josh Sims tells the story of Gieves & Hawkes’ latest collection and why Autumn/Winter feels like a return to the tailor’s British beginnings
For one of the most British of brands, Gieves & Hawkes’ Autumn/Winter collection marks a return to its roots, a shift away from the Continent. ‘Britishness is hard to capture, and easy to get wrong, but it’s also unique in its eccentricity and fun,’ says the company’s senior designer, Edward Finney. ‘You don’t get fun in any other nation’s sense of dress. You wouldn’t get an Italian describing their clothing that way. And we’ve had a modern, quite Italian feel for a while – we felt it was time to give this collection some fresh air.’ Or, at least, air infused with incense. For the new collection the design team referenced the 1970s – the most overlooked of decades in British design – and sought inspiration in the style of The Rolling Stones and The Beatles; the latter, of course, once performed from the roof-tops of Savile Row. ‘Think richness, decadence and extravagance, George Harrison, Hare Krishna, and Persian rugs,’ says Finney. ‘Of course, nobody wants to wear something that looks like a Persian rug – but you can take inspiration from its colour or texture.’
Certainly texture, as Finney stresses, is all the more important given the limitations of menswear design – the Autumn/Winter collection dials down on suede, cashmere, mottled flannel, moleskin and corduroy, for example. Colour and pattern – from houndstooth to paisley – are important too, in the right doses: a new multi-hued biscuit check was developed with Johnstons of Elgin for a raglan sleeve overcoat, while another of the collection’s stand-out garments is a burgundy-on-navy large windowpane checked two-piece suit in an updated house silhouette, with a longer skirt and broader, squarer lapels. ‘The boldness of the fabric means this suit is not going to be a top seller for us,’ laughs Finney. ‘But it’s punchy. It has attitude.’ Wear it over a soft, plain roll-neck to let the suit do the talking.
Indeed, there’s a new sumptuousness to this benchmark collection in general - less canvasing in the tailoring, less padding in the shoulders. Yes, there are three-piece suits for those who want to be smart - ‘there's a sense now that if you want to dress formally, don’t do it by halves,’ Finney notes - but overall the mood is more towards ease and comfort, with more casualwear than is typical from Gieves & Hawkes: flannel and needlecord shirts, cosy knitwear. ‘The fact is that’s just the way men are dressing now – we still cater to more traditional professions, the likes of banking and law, with more formal dress codes, but we need to cater to those who find their office dress is getting more and more relaxed too,’ explains Finney. ‘It’s a big step for a company like ours, and it’s been a challenge, but it’s the right step.’
Getting here has definitely not been without its conflicts at Gieves & Hawkes. ‘The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? I have to say I’m more a Rolling Stones fan, but it’s probably The Beatles who have had more influence on the way the collection looks,’ adds Finney. ‘Yes, we’ve had plenty of arguments over that one.'