Formal with a twist: jacquard

Josh Sims discovers why jacquard is the perfect alternative eveningwear look this party season

Turn up to a black tie event in a jacquard jacket and you might expect one or two looks. ‘Against that classic dinner suit style, jacquard is hard to pull off,’ admits Gieves & Hawkes senior designer Edward Finney. ‘You need to be the right personality and have the right event – something glitzier than your typical formal affair.’ Indeed, while red-carpet clothing is not something most of us have to worry about, jacquard – a raised pattern that’s woven rather than printed onto a fabric, giving it a distinctive texture – certainly makes a statement: one as much about an appreciation for craft as for cut, both with the design and the making, in Gieves & Hawkes’ case by Stephen Walters & Sons mill, in Suffolk.

‘Designing a jacquard is actually a more complex process than the wool cloths we have made,’ says Finney. ‘It’s a scientific process to choose from all the possible yarns, and work out how they’ll sit against the black warp. You really have to get a fabric made up just to see if it really works – it’s not something you can check on a CAD screen. But it’s worth it – with jacquard you get a level of detail that’s not possible even with advanced printing.’

While Gieves & Hawkes typically sticks with traditional patterns – paisleys, polka dots and the like – the company has in the recent past taken its inspiration in deconstructing a Persian rug. ‘You really can look to all places for inspiration,’ says Finney. But for this autumn/winter, Gieves keeps its jacquard classic: a single-breasted, two covered button, peak lapel evening jacket, for example, comes in a silk jacquard featuring a 70s-inflected geometric pattern in mid blue, olive and ruby red; a shawl collared jacket, also in an all-over rich red, comes with a subtle floral design; another style, this time with a one-button fastening, comes in a burgundy and black Glencheck with plain black silk shawl collar.

Either way, as Finney stresses, with a jacquard jacket on, the rest of your attire should probably take a turn towards the low-key. So a jacquard tie, or blue diamond pattern jacquard shirt – also available from Gieves & Hawkes – might be best saved for another outfit. Indeed, a jacquard jacket arguably looks best against a simple, plain backdrop: dark trousers and dark roll-neck knitwear or plain shirt.

‘For me, jacquard is one of those essential eveningwear looks – and using it for eveningwear is a way for us to offer something that feels more original,’ says Finney. ‘It’s true you’re not likely to wear it to the golf club much, but you might, say, on a cruise, over a plain open-neck shirt. It’s just one of those woven fabrics that is clearly very special.’

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