Friday, 5 March 2010

Unpicking the seams of Menswear Day: Tim Soar AW10

As promised on Monday, over the coming weeks we aim to seek out the designs that captured our collective imagination on that hectic, frantic Menswear Day and will take the odd time out with the designers and their creations. Catwalk shows are pure theatre and rarely fail to demonstrate the emotions and themes of the collections but most of the time, both of us are left wanting more. This young Oliver feeling was particularly resonant with Soar's show because the streetcasted models had a 'blink and you'll miss me' pace. We really needed to inspect Soar's relaxed luxury pieces in more detail. We kicked off the series with a closer inspection of Carolyn Massey's Obsolete Prototype C53 collection and continue the series with a swooning gaze at Tim Soar's 'Greatest Hits of Menswear' collection...

Two of my favourite show looks.

After a number of successful seasons exploring modernism with his signature style of well made menswear that sees him fuse minimalism with sportswear and tailoring while showcasing unusual fabrications Soar was inspired to look back in order to look forward. With Soar, his music and designs are always intrinsically linked so he looked to New Wave of Neo-Victoriana, some Studio 54 disco classics and a dash of post Mod English pop with some Vaudeville accents for inspiration. Soar "wanted to produce a collection that was warm and familiar, one that would have many overlapping memories and echoes from the past." Ultimately then for Aw10, Soar condenses the last one hundred and fifty years of menswear, picking out key pieces and exploring the shifts in the social constructs of masculinity as he goes, to create a collection fit for any modern day gentleman. The focus is on making each piece desirable in its own right. So, armed with my camera I met up with the designer on Wednesday afternoon to both congratulate him on a wonderful show and to learn as much as we could about the collection itself. Be warned, the result is quite a meaty post but it's definitely worth the read as we talk to the designer about his inspirations, his thoughts on how men dress and learn that he has just been taken on to the CFE's Venture program...

A backstage shot demonstrating the different trouser cuts. Shot for Dazed Digital by Saga Sigurdardottir

SS: I love how you've described the collection as a 'Greatest Hits of Menswear' and there is a definite sense of re-imagined classics throughout the collection. What was the starting point?
Tim Soar: The starting point was for the collection to have a vintage-y feel, this suddenly felt right again after a number of seasons of no-holds-barred modernism. I have brought beautiful old men's clothes for many years, and there was an Edwardian dinner suit that I used to wear a lot 8 or 9 years ago, that drew my gaze, again. The jacket has a very old fashioned four panel cut - it has an extremely high waist with a lot of 'hip. This slightly odd silhouette was first thing that was established.

SS:How did you condense over one hundred and fifty years of menswear in to the collection we see today?
Tim Soar: We developed a mood board that ran chronologically from mid-victorian times through to the late 70s. It then became easy to pick out themes to explore. Some of the themes where about detailing, some where about fabric and some about cut and construction.

What could feel more luxurious and dandy than a velvet jacket?

SS: The overall mood of the collection is best described as late Victorian/early Edwardian but there are glimpses of 70's Parisian style as well. Looking back, are these your favourite eras of menswear?
Tim Soar: Well, yes and no. As mentioned above, I loved to mood and slightly uncomfortable silhouette of the Edwardian dinner suit. I also knew that I wanted to some sort of frock-coat overcoats. Victorian menswear is interesting because it is so tied up with their ideas about masculinity: stoic, visually discrete, not displaying strong emotions, paternalistic, etc, etc. So it still sends strong messages. Then about a month into the design process I was again looking through the clothing archive and I pulled out two exquisite hand made 70s silk dress shirts that had been kicking around for ages. They where very long and fluid, but quite precise at the same time. And I suddenly saw this connection between the Victorian/Edwardian aesthetic and classy Parisian feeling mid-70s menswear. As soon as I had made that connection, it all fell into place. And I would say, unexpectedly, this Parisian louche but precise 70s mood is the one that will probably have real legs over the next few seasons.

SS: There is a definite sense of subtle luxury running throughout the collection, from the classic fabric choices (cashmeres/velvets/silks/wool etc) right through to the finishing details (for example the appliqued leather cuff details).
Tim Soar: With menswear you only have three main things to play with: silhouette, fabrics/fabrication and detailing. As the collection is not about really dramatic silhouettes, the fabric and detailing became key. And one of the themes that came out of the mood board - and it sounds obvious with the benefit of hindsight - was classic menswear fabrics. I guess I am known for using fairly unusual fabrics and fabric combinations. But this season it was quickly apparent that the only way to go was for really classic, luxury menswear fabrics. The detailing - the leather cuffs, the heavy use of piping and binding, and the subtle inside-out features - where mostly ideas that I had started to explore last season, where they where used in a very dramatic way. This season I revisited them, and made them a little more understated. I wanted every garment to have at least one or two features that would become apparent on closer inspection, and that once you knew those features where there, it would change the way you felt about, and wore, the garment.

This piece grabbed my attention on the runway and was even better up close, a beautiful knit!

SS: You are known for your unusual fabrications but with this collection you worked with British heritage knitwear company Corgi...
Tim Soar: Corgi are exactly what British manufacturers should be about, making an extremely high quality product that does not try to compete with the Far East on price. We developed boil washed cashmere sweaters, some heavy cable knits and some with leather applique. I will most certainly be working with them again.

A wonderfully cut pin stripe suit jacket.

SS: There seems to be a real focus on making each piece desirable. For me, the best menswear pieces are the ones that you appreciate initially but then you keep discovering design facets which make you love the piece even more the more you look and wear it. This collection seems to be full of such pieces. Would you say that this is a key feature of your design signature?
Tim Soar: Yes, indeed. The more you discover in a garment, the more lovely it becomes. Jodie Barnes, my stylist, and I where brainstorming the styling of the collection early on. We wanted to focus on how most men really dress. That is, men - me included - tend to buy pieces, they don't really buy whole 'looks'. This reinforced the idea of 'Greatest Hits of Menswear' - its a beautiful jacket or a beautiful shirt or a beautiful sweater. You can put it together how you please. I think that my key design signature is about mood rather than a tangible 'thing'. In all my work - fashion, music, graphics - there is a tension between nostalgia and and modernism. This collection is a little more nostalgic, last seasons was a little more modernist.

I love the simplicity of this print and the texture it creates.

SS: Proportions feel a little more constrained than previous seasons yet you've still experimented with the silhouette by combining outerwear with defined waists with a number of trouser cuts.
Tim Soar: As I said earlier, the three main things to play with: silhouette, fabrics/fabrication and detailing. The defined waist of the outerwear was a perfect example of where Victorian/Edwardian and 70s silhouettes are very similar. I also think that the whole boxy mood of menswear of the last three or four years is becoming a bit tired. Perhaps one other thing I am know for is my trousers. This season, I wanted to keep them really chic, and flares suddenly felt very chic, again.

A close up of one of my favourite leather appliqued knits.

SS: Do you have favourite look/standout piece from the collection?
Tim Soar: I think I will be wearing the leather appliqued knits a lot. And I also suspect I will be wearing the flares quite a lot, too.
SS: What can we expect from Tim Soar over the coming seasons?
Tim Soar: Well, I have been taken on to the CFE's Venture program. It should give me a really strong base for growth over the next couple of years. There are also a big project in negotiation. Usually hush-hush stuff at the moment, but provided we reach the right agreement, it will be a really interesting outlet for my lux sportswear work.


Just before I left Tim showed me the first few designs from his AW10 t shirt range. Given that I have a mild case of Coulrophobia I was a little freaked out but despite the mocking, somewhat haunting face of the clown, I left the showroom extremely happy. Something tells me 2010 is going to be a huge year for this designer...

He is definitely mocking me!


Michael said...

Love this collection.

Beth said...

the clown shirt is so cool!


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