Richard James x MR PORTER

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Richard James x MR PORTER

Words by Mr Chris Elvidge | Photography by Mr Paolo Zerbini | Styling by Mr Scott Stephenson

11 December 2014

The Savile Row stalwart uses corduroy as the foundation for a Mayfair-meets-rugged collection.

A year ago, MR PORTER collaborated with Richard James on a casual sportswear collection that paid homage to that most celebrated of heritage fabrics, Harris tweed. Being thoroughly pleased with the results – and finding the sentiment echoed by MR PORTER’s customers, we’ve asked the Savile Row tailoring house to work with us again this season. And this time the theme is corduroy.

The name “corduroy” comes from the French corde du roi, meaning “cord of the king” – but its origins are actually in Manchester, England. It’s a plush, cotton fabric with a distinctive ribbed appearance, used in everything from shirts to blazers to caps. Unfortunately, corduroy has long been saddled with stuffy associations: the archetypal college professor, for instance, with his tan, elbow-patched cord blazer. But over the years it has been worn and championed by men as diverse as Messrs Wes Anderson, Erik Satie, Henry David Thoreau and Benjamin Franklin. A few years ago, there was even a Corduroy Appreciation Club, whose members numbered in the thousands. It held its final annual meeting on 11 November 2011 – otherwise known as The Date That Most Resembled Corduroy Ever (11/11/11).

Corduroy is made by weaving a base textile with loops of twisted yarn, which are then cut and brushed to create the fabric’s “pile”. The signature parallel ridges defined by the lengths of the loops are called “wales” and these, depending on the weaving pattern can be wide (“jumbo” or “elephant” corduroy) or fine. It’s this versatility of corduroy that first attracted the attention of the design team at Richard James.

“This is definitely the widest exploration of the fabric that we’ve ever done,” says Mr Toby Lamb, design and brand director at Richard James. “We often use a fine-wale cord as part of our tailored collection, but this capsule was born out of a desire to experiment with it more. And specifically to experiment with mixing and matching different textures within the same outfit.”

The collection comprises five separate corduroy pieces: a shirt-jacket, a bomber jacket, a gilet, a pair of trousers and a fine-wale shirt. True to Mr Lamb’s intentions though, the textures vary throughout; the complementary colour palette of royal blue, navy, burgundy and fawn helps to ensure that it all harmonises. “The burgundy gilet and royal-blue shirt work particularly well together,” he says.

Of course, man may not live on corduroy alone. Accordingly, the collection offers knitwear, shirting and denim jeans, which reference the main theme in their exploration of texture. From bubble- and waffle-knit pieces to a herringbone cotton shirt to the heavy hand of 13oz selvedge-denim, these are garments that demand, like corduroy, to be explored by touch. A final nod to the hero fabric comes in a lightweight rollneck sweater, ribbed to mimic corduroy’s trademark ridges.

The collection is more casual than what would typically be expected from Richard James, “but the Savile Row provenance is still evident. We apply the same level of expertise, knowledge and appreciation of fabric that we do in all our work,” says Mr Lamb.

And what of those musty “science teacher” associations? Is corduroy finally shaking itself free? “It’s all just a question of context,” replies Mr Lamb. “Can corduroy be contemporary? Of course. And there’s definitely something about the wider wale width that is really interesting at the moment.”

At MR PORTER, we’ve watched corduroy get its swagger back and see it as one of this season’s Trends...