Why These Eight Men’s Brands Are Worth The Investment
What to expect from Tom Ford, Loro Piana, Brunello Cucinelli and more
The term “investment piece” gets a lot of mileage in the fashion industry. In menswear it’s usually used to refer to items that are as at home in your wardrobe today as they would have been in your grandfather’s 50 years ago, or as they will be in your son’s a few years hence. And, to a great extent, that’s still true: no one can argue with the staying power of a camel coat, a navy blazer or a pair of bench-made Oxford shoes. But the scope of the term has expanded somewhat recently to include more fashion-forward pieces: barely a season passes, for instance, without Gucci adding another iteration of its iconic horsebit loafers to the stable, or Prada issuing a fresh series of printed camp-collar shirts.
This new mood doesn’t mean anything goes, however; you won’t find any references to the next big sneaker trend in our roundup of the brands and collections to take stock of this SS19 season. What you will find is a fusion of both timeless and timely pieces that we think will bolster your spring wardrobe and beyond. Let’s get started.
As far as Tom Ford collections go, SS19 was very Tom Ford. For those not fluent in fashion, what does that actually mean? Put simply, the Tom Ford brand is an extension of the man behind it. The designer makes clothes he wants to wear himself, a formula that’s unsurprisingly proved a commercial and critical success because, well, who doesn’t want to dress like Mr Tom Ford? Inside his wardrobe, you’ll find peak-lapel suits and tuxedos in a glossy satin jacquard, a regular sight on red carpet goers every award season – see, for example, Messrs Nicholas Hoult and Mahershala Ali at this year’s Golden Globes and Baftas, respectively. Also, a sleek footwear selection that includes plush velvet chain loafers, slides and sneakers in azure, blush and brown shades. Plus, an array of Western-inspired shirts, jeans and jackets that point to his Texan roots. It’s this latter category that has us particularly excited: the corduroy jeans and jacket ensemble pictured above comes in a velvety taupe, which just happens to be one of the most sophisticated renderings of this season’s pastel trend we’ve seen yet, while still looking like something we can imagine coming back to year after year.
If you think new brand Sease’s collection looks a bit like a sportier Loro Piana, well then, you’d be spot on. Spearheaded by the founder’s grandsons, Messrs Franco and Giacomo Loro Piana, the label – which has just landed at MR PORTER – is a love letter to the great outdoors and, apropos, the environment. As well as a honed focus on sustainability, the brand’s sophisticated sportswear range is built for town-to-country functionality. And – like grandfather, like grandsons – the duo’s passion for natural materials shines: triple-layer linen trench coats and jackets as well as virgin merino-wool sweaters and sweatpants make up the bulk portion of the collection, but they sit alongside thoughtful technologies and performance fabrics, such as wind and waterproofed Storm System materials and a polyester fabric made entirely from recycled plastic bottles.
Loro Piana takes the term “investment” mighty seriously. True, none of the Italian brand’s pieces come cheap, but extra-fine baby cashmere harvested from the downy underfleece of rare capra hircus goats before their first birthday does not come for free. It’s the brand’s quality fabrics that sing this season, from the aforementioned baby cashmere to caramel-smooth suede and featherlight, uncommonly un-scratchy linen. But there’s also 28Matches – a refined golf uniform – and super-luxe skiwear to write home about. In fact, the offering is so comprehensive, we’re starting to think the label is seeking total wardrobe domination. Our advice? Don’t fight it.
A luxury powerhouse such as Prada has to have a lot of strings to its bow. Continued relevance in a constantly evolving market is paramount, but fidelity to your pre-existing following is just as crucial. Ms Miuccia Prada is a skilled puppet master in both regards. Yes, you’ve just caught us in a mixed archer/puppeteer metaphor, but we stand by it, as it’s a fitting description for a brand that so successfully straddles two divergent paths. Down the first road lies the core line of sharp, slim tailoring, elegant accessories and shiny spazzolato leather shoes. Then there’s the more directional route, which this season involves highly-technical outerwear, 1990s accessories (hello bucket hats) and several excellent renditions of the brand’s signature item: the printed camp-collar shirt. This time around, they come in a kaleidoscopic array of Swinging Sixties-inspired patterns that sent them straight to the top of our mental summer holiday packing list.
How would you like to dress like a young Jay Gatsby? Great. Us too. Excellent news, then, because that’s precisely the chap Mr Brunello Cucinelli was thinking about when he was dreaming up his latest collection. Like all of the Italian designer’s endeavours, it’s heavy on loose, louche tailoring (including his signature one-and-a-half-breasted jackets and, to our delight, plenty of pleated trousers), but there’s also a smattering of sophisticated casualwear that pays homage to Fitzgeraldian gentlemanly pursuits – think luxe tennis sneakers, striped henley shirts and fine cricket sweaters.
If you’ve yet to come across a Beams F (“Future”) suit in the flesh, in all likelihood you’ve never been to Japan. Up until its exclusive launch on MR PORTER last month, the line wasn’t available anywhere else. But that small impediment didn’t stop tailoring fanatics scouring vintage shops and trawling eBay to get their hands on the stuff. Established in 1978, the refined line is an offshoot of cult outfit Beams and takes its inspiration from the Ivy-covered university campuses of the US. Japan’s love affair with all things preppy has been going steady since the 1960s, so there’s all the well-tailored suits, chinos and Oxford shirts you’d expect as well as a workwear contingent that includes denim, chore jackets and a particularly lovely suede flight jacket in a goes-with-literally-anything olive-green.
If, like us, you make a biannual pilgrimage to Florence to see the trade shows (or if you happen to be in the Tuscan capital for any other reason, for that matter), we heartily recommend you tack on a trip to the Gucci Museo on the Palazzo della Mercanzia. Arranged over three floors, this immersive exhibition space (fear not: there’s a shop, too) demonstrates that, while current creative director Mr Alessandro Michele’s “more-is-more” manifesto may have won us over initially, his continued success can be attributed to a deep understanding of the brand’s history, not to mention ready access to its extensive archives. Those busy, floral prints, for example, are an homage to Mr Vittorio Accornero’s original designs from the 1950s. And the horsebit loafers? Well, there’s a reason they’re on permanent display at the Met. Mr Michele’s genius lies in how he reinvents those established codes. For SS19, past meets present in a 1970s-inspired collection with a sporty, varsity-style overture. On the runway, that translated to leather jock straps, but, back in the real world, we’re stocking up on the track jackets, collegiate tailoring and, of course, lots of retro prints.
Aside from a house, car and perhaps that suede Tom Ford trench coat we’ve got one eye on, a watch is likely to be the most significant investment you’ll make and, unless you’re an established collector, unlikely to be a regular seasonal purchase. For those new to the game, the most obvious advice we can give is to choose something you can wear every day: a piece you can pair with a bomber jacket on the weekend, as above, and to the office. Vacheron Constantin is the oldest uninterrupted watch manufacture in the world and, with Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet, one of the so-called “holy trinity” of Swiss watchmakers, a status that lends its watches added prestige among those in the know. The horologist’s Patrimony, Traditionnelle and Fiftysix collections, all available at MR PORTER, are each unique in personality, but united in their classic, elegant and, yes, timeless good looks.