The overdue renaissance of men’s tailoring

“It’s neo-tailoring, a new glamour for a new generation”

Demna Gvasalia

For the best part of the last decade, streetwear has reigned supreme (forgive me) in the wardrobes of young men. Both millennials and generation Z have grown up used to the comfort and ease of athleisure clothing, and with the rise of the Silicon Valley startup culture of casualwear being office-appropriate, the tailored suit has never been less relevant. Last year, business magazine Inc published a guide aimed at employers, on how to attract younger staff by having a more relaxed approach to workplace attire. Even multinational corporations such as JP Morgan have adopted a “business casual” dress code thanks to the laid back professional image created by the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Evan Speigel.

In a market dominated by brands such as New York-based streetwear label Supreme, what could reignite the spark of men’s tailoring other than…wait for it… Supreme themselves releasing a two-piece formal suit? In all fairness, the cult skate brand isn’t solely responsible for bringing back this classic menswear staple, but their release of a suit for their spring/summer collection last year represented the beginnings of a shift back to the roots of menswear. Male fashion magazine GQ called it “the salmon suit of our dreams”, the unexpected release had thousands of box logo sporting hypebeasts fighting to get their hands on the $600 retail formalwear, despite it being completely devoid of Supreme’s usual lurid branding.

Supreme’s SS18 Suit in peach, also released in olive, and black

It’s not just in the streetwear market that the suit is experiencing a renaissance either – the runway was dominated by formalwear this season after athleisure seemed to reach its point of saturation back in 2018. High fashion brands such as Louis Vuitton, Celine, and Givenchy showed us their refreshing takes on tailoring, as they sent swathes of suited and booted models down the runway. Each fashion house took their own spin on the menswear classic, updating it for a new generation of the male fashion-forward, exhibiting loose-cut relaxed fits and brighter colours.

Left: Louis Vuitton FW19 [Photo: LV Press] / Right: Givenchy FW19 [Photo: WWD]

No other label stood out in the resurgence of tailoring this new season more than Balenciaga. Demna Gvasalia, famed for founding Vetements – the brand that took the world by storm back in 2016, debuted his first collection for the century-old Spanish fashion house late last year. Gvasalia made it his mission to design suiting that appealed directly to the younger audience who are so alienated from the world of formalwear.  “It’s a way to make the new generations wear tailoring,” the designer said. “It feels like wearing a jogging suit and that’s what makes it approachable.” During the eccentric SS19 show, with cyberpunk video installations created in collaboration with Canadian artist Jon Rafman,  Gvasalia showed off his vision for tailoring of the now. With broad, structured shoulders and drapey, comfortable fits, the suits the Russian designer himself dubbed as ‘neo-tailoring’ turned the heads of all present. 

Looks from Balenciaga’s SS19 show [Photo: Mitchell Sams]

In an industry where form is often hailed above function, Demna Gvasalia’s progressive men’s suits show that there is more to creating a beautiful garment than just providing cutting-edge style. Speaking on his designs,  Gvasalia said, “there’s no need for a jacket because the shirt is the jacket.” He added; “I think about comfort a great deal. What we do here is a luxury product. It costs a lot of money so I think it’s only right that I give as much intellectual input as possible. I think about what makes a suit feel approachable and relevant. We work on the fabric so that you don’t feel too hot.” 

More looks from Balenciaga’s SS19 show [Photo: Mitchell Sams]

So where does this leave the average fashionista looking to borrow Gvasalia’s chic teddy boy aesthetic? Will we see copycat tailoring hit our local high street? One mustn’t be naive enough to think this look can be achieved simply by buying an off-the-rack suit a couple of sizes up; although Balenciaga’s ‘neo-tailoring’ fits oversized, it is nonetheless meticulously crafted to fit exactly as the designer intended. Many similar looks were spotted by street style editors outside the various fashion weeks this F/W season, so this is a sure sign that the trend is starting to cement itself in as a solid part of current men’s fashion.

A couple of street style looks spotted Pre-fall 2019 [Photos: Phil Oh]

What we’re seeing is classic tailoring being reinvented for the younger generations to wear without feeling like they’re about to walk into their investment bank corner office. Not only this, but the way suits are now being styled by many is further deconstructing the ultra-formal stigma the suit carries. Over the past year, many celebrities and stylists have shown us their up-to-date approach to wearing the suit – some sharp yet edgy, others sleazy whilst still oozing understated style. Kanye West showed us that any footwear can be worn with a suit, provided you have his confidence, when he wore slides from his own brand YEEZY paired with no shirt, to fellow rapper and friend 2 Chainz’s wedding. Michael B. Jordan wore an Off-White industrial belt across the waist of his double-breasted suit at the Met Gala, whilst Virgil Abloh showed us a variety of other accessories that can be worn over a suit at his SS19 Louis Vuitton show.

Left to right: Kanye West [Garguibo / ], Michael b. Jordan [Getty Images],
Louis Vuitton SS19 [Gio Staiano/Nowfashion]

So are younger men finally going to ditch their everyday athleisure uniform for a much more classically filled wardrobe? Many signs point to yes, as streetwear quickly becomes tired and the street’s most stylish are searching for the newest way to stand out from the rest.

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