Trends such as streetwear may come and go, but as every well-heeled gentleman knows, what tends to stay the course in menswear is investment pieces. And tailoring exemplifies that rule. Whether your style is buttoned-up or casual, it all starts with exceptionally made suits, jackets and trousers. There have never been more smart options, thanks to relentless Italian and Japanese R&D. But it’s not just all about great new fabrics (although check out that Coherence coat below for one great example) or fresh ideas (why have we not seen more corduroy tuxedos?) because the oldest game in town—bespoke—has never been more popular. There’s now a proliferation of choices, from high-brow Italian and British tailors opening more shops in the States to online services and young local tailors setting up ateliers.
And while it pays to build a personalized wardrobe of exceptional quality, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the fun of some of the key seasonal trends. Add a splash of color with accessories, knitwear or even some swim shorts, and you’ll stand out—but only for the right reasons.
Brunello Cucinelli, the undisputed master of casual elegance, delivered the season’s best tuxedo: a relaxed midnight-blue corduroy riff on the classic, with a satin peak lapel which rolls elegantly toward its two-button closure. As a bonus, it was styled with a pleated blue dress shirt, with contrasting white collar and cuffs, with a bow tie in silk to match the lapels. With a slightly retro flair, the ensemble manages to be stand-out distinctive without screaming for attention. Stealth style, if you will, which really is what Mr. Cucinelli has always been about. ($4,955.)
Many men are tempted by the thought of wearing a hat—who isn’t seduced by a sharp fedora?—but are put off for fear of looking silly. Fortunately, Optimo hatmaker Graham Thompson specializes in converting the apprehensive into bonafide hat wearers with his unrivaled personal service and impeccably made product. It was a breakout year for Thompson: He hosted numerous trunk shows across the country, exhibited at Permanent Style Presents pop-up shop on London’s Savile Row and opened an expansive new design and production facility in a former firehouse on Chicago’s South Side. And while his obsession with the right fit gets men into Optimo, it’s the quality (he uses top-grade beaver felt), sleek styling and construction that keeps them coming back. ($1,195.)
Milan’s Larusmiani might be known for stylish, tailored clothing but now, with a new boutique at the five-star Le Sereno hotel in St. Bart’s and seasonal shops in Porto Cervo and St. Mortiz, it also created the season’s best beachwear. Because once you’ve got the basics covered (you’ve already got three pairs of navy swim shorts, right?), it’s time to have some fun with Larusmiani’s playful tiger print trunks, which is sold alongside its beachy shirts, sandals and accessories. Now, this third-generation family-owned brand is a familiar sight on some of the world’s best beaches. ($360.)
Turnbull & Asser
You’ve earned your down time, so reward yourself accordingly. Storied British shirtmaker Turnbull & Asser certainly agrees: Why else would its new weekend collection include this deep indigo cotton-and-cashmere number that washes down to an exceptional softness? This clearly is a loafers garment, to be worn while indulging in a long lunch, a glass of wine never far from your hand. For the details obsessed, it has a new, more relaxed collar and an equally new cuff (one button rather that T&A’s famous three) but frankly, it’s the preposterous downy softness that will get you every time you put it on. ($395.)
Connolly is one of the world’s great treasure troves for men, with superlative heritage. Launched in 1878, it was the exclusive supplier of interior leather of Rolls-Royce for a century, as well as Aston Martin and Ferrari. Now it lives on as the thinking man’s outfitter, based in London’s Mayfair, making exquisite clothes and–as you would expect–outstanding leather goods. This weekender is a prime example: The sports grip, as it’s termed, marks the first time the brand has used high-quality Vaumol leather (the same as was used on those Rolls-Royce interiors) for luggage, and features accents based on sports-car stylings. Available in red, green or tan, the bag comes with or without Connolly badges. ($1,355.)
There’s no question that Loro Piana has been the go-to source for super-soft, dreamy fabrics in elegant shades for no little while, but the Italian textile pioneer has played it safe when it comes to its ready to wear and accessories designs. That appears to be changing. For fall, it deviated from its classic neutral color palette to rich autumnal hues and bright colors, like this silk-and-cashmere blend. So now Loro Piana has it all: the softest scarves any which way you like ’em. ($665.)
John Lobb hasn’t changed much in the way it handmakes its Alder leather boots—in fact, it’s been producing boots and footwear since 1866—but it’s that consistency of craft, quality and style that make this boot the season’s best. It is deceptively lightweight, works with everything from jeans to tailored trousers (there’s nothing wrong with boots with a suit), and the rich patina is the finishing touch of quality craftsmanship. ($1,980.)
Kris Van Assche at Berluti
It’s like musical chairs at the top menswear brands with designers jumping from house to house the past few seasons, but Kris Van Assche, the newly installed artistic director at Berluti, proved change can be a good thing. In his first runway collection for the 125-year-old Parisian brand, Van Assche recognized its rich leather heritage with a distinctive line-up of leather jackets, blazers and long coats, each hand-cut and hand-dyed to perfection, like this plush patinaed number. A proven master in sharp sartorial suiting during his 11 years as Dior Homme’s artistic director, Van Assche’s tailoring has evolved with roomier suits and unexpected pops of bright colors. Given more freedom of expression at Berluti, the designer infused a new energy and excitement into the venerable house without straying too far from its artisanal roots. ($8,750.)
What makes a great pair of sunglasses? A perfect balance of form, proportion and functionality, plus a chunk of sleek style. Ahlem delivered that and more this year with models like the Montorgueil. It’s founder Ahlem Manai-Platt’s uncompromising search for top-quality materials that defines the collection: she uses Mazzucchelli’s cellulose acetate—that’s the Italian family which has been producing acetate since 1849—with Cridal lenses from French optical company Christian Dalloz. The two are put together by hand by her team in France. Are you ready to upgrade your shades? ($440.)
The 1970s, perhaps surprisingly, have been a significant influence on men’s style for several years now and it was that oft-maligned decade that inspired Globe-Trotter’s new St. Moritz collection. These navy cases have been given contrasting red handles and straps to bring out the sense of fun and excitement that accompanied the Seventies jet-set on their winter breaks to the Alps. That joie de vivre married to the label’s provenance–the brand launched in Germany in 1897 before ultimately settling in Britain and counts Kate Moss and HM the Queen as clients–results in the perfect combination of style and security. ($2,060, carry-on.)
Corneliani’s style director Stefano Gaudioso Tramonte is so wedded to the idea of the coat as the essential fall garment, he showed 30 variations at the house’s fall presentation in Milan, from the peacoat to the parka, the military trench to the overcoat, available in a range of sumptuous materials including cashmere and double-faced wool. “It’s the primary styling element of the season,” says Tramonte. One of the many that caught our eye, this bathrobe-like topper in a lightweight elegant wool is more than just a protective layer, it’s your sophisticated, stylish go-to garment for over suits, knitwear and jeans. ($2,200.)
Can a man have too many ties? Stefano Ricci says absolutely not. His unending passion for the classic men’s accessory (they were what he started his business with, more than 40 years ago) is unrivalled. Ricci sketches the intricate patterns, inspired mainly by his native Florentine architecture and culture, and sometimes by one of his many African sojourns, on paper, before artisans screen print layers of color onto the substantial silk and they are delicately hand-sewn. Now that the suit is in high-demand once again, there’s a good reason to add another tie to your collection. ($260.)
It’s hard not to love Stella McCartney’s new Beatles-inspired men’s collection with playful sweaters like the “All Together Now.” But don’t let the clothes distract you from what makes this designer a pioneer: her dedication to sustainable practices. McCartney has been championing sustainability since she started in the fashion industry, and this season she presented sweaters made of 100 percent reclaimed fibers. One of the fashion industry’s most credible advocates for change, she uses exclusively recycled viscose, polyesters and nylons in her clothes and accessories. Her main focus now is transforming her supply chains (the raw materials), she recently told Women’s Wear Daily: “For viscose, for example, 150 million trees a year are cut down in the name of fashion. I’m probably the only brand in the world that’s sourced sustainable viscose from renewable forests. That’s something I had to do off my own back, it cost me money, it cost me a lot of time, but you know what? I mean it and I believe in it and it’s how I want to live my life. It’s the kind of footprint I want to leave behind, as a businesswoman and as a mother, on this planet.” Her passion is undeniably inspiring, but she leads by example, and that’s what motivates others. ($755.)
Remember the name Cohérence. It’s founder Kentaro Nakagomi’s romanticized vision of the overcoat for the sartorially minded man— think Humphrey Bogart’s signature raincoat in Casablanca—executed in exceptional fabrics with high-tech weaving applications in Japan. Our pick for the season’s best trench is the brand’s Albert Camus. This belted cotton gabardine model is rich in volume and details—and a welcome alternative to today’s trim, minimalist raincoats.
“The coats are updates of my favorite classics,” says Nakagomi, who in his research assembled an archive of vintage coats. Every new model is inspired and named for legendary artists and intellectuals, including Marcel Duchamp and Le Corbusier, which speaks to Nakagomi’s strong sense of classicism. He also designs the brand’s innovative new fabrics: The Corb (named for Le Corbusier) has the lineage of a classic tweed coat but can come with a twist in soft, lightweight jersey. He’s committed to bringing back the classics but in a thoroughly modern way. ($1,860 available at The Armoury.)
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD:
There aren’t many bespoke tailors, anywhere in the world, who have influenced men’s style like Edward Sexton. Having learned his trade in London in the ’60s, Sexton and business partner Tommy Nutter set up shop on an austere Savile Row in 1969, the first addition to the Row in 100 years. It was revolutionary. Their bright window displays and glamorous signature style attracted rock stars and royalty: The Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Yoko Ono, Elton John and Andy Warhol were a few.
In the five decades that followed, Sexton’s powerful masculine silhouette has remained relevant by not following trends. “I’ve always been very influenced by the ’30s and ’40s,” he says. “So I have a strong shoulder line with a long, rich lapel with plenty of belly [the curve of the lapel near the button]. It creates a lot of daylight through the body between the sleeve and waist. It’s a very complimentary look.” Indeed it is. You notice a man in a Sexton suit. More importantly, perhaps when wearing one you feel you deserve to be noticed.
“Long before social media you built a client base on recommendations: Our only form of advertising was my clients wearing the clothes,” says Sexton, who is now 76 and still occasionally accompanies creative director Dominic Sebag-Montefiore to trunk shows in the US and Asia.
In looking to the future, Sebag-Montefiore is securing Sexton’s legacy, introducing an ecommerce business for ready-to-wear items, for example. And this fall, new trouser styles will also emerge to celebrate the brand’s 50th anniversary. But it’s bespoke, and a quicker “offshore bespoke” high-end made-to-measure service, that offers pure Sexton appeal.
A diminutive figure, Sexton is a giant of global menswear. There is nobody better suited—in any sense—to Robb Report’s lifetime achievement award.