Gieves & Hawkes
June 15, 2014 London
Now entering his third season with the house, Basmajian said he's finally hitting his stride—not simply by broadening the product offer beyond tailoring (his legacy at previous employer Brioni) but also by sourcing British manufacturing and fabrics wherever possible; currently that accounts for around 40 percent of the brand's output. "When I worked at Brioni, we always used to joke that the Italians were better at interpreting British style than the British themselves," said Basmajian. "Now that I'm here, I can put what I learned into practice."
The ensuing thirty-five-outfit collection played with references from the British seaside, although there wasn't a Kiss Me Quick hat in sight. Rather, the design team took inspiration from the rugged coastlines of Devon and Cornwall, resulting in a color palette that ran the gamut of aqua and teal to the inevitable grays that personify an English summer, a fact not lost on the Bostonian Basmajian, who grew up holidaying on Cape Cod.
However, the real sea change at Gieves does not lie in a predilection for the maritime (besides weatherproof peacoats and duffel-macs) but a recognition that the formal British menswear sector needs more than a handful of royal appointments to retain its relevance. Hence the label showed a growing lifestyle strategy that encompassed everything from crocodile-trimmed totes to suede espadrilles, the latter working surprisingly well with tailoring, regardless of their informality.
Whether you'll see Princes Wills and Harry in any of this remains a moot point. Nevertheless, formal suiting still makes up around 60 percent of Gieves & Hawkes' output, and it's here that a static presentation really did the clothes justice. A typical two-button suit that would usually zip past on the runway unnoticed revealed a salt-and-pepper wool/silk fabrication (or "urban tweed," as Basmajian described it) teamed with a cotton piqué shirt and a knitted silk tie, proving that even the fustiest classic is capable of being updated by adding texture.
And maybe that's the secret. The hoopla of the swanky address, royal crests, and British manufacturing pedigree may all be commercial talking points in the Gieves & Hawkes philosophy, but the crux of the matter is demonstrating a breadth and versatility in what you do. After all, like other British menswear brands with Asian proprietors and global ambitions (Hardy Amies and Kilgour are just two of the many), the heritage acts as a theme but the product must be international in outlook to succeed. So it turns out that an Italian-trained American designer is the perfect person for this evolving brand, which is "international English," as Basmajian succinctly put it.