I always get excited about fall clothes. Perhaps it’s the fact that the additional layers allow one to express oneself in subtle whispers that rival the boldest aloha shirt, but perhaps I’m romanticizing it just a bit. It helps that the coldest it ever gets in San Francisco is a laughable 40℉ (about 5℃), so I can enjoy the clothes without having to suffer too much discomfort. Yes, that’s an admission of guilt.
This season, designers seem to have pillaged from various styles of modern fashion. Of course, this is nothing new, but it seems especially apparent this time around. Therefore, each designer will have a throwback song or album that I feel encapsulates it. A little reductive, yes; but think of it as your shopping soundtrack to get you in the mood and help you decide what look best fits your style. Ready? Here we go.
Song: The Innocence Mission – That Was Another Country
Ah, 1995. I had just moved to upstate New York, and getting ready to experience my first deciduous autumn as a Southern California boy. As soon as the first chill happened, I was surrounded by new sights, and not just of the trees: khakis, cords, chunky sweaters, scarves, and big jackets. Suddenly the stifling temperatures of summer eased to allow the real fun to start, when you can play in a rugby shirt without dying of heat exhaustion, and as your sweat cooled in the dusky late afternoon air, you’d start the barbecue with crispy fallen leaves while sipping on a Red Hook; after dinner, you’d borrow someone’s roll neck (everybody had at least one) to watch the sun set over the fiery hills of the Adirondacks, and the Innocence Mission would play in the background, and everyone would be smiling.
Drake’s pulls from such happy, loose-fitting, carefree mid-90s nostalgia but makes it modern by keeping the pants moderately trim and jacket lapel gorge above the pectorals. Nothing is offensive, everything looks comfortable, and you’d feel completely fine if everyone in the world dressed more or less the same way (“Oh, you have a cable sweater in periwinkle? Mine is in moss. Let’s swap!”).
In less capable hands, such a decision can get old quick (sorry, J Crew), but the creative genius of Drake’s is taking classic themes and curating a selection that incorporates contemporary tweaks, unimpeachable fabrics, and flattering patterns that prevents it from sliding into stale insignificance. Their tweed raglan and corduroy belted overcoat are particular standouts, but basically, anything is a sure pick. Seriously, they could do this for the next 100 years, and it would still look great.
Collection: Brooks Brothers
Song: The Dandy Warhols – Every Day Should Be A Holiday
When Brooks Brothers revealed its Fall 2018 show at Pitti last winter, everyone was a little bemused. Why was one of the longest-running outfitters of US presidents headlining opening night at one of the peacocky-est shows of the year for its 200th anniversary? No one really had a clear answer, except for the fact that now an Italian is running the show (Claudio del Vecchio is the current President and CEO), and instead of recalling the best of its storied history, many of the looks were uneven, with never-off-the-runway oddities like tucking in suit jackets into pants. Yes, you read that right. You can see a brief video overview of the show here.
Despite that, the best looks were actually distinct and non-chalant, like louche double-breasted suits worn open, three-button jackets worn with the collar up, and Chelsea boots. Much of the capsule drew from 60s British and American rock and roll archetypes, which made onlookers wonder if they were actually watching a Brooks Brothers or Burberry show. Who influenced who? Does it matter, as long as it’s done well?
Similarly, on The Dandy Warhols album Come Down, never has an American band sounded so British so well, especially on the seventh track, Every Day Should Be a Holiday. It’s got groovy reverb, a sweet guitar hook, a touch of electro, and just the right amount of oohs and aahs that make it one of the best Britpop songs, even though it hails from Portland. Go figure.
Song: Cranberries sing the Carpenters who sing Richard Chamberlain who sing Burt Bacharach – Close to You
Corneliani is one of those brands that doesn’t get the love it deserves. The company has been around for decades, and besides producing for its own label, it has made clothing for Karl Lagerfeld, Krizia, and Trussardi, among others. Despite this, one thing you can count on for Corneliani is their unobjectionable, consonant stylishness. When they were making for Ralph Lauren from 1998 to 2016 there were no less than five Polo models at any given time (more than a dozen, if you count two- and three-button models, tuxedos, and double breasteds) but you always knew it was a Corneliani. If you liked how they fit, you could be fairly confident that you’d like their other stuff. This season shares the same DNA, and whereas nothing is revolutionary, they’re up-to-date pieces that anyone can wear and look great. My favorites are the belted raglan overcoat (taken from their archives) and their no-brainer combinations of gray, navy, and camel, in colors that complement practically everyone. Really, you can’t go wrong with anything they’ve made over the past 10 years.
I kind of think of Burt Bacharach as the Corneliani of the music world, and I mean that in the best way possible. In addition to writing songs for himself, he’s written for countless others: Perry Como, Dionne Warwick, Tom Jones, Rod Stewart, Elvis Costello, etc – not to mention all the songs he’s written for the screen. The thing about a Burt Bacharach song is no matter who sings it, or how, you know it’s a Burt Bacharach song, and even though it may not be particularly groundbreaking, it always – always – sounds great. For crying out loud, even the Library of Congress says there’s a thing called a “Bacharach sound”. Nowhere is this more apparent than when, in 1994, the Cranberries cover the Carpenters’ “Close To You” of 1970, which was itself a cover of the same song sung by Richard Chamberlain in 1963, which was written by Bacharach. Honestly, I can’t decide which one I like the best, and if someone were to redo it again today, I’d probably like that one too.
Classic Menswear / Streetwear
Collection: Giorgio Armani
Song: Giorgio Moroder – Chase
I swear, one of these days, we’ll all be dressing in Armani, and wondering why we didn’t make the jump earlier. This season includes a few suits, mostly in an 8-to-6 (!) double-breasted configuration, which looks a little adolescent as a suit but positively virile as a velvet blazer. Most of his collection for Fall/Winter 2018 is filled with what the designer does best: soft drapey goodness, taking patterns that we already know, deconstructing them, and recreating them in fantastic fabrics that you’d want to lounge all day in.
Nothing in the runway would be confused for conservative business dress, but if your work environment allows it, you’d be hard pressed to find cooler threads. This collection, like many of his, has a retro-futuristic tenor, not unlike listening to Chase from Giorgio Moroder. The synthesizer he became so closely associated with is admittedly dated, yet sounds like it hails from a future of warp speed and molecular transport, like something we’d wear if the robot apocalypse happened and we all lived in climate-controlled spaceships, wore cashmere velvet suits, animal fur, and band collar shirts, which would be perfectly fine to me.
Stores around the world, but their online shop has quite a bit of selection as well.
Collection: Margaret Howell
Song: Siouxsie & the Banshees – Slowdive
For someone who has been designing for almost half a century, Margaret Howell still manages to remain current. Her secret? “You never tire of good designs,” according to a GQ interview Indeed, a quick perusal of her collections – over a hundred of them – and you’d think they’re indistinguishable. Upon closer inspection, however, you’ll notice subtle changes over the years, like an unhurried widening or narrowing of a trouser leg or a slight increase or decrease in trouser rise. In other words: different, but same.
Siouxsie Sioux has more or less been doing the same thing, for almost the same amount of time. The music is always dramatic and moody, her voice alluring and passionate. Even though her sound hasn’t changed in decades, every song is very uniquely her. This is not to say that she’s stuck in a rut, but rather reflects someone who is confident in their style. Just listen to Slowdive from Siouxsie & the Banshees. Made all the way back in 1983, it inspired one of the best bands of all time (yes, that Slowdive) and perhaps predictably, was later covered by LCD Soundsystem. Try and tell me those thumping beats and purring vocals come from a demure, equivocating artist.
Margaret Howell style hasn’t changed much either, and yet the little changes she does do are what continuously make her collections so compelling. In a world where bold statement pieces get all the love, keeping the same roster of old standbys seems like a sure path to irrelevance, but the Howell deftly modifies them just enough to keep them fresh. Unlike clothes that scream individuality with conspicuous, exaggerated designs, Howell’s clothes are for those who prefer subtly unique takes on classic clothes. Think of it as streetwear for those that like menswear.
Song: The Stone Roses – Fool’s Gold
45R (formerly RPM) never ceases to trigger the “buy now” muscle in my index finger when browsing, and fortunately, the ridiculous prices of most of the pieces keep me from clicking myself into debt. For those of you unfamiliar with Japanese fashion, it can often be described as maximalist fashion – way over the top. While for some reason it looks great on their models, it is admittedly not for everybody, nor everywhere, but when you’re in the mood, brands like Kapital delivers. For the rest of us, there’s 45R.
It’s not that it’s any less interesting, per se; much, if not all, of their collection is completely exclusive to them, including the fabric. The talent of the company lies in taking something that you’d never wear and making it wearable. It helps that most of the items are in easy-to-wear shades of indigo, brown, and gray. Take the stripe hoodie below as an example. For crying out loud, that’s a rug fabric, and yet somehow it looks like something I can incorporate into my wardrobe without a second thought. But the prices, oh the prices – this one will set you back a seizure-inducing $624. My recommendation: save up and get one piece and pair it with all your other boring clothes.
You can purchase directly from their site, but if you’re lucky enough to live near the few stores they have in US, definitely drop by, as most of their items need to be seen and handled in person to fully appreciate them.
Scrolling through the lookbook, you can pick up a funky undercurrent; the clothes seem to boogie when worn. Even if it’s not your bag, the comfortable ease and eye-catching motifs from cultures around the world resonate with anyone with even half a pulse, which reminds me of the 1989 baggy Madchester anthem from the Stone Roses, Fool’s Gold. Starting from the first cymbal taps, this is one of those addictive, slow-burning jams that you never tire of, even after the end of its nine-plus minutes. Boasting arguably the grooviest bass line and drum beat ever produced, its alternatively funky and psychedelic wah-wah guitar effects and hushed vocals boast more than enough feel-good vibes to make the most wooden wallflower jump on the dancefloor and commence the head bobbin’.