SET FOR SUCCESS ON SAVILE ROW: GIEVES & HAWKES
Jason Basmajian is a man with an illustrious career. With more than two decades’ experience as a creative manager at major international fashion brands, he has been director of menswear at Calvin Klein and Donna Karan in New York, creative director of S.T. Dupont in Paris and, most recently, artistic director of luxury Italian menswear label Brioni. His recent move to Gieves & Hawkes sees him take on the creative direction of a brand that has more than 240 years of tailoring history behind it.
What attracted you to the position of creative director at Gieves & Hawkes?
“After working at Brioni for six years, Savile Row seemed the logical next step. Menswear started on Savile Row and there is great tradition and history here; I really wanted to go back to where it all started. Of course, Gieves & Hawkes has a legacy stretching back more than 240 years and, with three Royal Warrants, it’s one of the most venerable heritage brands in Britain.”
Are you planning to put your own stamp on the creative direction? If so, how?
“In the near future, I want to bring some coherence and consistency to the company. To strip Gieves & Hakwes back to its core tailoring heritage and really embrace that; to celebrate who we are and build on those values. This is not a rebranding, but an elevation and evolution of the brand. I hope that we will be able to bring a great deal of manufacturing back into the UK, working exclusively with more British mills, as this will allow us to bring the brand forward in a fresh yet appropriate way. Ultimately, our plan is to give the brand more of an international presence while still retaining our core British accent.”
There are many different arms to the business at Gieves & Hawkes – from core tailoring and bespoke to the military offering and collaborations with other brands. How much of a challenge does this represent?
“The many facets of Gieves & Hawkes is actually what makes the brand so exciting. I see these as creative challenges not obstacles. The brand is very masculine and built around a gentleman’s style. There is an authenticity and integrity across the brand, which is something that very much appeals to me.”
Savile Row is in a unique position as a bastion of tailoring. What are your thoughts on how Savile Row is perceived around the world?
“Savile Row is the cradle of menswear. It has stood the test of time and good taste. It has de ned the notion of quality, a timeless masculine style while embracing innovation without losing its DNA. I think the world looks to Savile Row as THE reference and end-all in tailoring. However, I think there is some work to be done in making Savile Row more accessible in the minds of men all over the world. The hallowed street is very much alive and booming. This is not a museum row, but rather a place full of top artisans and craftsmen dedicated to true luxury – things that take time to make. One must consider bespoke as an investment, but, actually, you can buy a bespoke suit that takes several months to craft for around £3,500 at Gieves & Hawkes. It’s a price that isn’t a great deal more than an off-the peg suit at some department stores. In my opinion, Savile Row is not expensive, it is actually great value.”
Where do you think menswear, and tailoring in particular, stands in 2013?
“I think menswear has moved back to elegance and style in all its various forms. Men have embraced looking and feeling good as part of their daily lifestyle. Great clothes make you feel con dent, successful, sexy – who doesn’t want to feel like this? I think menswear has also moved back to British style. One need not look any further than the recent fashion runway shows to see a large English in fluence. I also like the fact that there are less rules and men are wearing clothes differently. At the end of the day, our values may not be discernibly different from our father or grandfathers’, but our lifestyles certainly are.”
Are you excited to be spending more time in London?
“I am an American born in Boston and lived for many years in New York and Paris. I have spent most of my professional life in and around Italy. However, London has always been my favourite city. It is a dream to live here and I believe it is the centre of the world. I love the mix of tradition and trend that somehow coexists harmoniously and fuels a dynamic creativity. This to me is what Britishness is – something new, based and routed in solid tradition. Art, fashion, food, and culture are thriving. It is an international crossroads of the world and I am happy to be part of it.”
What can we expect from Gieves & Hawkes in the future?
“What you can expect from Gieves & Hawkes in the future is relevance in today’s menswear market. We will continue to serve generations of gentlemen in all their sartorial needs with good taste, uncompromising service and a commitment to style.”
1 Savile Row, W1S 3JR
T: 020 7432 6403
THE ONE TO WATCH: LA MANIA
La Mania might have only been established in September 2010, but its founder Joanna Przetakiewicz has already taken her womenswear label to a market-leading position in her native Poland. What’s more, she has captured the attention of arguably one of most powerful men in fashion, the one and only Karl Lagerfeld, who has bestowed La Mania with honorary patronage and become something of a mentor to Przetakiewicz. Combining classic design with contemporary, minimal tailoring and the luxury of high- quality fabrics, La Mania offers today’s modern women the very best in effortless sophistication.
What is your design background?
“Ever since I was a young girl, fashion has played a major role in my life. As a child, while others were excited by the prospect of sweets and chocolate, I was always more tempted by fabric and back issues of Vogue! However, there was one moment in particular when it suddenly struck me that there was the potential for it to become something more than a private passion.I was packing for yet another trip when it dawned on me that all the pieces I had chosen were either made by me or altered according to my own specific requirements and inspiration. So, with the firm conviction that I was best placed to design for my lifestyle, I set to work on my first collection. When I presented it to my friends, I was delighted with their reaction. With their support and the invaluable assistance of Karl Lagerfeld, I decided to turn what I love the most – fashion – into a proper business. At the end of 2010, La Mania was born.”
Speaking of Karl Lagerfeld, you’ve cited him as a major influence on your development as a designer. How valuable has his friendship and patronage been?
“It is impossible to convey just how important Karl is to me. His help and guidance knows no bounds and it is a privilege to have him as La Mania’s ‘godfather’. His personal opinion is invaluable and, what’s more, he is always frank and constructive. I’ve never had a better mentor and inspiration; not only is he a living legend, but he also combines his knowledge and expertise with a true willingness to help others.”
How would you describe the La Mania design aesthetic?
“The name La Mania was carefully chosen to reflect the ethos and values of the label; the sense that the wearer should be able to obsess over beautiful fashion pieces that adapt to and complement their busy modern lifestyle. At the heart of the designs is an ardent love of fashion, but there is also the recognition of the practicalities associated with a 21st-century lifestyle. Whenever I’m designing, I have a particular woman firmly in mind – one who combines an attractive self-confidence with a refreshing modesty and a timeless quality so that her grace reflects both the past and the future. It’s that effortless chic and sophistication that we’re looking to channel, using well-executed designs to showcase a woman’s inner style.”
What was the inspiration behind La Mania’s spring/summer 2013 collection? Are there any pieces that are particular favourites of yours?
“The SS13 collection was inspired by the concept of the phoenix – not only visually striking, but also spiritually empowering – as I’ve always imagined this mystical and powerful creature to be female. I wanted my designs to convey a woman’s inner strength. As for a favourite piece – well, it’s hard to say. A mother does not have a favourite child! I do adore the La Mania signature A-Line dresses which we have transformed for spring/summer in bright new colours like vivid fuchsia and turquoise. I am also a great fan of the effortlessly cool overalls, which make a brilliant alternative to evening wear, and our standout sequin dresses are eye-catching for all the right reasons. There is something perfect for every woman in this collection.”
Have you had to overcome any challenges in setting up the business and driving it forward?
“It’s never ‘easy’ to establish any business, and evolving a vision – a dream – into a practical reality takes time and careful strategic planning. We’ve always had big ambitions and it’s been a challenge to ensure that we don’t grow too quickly – that at every stage of the journey, no matter how great the demand, we never make any decisions that will lead to us to compromise on our overall proposition of offering the nest quality.”
What are your hopes for the future of the house?
“I am so excited by the future – to think that just two years ago we were only really starting out and now we’ve already got a foothold in two of the world’s greatest fashion capitals – Milan and London! Nothing is certain, of course – that is the nature of life, but I would say: ‘Watch this space!’”
La Mania at Harrods
87-135 Brompton Road, SW1X 7XL
T: 020 7730 1234
HATS FIT FOR A (FUTURE) QUEEN: VIVIEN SHERIFF
Donning a hat can instantly add wow factor to an outfit, particularly if that headpiece has been fashioned by Vivien Sheriff. The innovative milliner was the name of choice for guests invited to the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and her sculptural, vibrant design style has also captured the attention of both Selfridges and Harrods.
What is your design background?
“I actually began my career importing vintage textiles from far flung corners of the world. It allowed me to travel to some amazing places and absorb a range of different cultures. It’s these kinds of life experiences that really shape your design process, giving you a plethora of references to call upon. In 2005, I decided that I wanted to offer headwear that was far more beautiful than anything that was currently available. I made my first collection and, rather excitingly, it was taken by Selfridges.”
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
“The Vivien Sheriff design ethos is about precision and an unrivalled attention to detail. Every aspect of the design has to be perfect; for example, our signature feathering work is painstakingly time consuming but that’s what defines our work.”
What was the inspiration behind the spring/summer 2013 collection?
“SS13 is organic and earthy, almost otherworldly; it is soft and delicate with some underwater design elements. The shapes are dramatic but the tones are neutral, like Cyclone. This is one of my favourite designs – I just love the architecture and structure of the piece.”
Do you offer a bespoke service? Is anything possible?
“We make bespoke hats for customers from all over the world and, yes, anything is possible! We were recently commissioned by Harrods to make pieces for its windows in celebration of Chinese New Year. This collection denotes that, as far as our designs are concerned, anything is possible.”
Do you have any top tips on hats and how to wear them?
“For both the mother of the bride and the groom at weddings, it’s important to avoid casting a shadow over the face. I recommend wearing a style with an up-brim or a large headpiece that can be worn away from the face. If you’re looking for a hat for the races, go for colour and drama. Remember, it doesn’t have to be huge to be a statement piece.”
Your atelier is based in Wiltshire. Has it been easy to nd the talent to help bring your designs to fruition?
“The core team has remained the same, but whenever we’ve needed to look for someone new, we’ve never (touchwood!) had a problem finding the most highly skilled fashion graduates willing to work in the New Forest! I think it’s quite important to note that we don’t employ trained milliners, rather people from a background in textiles and design. This is why our collections are so diverse and uninhibited.”
What’s been your biggest achievement to date?
“I’d say our biggest achievement as a company has been to make more pieces for the Royal wedding in 2011 than any other designer. We’ve recently also just launched SHERIFF, our ready-to-wear diffusion brand of winter trilbies and fedoras. It has been incredibly well received and this has given me a real sense of personal achievement.”
Studio 6, Botleys Farm, Wick Lane, Downton, Wiltshire, SP5 3NW
T: 01725 512 983