Retailers such as Barneys and Maxfield, who both carry Libertine, are aware of the label’s impressive rise over the last four years, but is everyone else taking notice of Libertine’s influential reach across menswear? Not only is the label’s signature aesthetic (designed by Johnson Hartig and Cindy Greene) — silk-screened characters on jackets and shirts and frayed edges on everything — a staple on NYC city streets, in rock videos, and on the backs of celebrities, the label has inspired a slew of high street imitators hoping to copy the purpose and vision of their rock star line.
Carol Lim, co-owner of Opening Ceremony boutique in New York says, “guys are interested in dressing up with more structured pieces, especially blazers but even three-piece suits.” No surprise there, it’s been in our forecast but what may surprise is Lim’s revelation that Cloak (which also has a Meatpacking district store) is currently her hottest selling menswear line with Rachel Comey in hot pursuit. Working at an organic pace for several years now, Cloak’s designers Alexandre Plokhov and Robert Geller are extremely focused and produce collections partial to strong structured lines, utility detailing, and bold use of seam. Stateside, they have been creating a DSquared like buzz over the last few seasons. Winning a 2002 Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation Award for menswear was undoubtedly a mixed blessing of international attention and an expectation that Cloak will need to translate that buzz into business.
The design strains of Rachel Comey’s two-year-old line belie her American roots. A bit sporty, a touch country, usually quirky, and retro sophisticated, Comey focuses her lens squarely on über-cool boys, including David Bowie who jumpstarted her career when he wore one of her shirts on the David Letterman Show. Now with a women’s line Comey is dressing up the rock chicks, too. Obedient Sons is also in that rocker group, albeit with the infusion of more tailoring.
They’ve recently partnered on Seize Sur Vingt’s new project, Groupe 16sur20, set to become a menswear destination in Nolita, along with Unis down the street where men are turning for utility basics.
It’s no surprise that Marc by Marc Jacobs sought Oliver Helden to consult on their technical designs, Helden is a serious technician of the old school variety as evidenced by the detailed work of his menswear. Heavily influenced by architecture and a treasure trove of arcane references, it’s impeccable tailoring with a dandy flair that’s getting his two-seasons-old collection a lot of attention in New York. One of 2004′s Ecco Domani winners, Harmon from Andrew Harmon is a collection of beautiful suits, jackets, slacks, and knits for men and women with a wonderful sense of Americana that offers distinct deviation for a younger audience.
There’s Yoko Devereaux, who’s frequently mentioned on these pages, for tightly marketed collections, increasingly sharp tailoring, and approachable casual wear that have men embracing the label worldwide. Duckie Brown and Ron-n-Ron, also profiled here, are key members of the line up — the former for applying striking and unexpected colors to suits and jackets, the latter for working in that sweet spot of masculine clothes that resonate with straights and gays alike. In fact, this duality is a mark of many of the brands defining current American menswear. They’re zoning in on the dandy and casual needs of today’s man.
Photos: Photos: Cloak s/s ’05
Oliver Helden f/w ’04
Rachel Comey f/w ’04
Obedient Sons f/w ’04
Harmon s/s ’05