London Lives: The Re-Working of British Tailoring

Giorgio Armani sparked the trend for re-worked tailoring with a softly constructed new type of suit in the ’70s. Characterized by a distinct lack of internal structure, the design allowed garments to hang in a much more relaxed way than ever before. Traditional British tailoring has also been repeatedly re-worked in the years since then, as the country’s traditional methods have evolved into reinvented styles of sophistication. A recent spate of young British designers—namely Omar Kashoura, Carolyn Massey and 1205′s Paula Gerbase—has now propelled a new wave of innovative tailoring, elevating the modes of classical craftsmanship to a new level.

After graduating with first class honors from the London College Of Fashion in 2004, Omar Kashoura began working for London fashion house Preen and later Unconditional. He eventually returned to St Martins to complete a masters degree before successfully establishing a signature look of simplicity and sharpness under his own name.

Kashoura’s vision is all about maximizing from the minimal—he has an impressive knack for lifting the shoulders of men’s jackets to make them look sturdier, and unabashedly uses unique finishing techniques (looped and detachable shirt collars, jacket cuff fastenings) for a chic practicality. “Creating shape with cloth and structure around the body can only really be done in a small number of ways [that are] not necessarily unique to me,” he explains, but adds: “though I do admit to having some of my own special tricks!”

Such distinctive flourishes are part of the aesthetic eye that makes Kashoura’s clothes part of this new vanguard. “Most of my inspiration really comes from social theory contexts. I like to question reasons, and am very interested in how and why things are. My collections are generally a solution to a problem,” he says. His s/s ’10 collection is all about men dressing as men, portraying an image of idealized masculinity through what they wear. The clothes seem to emphasize the notion of carrying the weight of the world—a theme that is quite literally rendered in a pebble and crab print jacket.

Carolyn Massey, meanwhile, graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2005. She is quintessentially British in her approach to design, inspired, arguably obsessed, with detailing and military influence. Her 2009 collection, for instance, was infused by historic silhouettes and traditional schoolboy-esque tailoring drawn from research at both the National Army Museum and the Museum of Eton Life at Eton School.

The latest a/w ’10 collection continues down the same well-researched route, unearthing traditional patterns of a bygone era like smocks and flight suits along with some additional contemporary suiting. In addition to her nostalgic designs, Massey is also known for creating more technical garments that are synonymous with mountaineering and fishing wear—lightweight trench coats in technical fabrics with utilitarian pocket details, for example—which illustrate her natural dexterity with both form and function.

Also a graduate of a Central St Martins, Paula Gerbase worked with designers such as Gareth Pugh and Alistair Carr before embarking on a rigorous couture-tailoring course at the atelier of Hardy Aimes on Saville Row. Gerbase later went on to work with Carlo Brandelli for five-years and eventually completed her graduate collection while holding down the role of head designer at Kilgour.

This intense tailoring and couture training and obsession with the quality and cut of fabrics are paramount in Gerbase’s designs for her own label 1205. “Generally I start a collection with fabric, “she explains, “balance and proportion in the cut are something I consider at length with every garment…even before the fabric has been cut.” Her work has a relaxed sensitivity through streamlined silhouettes that present an elegant and androgynous angle to shirting. By approaching the process through such a microscopic lens, the resulting garments are imbued with a modern, almost clinical edge.

As far as the future of progressive tailoring goes, Gerbase seems to have the right outlook: “I would love for both men and women to look at clothing in a considered way, to understand fabric, to think about cut. I am hoping that by cutting the entire collection in a unisex way, both men and women will begin to really try a garment on and think about how it is put together and how it fits.”

Claire Martin is the creative director of Mill Co., a full service creative consultancy based in London.

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