MENSWEAR’S NEXT ACT
A new generation of FIT-trained designers infuse fresh ideas into timeworn standards
by Raquel Laneri
It used to be that a man’s wardrobe would consist mainly of button-down shirts, trousers, jackets, ties, and some T-shirts and jeans for the weekend. Not anymore. Now, guys can wear luxe hoodies to work, an embroidered cloak to a black-tie event, or even a Comme des Garçons skirt to run errands. And FIT alumni are leading the charge in designing these cutting-edge looks.
“Men are anxious to wear more exciting apparel, so we’re giving students techniques and tools to reinvigorate men’s fashion,” says Mark-Evan Blackman, Fashion Design ’84, assistant professor of Menswear, “whether that means playing with proportions or color, or adding an activewear detail like an elastic hem to high-end tailored trousers.”
Part of the shift toward more experimental styles has to do with more fluid gender roles.
“Women have historically been more open to wearing all kinds of styles, silhouettes, and volumes,” says Auston Björkman, Menswear ’10, founder of Sir New York, a brand that mixes athletic fabrics and cuts with more traditionally feminine touches, such as dolman sleeves and halter necks. “Men need that freedom also.”
This newfound freedom has translated into booming business. The trend-tracking company Edited found that in 2014, the number of menswear products on the market grew at a faster rate than women’s wear (4.5 percent compared with 3.7 percent). And analysts predict that by 2020, menswear will reach $33 billion in global sales. No wonder designers are starting to pay attention, and providing guys with smarter, more comfortable, and more stylish garments than ever before.
“The vocabulary of men’s clothing has changed; it is so much richer,” Blackman says. “And FIT has always been at the forefront of these kinds of changes.” On the following pages, learn about four menswear labels established by FIT alumni that are reinventing the standard suit and tie—all photographed in FIT’s newly renovated Haft Theater.
Gregory Rosborough, Menswear ’08, was on an airplane when something caught his eye. “A male flight attendant, in a suit jacket, was trying to help an elderly woman put her bag into the overhead compartment, but he couldn’t lift his arm above shoulder height,” says the 33-year-old former Polo designer. That’s when he called his FIT classmate Abdul Abasi, Menswear ’08, with an idea: reinventing the traditional suit jacket. Three years later, Abasi Rosborough launched with a cool, one-button version, featuring ergonomic pockets and breathable underarm panels. Now, the Woolmark Prize–winning duo are reimagining other wardrobe staples: the military coat, rendered in all-natural shearling, and the knit sweater, done as a hooded scarf stretched to outrageous proportions. “Our inspirations go from here to there,” says the 36-year-old Abasi, citing Middle Eastern dress, natural fibers, and advanced geometry. “But it’s always about how clothing functions on the body and designing something harmonious.”
Top image: On Gregory Rosborough: a wool ARC Jacket. On Aly: a shearling and wool felt ARC Orion Coat and Merino wool ARC Hooded Tunic. On Abdul Abasi: a suede calfskin ARC Ascent Jacket. All clothes by Abasi Rosborough.
A man going to a wedding, dinner party, or black-tie event doesn’t have much to choose from other than a neutral suit or basic tux. That’s where Andrew Morrison, Production Management ’06, comes in. The 29-year-old launched his line of genderless evening wear a year ago, featuring languid wide-legged trousers, kimono-inspired jackets, and theatrical crinkle-vinyl tuxedo vests that look like something Bowie would have worn if he’d been a samurai. “I get a lot of references to vampires and Star Wars, so men gravitate toward that,” says Morrison, who won Out magazine’s 2016 Fashion Vanguard Award for his elevated take on non-gendered fashion. “It’s a lot of tuxedo elements: refined fabrics, refined silhouettes, high waists, things that make you stand up straight and feel different and special. That’s what sets me apart from other unisex brands.”
SIR NEW YORK
When Auston Björkman graduated from FIT’s Menswear program in 2010, the men’s fashion world looked very different than it does now. “Everything was very buttoned-up and bowtie,” says the transgender designer, citing shrunken Thom Browne suits and precious professorial tweeds.“I just wanted to get completely away from that.” Björkman launched Sir New York in 2011, with a collection of street-inflected styles that used athletic fabrics like mesh and neoprene and relaxed, sporty silhouettes, for a line inspired by men’s sportswear but with a decidedly androgynous look. But his latest collection is a novel mix of unorthodox materials and traditional hand-knitting and saori weaving techniques, with wildly inventive sweaters, dresses, and bags created out of baby alpaca, nylon rope, twine, and nylon fabric. “I really wanted to concentrate on slowing fashion down, because I feel like it’s just too fast and wasteful,” he says. “In saori weaving, nothing is a mistake…the imperfections are actually what makes it beautiful. I found that inspiring.”
When Adam Thomison, Production Management ’12, his brother Luke, Menswear ’12, and their pal Maxwell Coombs-Esmail, Menswear ’12, started Control Sector, their mission was simple. “I hate having to work really hard to get dressed up, but I like to look good,” says 27-year- old Coombs-Esmail. “This is clothing that you can just throw on, run out the door, and look awesome.” It’s far from your standard streetwear, however. Liquid vinyl transforms a transparent raincoat into a luxurious garment, while a high-density breathable microfiber makes a super-stretchy hoodie that won’t fade in the wash. No wonder the mid-priced brand fits right in on the sales rack alongside high-fashion labels like Givenchy and Margiela—without compromising any of its street cred. “You can skateboard in it, you can dance in it, you can even snowboard in it,” Coombs-Esmail says.
Photographs by Christopher Hall ’11. Models courtesy of Red Model Management.