“Cent pays, cent modes ; cent paroisses, cent églises.” (A hundred countries, a hundred fashions; a hundred parishes, a hundred churches.) Breton saying (in Recueil des proverbes bretons )
If we rewind back two or three decades, I was not too sure what to do with my life. Lawyer? Historian? Musician? Hairdresser? Lorry driver? These were options that I actually considered, most of them causing great concern to my parents.
I ended up lecturing Law in college, which is not so bad after all. And I also delved into the beauty industry (facial rejuvenation) with a small business I founded.
However I recently remembered that back in the days, for a period that must have lasted…at least three weeks, I was hell bent on becoming a fashion designer!
It was not so much for the love of creating, but simply because in those days I found men’s fashion atrocious, and I wanted to design clothes I’d enjoy wearing.
Women’s fashion was in its golden age, but for guys the scene was very poor indeed. I am talking before the days of Zara, H&M and Topman. The nec plus ultra was still Ralph Lauren, which meant preppy and Gentleman-farmer like. There was hardly any alternative: Burberry’s, later Hackett, Hilfiger…were just variations on the same theme. The Italian brands you are all familiar with had not yet exploded as accessible objects of desire and the likes of Mugler were quite obscure (pre-internet days you have to keep in mind).
In this context I decided to draw my ideal wardrobe, which I could describe by borrowing an expression I since heard Paul Smith use in an interview: “Classic with a twist”.
I had a particular interest in 18th and 19th century costume, and in Breton traditional dress. The latter involves a huge variety of styles which reflects the multitude of regions, dialects and musics from the tiny peninsula of Brittany.
Surprisingly, the Breton peasantry might have been extremely poor, yet it developped a strong unique sense of dress, with Sunday clothes made of noble black fabrics superbly adorned by golden and orange embroideries. The “Gilet Bigouden” (waistcoat from the region of Kemper) being a masterpiece of the genre.
Being a life long Tuxedo aficionado, I mixed the dinner suit with traditional Breton outfits like the aforementioned vest , but also the “Bragou bras” (literally “large pants”), wide pleated pants tightened just below the knees and worn with gaiters and originally, clogs.
I was also dreaming of well cut suits, with trousers that would follow the shape of the leg, rather than the potato bags that ALL brands were selling back then. I was imagining felt jackets with military inspiration, pin striped trousers, woolen caps…
It took another few years of near fashion desert before menswear started becoming a serious thing. And my dreams of being a fashion designers hadn’t survived the above half dozen or so drawings, most of which I only dug out from my drawers a few weeks ago, still intact. They must date back to 1993-1995. Just when Dsquared2 started! And in terms of details, I can see in retrospect that I was preaching in the wilderness, waiting for the messiah; and it came in the form of two Canadian twins.
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