Spring/Summer 2014 Collection by Schwarz.
Recently I was fortunate enough to interview Menswear designer Jenny Schwarz. Jenny’s impeccable combination of classic vintage tailoring paired with modern, urban styles result in innovative, crisp pieces that scream timeless high-fashion menswear attire, with texture and structure adding a dark and detailed twist. I asked Jenny about her passion for menswear, staple pieces every man must own, as well as what the future entails..
What first made you realise your love for Menswear?
My work in menswear has come about somewhat by chance. At Central St Martins I was put in the wrong group. So, instead of studying womenswear, which is what I originally intended to do, I was accidently put in a menswear group and told that the first term all students would learn the same things and I could switch after Christmas. Christmas came, by which time I had totally fallen for the focus on detail in menswear. I saw it as a challenge to create pieces men would want but which retained some idea of individuality and design. I also have a strong instinct to focus on quality and I feel that when a man buys clothes, how long they last and therefore their quality is more of a deciding factor so we became a perfect match.
Do you think there are any advantages or disadvantages in being a female designer for menswear in the industry today?
I think you could find both advantages and disadvantages. I have been told that men won’t buy my clothes because the label is named after me, a woman. It’s a terrible attitude to take but if it exists then it’s certainly a disadvantage. Maybe I should start a diffusion brand, Jeff Schwarz, for those people. There might be an element of why would a woman know what a man wants to wear but I suspect that comes as a reaction to garments a customer already does not connect with. I think if the design is good people will accept that it’s designed by a woman. I see it as an advantage too. Perhaps a woman’s take on what men wear creates a different result, something unexpected. I don’t think you can have too much diversity in what shapes fashion whether that be gender, age, race or any other perspective.
Your designs have a strong eerie quality that make every piece unique, but what would you say inspires these designs the most?
Without setting limits on myself and without saying, I am categorically inspired by this or that I am finding that I am inspired by stories. That may start with a simple word like ‘protection’ but then around this a thread is organically woven and something bigger emerges. For this example my team and I discussed a cynical view of protection. Tyranny disguised as protection. We saw this reflected in a modern romantic view of the chivalric code and knighthood when these men inhabited a much more barbaric world. We lost ourselves in this idea and AW12 was created. For our most recent collection, SS14, the motorcycle club 13 Rebels was our inspiration. We were captivated by stories of US WWII survivors returning from war join motorcycle clubs.
What do you think the future will be for Menswear in the industry and does this marry with what you want the future to be?
The future of menswear scares me a bit because I like to hang on to the old traditions. I am captivated by what technology can bring and we are involved with certain aspects of that. I think the gap between the brand and the consumer is closing and no longer can a high end label be so aloof especially with the continuing drive of social media. I don’t want menswear, fashion and the retail experience to lose its history. There has got to be a bit of mystery that the brand holds over the consumer. The collection has to be unveiled and the customer has to fall in love every season.
What are the ultimate 3 staple pieces you think should be in any mans closet?
I’m going to start predictably with a good quality pair of shoes. I just don’t think you can fake good shoes. It’s an investment so it should be classic enough to pass through trends. A good pair well looked after will last such a long time and as my grandmother said ‘I’m too poor to buy cheap things’ In fact she was so convinced with quality garments and accessories that she swapped her food coupons to buy fur and jewellery. Secondly, I would say you can’t go wrong with a good looking watch. You’d be amazed at what the little things do for the overall aesthetic. And lastly I suggest a well tailored coat so if all the stuff underneath is hideous you have something to cover it with. Oh, and the ultimate tailored white shirt- but that would be 4 pieces.
Read my full interview with Jenny Schwarz over on Menswear Style!
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