During a sunny, late lunch in Madrid last month, Norman Vilalta and I spent some time talking about his experiments with new materials, and ideas on working with high-technology companies like Nike. It occurred to me that one of the reasons I enjoy talking to Norman so much – one of the best as well as the most creative bespoke shoemakers out there – is that he never talks about the past. It’s always about the future.
Regular readers will be familiar with my rants about the image of bespoke menswear that is perpetuated by luxury magazines. Tailoring, for them, necessarily goes with whisky, hotels and cigars. You can’t prefer pubs to hotel bars; you must have a thing for sports cars.
During that discussion with Norman, it occurred to us that the reason much of these things are associated is that they are seen as ‘traditional’. An interest in tailoring is presumed to be a desire to hark back to better, more elegant times. If you like clothes from the 1930s, you must also like the Art Deco, trans-Atlantic travel and jazz.
What rubbish. Crafted, bespoke menswear is the future, not the past. We are moving beyond disposable fashion (something men never really liked anyway) into an era of better-made, better-lasting clothing for better-informed, better-dressed consumers. I advise readers every day to invest in classic, well-made pieces because they are stylish, versatile and value for money. Not because they look good with a cigar.
This may sound naïve. Perhaps next season tailoring will be wiped off the catwalks, replaced by tracksuits and trainers. But I don’t think men will ever want to stop looking smart, professional and simply well put-together. A jacket will always look smarter than a shirt, which will look smarter than a T-shirt. And a bespoke version of any of them will be even better.
Photo: Luke Carby