If you had to choose one thing that you missed, above all others, about a pre-pandemic world — what would it be? For us, it could be good tailoring. The bespoke art of a well-fitting suit; pairing patterns with shirts and selecting a singular tie to pull the whole outfit together. Slipping on your cufflinks, popping in a pocket square and strapping on your signature, Swiss watch. It was a ritual — and one we sorely miss.
But there’s a new world order when it comes to tailoring. With offices shutting up shop and the work-from-home revolution in full swing, we as a workforce are ditching our sharp suits and tight Double Windsors for something a little softer. We’re turning to unstructured tailoring instead — the sort of smart-casual suits that work for work — but also beyond.
There’s a new world order when it comes to tailoring...
It’s not a moment too soon, in our opinion. This bolder brand of modern tailoring has always been a favourite of ours, and we’ve been leaping at the chance to explore and experiment with new textures, garments and accessories not associated with traditional suiting. But one constant will always remain; our watches. Namely, our ultra-versatile Vacheron Constantin timepieces.
Like the new age of tailoring, Vacheron Constantin’s timepieces are all about versatility. Understated and modest, the mechanical marvels produced by the Swiss brand are as practical as they are beautiful — ideal for those of us looking to transcend dress codes going forward. And many of us are looking to shake up our suiting, at least according to Luke Sweeney, half of the designer duo behind British label Thom Sweeney.
“We’ve definitely seen a shift towards customers wanting comfort,” says Sweeney. “Clients are seeking a little more stretch in the fabric — easier fits and unstructured shoulders. And also, with so much more now available online, we know that customers’ in-store experiences have to be on another level.”
We have lockdown to thank for that. Confined to our homes for the best part of a year, we’ve been forced to push pause on the bespoke suit-making experience. But it’s an art we can’t afford to lose. So, to explore the new frontier of made-to-measure, we’ve come to the streets and squares around Savile Row — and the nearby Vacheron Constantin boutique at 37 Old Bond Street — to explore this new world of modern tailoring.
Of course, many watches — such as Vacheron Constantin’s Traditionnelle Self-Winding — have been transcending dress codes for years. Like so many of the Swiss brand’s watches, it may be traditional in both name and nature, but that green alligator strap is anything but conservative. Factor in the intricate hand-guilloché patterned dial, and this watch exemplifies everything we should be aiming to achieve with our modern suiting styles.
We want nods to classic looks; new takes on old designs. P. Johnson — whose inimitable Mid-Grey Wool Flannel Suit is pictured above — has the right idea. Established in Australia just over a decade ago, the brand’s tailoring exudes an easy-going flow that has kept suiting relevant even throughout 2020. It’s not even suiting P. Johnson offers — with tailored takes on leisurewear also available.
But the rise of casual tailoring is a story for another day. Despite boarding up our boardrooms, workwear is still our primary concern. And, with winter on its way, we’ll soon have the opportunity to experiment and innovate with our formal looks. That means scarves. It means layers. It could even mean — as pictured above — knitwear.
“We have definitely seen a transition towards jackets and trousers over suiting,” says Graham Simpkins, Head of Tailoring at Hackett. “And we’re getting far greater demand for higher-end materials, far more deconstructed in make”.
This Hackett style serves as the perfect first foray into relaxed tailoring. A pair of suede Crockett & Jones ‘Harvard’ Loafers here. A Loro Piana-spun separates jacket there. It’s the perfect example of the British brand’s new JP Hackett range — a collection Simpkins calls “traditionally English, but made far softer than previously. Customers can dress more casually, but still keep the traditional Hackett look”.
It’s suiting, then — just not as we know it. The only recognisable element, carried over from pre-pandemic suiting? Vacheron Constantin’s demure Historiques Cornes De Vache 1955. Painted meticulously on the silvered dial, a tachymeter scale makes it possible to determine average speeds — while never threatening the effortless elegance of the design.
Elsewhere, everything has changed. Just take a brief wander up Savile Row. Richard James, the bespoke tailor founded in 1992, is pushing for new and exciting styles of suiting. Despite standing on the shoulders of Savile Row grandees, the British brand has always pushed the envelope — spearheading the ‘new bespoke movement’ and using slim cuts and bold colours to push the art of suit-making forward.
But Richard James’ approach is not without deference and respect for tradition. And this heritage touch, of acknowledging history, is a common thread that runs through the entire design world — evident everywhere from the Classic Blue Flannel Two-Piece suit above to the retro dial of Vacheron Constantin’s Fiftysix Self-Winding. Inspired by a model dating back to 1956, this stainless steel watch is a sure-fire, petrol-blue way to indulge your passion for watchmaking history. The open worked caseback even reveals an elevated oscillating 22K gold weight inspired by Vacheron’s signature Maltese cross.
Even in the more avant-garde approaches to modern tailoring, there is a respect for tradition: hints, nods and shadows of classic tailoring. And so there should be. One pesky pandemic shouldn’t erase such a storied, established style. Instead, brands like Drake’s are evolving by adding colours and textures to existing, traditional two-pieces.
Vacheron Constantin gets back to work
Traditional watches meet modern tailoring
So expect fabrics from corduroy to seersucker to take centre stage in 2021 — with sharkskin and silk-blend suits left hanging in our wardrobes. Get ready to witness the rise of separates, the loosening of ties and knitwear entering the workwear mix. Laces will undo to make room for loafers, and trailblazing, pathfinding designers will push the limits of traditional tailoring.
Several progressive brands are already there — Vacheron Constantin amongst them. Just cast your eye over the brown-dialled Fiftysix Complete Calendar above. It may be understated and restrained, but the enigmatic moon phase, sitting pretty on the dial, adds an unmistakable hint of individuality. (In addition to the moon phase, you can expect hours, minutes, seconds, day of the week, months and stop seconds all tightly engineered into that 40mm pink gold case — working in harmony within a Hallmark of Geneva-bearing movement.) This is what you should aim to achieve with your tailoring — follow suit; but stand out.
So don’t abandon your suiting altogether in 2021. We know there haven’t been many opportunities to dress up this year — and that may last a little longer — but the art of tailoring is not one we can afford to lose. Instead, we must move with the times, alter our suits and aim for versatility.
It’s a balance that watchmakers struck decades ago. Vacheron Constantin’s Overseas Collection, launched just four years after Richard James opened its doors in the 1990s, is endlessly versatile, exceedingly legible. In stripped-back, silvered style, it works just as well with wetsuits as it does dinner suits.
So, while we all may be heading back to work — brushing down our suits and buttoning our shirts — who knows if it’ll ever be business as usual again? At least, with adaptable styles — and versatile watches to rely on, we’ll be ready to face the days, hours, minutes and seconds as they come.
Vacheron Constantin, 37 Old Bond Street
Want more Vacheron Constantin history? Check out the Historiques Cornes de Vache 1955 in more detail…
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