Champion stunt cyclist Ben Savage performs several rear-wheel bunny-hops while balancing atop a 12ft chair-shaped scaffold, before dropping in to land on one of its “arms”. He has kept up this kind of breathtaking feat for five minutes, but avid cyclist Sir Paul Smith has not missed a beat of his enthusiastic commentary. He’s telling me not only about the stunt routine, but the tailoring that Savage is wearing.
We’re at London Collections Men fashion week, witnessing the evolution of Smith’s ongoing sartorial travel project, an exploration of crease-resistant tailoring that he first produced in 2015. “Many travel suits use manmade fibres for elasticity, but ours is 100 per cent natural,” he says. “It’s been a privilege to collaborate with Loro Piana for over 20 years on cloth for our Suit To Travel In [£985].” This season, dapper ultralight windowpane-check wool comes in sophisticated rust, dusty pink, wheat and navy. The high-twist yarn has natural bounceback, the loose weave is super-breathable and the flattering cuts, sold as separates (jacket, from £675, trousers, from £370), have almost no padding. “The rules for tailoring have changed,” says Smith. “People aren’t necessarily wearing suits to work as a uniform any more, but they are investing in tailoring for particular occasions. I’m constantly on the go, often running straight from a plane to a meeting or onto a stage for a presentation, so having a suit that looks fresh is vital – and many people are in the same situation. My style of tailoring is to make men’s lives easier.”
However, not all designers fall in line with Smith’s emphasis on all-natural fibres. Many prefer manmade mixes with stretch to help take the strain of commuting, travelling or, indeed, bunny-hopping. At Hardy Amies, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was the inspiration for a slightly futuristic collection where crumple-proof nylon plays a significant role. I like the squared-off-front, three-button ink‑blue/black suit (from £650) cut on the roll (the lapel rolls back to leave two of three buttons showing) with a part-mesh lining and zip pockets. A navy version with a strong shine also channels sci-fi – The Man Who Fell to Work?
I also rate Boss’s travel collection (£650); the stretch Jet1 hopsack jacket (£430) is a snugly fitted, hardy option, while at Emporio Armani, a remarkably soft, light, slightly stretch cotton-mix double-breasted cardigan-like jacket (£750) in taupe Prince of Wales textured relief check with zero shoulder/chest padding fits like a dream, and though not exactly formal, gives a tailored impression.
Indeed, cardigan-like jackets are a defining element of men’s style at the moment and can also be found as part of Kilgour’s updated travel suit in all-natural wool/cashmere. The Stand shawl jacket (£2,200) and trousers (£1,700) now come in navy or grey and drape elegantly, but feel almost like a luxurious tracksuit to wear.
Thom Sweeney also offers non‑crease tailoring in wool – specifically open‑weave high-twist wool milled by Vitale Barberis. Standouts are the Weighouse three-piece suit (£1,295) and chic half-lined Curzon blazer (£995). At Fendi, high-performance, crease-resistant silk takes centre stage – the muted Prussian-blue short jacket (£1,030) and matching trousers (£505) are typical of a lightweight luxe collection that caters for an active lifestyle. Creative director Silvia Fendi calls it “clean and unfussy: an urban uniform for the soulful city dweller”.
Meanwhile, linen mixed with wool lends a vintage feel to Ralph Lauren Purple Label’s graphite fine-pinstripe suit (£1,995), which, despite minimal padding, feels formal and avoids the typical creasing of pure linen.
Timothy Everest’s suits also often have vintage panache, and while I was visiting his new bespoke boutique on London’s hip Redchurch Street, he showed me a bespoke version of his handsome worsted high-twist wool/mohair travel jacket (from £2,400), aimed at “those who travel with essentials only – no hold luggage”. Soft, forgiving construction is paired with pleated back and bold gold topstitched bellows pockets – including special ones for boarding pass and passport. Bespoke customers can, of course, commission any pocket style; I fancy a discreet one for my bicycle clips.