A new narrative is weaving its way into high-style storytelling. Jacquard – a type of fabric with an intricate, woven, raised pattern – is appearing in all manner of menswear, from formal and informal jackets to shorts and T-shirts. Named after Joseph Marie Jacquard, who in 1801 invented a mechanical harness loom that simplified the manufacturing process, this material is full of creative possibilities.
For spring/summer, we’re seeing statement tailoring in increasingly exciting and sophisticated motifs and textures. It can be a lively affair – as seen at Tom Ford, an early driver of the trend (regular readers of this column might remember that, in November, I recommended his vivid-pink or lime-green silk/cotton-jacquard shawl-collar cocktail jackets, £2,890, as an alternative to the tuxedo) – but there are many less flamboyant pieces, too.
British mills such as Stephen Walters and Vanners, both of which have been operating out of Sudbury since the 1800s, make some of the best, most sophisticated silks in the world, and switched-on designers liaise closely with them. Jason Basmajian, for example, has worked with Stephen Walters on the jacquard pieces in his collections for Gieves & Hawkes, which includes a dashing herringbone-silk cocktail jacket (£1,695) for spring/summer. “Jacquard allows us to create such rich texture and colour,” he tells me. ”We finish the silk to a nice lustre, but it’s never too shiny.” The brown peacock and mottled steel-blue shawl-collar evening jackets (both £2,195) for autumn/winter are especially debonair.
A long-term champion of British mills, Patrick Grant is another early adopter, who is using vivid patterns and colours to make heritage brand E Tautz more directional. Its collaboration with Vanners has resulted in two striking shawl-collar evening jackets (£845), as well as T-shirts (£440), shorts (£350), trousers (from £300) and a black and red-admiral silk bomber jacket (£850) – all fresh territory for the fabric. “The yellow and black Peggy jackets are in silks woven for us using a pattern taken from an old kimono print by Vanners,” says Grant.
The A Sauvage show at January’s London Collections: Men put jacquard centre stage. I first met Adrien Sauvage years ago, when he was dressed in Lanvin eveningwear at a lunchtime summer polo match. It’s therefore no surprise to me that he enjoys designing dressy clothes and loves to challenge preconceived ideas as to how and when to wear them. His work is edgy at times, but 6ft 5in Sauvage understands tailoring well. With the Stephen Walters mill, he has developed “kente jacquard”, drawing on traditional Ghanaian kente weave. You can choose from signature tailored jackets in versatile black and grey (£1,260) or dressier monochrome or gold and black versions. The made-to-order service from Sauvage’s Shoreditch atelier also now offers trousers (from £350), jackets (£1,150) and suits (£1,150) in bespoke jacquard.
Certain Italian designers harness the opulence of jacquard to create an old-world aesthetic. Dolce & Gabbana’s cotton/silk-jacquard jackets (£1,770) in black, grey and pewter have patterned lapels, pocket flaps and turn-back cuffs and come with shawl collars or double-breasted with peak lapels. Teaming them with faded denim, D&G demonstrates that these jackets work just as well dressed down as they do as formal attire. Meanwhile, Angelo Galasso uses fine Italian silk in patterns that are reminiscent of traditional Moroccan ceramic tiles, for statement blazers with impudently angled lapels and the brand’s signature hexagonal buttons (£2,400). A blue version with a circular yellow pattern is characteristically confident.
Another Italian brand whose ensembles are still rich but less flashy is MP Piombo, whose vintage-esque formal attire has an aristocratic nonchalance. This season an inky melange of black, midnight blue, regal purple and brown works for “fractured evening” tailored looks. A French wool/silk-herringbone navy jacquard jacket with a shawl collar (about €1,650) is styled with a casual blue shirt and tie, while a blue and brown three-button jacket in silk overcheck with a gloriously lavish lustre (also about €1,650) is shown with midnight-blue silk shirts and black silk accessories.
For an innovative take on a jacquard jacket, Giorgio Armani has a wonderfully understated, deconstructed viscose/ cotton version with a weave pattern (£1,535). The brand also has two-tone jacquard cardigans (£1,245) and a fine blush crew-neck jacquard sweater (£625), neatly demonstrating that this material isn’t just about eveningwear. At the other end of the spectrum is Saint Laurent, where creative director Hedi Slimane’s credo of mixing rock ’n’ roll and sub-cultural references includes superbly striking fabrics. His rebel-glam jackets in Baby Cat-design silk jacquard (£1,700) or gold-thread jacquard with black satin edging (£1,875) are serious showstoppers.