Alongside goddess evening dresses and Cinderella heels, the pieces that give true satisfaction in our wardrobes are often the ones that seamlessly segue through a variety of occasions, both social and professional, and that we wear and wear again. Yet finding those pieces – the ideal trench coat, a white shirt that’s not too uniform or a flawless tuxedo jacket – isn’t always easy. The cut and detailing frequently fall short of expectations, lack flair or come with a sky-high price tag.
This perennial sartorial conundrum was the source of inspiration for London-based designer Osman Yousefzada, who over his nine years in the fashion business has garnered a reputation for clean, pure lines and office-sensitive chic. Last year, having analysed his bestsellers, he set about assembling the Perfect Five – a capsule collection of trousers. The line, which comprised a cropped, high-waisted style, a sweeping palazzo pant, a Katharine Hepburn-esque Oxford bag, culottes and a bootleg cut – each an example of Osman’s precise tailoring – was devised to cover numerous eventualities and body shapes. “We held focus groups with about 20 women trying on each style. A typical size-10 model is just not representative of most women,” says Osman, who is obsessed with cut and detail. The success of the collection, debuted last autumn, has now made way for a complete – and utterly compelling – modular wardrobe as he extends his Perfect Five formula to outerwear, tops, dresses and knitwear, all executed with his typical flair.
Osman, now 39, works from an airy, light studio in an unprepossessing block near Waterloo station, which affords plenty of opportunity to witness women as they make their way to and from the office. It comes as no surprise to learn that a neutral and monochrome palette predominates – both the city streets and his Perfect Five. “For me, this is about delivering a wardrobe-building technique at a great price point,” he says of his pragmatic approach. “I don’t think of my pieces as ‘basics’. I want to design distinctive clothes with a purity of line that help a woman feel and look the best version of herself. As a designer, it also means I’m more than just an ideas factory creating two catwalk collections a year for a niche audience. I want to help dress a generation of women.”
In his studio, where Osman employs 16 people, rails of “perfect pieces” with lots of air between the hangers look like a vision of a multifunctional wardrobe. “The lengths are all proportionate to create interchangeable outfits – that’s all been thought through,” he says. In outerwear, highlights include a tuxedo jacket (£795) in black crepe with a nipped waist and satisfyingly strong shoulders, and a wool twill trench (£995) with a mandarin collar and buttons to one side for a kick of individuality. In trousers, updated from last autumn’s Perfect Five, find pleated wool culottes (£395) that prettily swish and sway, and a purposeful high-waisted crop style (£395) to wear with a striped cotton bow-necked blouse (£295) or a cut-out cold shoulder sweatshirt (£345) – à la Audrey Hepburn. The dress category, probably the hardest to nail, ranges from a striped swingy trapeze shape (£395) that grazes the knee, to a sweatshirt-inspired shift (£575) with gently ballooning sleeves, and a cocktail dress (£650) with an elegant off-the-shoulder flounce. The largely monochrome and neutral palette will always be punctuated by a highlight colour “like fuchsia or red”, says Osman, who will update the Perfect Five season on season.
This shift towards “real dressing” is rippling through fashion as multiple brands wake up to the fact that business cannot survive on fantasy statement pieces alone. Valentino launched its Rockstud Untitled collection this year, focusing on upgraded staples such as a trench coat, leather jacket and sweatshirt featuring its signature stud, while Saint Laurent has long offered a core collection of good-looking basics, including Le Smoking tuxedo and jacket – but the prices are high, serving to make Osman’s offering even more appealing.
Perhaps Osman’s modest upbringing in 1980s Birmingham as the child of immigrant Afghan parents (he is currently writing a short semi-autobiographical book looking at Birmingham’s multicultural communities), has reinforced the idea of value for money and practicality. “Clothes need to be trans-seasonal and interchangeable. This is the way women want to dress and I want to tap into that. It is the only foundation of a solid business,” he says. “You want the customer to come back.” His pragmatism is paying off: Barneys has signed a US exclusive, with about 50 per cent of its Osman buy comprising the Perfect Five, and in the UK, Selfridges, Browns, Harvey Nichols and Matchesfashion.com will all carry the line.
“Osman’s customers are very loyal and return to buy styles they’ve purchased before because they appreciate the cut and fit,” says Natalie Kingham, womenswear buying director at Matchesfashion.com. “We’re calling his aesthetic for Perfect Five ‘CEO dressing’, as these are the kind of pieces that will appeal to busy women who understand what suits their body shape and the types of staples that work hard for them.” She identifies key items as the aforementioned hot pink wool-crepe cocktail dress, the pointy-collared black and white striped cotton shirtdress (£395) and the white cotton-poplin shirt (£295) with its slight balloon sleeves and ruffled cuffs. “These are versatile, timeless designs,” she adds.
The consummate capsule wardrobe, rather like the perfect chair, is a holy grail of design. Here’s one that’s certainly worth seeking out.