June 3, 2010

America's Next Top Menswear Designer

I'm not sure if any of you followed GQ Magazine's search for the Best New Menswear Designers in America, but watch this video and you will be caught up to speed. The winner of the 2010 GQ/CFDA Best New Menswear Designer in America Award received a $50,000 cash prize and a limited edition Levi's collaboration collection for Bloomingdale's. Richard Chai and Billy Reid were two participating designers in the competition who showed some of my favorite collections this past A/W season (click here here to review).

Though they cater to different audiences, the tailoring, fabrics, and color stories of all these brands are linked by some form of American sentiment, which is necessary in the search for the next best American designer. When I say "American" I mean more than just the references to military looks. There are also nods to both American sportswear and the industrial revolution. Watching this video is very insightful. I think it shows what the fashion industry is looking for in the menswear market, which is proving to be more relevant to a majority of men rather than just those interested in style.

First, the brothers slash bears "best friends" duo Doug and Ben Burkman of Burkman Bros are the token rookies, presenting a collection that looks the youngest and the most homolicious of the lot. It may seem like a lot of hype for a company that has been live for a mere 18 months, but their charm and flamboyant traditionalism (think DSquared with the volume turned down and minus the logomania) earned them a nomination. Then there is Vincent Flumiani's by-the-book presentation which was very conventional, but effective. Designing for the ivy-league-traveler character he invented really gives his work a direction, allowing him to brand Caufield Preparatory in a consistent and salable way. Eunice Lee's label UN+IS is also an example of how different designer menswear is from womenswear. In my opinion, designing for men has to be more personal because men shop differently; ironically Eunice is a female, yet she offers variety because she understands her target market. I am glad she has set out to do more than just update the polo. The menswear designer for J.Crew, Frank Muytjens, was also nominated. I am always a little surprised when bigger designers - or designers backed by big names - are nominated for awards that come with a hefty prize. Acknowledgment is important, but aid should go to those who really need it. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE J.Crew right now, but Mr. Muytjens is already backed by J.Crew money. The judging panel also made a great point that Muytjens is a great stylist, which is an asset to each of these selected designers. As long as I have been following him, I have seen that styling amplifies each collection for Richard Chai. He designs clothing with functional and exquisite fabrics, with silhouettes that are interesting but accessible. I find that this particular collection demonstrates perfect proportion and print mixing.

The winner of the 2010 GQ/CFDA Best New Menswear Designer in America Award is Billy Reid. I think he was deserving for multiple reasons: 1)he presented a strong, cohesive collection 2) his designs are on trend and 3) the quality and authenticity behind his work screams Made in the U.S.A.

This may be old news, but seeing this behind the scenes footage struck a cord with me. Hearing the discussion from a panel of editorial and creative heavyweights inspires me... especially when most professional opinions seen in mainstream media are from bitchy women and overly-tanned queens sitting on the side of a runway no one cares about.

- jerome


  1. my friend savannah is interning for billy reid this summer, i'm so excited for her!

  2. love-love-love the Burkman Brothers right now. i really think they brought something new and refreshing to menswear this year.