As a young designer, releasing your first line can be a huge, daunting undertaking. Many talented designers never make it over that first hurdle. I'm always impressed when someone can release an independent collection, and all the more so when the collection is hand-made by the designer himself.
With that said, The Genteel introduces Duly Equipped, a menswear collection for the edgy, proper gentleman and a F/W 2012 collection that is full of surprising combinations and accents. The brand uses shearling, custom suede patchwork, colour details on buttons and a talented designer to offer a new and exciting spin on classic looks. One of the line's greatest strengths is knowing when and where to be more avant-garde, and when to rely on tradition and the basics.
Single-breasted suit jacket
The line's creator is Taiwanese-Canadian Yenting Chen, a graduate of Shih-Chien University's Fashion Design program in Taiwan. Yen had his eye on fashion and design since he was 15-years-old, but wasn't sure how to get involved in the fashion world. He started off designing womenswear, but quickly found his passion for design better suited to menswear. He made the switch in order to create something that he could also wear himself.
In 2011, Yen received the award for Best Menswear Collection from Japanese designer Hiroko Koshino for his "Rebellious Gentlemen" graduation line. Koshino is a legendary progenitor of Japanese haute couture. It was with this collection that Yen realised exactly what he wanted to do: "[combine] the traditional appeal of formal wear with something more youthful - grown-up, but fun too." Every Duly Equipped piece combines edge with designs that retain a history and that makes the line shine.
Obsessed with Savile Row and its established tailoring tradition, Yen describes his interest in fashion as a fascination with tailoring and not "whichever designer is hot right now." This can also be likened to the Duly Equipped customer: men who invest in pieces that can be worn daily but are still very distinct.
When writing about new designers, I like to show their lookbooks to local retailers and buyers to see where a young brand might fit in. In the case of Duly Equipped, there was a strong consensus that the brand reflected a higher-end style that a chic, tailored, gentleman-cum-risk taker would appreciate. Yen defines the Duly Equipped patron as "someone who is willing to take risks, but who also understands that having good basics is as important as owning a few statement pieces." Confidence, elegance and a bit of rebellion are mantras that fit well with the Duly Equipped wearer.
Duly Equipped's style allows buyers to purchase classic pieces for their established clientele, and pick more avant-garde or post-modern ones, as well. The silhouette of traditional menswear can seem "a bit limiting," Yen remarks. His "unique little surprise details" may not be noticeable from a distance, but they certainly create a mystique when engaging someone up close. When asked which retailer might best suit Duly Equipped, the first group he mentioned was Barneys: "[Barneys] has an eye for things that are different and [values] those that are very well made."
Yen is keenly aware of the design differences between Taiwan and North America. Taiwan, for example, is influenced by draped Japanese cuts, while North Americans tend towards a more streamlined silhouette. Growing up watching American television, he says he believes Canada and America still reference their style heritage from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. This history is infused in his first collection, and is especially apparent in the cut and fit of most of the jackets.
|Selection from the F/W 2012 collection.
Photograph by Erin Seaman.
Styling by Denise Fox.
Transposing vivid and eye-catching colours over more conventional ones can be as striking as contrasting dissimilar yet comfortable patterns. One example from the lookbook: a charcoal, single-breasted suit jacket with intricate camel detailing. "Constant experimentation" is what gives Duly Equipped an advantage over designers who avoid taking risks. Instead of a linear design process (choosing fabrics, producing, etc...), for Yen, any one step can inspire the others in a multivariate relationship that can send him back to the drawing board any number of times. It's refreshing to see a young designer taking a more advanced and hands-on approach to his work, instead of pumping out less time-consuming pieces for the sake of efficiency.
It's important for those involved in the fashion industry to seek out and support independent designers, to bolster the community and allow talented lines to flourish and expand rather than being inundated with mall fare, and ultimately stagnating. Designers like Yen allow for change, and for new people to the industry to find something to which they can relate. I'm looking forward to seeing where Yen takes Duly Equipped, for his next season and beyond.
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