The Genteel
October 24, 2017
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Source: ertlandcohn.com.
ertl and cohn madrid menswear
Source: ERTL&COHN.

It's not every day that I find myself wishing I could dress like a man. I'm a lace-loving, skirt-wearing fan of all things ladylike. Yet when I visit Madrid's ERTL&COHN boutique, I'm struck by bad case of man-fashion envy. The fashion label coveted by Spain's most dapperly dressed gents, its custom-made dress shirts, velour-piped coats, and perfectly tailored blazers with under-collar splashes of red, yellow or orange stir me into a reverie.

Founded by American co-founder, Trent Cohn and Spaniard Eva Martínez Ertl, ERTL&COHN was created with three types of men in mind - a New Yorker, a Londoner and a Milanese - their three favourite fashion centres. Since 2008, the brand has produced all manner of menswear, from buttery leather shoes to made-to-measure suits. But now, as economic crisis seeps into all cracks of the country like a spilt glass of Rioja wine, ERTL&COHN is demonstrating its agility in a tough economic climate.

With its handkerchief-stuffed pockets and elbow-patched blazers, ERTL&COHN's aesthetic is distinctly dapper and gentlemanly. Pleasing discerning men from around the globe, designs are inspired from styles across Spanish borders, whether fine tailoring from Italy or country club chic in the Hamptons. "Every culture has made looks to fit cultural needs. We are trying to take the best of each and put it under one roof," Cohn explains.

Like its design inspirations, materials have also been sourced from around the world. "We only work with the best textiles," says Cohn, which means that while the company may be based in Spain, it doesn't necessarily give priority to Spanish vendors. "If the best manufacturer is [local], we use them, but really, we go to the source of whoever makes it best," Cohn adds, noting that the dress-pant wool is woven in England, knitwear is produced in Italy, and the heavy tweed comes from Spain. 

Every culture has made looks to fit cultural needs. We are trying to take the best of each and put it under one roof.

For Cohn, "it's about creating quality," not only meaning long-lasting products, but also enduring styles. "We try to keep things very actual…we try to keep an eye on the direction of men's fashion while at the same time trying to keep it classic enough that it stands the test of time. We're not trying to do catwalk fashion, cutting-edge menswear," says Cohn. 

While ERTL&COHN focuses on creating timeless and largely traditional pieces, Cohn believes the difference between his brand and others is its ability to be flexible. That is, given its small team, it isn't confined to a specific approach, whether that means modifying designs on the fly or changing the business model to adapt to a fluctuating market. It's this philosophy that has guided the team since they initially purchased shares of a struggling business, eventually overhauling it and shifting direction to start ERTL&COHN as full owners. 

And the company has continued to rely on this flexibility. After having spread itself too thin in recent years - at one point producing, says Cohn, "as many products as a large multi-brand store" - it's streamlining and getting back to the brand's essence - focusing on the merchandise that most defines the brand, including made-to-order dress shirts, English-wool pants, and those elbow-patch sports coats.

Being flexible has also meant closing its only shop, which sits on the border of Madrid's alternative-and-bohemian Malasaña district and neighbouring up-market Chamberí. The company plans to shift from having a central store, to selling via multi-brand shops, and of course online. 

ertl and cohn madrid menswear
Source: ERTL&COHN.

In the end, that might be what actually makes ERTL&COHN especially cutting edge. The brand embodies emerging trends from slow fashion to globalisation, using high-quality materials that will last more than a season. At the same time, it benefits from international styles, whether through design inspiration, use of materials and artisans, or simply a customer base that spans the world. And the result is that its loyal clients continue to come back for more…and so do women like me.

I can't resist asking one more burning question: "Any plans for a women's line?" I enquire, hopeful that a few androgynous pieces will soon be made into smaller sizes. "There are actually two different sport coat patterns in process right now," reveals Cohn. Yes, it looks like there's a cure for my menswear jealously after all. My closet and I will be waiting for it in anxious trepidation.

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