I'm not one to gush about every other new designer that debuts a collection. Though I try my best to support emerging designers by finding a piece or two that I like and using this to bring attention to their line in my own way, exceptional talent is still such a rarity. So when a new collection takes my breath away, from turtleneck scarf to the sanded tippy toes on oxford brogues, I will wax lyrical.
From Britten Fall 2011
From Britten is a menswear line by Melbourne-based brothers Tim and Alex Britten. Their Fall 2011 collection was an exploration of classic utilitarian men's clothing---they stripped the iconic men's pieces: the shirt, the trench, the jumpsuit, and cleverly reworked them, the entire time challenging the purpose of each component and imagining ways of how they can be improved. Expertly executed, the result is something fresh and farthest from being gimmicky, with the pieces transcending an array of men of different persuasions. I could see the jackets and shirts looking just as good on my straight-laced clean-cut banker friends as they would on crazy old fashion blogger me. Who knew such great menswear was taking shape way down under?
the transcendental simplicity of a narrow-collar raglan-sleeve white dress shirt
I had the honor of having a conversation with the duo, which I'm delighted to share with you now:
In the lookbook, you narrated the inspiration for the collection by way of an ambiguous short story. Could you tell us in a few words what the collection is about?
The story, I guess is an insight to our process of design... It’s truer than you’d imagine! However, for this collection we took inspiration from the idea of the future from the past. We looked at the futurist work of Umberto Boccioni, and movies like Gattaca and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, which was fundamental in creating our silhouette for this season. We focused on the industrial and engineering characteristics of these works, which, like the sophisticated styling in Gattaca, has a uniformed cohesion and is clone like. We also referenced the intricate attention to detail, rough gritty textures and strong shapes present in the film Metropolis as a starting point for our fabric combinations. We wanted to subtly capture the essence of the work wear they may have worn in those times, so the fit was a little boxy and slightly oversized.
the smartly boxy Zeppelin blazer
close-up of the collar on the Ludwig shirt and the fabric on the jacket
What is menswear in Australia like? What are men in Australia like?
A very interesting question! Australia is a very active and lifestyle led country. Historically, our menswear has needed to be very practical and our climate and environment dictates this. However, in Melbourne (Home of From Britten P/L) it is very different to the rest of the country. We have a small but strong fashion scene and is the hub for the rest of the country. We’re a multi-cultural place, with a very European influence, and because we’re so far away we’re quite resourceful.
I noticed a lot of bondage in the Fall 2011 collection, but done in a soft way, e.g. bondage straps in soft leather, buckled closures softly knotted instead of fastened through the buckle, or soft leather "belts" built into the sides of trousers. What was the reason behind this sort of gentle restriction?
soft leather straps on the engineer's coat
The use of leather straps was to do with function - in a luxurious way, like beautiful luggage or watch straps - soft yet strong. It was looking at how the protective wear was fastened in those earlier times, like the cobblers apron for example. Then applying that idea to the garments and creating the desired look.
leather straps help tighten the waistband of pleated trousers
In saying that, our aesthetic and approach is “Sans the Superfluous”. What we design and feature in our design is there for a reason. Utility is a fascination of ours and a defining element of menswear. Of course all this philosophy isn’t any good if it doesn’t look good as well! It’s classic with character.
Everything tastes better with ____ on it.
The fake turtleneck has been the highlight of many a comedy show holiday joke, but the Britten brothers somehow manage to make their turtleneck scarf worldly and masculine. Here it is under a shirt with a bunched-up high collar.
and here more scarf-like with a shirt with top button undone
On one of the detail shots of the shoes, a piece of the brogues seems to be made of sanded leather. Are you as obsessed with sanded leather as I am?
Yes the boot and brogue is a combination of leather and brushed leather and we do love it! It was perfect for creating that “sooty” look you might find after a day in the old industrial factory. We played with tone and texture, which followed throughout the collection right down to the shoes.
the multi-textural brogues
What is your take on the current workwear/heritage Americana trend?
There are a lot of parallels between Australian and American historical brands that have been around for 80 odd years. Those brands that created functional products to serve a purpose where the emphasis was on quality that would last, because it wasn’t trend or fashion based. It’s “timeless”. The work-wear trend is not so much a ‘trend’ for us, but Utility in our designs and menswear in particular, is always relevant and something we hold as a strong part of our philosophy. What we look at when we design is the history of the piece. Why is there a collar? Why do men button left side over right? Why are there shoulder flaps on the trench? Why do we call it a blazer? We take this “question everything” approach with all our designs. We subtract, add, and playfully adapt the original ideas, whilst respecting the tradition of where things came from. What may be there is just as important and why it is there. So whilst the look is trendy, it’s always around in one way or another, which is testament to those brands, which have been around so long.
hidden details: blueprint-print lining on a seemingly plain gray jacket
Do you read any blogs, and if so, which do you read? How do these blogs play into the whole scheme of your business?
Blogs are an endless resource for all creatives, and us especially when you need that hit of inspiration! The speed in which things happen, it’s imperative to be up to date with what’s going on. We’ve finally taken the plunge and got twitter, once you start it never ends! We constantly refer to The Dandy Project, Continuous Lean, Archival Clothing, and all the usual suspects. Having said that though, there’s still nothing quite like a magazine.
I have a weakness for all things jumpsuit, and this bomber jumpsuit-suit is high, high up on my list.
What do you like to wear?
Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue! Maybe a quality watch (or two) and don’t forget the perfect shoe.
photos via From Britten