The period from 1920 to 1940 was a golden time in America’s menswear. Paul Stuart has recreated various elements from this period and combined it with a bit of English influence for its Phineas Cole collection for Fall 2012.
I had a chance to sit down with the collection’s designer, Ralph Auriemma, to pick his brain on the vision behind the brand’s latest effort.
The fabrics used in the collection include Italian wool, velvet, tweed, corduroy, rose melange, English lambswool, among many others. While the various fabrics created many opportunities for textured looks, the most striking elements are the unique cuts and combinations of patterns the created chances for great layering and contrast.
Auriemma said the sportswear and tailored items were derived from two different time periods in menswear.
“There are two inspirations. On the sportswear, the inspiration is English Manor. It would be things that you would find in an old English manor from the 1700s — a lot of velvet, wool chalets, tartans, plaids and a lot of texture,” Auriemma said. ”The other part of the collection would be the very serious tailored clothing, which was inspired by a hotel in London called the Claridges, which was built in the 1920s. It just reeks of art deco glamour and a lot of style.”
The collection was not lacking in any way. I particularly loved Auriemma’s take on paisley, an all time favorite print of mine. I think men don’t wear paisley enough, which is understandable because it’s often way too loud. However, Phineas Cole features a few paisley pieces that are toned down enough to provide just the right amount of flair to any gentleman’s outfit.
The Italian wool/silk paisley scarves caught my attention, specifically the green/navy paisley. This accessory can easily be draped over a sport coat or featured as an accent piece under a tailored shirt or jacket.
Another paisley piece that caught my attention was the printed velvet paisley jacket, which featured wine/gold paisley and Italian cotton velvet. It is constructed as a 3-button riding jacket with hacking pockets and covered buttons. I usually steer away from loud sport coats, opting to accessorize a look with loud accents. However, the fusion of paisley print with the textured velvet proves to be a unique spin on timeless styles that will have any man looking quite distinguished among the crowd.
“It’s a statement piece — it’s a jacket that would grab a lot of attention. It’s a paisley, but it’s toned down enough that you won’t look like a carnival barker or somebody crazy in the jacket,” Auriemma said.
Paisley is a key element in the collection. However, texture is equally important, as seen in the multiple tweed and velvet items that add a sporty, yet dressy feel to Phineas Cole.
“For us, we always go back to history and tradition. So in the 1920s, ’30s and the ‘teens, all of the fabrics were textured — they were all flannels and tweeds — so we drew a lot of inspiration from that period of time,” Auriemma said.
I really appreciated the effort Paul Stuart put into reinventing the classics in a way that challenged men to be edgy, while still upholding the sharpness of their traditional menswear. Although the collection experimented with a lot of fabrics, prints and textures, it stayed true to Paul Stuart’s signature: tweed.
“We tried to put a very modern spin on a vintage take on fabric, but the tweeds are the essential DNA of Paul Stuart,” Auriemma said.
Has Paul Stuart’s latest Phineas Cole collection peaked your interest? Click HERE to shop the catalog.