When it comes to wearing garments by local designers, its definitely not a mans world. Vancouver women who want that über-sexy crochet bikini in the latest edition of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue can wander down to an Eastside studio and buy one from designer Anna Kosturova herself. If romantic simplicity is more your style, Dace Moores Dace label is sold just a few streets away at Gastown boutique The Block. Corsets? Leather jackets? Shoes? Suits? Jewelry? Sunglasses? With minimal effort, a savvy female shopper can go local from head to toe.
For men, the local design scene has fewer options. Until last month, if you werent a fan of graphic Ts or cheeky underwear, you were basically out of luck. For years, local designers had preemptively announced clothing lines for men, only to scuttle their plans at the last minute. It was disappointing but understandable, especially considering the spectre of the Vancouver Special, the hideous combination of a collared golf shirt and pleated khakis that make the downtown core look like its been invaded by an army of faceless IT department drones. It was a chicken and the egg conundrum: Was there no local menswear because there wasnt a market for it or was there no market because there wasnt any to be had? Matlo Man, the new mens collection by local designer Jason Matlo, might give us the answer to that particular riddle.
So, it was with great expectation that a crowd of editors, stylists, photographers, agency heads and assorted beau monde made their way to the sixth-floor balcony of the Shangri-La Hotel for the launch of Matlos first-ever menswear line on the opening day of Eco-Fashion Week last month. Before the last of the 15 fall/winter 2011 pieces all black threaded their way through a larger womens ready-to-wear collection, those expectations had been met and surpassed.
Like any monochromatic collection, Matlo Mans debut played with texture and proportion. Thin, body-conscious T-shirts played off swagged pants that tapered to the ankle. Short-cropped motorcycle jackets added an additional thrust of masculinity, their cotton twill and wool construction (instead of leather) skirted the line into butch caricature without stepping over it. Chunky knit scarves were piled on in two and threes, turning the accessories into outerwear in their own right.
It was something Id always wanted to do, he said triumphantly after the show, dressed (not surprisingly) like the models he just sent down the runway in a body-hugging grey sleeveless T and combat boots. But it just kept getting pushed back and pushed back. We werent even sure we were going to actually do it until a few weeks before the show.
Matlo, who helms his own Jason Matlo label as well as a bridal line and a diffusion line of party dresses, Babe, is no stranger to forging ahead with new projects. But menswear was something of a challenge, nonetheless. It ended up being a race to get it done in time because I thought it was going to be easier than it turned out to be. There were so many more variables.
The first of these was focusing his vision. We didnt want to take it too fashion directional because then it would only appeal to a [niche] market, he explains. When I told my friends I was working on this, they were excited thinking I would do something wild, but I wanted classic, basic shapes.
When I walk around outside on the street, I see most men wearing a variation of jeans and a T-shirt. Thats what theyre comfortable in, he continues. I wanted to create basic pieces that could be used to build a wardrobe thats casual but chic the kind of outfit you can wear with your Chuck Taylors but still look effortlessly put together.