Since the early 19th century, Gieves & Hawkes has fostered a strong connection to the British military — having been the de facto outfitter for Army and Royal Navy officers for over 100 years. Still, it’s hardly the only source of divine inspiration for the brand’s seasonal ready-to-wear, as Creative Director John Harrison discovered during his research for AW2019.
“When I looked back into our archive,” says Harrison, “I found that [in addition to] naval uniforms, the company was a purveyor of compasses, binoculars and telescopes used for naval navigation.” This evolved into a highly specific study of the brand’s maritime heritage, which in turn yielded the essential idea behind Gieves & Hawkes AW2019 — warm, comforting clothing, of a spirit kindred to what English sailors might have once worn as they navigated under wintry nighttime skies.
References to seafaring (both civilian and military) throughout the collection abound — though they’re blessedly euphemistic. As Harrison himself acknowledges: “bespoke tailoring is, of course, where we come from, [however] I do like the idea of making characterful pieces in this tradition, always with a distinctly modern spirit”.
Suiting, with its origin in military dress (and potential for infinite expression) represents one of three key pillars in the AW19 collection. Beyond obligatory staples in navy or charcoal, Harrison exploits the style’s unique suitability to ornamentation: a three button two-piece, cut from exploded black and white sharkskin, hints at the zigzagging motif once used to camouflage Royal Navy destroyers. Gently sculpted 3-piece suits — a Gieves & Hawkes classic — are enriched with a selection of plaids in blue over grey, chosen to reflect the harsh Nordic environs that are the location of the AW19 campaign.
Whereas suiting represents a somewhat obligatory part of the new collection, outerwear is an area in which Harrison has wholeheartedly embraced flair. The classic stuff, grounded in the house’s tradition of bespoke, proves to be viscerally satisfying; though there’s plenty of less obvious cleverness that intertwines form with function. A ‘split-raglan’ overcoat drapes comfortably across the arm and shoulder, made up in lightweight winter cloths developed to counteract even the briskest London showers.
Harrison hones in again on his nautical predilections with an indigo blue greatcoat. The undisputed ‘hero’ item of the season, it allows him to dial up the high drama that has always accompanied the quintessential Gieves & Hawkes ‘house style’: from the leviathan stand collar (that gives gives the wearer’s face regal bearing) to uniform-inspired details such as the belted back and turn-back cuffs, this is military design at its finest, ennobling big-ticket items with a timelessness that justifies their permanent place in every tailored wardrobe.
Harrison rounds out his classic fall ensemble with a selection of ‘creative black tie’ pieces (that make a compelling argument for indulging in a spot of Christmas outfit shopping). Alongside classic Gieves & Hawkes dinner suits, a trio of statement jackets are available that — amusingly enough, given the fact that they’re classified as formalwear — illustrate the brand’s growing willingness to experiment with technology. Scanned images of a crushed fur lining — seen historically on the brand’s bridge coats — have been digitised and printed onto silk jacquard, imbuing a smoke blue dinner jacket with the trompe-loeil effect. It’s an intelligent and modern way to convey the three-dimensional handcraft which would be endemic to the brand’s bespoke creations — and that’s definitely a good thing.
To learn more about the Gieves & Hawkes AW19 collection, visit Gieves & Hawkes online.