A few years back I got to meet and know the then Head of Men styling for MR PORTER. He was witty, playful and never seemed to take things too seriously but underneath all that he was very desiccated to his craft; putting styling pieces together. We visited London Collections: Men (The men equivalent to the Women fashion week)together on its last day back then and it was quite interesting to hear his opinion on men’s fashion. Meet Sebastien Duchene, Online Stylist and founder of London based Sebastien Duchene Fashion Consulting
If you have ever struggled to put together an ensemble for any occasion or think your wardrobe is inadequate, you will be all the more appreciative of what he does. Deciding what to wear and how to wear it has never been the strongest point of the average man to be honest; some of our best efforts at putting a wardrobe together reminds one of an attempt at a blindfolded fashion bazaar, we end up with outfits that are more bizarre than balanced.
To be dismissive of the fashion buying behaviour of most men will be a bit harsh, but we must admit that more times than we care to remember, we have delved into a sales shop without regard for what we have in our wardrobes. Subsequently we find ourselves failing at the jigsaw which is creating outfits when the pieces in the puzzles don’t match. Mr Duchene has a few pointers that make this onerous task appear quite simple or simpler depending on how difficult you consider the task in the first instance.
SUITS AND PANTS
He starts by drawing a distinction between jackets that come as one piece with the trousers and the mix and match variety, Mr Duchene prefers the later, “Because of the varying shapes and form of the human structure, I will advise we buy the mix and match variety which allows us choose our suits and matching trousers easier to work on a trouser than adjust a suit”. One can have a varied collection but essential to a functional wardrobe is Navy, Charcoal Grey, a Navy blazer and grey pants. These, for business men or people engaged with working within the corporate world, will create a functional basis for picking an outfit. Sebastien opines, “The most important thing about a suit is the fitting; you can make an expensive designer suit look cheap by getting the wrong fit and vice versa”.
WHAT COLOR SHIRTS?
“Every male wardrobe must have a white shirt, a blue and a sky-blue option at the very least; these shirts will create a failsafe option on a daily basis when matching ties and suits together” – Sebastien Duchene.
There is a very fine line between getting it right and ruining an outfit. Most of the time you find that a hard to style shirt makes this seemingly simple task all the more complicated. Shirts in the colors listed above are easy on the eye and accept tie colors like hot toast would butter.
A JEAN OR TWO AND TEES TO GO
There are quite a few stylists who believe the work wardrobe shouldn’t be separate from the casual one, Sebastien belongs to that school of thought. What with every day of the week turning into a working one, the need to find balance in your wardrobe becomes even more pressing so you don’t arrive for any occasion under dressed or overly dressed. His advice is to have a jean or two and a few t-shirts a white, one grey and a blue, all plain if possible. Permit a little trip back to suits, (you will agree we can’t get that wrong) when you shop them, it is pertinent that the jacket fits your frame; this cannot be overstated. With this kind of versatility to your wardrobe, you need only pack very little when you go on a weekend trip that holds countless possibilities.
THE MUST HAVE SHOES : OXFORDS & LOAFERS
I asked Sebastien what shoes he considered a “must have” and his answer was succinct,” you need to have at least a pair of Oxfords, the second could be a Derby or Loafer”. He continues,” with every item of clothing, you can afford to cut corners with quality, a MCQ plain white tee will in all probability look the same as any plain tee from the high street; with your shoes you can’t cut corners!” He opines that shoes can carry an outfit or ruin it; invest a good pair.
All this talk about shoes got me all excited. One area of fashion which generates a lot of interest and even more topical right now, “Do Loafers and Suits mix?” Of course, he says, on
the condition that the trousers are well tapered especially at the ankles. Suits trousers only need be straight cuts with normal shoes but with loafers, that is not enough if you wear them formally.
As the interview winds down, I observed that he has played it safe with the colors. He maintains that playing it safe is always a good way to start and also noted this is a basic wardrobe, the “must haves” – you can always add to it. The shirts, pants and jackets can always be mixed together in any combination to achieve varying results. Indeed, THE FAIL SAFE OPTION!
I invite you to take another look at your wardrobes and write me if yours passed or failed the Duchene test. With so many years doing visual merchandising for Lacoste, Hackett of London, Mr Porter and now his own Outfit, I daresay we can trust his judgement. Sebastien believes style comes with age and experience – what worked and what bombed. He prefers to learn from others’ mistakes.