London, Tolworth, Gypsy Hill; not exactly a roll call of the world’s fashion capitals, but a glimpse into a brand’s proud roots. ‘Stain Shade’ is leading the charge of tie-dye returning to our wardrobes. Also know as, James Brackenbury, 31, Stain Shade was mobbed at the recent CIFF AW20 fashion trade show in Copenhagen with people who couldn’t get enough of his hand tie-dyed T-shirts and hoodies. I thought I’d find out more from the UK's new king of tie-dye. Will the real Stain Shade please stand up?:
:eft - James from Stain Shade at CIFF, Copenhagen, 2020
CG: Where are you based? From originally?
SS: I live with my wife in Gipsy Hill, but I grew up in Surbiton/Tolworth in South West London. This is where my mum still lives and her house is the base of the Stain Shade operations.
CG: What is your background?
SS:I studied contemporary art in Leeds then moved to London and worked for Vivienne Westwood on the wholesale side of things. I continued to work in the fashion wholesale world after that, and continue to do so, along side running Stain Shade.
CG: Are you doing this full time?
SS: Yes, amongst other things, some consultancy etc.
CG: Tell me more about Stain Shade. Where is the name from? When did it all start?
SS: I was always interested in hand dyeing, tie dyeing and was always on the lookout for good vintage tie dye stuff. One day I ordered a kid’s tie dye kit off amazon and did a few bits, some tees and a pair of jeans if I remember correctly. I posted a picture of the tee on my personal Instagram and a few people were asking me where it was from.
This lead to discussions with the guys at LN-CC and the subsequent launch of Stain Shade. We did a few tees and some hoodies for them. I didn't have a name for it and basically tried to think of synonyms for 'dye' or 'dyeing' and Stain Shade was the result. I drew the logo and then got some woven neck labels ordered, set up an Instagram etc and we were good to go.
Left - James' mum's house in Tolwroth is the production centre
CG: Where does Tolworth come into all this?
SS: Like I mentioned before, this where everything gets dyed, in my mum’s back garden in Tolworth. It's where I grew up, and, fortunately, my mum has a space there which I can use, she's involved as well and helps me on all the dyeing side of things.
CG: Where are the base clothing items from?
SS: It varies, depends on what the store/brand/client wants really. I can do organic ethically sourced blanks or can do more price sensitive mass produced options.
CG: Where can you buy it? What type of pieces do you produce?
SS: We have worked with retailers like Selfridges, Browns, LN-CC, Liberty, Bloomingdales, Lantiki etc. There are plans to work with all of these guys again some sooner than others. Some retailers do still have Stain Shade in stock but you can always contact us directly for custom items.
CG: How can you tell the difference between good and bad tie-dye?
SS: I think it's down to personal taste. One thing you do see a lot of though is printed tie dye, where the manufacturer was just printed the pattern all over the item and not dyed it. You can normally tell if this is the case if the reverse of the garment is still the original colour.
Right - Stain Shade in Selfridges
CG: Why do you think tie-dye has/is becoming such a big trend atm?
SS: I think its always bubbling in the background and I think that good tie dye/hand dyeing will always have a place in popular fashion. It just so happens that it's having a moment these past few seasons and I think there will be at least another summer where it's at the forefront.
Left - The Stain Shade production line
CG: What are your future plans?
SS: I am looking at different ways of working that don't necessarily exist in the conventional fashion wholesale environment. I am trying to do more collaborations and special project work on shorter lead times rather than the traditional order it and receive it 6 months later system. As a set up, we are designed to be very reactive and can get stuff done quickly so we can be more responsive to customer or retailer needs.
CG: What would you say to those who think tie-dye is just for hippies or ravers?
SS: I’d say if there isn't a part of you that is a bit 'hippie' or 'raver' then something is wrong.
See TheChicGeek's picks of SS20 menswear tie-dye - HERE
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We’re definitely not going no frills for the AW20 season. Designers from Stefan Cooke to Louis Vuitton to JW Anderson showed their own take on the male waist frill, or peplum, and it looked good.
Left - Stefan Cooke AW20 at LFWM
Originating from the Greek word for tunic, Stefan Cooke's peplum looked like a pleated micro kilt, while Virgil Abloh at LV went full on evening ruffle. JW Anderson has always liked a frill and his were low on the hips, elongating the body.
So there you are, it's official, hips are to not be square and there's no such thing as a cheap frill!!!!
Below Left - Louis Vuitton AW20
Below - JW Anderson AW20
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Are your shoulders boring and natural sized? Yes? Then you need to start thinking about inflating them like your ego for 2020…
At designer Kaushik Velendra’s AW20 London presentation during LFWM the shoulders were pronounced and rounded.
“Naturally fascinated by this dichotomy, my intention was to find a way to recreate those sexy and masculine shoulders, elegant elongated proportions and bold muscles using modified tailoring techniques and fabrication,” said the designer. “My collection investigates the infinite possibilities of linking the two modes together, creating a ‘new generation’ of a modern, futuristic, sophisticated, and luxurious man.”
Key to the collection was the juxtaposition of traditional Indian embroidery techniques in collaboration with the lauded atelier of Vastrakala, founded by Jean-François Lesage. Velendra’s removable shoulder moulds which, like armour, are designed to accentuate the human form are perfect for those style tackles fashion throws at you.
Left & Right - Kaushik Velendra AW20
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After much menswear excitement on red carpets, this awards season, the expectations were high for something interesting at the Oscars. Apart from Billy Porter’s voluminous train, it was a fairly conservative and traditional night. Those immature-looking, shrunken velvet suits were rife, while the rest opted for traditional black tie.
The man to offer us something new was British actor, Nicholas Hoult, in Dior Men AW19. From the recent AW19 collection, the suit was reimagined in plain fabric with a shorter sash. The simply singular button and sash wrapping around the shoulder, around the back, then to the side, is elegantly different.
Nicholas Hoult is tall enough to have carried off the original length, but, I think it would have looked chicer with black fringing at the end. It would have also weighted it down.
It certainly saves needing a napkin!
Menswear is often viewed in isolation. Many designers or brands who produce both men’s and women’s clothes often keep them apart when showing them to the press. The times they are together, the menswear often looks conservative and dowdy compared to its feminine counterpart.
Left - Topman AW18
So, it was with some excitement, when I attended the newly merged Topman/Topshop AW18 preview a few months ago, that the menswear was louder than the women’s. Looking across the room I thought I'd stepped to the wrong side. And, let’s be honest, Topshop womenswear isn’t exactly for shy wallflowers.
To me this signified the new confidence in high-street menswear and menswear in general. Topman has had a rocky patch of late and could have easily played safe and opted for simple basics and proven product. But, no, this was like a wardrobe for Harry Styles’ global world tour! A new Global Design Director, overseeing both Topman and Topshop, Anthony Cuthbertson, had arrived from Just Cavalli.
It’s as though Gucci has pushed the door open for this type of exhibitionist menswear and the British high-street has, literally, kicked it open. I don’t think menswear has been this colourful and bold since Tommy Nutter was a leading figure.
Right - Versace taste, lemonade budget?! AW18 River Island
And, it’s not just Topman. It’s River Island, ASOS, boohoo and many others who are reacting to an experimental male consumer who isn’t constrained by gender or the feeling of conforming.
Victoria Hunt, Senior Designer, River Island, says, “Menswear trends have been bolder of late, so there’s been a natural progression towards more adventurous clothing; not just at River Island, but across the entire industry. Catwalks are pushing the limits and this trickles down to make standout fashion more readily available."
“The trend for loud prints and statement pieces seems to be a natural fit for our men’s consumer, so we’ve really embraced it. We are also consciously driving the brand to be more cohesive across all of our departments, although our menswear, womenswear and kidswear customers are all different our collections should be instantly recognisable as River Island.” says Hunt.
Shane Chin, Menswear Design Manager, boohooMAN, says,“At boohooMAN we listen and learn from our customer and grow our collections to suit our guy. It’s a really exciting time for boohooMAN and we’re lucky to have a broad customer base that isn’t afraid to go after new trends and styles.”
“Ideas have been taken mainly from street style and considering how our guy will ultimately wear and style the garments we design. I think the resurgence of Gucci has put a real focus on bringing the fun side back to fashion and by mixing this with the current focus on streetwear, we’ve been able to push the boundaries further in the collections.” says Chin
Street style, influencers and social media seems to be playing a massive part of this growth in experimentation. One is feeding the other and so the cycle continues. These are items made for Instagram and the frenzy to standout on the platform. These are the type of clothes that make better pictures.
Left - Sequin trackies? Topman AW18 Like sequins? See TheChicGeek's picks here
“We gather ideas from all areas as inspiration for our designs: street style, editorials, art and travel to name a few. There are a lot of the big fashion houses pushing bold florals and baroques, but we’re seeing this a lot on the street too. We are always on the look out for new and exciting fashion.” says Hunt.
“Social media has given rise to this in a big way, trends are able to gain momentum so much faster now. Look at the bumbag/cross body bag – who could have predicted that was going to be so huge?” she says.
Designer fashion has become so expensive and, with the younger generation having less money or earning less, these retailers and brands are allowing guys to look as baroque as a Versace model for pocket money prices. I think the affordable prices are encouraging men to be more experimental knowing they haven’t committed as much when it doesn’t cost a month’s rent.
“Menswear is adapting to the growth of social media and the way that style inspo. is so readily available. There’s a real buzz around menswear and it’s exciting to see menswear have more of a focus at fashion weeks around the world, each season. I think the range of brands showing menswear and womenswear in the same shows has also had an effect on people being more inspired by menswear and menswear styling.” says Chin.
It’s interesting that something that was seen as a step back for menswear - the merging of designer catwalk collections - has actually made menswear step up to mirror the womenswear in its distinctive and look-at-me aesthetic and raise its awareness.
Hunt says, “The growth of menswear in general has made high end fashion so much more accessible and relevant to the customer. All over the world, menswear fashion weeks gets so much coverage on social media that men are seeing celebrities and influencers in more experimental trends and dressings and that’s something that they aspire to.
“Just yesterday I was at graduate fashion week and the amount of students choosing to study menswear has grown hugely over the past few years, so there is definitely more to come. It’s also a rebellion in part to the button-down sartorial looks of a few years back. Now, guys want to break and bend the rules, throwing prints, sportswear, tailoring and streetwear together effortlessly.” she says.
It would be silly to suggest that this guy was the majority of men, but it's growing and it’s a younger male consumer who will influence his social circle both on and off-line.
“It’s a really wide demographic – from the well-groomed Ibiza guy that likes to wear a matching twin set by the pool, to the fashionista that clashes three different prints in to one look!” says Hunt.
“The market continues to grow at more than double the rate of womenswear, so it’s not going to slow down any time soon. Men will continue to experiment and it will be exciting to see what’s next – gender is no longer a static thing, so guys don’t feel that they have to conform in the same way. We can be whoever we’d like to be and clothing is a great way of expressing that.” she says.
Right - The sequins keep coming - River Island AW18
Chin says, “I think people’s attitudes towards menswear are changing. Even in the last decade, and in my career to date, menswear trends and styles are becoming more adventurous each year. The lines are blurring and fashion is no longer a womenswear focused arena.”
Affordable menswear has never been produced in such volume and with such experimentation. Sequins, fringing, patches, badges, louder and louder patterns and prints, make this like a sweet shop for modern day Marc Bolans. This feels like a really exciting time for high-street menswear and the British are leading the charge. Where we lead, others will follow, and it’ll be interesting to see where this type of outlandish menswear can go.
Paris men's is the home of the big fashion hitters and it didn't disappoint for AW18:
Thought leather trousers were just for the Hoff?! Think again. Leather shakes off its stereotypical rockstar image and gets smart enough for business attire.
From Far - Dunhill, Paul Smith, Hermès, Berluti, Ami, Wooyoungmi, Cerruti, Louis Vuitton
Once the sole preserve of Moncler wearing European language students, the ultra shiny puffer is the future of cold weather jackets.
Left - Dunhill
Why have one boring layer when you can have three colourful layers all showing at the same time? Rollneck, polo shirt and tank. Tick, tick, tick!
Both - Kenzo
Male Floral Twinsets
If you're going to wear a twinset, it may as well be covered with flowers.
Below - Both Kenzo
This is the season for reflection with silver accessorises. From bags to boots, choose something you can see yourself in, literally.
From Far Left - Dunhill, Kenzo, Lanvin, Louis Vuitton
No animals were harmed in the making of these. It’s not supposed to real or fake, but fun.
From Far Left - Kenzo, Pigalle, Sacai, Kenzo
Big shoulders and longer jackets continues to push the tailoring boundaries.
From Left - Kenzo, Wooyoungmi
Look like walking Matchesfashion.com packaging!
From Left - Louis Vuitton, Dries van Noten
Yves Klein blue is the bold, primary accent colour of the season.
Below - Officine Generale, Hermes, Acne, Facetasm
The AW18 colour of the season.
From Left - Paul Smith, Facetasm, Paul Smith
Boxer Waisted Short
A true boxer worn high over the hips.
Left - SSS World Corp
PVC, trust me, is the material and finish of the season. Black bin bag? Yes, please!
From Far Left - Balmain, Acne, Wooyoungmi, Louis Vuitton, CMMN SWDN, Haider Ackermann, Walter van Beirendonck, GMBH
The worst wash, in the worst cut. Hello, new jean.
From Far Left - Dior Homme, Vetements, Vetements, Wooyoungmi, Cerruti, Louis Vuitton, Facetasm, GMBH
Landscape Poster Knits
JW Anderson may have done this first, but I still like it.
Both - Hermes
Game of Thrones Coats
Jon Snow way?! Look like a warrior
Left - Alexander McQueen
This is granny mac territory, and I love it!
Below both - Maison Margeila
Don't over think this. Just turn your coat inside out.
From Left - Vetements, Maison Margiela
Weak calves?! This could be your winter leg solution.
Below - All Thom Browne