When it comes to menswear, there’s one country that continually sets the bar across the board. It’s the (self-declared) founder of culture, modern nonchalance and European cool, as well as the rolled-up cigarette, Breton stripe, va va voom and a certain je ne sais quoi. Unless you’re awaiting a call back from a Jeremy Kyle Show casting agent, you’ll have guessed that today’s nation of focus is France.
Sure, Milan, London and New York all have their own unique charm, but there’s nothing quite like Parisian design. From a classic approach to style that defines elegant simplicity to an almost otherworldly show season, France could indeed be the epicentre of fashion.
Don’t take this the wrong way. We Brits are pretty good at menswear ourselves (bravo chaps, bravo) but crafting the perfect capsule wardrobe requires international influence. We’ve previously covered the United States, Spain, Japan, Denmark and Sweden in our ‘Five Menswear Brands You Should Know’ series, but now let’s give our cousins across the channel some well-deserved recognition…
1. The Kooples
A stalwart of upper high street style, The Kooples was founded upon a legacy of fashion prestige. Brothers Alexandre, Laurent and Raphael started the label after being inspired by their parents – none other than Tony and Georgette Elicha of Comptoir des Cotonniers, a French womenswear brand that pioneered affordable luxury.
Known for using ‘real life’ couples within all their campaign imagery, The Kooples is founded on an androgynous, unisex way of dressing. Simple cuts, perfect fits and essential pieces that will be borrowed/stolen by your partner (female or male), helps keep your wardrobe classic yet versatile. The majority of garments are also designed to outlast seasonal trends, with overt statements and novelty details few and far between.
A particular highlight comes in the form of the label’s tailoring – razor-sharp blazers and trousers that, at £600 for a suit, are priced just above brands such as Reiss but deliver quality and craftsmanship that would compete with high-end designer versions twice the cost. Consider it a bargain (in the loosest sense).
- The Kooples Contrast-detail Wool Jumper
- The Kooples Prince Of Wales Suit Jacket
- The Kooples Prince Of Wales Wool Suit Trousers
- The Kooples Graphic Slim-fit Cotton-poplin Shirt
- The Kooples Leather-neckline Henley Top
- The Kooples Double-breasted Trench Coat
- The Kooples Adjusted Pinpoint Suit Jacket
- The Kooples Coloured Regular-fit Tapered Jeans
- The Kooples Microstars Scarf
2. Surface To Air
Founded at the turn of the millennium, Surface to Air is an innovative brand that fuses current trends with classic designs for a look that is every inch the modern Parisian.
Although French style often conjures images of refined boat neck jumpers and beige macs, you’d be surprised – much of urban Paris is actually inspired by the rugged outskirts and gritty street culture. Surface to Air is almost an amalgamation of these two identities, and the combination is flawless.
Highlights include cracked print shirts, classic tailoring and, a personal favourite, chunky crepe shoes in bold colour ways. The brand has made the creeper cool again and such skill is testament to their expertise.
Overall, Surface to Air covers every base on a reasonable budget and are perfect for those looking to inject some life into their wardrobe or mix up their personal style.
- Surface To Air Random Polka Dot Pattern White Shirt
- Surface To Air Temple Oversize Mulit Pocket Grey Coat
- Surface To Air Falcon Mixed Grey Wool Sweater
- Surface To Air Classic Shirt
- Surface To Air Reversible Bomber Jacket
- Surface To Air Straight Jeans
- Surface To Air Black Shirt With Removable Chain
- Surface To Air Khaki Leather Nylon Bag
- Surface To Air Asteroid Black Derbies
The words ‘Atelier de Production et de Cr&eactue;ation’ might not mean a lot, but A.P.C. certainly should. Founded in 1987 by Tunisian-Jewish designer Jean Toutitou, it’s a brand with strong roots in the youth fashion market which still manages to flirt with the elitist luxury labels.
Colours are muted and blocked, detailing is kept minimal and the fits are always form-flattering – this is a brand that epitomises the FashionBeans ethos, producing high quality clothing that can be mixed and matched effortlessly to produce sharp and stylish looks on a daily basis.
Sports luxe takes centre stage again for spring/summer 2014, with clean lines and slim silhouettes keeping things sharp. A predominantly monochrome palette is brought to life by rich shades of navy and grey, which helps retain interest without having to resort to the garish colours or try hard nature of fast fashion brands.
So, if you’re looking for high quality, versatile pieces that will slot seamlessly into your existing wardrobe, try A.P.C. We particularly recommend their selvedge denim jeans, which are some of the very best available on the market.
- A.p.c. Cotton And Wool-blend Bomber Jacket
- A.p.c. Mid Grey Contrast Sleeve Sweatshirt
- A.p.c. Mid Grey Cotton Jacquard Jumper
- A.p.c. Unstructured Woven-linen Overcoat
- A.p.c. Petit Standard Slim-fit Jeans
- A.p.c. Linen Bomber Jacket
- A.p.c. Denim Two Pocket Shirt
- A.p.c. Mens New Petit Standard Raw Jeans
- A.p.c. Men’s Brown Derby Shoes
One for the classicists, Ami is every inch the Jean Belmondo-inspired look we saw during the Nouvelle Vague movement. Founded in 2011 by Alexandre Mattiussi, who by the age of thirty had already worked for the likes of Dior, Givenchy and Marc Jacobs, the designer states that the label “… is not about fantasy. It is a proposition of real clothes for a real man”.
Classic cuts, simple pieces and the odd statement print epitomises this ethos and makes for an exciting brand that illustrates the success of modern menswear.
Bold patterns are twinned with traditional shapes to provide just the right level of experimentalism that the majority can embrace. A lot of men can still be wary of abstract style but change is happening thanks to labels like Ami.
Key spring/summer looks include navy paired with classic checks for a modern take on the dandy aesthetic. British heritage appeal is mixed with French simplicity and the end result is truly flawless. Think Lark Rise to Candleford in 2014 with a luxe leather backpack and you’re almost there.
- Ami Ribbed-knit Cotton Sweater
- Ami Unstructured Regular-fit Cotton And Linen-blend Suit Jacket
- Ami Suede Bomber Jacket
- Ami Floral-print And Leather Bomber Jacket 188416
- Ami Slim-fit Patterned Cotton And Silk-blend Trousers
- Ami Slim-fit Dry Denim Jeans
- Ami Wool Panama Hat 192846
- Ami Double Monk-strap Leather Brogues 188470
- Ami Woven-front Tassel Loafers 188434
5. Christophe Lemaire
After working alongside the fashion greats of Yves Saint Laurent, Thierry Mugler and Christian Lacroix and then receiving the ANDAM Prize not once but twice, Christophe Lemaire launched his namesake label to critical acclaim.
A strong design background goes a long way in menswear and Lemaire knows exactly what he’s doing. 2006 saw the brand’s first store launch in Paris’ fashionable Le Marais district (Soho for all us non-Francophiles), and the ascent soon began.
Resort wear is undoubtedly Lemaire’s bread-and-butter. Relaxed shirts are combined with Talented Mr Ripley-esque prints for a look that is both relaxed and refined. Add a touch of utilitarianism for increased masculinity and you’re in for a juggernaut collection.
As far as cost goes, Lemaire is priced at a premium. Yet thanks to the internet, outlet sales and stringent bargain hunts, these days we can all own a touch of menswear luxury. Nothing will ever beat a classic investment purchase and a Christophe Lemaire jacket or cashmere jumper is guaranteed to get good wear for many years to come.
Renowned For: Modern resort wear and luxury investment pieces.
Official Website: www.christophelemaire.com
- Christophe Lemaire Grandad-collar Cotton-twill Shirt
- Christophe Lemaire Oversized Printed Silk And Cotton-blend Shirt
- Christophe Lemaire Cotton And Linen-blend Shirt Jacket
- Christophe Lemaire Cashmere Crew Neck Sweater
- Christophe Lemaire Regular-fit Lightweight Denim Shirt
- Christophe Lemaire Regular-fit Lightweight Cotton Trousers
- Christophe Lemaire Oblong Scarf
- Christophe Lemaire Leather Derby Shoes
- Christophe Lemaire Moccasins
Thanks to the beauty of the internet, we can now source a worldwide-worthy wardrobe without leaving our very own sofa. Good style requires a wealth of experience and the French most certainly know their menswear.
Look towards the continent and you’ve got some serious threads on your hands. Merci beaucoup, Paris.
But what do you think to our top five French brands? Any you would add? As always, we’re keen to hear your suggestions in the comments section…