Holding their own: How to pick fashion that retains its value
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A lot of fashion, particularly fast fashion, is disposed of the following season. It seems to be a bargain, but in no time at all it hits the recycled store, or in the worst case, landfill.
But some fashion designers create pieces that not only retain their value, they are passed on through the generations and are worth considerably more than the price tag.
Australian fashion designer Martin Grant.Credit: Antoine Doyen
The work of Martin Grant, initially based in Melbourne and now the darling of the Paris fashion scene, exemplifies the worth of great design and craftsmanship (his work also appears in the National Gallery of Victoria’s permanent collection).
“Martin has his own signature,” says Christine Burro, who owns Christine at the top of Collins Street, Melbourne, and stocks Grant’s coats, dresses and blouses. “He’s continually in fashion, whether because of the way he uses pleats or tailors a sleeve, occasionally bell-shaped.
“His trench coats are legendary,” she adds, displaying a cape coat with bell sleeves for $2850. “One of my clients said it was great value, with a Dior coat costing double that amount.”
A piece by Tokyo-based fashion designer Shiro Sakai.Credit:
Grant’s training, initially from his grandmother and later by studying sculpture, has made him a stand-out in international fashion, with many clients clinging to designs he created soon after he began working, at the age of 16.
“These pieces remain in one’s wardrobe for a lifetime or are passed on through the family,” Burro says.
Other designers who have caused ripples in the fashion world include Tokyo-based Shiro Sakai, who established his own label a few years ago – he was the right-hand person for Junya Watanabe for more than 20 years.
Represented worldwide by Tony Newsham, former vice-president of Comme des Garcons, Sakai’s clothes can be found in Selfridges in London, Bergdorf Goodman in New York and at Marais in Bourke Street, Melbourne.
“I would describe Shiro’s clothes as ‘classic with a twist’,” Newsham says. “As he only produces 35 designs for each collection, they’re well priced.” Jackets cost about $3500, a shirt is $500 and trousers range from $1000 to $1500. “Each piece is beautifully crafted,” Newsham adds. “It all starts with the fabric.”
Designer Ian Nessick isn’t a regular on the Paris catwalk, nor will you find his bespoke shirts, jackets and trousers in prestige department stores worldwide. But you will discover his enormous talent if you visit his modest store on the second level of the Strand Arcade in Sydney.
Martin Grant’s trench coats are considered “legendary”.Credit:
Decked out by Nessick, who was also responsible for the interior of wine bar 10 William Street in Paddington, it’s the vintage fabrics as much as the designs that command attention.
“I sourced these fabrics over 20 years ago from a factory in Belmore, many from the 1950s through to the ’80s,” Nessick says, pointing out the unusual crinkled cottons, the seersucker and the fine silks – with shirts starting at $380 and a loose shirt-style jacket for between $900 and $1100.
“My clothing is certainly not fashion driven. It’s all about comfort,” adds Nessick, who is a great admirer of British designer Katharine Hamnett’s work, particularly from the ’80s and ’90s. “Like Hamnett’s designs, you can pick my shirts off the floor, and unlike the traditional shirt, which includes stitching together five to six pieces, mine have 18.”
Virginia van Heythuysen, fashion director at The Australian Financial Review, is a huge fan of Nessick’s clothing. “It certainly hits the ‘sweet spot’,” she says. “His fabrics are timeless but certainly have an edge. His clothes are also androgynous. Some of his pieces remind me of Paul Smith’s work, where there’s often a lining that’s unexpected.”
Another Virginia, Virginia Dowzer, creative developer for numerous companies who has spent years dedicating her career to fashion, sees the value of design and the importance of the thought process behind it, as much as its execution.
“Most of the great designers, whether it’s in fashion or furniture, ensure the value of each item holds its own,” she says. “These pieces are kept forever, well beyond a season.”
Stephen Crafti is a specialist in contemporary design, including architecture, furniture, fashion and decorative arts.
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