Belstaff Spring/Summer 2016 Menswear
“We wanted to expand the lens of the brand a little bit,” said Belstaff’s vice president of men’s design, Fred Dyhr. “We want to keep our motor heritage, but we want to venture, too. And make sure we have that elevated feel.” In terms of fabrication and elevation, there was nothing to argue with in this collection. It was a series of luxurious takes on the Desert Rats, the much-honored British Army forces that battled Rommel’s troops in the sandy eternity of North Africa 70-ish years ago. Dry-layer cotton knits sat under patched leather gilets and bonded flyweight leather racing jackets. A suede cape—originally for protection upon emergence from a tank turret—was reimagined as a bold option for shoulder-robing enthusiasts. Desert-map prints were applied to cracking wax field jackets, and the foam-soled waxed suede footwear was, to this eye, a deeply desirable amalgam of bike and desert boot. Lightweight cotton silk waffle-stitch Henleys, reversible bonded-seam nylon bombers, an interesting coated linen parka-peacoat hybrid—peacra? parkoat?—and even a tank suit/jumpsuit worked well. The bonded-seam, terrain-print outerwear styles that followed were perhaps the most directional, trophy pieces here.
Dyhr is sincerely a charming fellow who has clearly focused hard on his brief. And this was most certainly a finely executed collection of summer-relevant masculine luxury. Yet Belstaff appears set on defining itself as a label beyond its motorcycling DNA. Given that most of the fashion industry’s brands would kill for even a speck of genuine “DNA”—let alone an identity as shaped by history and the genuine love felt for it by generations of bikers—that idea comes across as a little perverse. This was a strong collection whose positioning seemed dubious.