Dunhill Spring/Summer 2016 Menswear
“The formal clothing is so amazing, so striking—why not start with it?” John Ray asked backstage, post-show. This was Dunhill going for a knockout early in the match: Morning coats and top hats paraded out as soon as the audience had identified and smiled to the rave classic “Pacific State” by 808 State (albeit in the Jeremy Deller brass-band version).
Several brands are currently jostling to own British-ness (which is ironic since Britain itself is under threat of disintegrating into English-ness, Scottish-ness, and so on). Why? Because British-ness is a valuable currency these days. Even though Dunhill’s focus at the moment is Europe and the U.S., the brand has a huge Asian market, and the heritage of the British aristocratic aesthetic (because we are, after all, dealing with a well-heeled brand here) gives allure and relevance.
To help own the Brit brand, Ray enlisted David Niven, Prince Charles, and Edward VIII as part of his inspiration, then mused on the club mentality of Jermyn Street, where men show allegiance through the pattern of a tie. The press release also noted that this is a nation where to dress down for the weekend means dressing up. Let’s just say, that’s only true in certain circles.
The collection was thus nothing you didn’t already know by heart, but it was done in a way that on the one hand didn’t feel like a reimagining of the classics, and on the other hand didn’t look at all costumey. Rather, the impression was akin to when a concert violinist performs the same classical piece that has been heard a thousand times before, and yet manages to make it his or her own.
This was especially true of the trousers, which were slightly looser than expected, a kind of old man’s pants that didn’t look retro. Elsewhere, color-blocked shirts were elongated into tunics. Ray also singled out a moss green look, inspired by British race car driver Mike Hawthorn, who used to wear a boilersuit to protect his finery from oil and dirt—although Ray’s version didn’t come in a one-piece, but three.
It didn’t feel young, but it didn’t feel particularly old either. Maybe with Dunhill, Ray has found that elusive quality so many are searching for: timelessness.