By Tony Sylvester
Roughly three years in the past I wrote a bit for the Drake’s in-house journal Widespread Thread. Given a free rein on any topic I wished to speak about, I’d began ruminating on the similarities between French and English fashion, one of many prompts for which had been the current announcement that Drake’s could be launching ‘a retailer inside a retailer’ at Beige Habilleur, in Paris’s sixteenth arrondissement.
Past the apparent advantages to each model and retailer, I began enthusiastic about each the commonalities and variations in menswear both aspect of La Manche. For regardless of the historic deal with Italian, American and British fashion, comparatively little time – within the English language not less than – had been spent on the French strategy to sartorial issues.
Instances have modified so much since then. The French journal l’Etiquette is offered in English as of late, and final 12 months Reginald-Jerome De Mans revealed Swan Tune: an entertaining assortment of essays on French makers and clothes institutions. Witty, romantic and infrequently pessimistic (with a suitably Proustian allusion in its title) De Mans, an American who hung out in Paris as a pupil, ruminates on the disappearing world of French craftsmanship and magnificence.
As quickly because the guide landed, I cracked it open to the chapter on Left Financial institution establishment Arnys (above). Keener readers will already know of the now defunct model; Simon lined them within the early days of PS, and so they cropped up in my article final 12 months on artists’ clothes.
The model was swallowed up by LVMH-owned fancy-shoe suppliers Berluti again in 2013, a choice maybe extra motivated by their enviable retail place on Rue De Sévres moderately than their sartorial output, but Arnys nonetheless holds a agency sway over menswear lovers.
The model fascinates me tremendously. I used to be a bit of late to the get together, lacking out on the shop in its heyday, so journeys to Paris usually contain wild goose chases in pursuit of classic items or nuggets of knowledge to assist me flesh out my information (and assortment). This previous Spring, I used to be fortunate sufficient to take a seat down with one of many males liable for a substantial amount of the visible enchantment of the Arnys, the top designer and director of favor for 30 years, Dominique Lelys (beneath).
I’m clearly not the one individual besotted with the world of Arnys. One have a look at the stratospheric costs for his or her signature items on resale bears this out. So, how did they acquire such a fame?
Farid Chanoune’s bible on French fashion, A Historical past Of Males’s Style, makes only one fleeting point out of the model, referring to them as “a purveyor of French-style English trend for the reason that early 50s” and no extra. Contemplating how a lot area he devotes to others lengthy forgotten and sunk into obscurity, this strikes me as odd. Does the veneration of Arnys not run way back to I’d been led to imagine?
The shop was opened in1933 by two sons of a Ukrainian tailor, Leon and Albert Grimbert. Their arrival within the coronary heart of the Left Financial institution coincided with their neighourhood’s fame because the outpost of the brand new class of intellectuals, writers and artists. This was due to low cost rents and a café-based salon des idées tradition on the encircling streets.
The garments bought at Arnys contributed to this new cultural drive, serving to in some half to offer rise to the ‘BoBo’ (Bohemian Bourgoisie) look and mindset, in direct distinction to the extra mainstream ‘BCBG’ (good fashion, good class) angle on the opposite aspect of the Seine (beneath).
Publish struggle, one of many many cultural luminaries Arnys dressed was actor Philippe Noiret (above). His conventional but eccentric costume caught the attention of a younger pupil, Dominique Lelys, who ventured into Arnys hoping to emulate his sartorial hero on his meagre revenue.
“I used to be working at Ralph Lauren doing their home windows, as my background was inside design.’ Mr Lelys explains. “After I give up structure college, I went to Hermes, however we didn’t actually match.
“I had met Jean Grimbert (son and nephew of the unique founders) as a result of I used to be already a buyer at Arnys, and he stated he wished to see what I used to be doing. I confirmed him my designs and he stated ‘please make me a tie assortment’. So I began with them – it was 1983. After that he determined to rent me as a director of favor.”
“My fashion may be very private. After I was 10 years previous my father, who was very eager on languages, determined to ship me to England for a 12 months. So I went to Barnstaple, in Devonshire, the place I stayed with a household. I went to highschool, I learnt to play cricket, I learnt to play rugby, which I used to be very keen on. I understood in a short time the understatement, the English mentality and sensibility. I used to be very keen on this typical previous England with its tweed and its kilts.
“I’m French, and my father was very very French. So after I grew up he informed me, you’ll be able to preserve what you’ve learnt however you must adapt it to your nationality. So I made a combination: I do know all of the codes, generally I break them, generally I respect them. However I attempt to be what I’m: A French man who went to highschool in England, who has two cultures. I’ve English associates and Scottish associates, however I’m too busy to journey as of late. I feel that England is gone.”
It’s straightforward to see what impressed the home boss in Lelys’ eye for design – he gave a particular Escher-like really feel to his repeating patterns in autumnal palettes, with motifs resonant of the nice life; searching, ingesting. The ties turned one half of the story for the renewed, revamped power of the model.
The ultimate piece of the puzzle was an odd jacket of their archives: the so-called Forestière, initially made for the French-Swiss architect Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, aka Le Corbusier.
“The primary Forestière for Corbusier was fairly completely different to the mannequin that everyone is aware of,” Lelys says, upending all of the knowledge I’d heard concerning the jacket’s historical past. “It had padding and was fairly straight. I noticed one prototype after I started to work at Arnys. We determined to take the padding out and to decrease the shoulder, simply to see the way it labored.
“It was a right away success. As soon as we relaunched within the eighties, it turned the very best vendor for Arnys, accounting for 50% of their gross sales. After we noticed that this jacket was profitable, we determined to make different choices in the identical vein and say “let’s go”.
And go they did. By the late nineties Arnys catalogues (above) have been full of untamed and fantastic items impressed by classic navy and equestrian coats, and all types of aristocratic clobber recalling a pre-revolutionary ancien régime mentality (for a reference, contemplate the portray above of Baron de Thiers).
It was distinctive, splendidly eccentric and infrequently a bit of daft.
I used to be talking to Lelys within the dwelling of his newest enterprise. We’re sitting on tweed sofas within the places of work of Artumes & Co, a younger French model taking a few of its cues from l’esprit d’Arnys however with a barely larger deal with searching.
The founders Thomas and Nicholas Dracht’s father ran the English taking pictures model Holland & Holland for his or her French paymasters Chanel within the nineties, and that country-sports affect is entrance and centre in Artumes. It was virtually inevitable that Lelys teamed up with them.
“My silk maker stated to me there’s a firm referred to as Artumes & Co who do precisely the identical factor as you do, and he confirmed me one design that appeared so much like one I had achieved for Arnys,” says Lelys. “So I referred to as them up…now we’re associates,” he laughs.
“When Arnys bought to Berluti, most of the previous makers simply carried on making the identical designs that I had made with them. However that official heritage belongs to me, so I’m very fortunate to have discovered this world of Artumes to proceed. I’ve introduced my know-how to them, however in addition they have their id. So I handle each and it matches very simply. I’m dwelling.”
Lelys is extra fascinated about continuity than easy repetition of previous formulation, so the 2 developments he made at Arnys are up to date right here in new, tailored kinds.
His trademark patterns are current within the Tourdesoi (above), a collection of light-weight scarves taking over the identical function as his previous tie vary – brightening outfits and creating the visible curiosity between the lapels, albeit in a relaxed method extra reflective of the brand new model’s ethos.
In lieu of the Forestière, he has developed the arTeba. Primarily based on the Spanish searching jacket the Teba, it has been recut, nipped on the waist, lower larger on the armhole and longer within the skirt. In checked tweeds and vibrant corduroy, it’s a pure inheritor in look and temper to the Forestière’s appreciable charms.
Sadly for me, its narrower, slimmer lower just isn’t match, as a part of the Forestière’s private enchantment was its outsized ‘anti’ match.
I go away Artumes with a pocket book filled with acquired knowledge, however and not using a alternative mannequin for my beloved Forestière – one thing I had hoped to seek out at Artumes.
Hopefully one other of Paris’s extra attention-grabbing shops can be in a position will help a bit of in that regard. Extra on that subsequent time.
Images: Alex Natt. Beneath, Thomas Dracht (left) and Dominique Lelys