Honouring Nostalgia

In an age where the value and lifespan of clothing have diminished, there is a refreshing emergence of fashion brands focusing on quality goods that make a subtle statement. One such label, which has amassed a following of fans on the hunt for refined menswear is Husbands. Founded by Nicolas Gabard, the Parisian ready-to-wear brand believes the foundation of an effective wardrobe is a smart, tailored suit with the power to adapt to any occasion it finds itself in while reflecting the personality of its wearer without relying on logos. Taking inspiration from the streets of Paris, as well as menswear-defining eras such as the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, the brand honours the past without veering into costume territory.

Here, Husbands reveals the timeless appeal of a well-tailored suit, the inspiration behind its designs, and why savoir-faire is an important element of style.

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The brand’s name was inspired by the 1970 John Cassavetes film Husbands. When you design, where do you mainly draw your inspiration from?

Husbands is indeed named after the movie — and although it is definitely a cinematographic vision, it is mostly because of the film’s main characters, as they were exactly the individuals we wish to dress. They are men who had bumps, wrinkles, stories, flaws, hard blows. And it was a kind of reaction to the whole fashion industry, which was communicating totally aseptic versions of masculinity featuring models under 20, tall, handsome, tapered, perfect — but without a story. We wanted to dress a different kind of masculinity — a real masculinity, and not a fantasized one.

The cinematographic, musical, and artistic dimensions remain very important to us, [and that’s] because we do believe that culture allows people to reveal themselves — and that you never dress someone as well as someone who knows him or herself. But Husbands loves each era: we’re just as fascinated by a pair of ’60s trousers as we are by a ’70s jacket. We’re currently working on an ’80s-inspired 4×1 jacket with notched lapels, and a slightly lower-waisted pair of pants inspired by the 2000s. That said, we are also inspired by everyday life, by men we see on the street in Paris. The further we go, the more we realise how much work there is still to do.

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As a designer, how do you balance honouring the classic suit with maintaining a contemporary look?

Tailoring is not just about care in construction. It is also the search for a certain balance and a personal mode of expression that is found in the details — a shoulder, a lapel, a fit, a leg opening. Respecting classic tailoring is putting it at the service of a contemporary and timeless look, because it reflects the wearer’s personality. Within this precise framework, there remains a rather vast field of possibilities. At the beginning of Husbands, only certain eras found favour in our sight — but the further we go, the more we discover the richness of all eras and the interest of mixing them, in terms of style. Many details changed over the years, but the great balances and proportions remain similar, as if there was also a Golden ratio in tailoring.

Why is a well-tailored suit still a wardrobe staple?

For its power to conceal and reveal. When you don’t know what to wear, a well-cut suit is a kind of key that allows you to go anywhere, in any context and in any environment. It’s like a second skin that allows you to evolve in a fairly neutral and benevolent way, that allows you to be confident in any place. A pair of jeans, for instance, is less neutral: it will stand out negatively in the middle of a dressy evening, whereas, on the contrary, a suit paired with boots will surprise positively in the middle of a more casual evening where everyone is wearing jeans. The suit always receives benevolence from people — for all the shy ones, it’s the perfect armour. When you’re young, clothing can be violent: you’re not sure how to wear it, if it’s too small or too long. Having a well-cut suit takes away these issues and leaves you free to focus on what matters. Husbands works on its suits so that its customers can be busy living, not contemplating their own clothes.

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Do you think that men’s fashion can embrace more technical advancements in areas like textile development?

We always take an extremely modest stance and believe that one should never say never. Our ambition is to go back to the roots of the classic wardrobe to show its relevance, but nothing prevents us, if the time comes, from exploring technical garments to meet this relevance. We are driven by history and savoir-faire, but we also like stylistic stories, and today there are technical materials that offer a richness of language that used to be available in classic garments, but at the cost of excessive weight. We try to understand what the essence of a classic garment is in order to bring it back to our time — not to make a copy of the past. So, it’s perfectly conceivable to use lighter, stronger materials that are more relevant to our lives today but give the same feeling as a fabric used in the ’60s or ’70s.

The use of new materials must, however, be carefully studied to comply with our corporate social responsibility standards. For instance, some weavers work with vegetable dyes, but these do require heavy metals to be fixed to the material, so we have to be extremely careful about the use of new techniques. New materials are often less environmentally friendly than simple wool, which is one of the most responsible materials today, if properly sourced.

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Is craftsmanship more important than ever now that we’re in the digital age, where clothes are often presented on social media as a kind of status symbol but not always experienced firsthand?

Status is always intrinsically linked to clothing, and it would be wrong to say that Husbands customers are exempt from this rule. We do not, however, have a vision of the suit as a status garment that stands on its own. It is precisely here that savoir-faire comes into play to design a resilient garment. So craftsmanship is not an end in itself; it is a starting point. A good fabric and good construction results in clothes that will look even better two or three years later — one of the few faults of our clothes is that they are new. Savoir-faire is future style.

Also, savoir-faire is not only in construction but also a vector of emotions, an element of style: a canvassed jacket is a jacket that will fall better, that will have a thickness, a volume, a density, a softness, a harshness that will inevitably appeal to the senses. Our ambition is to liberate these skills to deliver the emotion they carry. Each of the people working in this field, through our whole value chain, humanizes our project. They give the garment its soul, and the soul gives legitimacy. For Husbands, savoir-faire is an inner sign of wealth. It is a subtle distinction that will not be seen on a mobile phone screen. This is obviously a diametrically opposed position to statutory clothing that relies on the logo. We are far from this dimension of buying a garment whose only legitimacy is its final destination of social use.

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What does timeless style mean to you?

In absolute terms, you could say that there is no such thing as a timeless style. A wardrobe always conveys its time, and that’s why it’s fascinating. Now, on the scale of a lifetime, we believe that timeless style is something that happens once you have found yourself. Designating timeless pieces for everyone is impossible, as they will become disguises for some. The important thing is to lose oneself, to look for oneself in order to find one’s own means of expression, one’s own theme of expression. Some will find their timelessness in jeans, t-shirts, jumpers, and they will remain like that for 25 or 30 years, and you will almost be able to recognize them from behind. Others, on the contrary, will find themselves in a rather classic theme. In the end, even if the clothes change, the wrinkles appear; there is an impression of constancy from these men who have found themselves, as if they have remained the same.