Tuesday, March 6, 2012

New brand 'eclectic'

The men’s dress jacket has survived many changes over time and maintained its status as a wardrobe staple. Over a white shirt or a designer t-shirt, it remains one of the simplest ways to complete a look.

As stylish as they are, however, these traditional outfits can be cumbersome. The fine fabrics are difficult to keep, and the garment’s complex structure restricts movement. In hot, stuffy weather, it is the first thing to go.

Franck Malegue, fashion industry veteran and entrepreneur based in Paris, believes he has found a solution to these problems. With the jackets and coats from his menswear brand, eclectic, he says, you can keep both practicality and style in a single outfit ― though he would prefer you buy more than one.

It is now possible not to worry about your evening jacket under the unexpected rush of rain, for example, thanks to the waterproof materials used in Malegue’s creations.

His idea became reality over several years. The first jolt of inspiration happened three years ago when he had just relocated to northern Italy from Japan. The juxtaposition of these two successive surroundings gave birth to the brand.

“Japan had a strong impact on my creativity, the way I developed my concept,” said Malegue in an interview Monday. “Innovation and tradition are … deep in Japanese culture, also the attention to detail. I wanted the revival of the old know-how in a contemporary way.”

During his two-year stint in Italy, he saw a connection, quit the post and prepared over 13 months to open his shop in the fashionable Marais quarter in Paris last May.

“I spent two years in Italy working with designers specializing in extreme sportswear, on the other hand with traditional tailors,” he said, pointing out the coincidental combination that gave way to his enterprise.

In hindsight, it is easy for observers to write off this mix as a no-brainer, but there is a reason why eclectic is an unprecedented effort.

“The biggest problem using the technical fabrics is that they react in a different way from the traditional fabrics that tailor the jacket,” said Malegue. “You have to rethink about the whole process. Needles were broken. Some sewing machines were broken. We spent a lot of time reengineering the whole process and adapting to the new fabric.”

The result is a series of imaginative recipes, like lining a cotton jacket with micro-perforated membranes for better air movement and pairing wool with fleece for comfort. He compared it to the continuing evolution in shoes, where the classic, the avant-garde, the formal and the casual have pushed each other’s boundaries.

Potential customers may shrug their shoulders at a price tag that ranges from 600 euros ($793 or 886,000 won) to 880 euros. But Malegue begs to differ. He says the price is reasonable for the product’s exceptional quality, made in a single atelier outside Treviso in Italy’s northeastern tip best-known for its craftsmanship. The headquarters of clothing retailer Benetton, home appliance manufacturer DeLonghi and bicycle maker Pinarello are also located in the city, and not too far in Sacile finds the factory of world-famous piano producers Fazioli.

“All the fabrics are done by hand. (They are) artisanal,” he said. “I’m offering a very good price for value. Customers are paying for what they’re getting. For big brands, the price tag is 30 percent for advertising and another 30 for real estate.”

Furthermore, the origin of every component of the finished product is traceable, a rarity in this globalized day and age.

“Traditional fabric comes from Italy or England, the technical fabric from Italy or Switzerland. The buttons come from France, and the threads come from Germany.”

While the roots are European, Malegue’s priority markets are Japan and Korea.

“(The two) markets are mature. Customers can appreciate the intricate work behind my products.”

His first overseas order did come from a Japanese distributor. Malegue’s jackets and coats will go on sale in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya from July.

The first Google search for the words “technology” and “jacket” may yield results for better-known outdoor gear for now, but eclectic should climb up that ladder soon.

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