Two women in menswear.
Women generally have a better sense of style and fashion than men. You'll find a lot of them dressing the men in their lives, while still making sure they maintain their own sense of style. This is not to say that men don't care about their appearance but a good portion of men are creatures of comfort, and shopping for clothing represents a pain point.
Women also work in various roles within the fashion industry, including menswear. Perhaps it's their keen eye, or that they understand the appeal that needs to be ever-present in clothing. What's truly rare is to find women that live and breathe menswear - those that appreciate the 'mannish' look, and wear it with elegance whilst preserving a feminine silhouette.
There are very few such women, and even fewer that are comfortable being seen in the public eye. We're proud to present a brand-new series on Casa di Sartoria - Women in Menswear.
In this first post, we speak with two sartorially minded women who have come to embody the classic menswear movement for women, while empowering themselves and others along the way.
Introducing our guests - the women of menswear.
Laura de Rochas
Laura de Rochas is currently based in Chicago, Illinois. She is the Milan Editor-at-Large for Fashion Week Online and the Content Creator for the Milan luxury magazines Bigshot 360 and Shot. She also works on special projects with Gentlemen’s Wear Daily, a menswear inspired platform for men, as their U.S. Business Developer.
As a child, she started developing her passion for clothing and style, browsing through issues of Vogue and GQ, which led her to who she is today - a “woman in menswear." Even though she is based in Florida, she frequently travels to Milan to attend Milan Fashion Week (Men’s) and to Florence to attend Pitti Uomo, one of the biggest style and menswear expo in the world.
She has created editorials with some of the top style influencers in Milan such as Gianni Fontana, Fabrizio Oriani, and Francesco Galluci, fashion designers like Daizy Shely, and fashion photographers like Alexi Lubomirski, Joseph Cardo, and the beautiful street style photographer Charley of GWD.
Laura has a keen eye for menswear, fashion, and style -which you can see on her Instagram.
Mary-Cait Bristow is a tailor and menswear consultant from Manchester, U.K. She has worked in menswear design, production, and client consultation for 6 years. Her love for classic and timeless style started at a very young age with influences from classic Hollywood movies such as “To Have and Have Not”, “North by North West”, and “To Catch a Thief.”
Mary-Cait received her first sewing machine at the tender age of 9, and has been passionately making garments ever since. She studied fashion at university and went straight into tailoring after graduation.
She started at King and Allen Bespoke, where she learnt all the tricks of the trade, from cutting and making with Daniel - to client consulting, fitting and measuring with Karl. She has since gone into work with tailoring brands such as Fielding & Nicholson and Lutwyche. She works independently now as a menswear consultant, advising brands and individual clients.
Laura and Mary-Cait are working on a campaign to proliferate the “women in menswear” movement, one that will focus on interviewing women who are an integral part of the growth in the menswear world ranging from photographers, editors, bespoke tailors, style icons, and influencers.
The goal is to inspire other women to partake in this magnificent world of menswear. They are working towards a collection for ladies, inspired by sartorial menswear - launching at the end of 2018.
Recently, Casa di Sartoria's Hamza Khan sat down to speak with Laura and Mary-Cait on the women in menswear movement.
What inspired you to venture into menswear?
M: Old Hollywood. Gentlemen like Cary Grant, Marlon Brando and Gregory Peck were always so beautifully dressed, I always wished I grew up experiencing that era first-hand. Being able to dress men such as these would be so inspiring.
L: My father used to wear suits when I was a kid and I loved how much confidence he exuded. The way he sat, the way he walked, and everything in between. He loved Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Johnny Cash - who were all stylish men that added to that inspiration.
Has the interest in menswear made an impact on the way you dress?
M: Yes definitely, my personal style has always been very mannish.
L: I think more so now, the exchange is easy between men and woman, you can wear almost everything. I try to mix some menswear pieces with vintage pieces as much as possible that mesh well with my wardrobe.
How difficult has it been to gain traction in a male dominated menswear segment as women?
M: Very difficult, but those walls are slowly falling down decade by decade.
L: I think for some women its hard. But for Mary and I, it just came naturally. We have passion and confidence and when you have that everything else comes easy.
In your opinion, what do women bring to the table in a menswear market?
M: A whole different perspective. The way we view men is different to how men view men and it's always great to look at design from all angles.
L: Women in general have a great eye and in today’s menswear market what women bring to the table could be a range of from style to experience.
Are your looks influenced or authentic?
M: Authentic, although influenced by earlier decades circa 1920's-60's.
L: Authentic too, but influenced by the 70's love of clothes and music.
How are you perceived by both and women? Is there a problem of fitting in or do you have a unique space?
M: I feel that we definitely have a unique space. I've always managed to work well with all sorts of people, as it’s all about understanding each other and just being yourself. Both men and women respect us because we are true to ourselves.
L: I agree, we have been lucky to have some great influences around us like Gianni Fontana who pretty much has inspired us with his knowledge in menswear.
Is the menswear inspired movement among women trending or here to stay?
M: It's definitely trending among many platforms and catwalks, but I feel it's definitely here to stay. The classicism of menswear, the detail and simplicity is timeless and the androgynous look has always been bubbling under the surface.
L: Menswear has been around such a long time, that it has certainly impacted the way women approach their own clothing -from their shoes to their hair. It’s definitely here to stay.
Is there a way to make the menswear inspired looks more feminine through the use of specific products, fit, or a combination of both?
M: Fit definitely plays a role in the femininity of the look, such as a cinched waist, lady-like cuts and softness. However, silk scarves and broaches add a touch of feminine glamour.
L: Here's a good example: we recently met with an accessories brand in New York City - R. Culturi. They design artwork accessories, including beautiful silk scarves with amazing artistry and colors. Both men and women can wear them. Men can wear them as ties while women can wear them as a traditional scarf. If a woman has style, she can do anything with menswear and still keep it classy.
Many like to heavily differentiate between their professional attire and out-of-office, while others marry the two. How do you tackle this challenge to find the appropriate looks?
M: Personally, I keep my wardrobes and looks very separate. I have a much more relaxed day time wardrobe; open collar and loose-fitting suits usually teamed with a white pump or loafer. Work attire is always structured, consisting of 3-piece suits, ties, and brogues or monk straps. For evening attire, I have silk/wool black suits and of course dinner suits for special events.
L: It all depends on my mood. If I could wear a suit all day I would. I love the manish look but it has its time and place.
How would you approach finding a timeless and classic menswear inspired style for women?
M: Just follow Lauren Bacall’s lead in “To Have and Have Not.”
L: Look at Bianca Jagger and Cher - perfect examples!
Do you feel there is a significant market need for designing women's wear with a mannish look?
M: Yes, HUGE gap!!!
L: Yes and our goal is to expand that.
How important would it be to collaborate with existing brands to develop menswear inspired collections for women?
M: Yes, it's important. We want to create variety for all sexes.
L: There are many brands out there in menswear that only carry menswear and it would be awesome to see those brands like the established brands Lardini, Brioni, Kiton who already are existing menswear brands and incorporate womenswear in their line.
How easy is it currently for women to find menswear products specifically made for women?
M: Very difficult. Bespoke is the best way forward, and there are a couple great brands out there already trying to break through into this.
How will you contribute to the Women in Menswear movement?
M: Highlight existing brands and women already working in this area, while moving towards a women's focused tailoring brand.
L: B I agree with Mary. It’s important for people to know who the women are who help define and expand menswear brands and that can range from editors, photographers, influencers, tailors and so many more.
Lastly, what are your plans for the future?
M: Push female bespoke tailoring, reaching all women of the sartorial spectrum.
L: To continue showcasing and supporting menswear and the women in them. We are hoping to collaborate together, Mary and I and begin a menswear inspired collection for women. It would be nice to see a men inspired for women fashion show during men’s fashion week. I believe that would break the barriers some more, no?
Photos courtesy of Laura and Mary-Cait.