Daiki Suzuki’s Fall/Winter 2010 collection for Woolrich Woolen Mills, entitled “Hunting Noir”, is the single greatest #menswear era collection ever. From form to function to an innovative, yet easily accessible concept to a traceable footprint within the context of the men’s clothing industry, it has almost everything. And, most importantly, it laid down the blueprint for where #menswear has ended up in 2013.
In 2010, the post-heritage, progressive, almost avant-garde clothing seen in "Noir" did not exist, as the market was entirely focused on trying to copy, stitch for stitch, the wardrobes of its grandfathers without any interest in creating its own history. As this aesthetic trickled downstream, J.Crew dominated by mass-producing this mid-20th century aesthetic, while the smaller brands they stole from scrambled to find what was next. Daiki Suzuki and "Noir" were already there.
Even with its roots deeply buried within a heritage name, Daiki's unique and penultimate vision for WWM—inspired in part by 1980’s Comme Des Garcons—was the first instance of #menswear reconciling its relationship with high fashion, a concept that dominates the genre today. When it debuted in Milan, Interview instantly recognized it as something special: "Perhaps the designer's best Woolrich collection to date, Suzuki's sophisticated fall presentation was certainly something different." At the time, balaclavas, reverse layering and color palettes dedicated to a singular, dark hue were not aspects others had the willingness or bravery to infuse into traditional men's clothing. Today, these are easily recognizable as the hallmarks of the most exciting menswear brands in the business.
In the Internet age, making a collection that people agree they like is particularly daunting. On blogs and online publications, individual garments are thrown on the chopping block and judged down to their most inconsequential details. Most don’t make it out alive. This tendency to judge collections by its singular pieces is nothing new. Historically, men don’t buy outfits. They buy The Khaki Pant. The Oxford Cloth Shirt. The Wingtip. Effectively conveying a collection as a single, cohesive entity is no easy task.
As Engineered Garments—and the totality of #menswear in 2013—continues to push forward, it should thank 'Hunting Noir' for giving it the tools to do so.
And yet “Hunting Noir” is practically impervious to even shallow aesthetic criticism. The range is comprised almost exclusively of the universally loved, and objectively chic combination of black and dark blue. This choice is not arbitrary. Without it, there would be no Noir to speak of. As for fit, the clothing is tailored without being skinny, relaxed without being too drapey. And the lookbook styling makes arguably the strongest case of all. Its unexpected layering—a poncho over a leather bomber, a belted cardigan over a casual sport coat—and an intangible, yet potent effortlessness evokes a distinct, yet familiar sense of style. Artistically, Daiki Suzuki’s novel concept of, essentially, “hunting gear with the brightness turned down” makes it easy to digest as a whole.
It's true that part of what makes WWM F/W 10 so easy to love is nostalgia, which informs any discussion of clothing in retrospect. Daiki is no longer with Woolrich Woolen Mills and most likely never will be again. Though, while his subsequent S/S 2011 collection was technically his final for WWM, cold weather collections are simply more inviting. If he had not been heading out the door we may have never experienced the nothing left to lose attitude that likely helped render a career and genre-defining collection.
As any casual #menswear fan can attest to, Daiki Suzuki is far from gone. His label, Engineered Garments, is arguably the best men's clothing brand on the planet in 2013, which the soul of “Hunting Noir” continues to inform to this day. It's wholly possible Daiki’s final seasons with Woolrich Woolen Mills taught him something about himself as a designer.
Obvious common threads, both literal and figurative, are easily noted between Woolrich Woolen Mills Fall/Winter 2010 and Engineered Garments' recent Fall/Winter 2013 collection. Few designers revel in their own aesthetic more than Suzuki, although his internal references aren't obvious. The fact that there are echoes at all further solidifies "Hunting Noir's" legend—a poncho here or a long hoodie under a short jacket there only exist because of ground previous broken—but that’s not to say EG is hindered by its predecessor's genius. As Engineered Garments and, really, the totality of #menswear in 2013 continues to push forward, they should thank “Hunting Noir” for giving it the tools to do so. That's a close to greatness as it gets.