Since 2004, Engineered Garments has been the singular menswear brand in New York when it comes to vintage-inspired sportswear. With a discreet identity and an “if you know, you know” reputation for quality in fabrics and construction, there is as much mystique as there is obsession surrounding the label. The Spring 2015 collection is a testament to why.
There is a story behind this offering: Designer Daiki Suzuki looked to the now-defunct brand British Khaki by Robert Lighton and the image of the British army in India, their khaki mil-spec gear commingling with bright colors and kalamkari and paisley prints. The result was a collection of contradictions. Khaki, olive drab, navy, and gray paired with bright florals, printed canvas, and jacquard; Nehru collars, harem pants, and long shirts alongside British officer jackets and double-pleated trousers. Military and workwear tend to be sober by nature, but here much fun was had in mixing and matching patterns, in unlikely fabric combos, and in the contrast between informal and exotic with formal and traditional. More challenging pieces like the wrap-and-tie wide-leg fisherman pants added irreverent fun to a jacket and tie. Numerous riffs on safari- and military-style jackets, all executed with a balance of nuance and convention, were never quite what you’d expect. Suzuki’s design process begins with the fabrics, and so one of the greatest strengths here was in the materials—luxe tropical wool; soft, richly colored twill; bright nylon; linen blends; and more unique fabrics like a water-resistant striped cotton with poly backing.
But the British safari narrative is somehow too confining for the clothes; it too neatly categorizes the collection. Above all, this is the vision of a sportswear mastermind. Suzuki doesn’t design from historical archives or a template for what a collection should be. He finds inspiration and intuits his way through both vintage and entirely original designs. While there are staple pieces in the line—the brand’s cult following knows them well, the Bedford jacket and workshirt, in particular—every pattern is new each season, constantly being tweaked to improve and adapt based on what Suzuki feels is right. “This is something nobody else can do,” the designer said, standing in the showroom of his Garment District office. “Only I can do this.”