Over the last few months I’ve gotten to the know the team over at REISS HQ quite well. We worked together to create my recent tuxedo feature and now for my most recent “Who’s that Girl (in menswear)” interview, I’ve had the opportunity to catch up with a member of their menswear design team.
The charming and very talented Jennifer Allen is responsible for some of the brands most beautiful menswear jersey’s and knitwear. In this interview she talks us through how she entered the world of menswear fashion, offers advice to those who aspire to do the same, and hints at what REISS might have up their well-tailored sleeves for us next. Please introduce yourself. I’m Jennifer Allen the Menswear Knitwear and Jersey Designer here at Reiss. I’m from Rochester in Kent.
How did your career in fashion begin – with a love of menswear or womenswear? I began designing womenswear when I first started studying at uni but when the opportunity for a mens/womens combined group project came up I thought I’d try another discipline. I really enjoyed the different thought processes involved as a female designing menswear, I liked the challenge, so I continued along this route.
Is it a man’s world when you work in menswear, or is being a woman an advantage? Our team is actually an equal split of men and women so the world I work in isn’t really a man’s world in that respect. However, I always really appreciate my male colleagues’ view points and opinions on my work as this helps to flag up anything that I might not have thought of as a female. I feel it’s an advantage being a woman working on menswear, as I can draw inspiration from a highly creative and influential womenswear world and bring this into menswear, to push boundaries and hopefully come up with some innovative ideas!What is/are the biggest challenges you have faced in becoming a fashion designer? Time/cost restrictions and a need to work within constraints relevant to the market level are always a challenge, although with the endless possibilities this is also a positive…to have some boundaries to work within! To be able to cast a critical eye over your own work and not get too personally attached to an idea is also a challenge, it’s important to remember who the customer is and what the brand is all about.
What advice would you offer aspiring menswear designers? The best advice I could offer is to keep your eyes and ears open! Be aware of who and what is out there, visit shops regularly, understand market levels intently and just soak it all up! I’m a magpie for images, fabric swatches, books, colours, vintage or anything that’s interesting to me, so build up an archive and see how you can bring these things into menswear to create the most innovative menswear collection you can.
Who inspires you in menswear? I’m inspired by many brands for different aspects of menswear but currently I love to look back over old Gucci, Hermes and YSL collections. The luxury fabric and trim combinations in such intelligently thought-out classic pieces is so inspiring. I’m also influenced by different Reiss stores and seeing who our customer is – this always come into the equation when designing.
Although Reiss is a global fashion brand, its roots are in English tailoring – what differentiates British fashion from other style capitals? I think British fashion is very fast and often a ‘look’ can be re-created from designer to street level or visa-versa very quickly. There is more of a blur between high street and designer looks. However, I think there are some definite key pieces in the British wardrobe that will always remain part of the British look. However a look is styled, in whichever country, I think these pieces would be recognized as having a British look more than any other fashion capital, an obvious example would be the Burberry/Burberry-style mac.If you had to pick one item from Reiss’ menswear AW13 collection for women to wear, what would it be? The HARP or HERALD cashmere jumpers are the perfect slouchy jumper with a boyfriend look and soft touch.
Men are becoming increasingly style conscious and daring to dress more adventurously, what impact does this have on you as a designer?I think when designing, I can always consider the more adventurous guy and include a couple of boundary-pushers in the collection. Over time I hope these ideas will be adopted and can be part of the menswear fashion revolution!
What are the key trends we should be looking forward to for SS14? Specifically in knitwear and jersey as these are my key areas; colour blocking and tipping, ombre/bleach dying effects, colour plating and mixed colour yarns, ‘sports luxe’ and 1950s-inspired resort wear.
You can shop Jennifer’s designs on the Reiss website.