Updated: Jan 7
As I was preparing to come up with the title for this article, I couldn't help but ponder how to best describe the latest ready-to-wear sports coats collection offered by The Anthology.
Surely, 'sustainable' would be a convenient choice. That being said, with the term being increasingly ill-defined and, perhaps, misused in this day and age by players in the fashion industry and beyond, it wouldn't have done justice for the mindfully-curated collection to be branded in the same manner as any other garment with a sustainable label attached to it.
Ultimately, I settled with the term 'ecosocial-conscious', inspired by the buzzword 'eco-social market economy' (ESME) first advocated by Konrad Adenauer decades ago.
Why is that you may ask? For this, we have to retrace back to the many conversations I've had with The Anthology co-founder, Buzz Tang, throughout the summer.
Buzz and I share quite a few similarities — we both originate from Hong Kong, we both studied in the UK, we both adored tailoring at a young age — however, one aspect which particularly stands out is our common aspiration in promoting social and environmental sustainability within the menswear realm.
One of our dialogues that has repeatedly popped back into my head was when he explained why The Anthology never offer discounts.
'There are three things that you minimally pay for when you acquire a garment — the fabric, the labor, alongside the brand owner' he said, 'Now, given that the cost of fabric could hardly be discounted, this means that it is often the labor or the brand owner would have to be underpaid as a result of the offering.'
Consequently, in order to justify their claim, The Anthology has so far priced their bespoke tailoring at a level that is affordable to both younger folks and die-hard enthusiasts. Similarly, the brand does not charge any additional cost for the cloth.
At this point, it becomes rather apparent that Buzz has spent a great deal of time contemplating what he could do as a brand owner to allow his consciously-made garments more accessible. After all, one of the most commonly-cited reasoning behind genuine bespoke tailoring's inadequacy in becoming a predominant form of sustainable fashion is its price.
Hence, when Buzz first hinted that he is planning to release a small and carefully-curated collection of RTW jackets, I could immediately tell what his intentions were.
So far, however, I have only explained why the sports coats are made socio-consciously. What about the 'eco'-part you may ask? To better elaborate on this, we must then turn to the choice of cloth.
As of writing, The Anthology has launched three jackets — the 'Shaggy Dog' (picture 1); the forest green merino wool/ angora/ cashmere piece (picture 3); and the 'Truffle' (picture 2), which was released on the Black Friday that has just passed but was not subject to any discount.
Among the three, the latter two are made out of deadstock/ vintage fabrics from W.Bill and Loro Piana respectively, meaning no further jackets could be produced once the current batch or the subsequent batch(es) have used up all the cloth.
Indeed, there is often a saying that garments made with deadstock fabrics tend to be the more sustainable option amongst others in the room — this is precisely the reasoning behind it.
Finally, while the 'Shaggy Dog' is not made out of vintage fabrics, it is lambswool cloth woven exclusively for them by a renowned specialist mill in Scotland. It has a sweater-like touch to it, making it a rather unconventional yet easy-to-throw-on piece.
To my knowledge, it is unlikely that the jacket will ever be restocked after this initial batch is sold out, considering the notion of 'exclusivity' (referring to the constrained size of the curation here) runs deep behind the design of the whole line. Likewise, Buzz has expressed this will likely be the case for any future RTW sports coats.
Enough has been said regarding the concept behind the collection. I am certain that by now all of you are curious to know what are my thoughts on the actual garment itself. Or better yet, how does it compare to the bespoke suits I have commissioned from The Anthology a year ago? In the following, I will be using my own 'Shaggy Dog' piece for demonstration purposes.
At first glance, the RTW jacket does share the hallmarks of what constitutes the Anthology's house style. From the unpadded yet extended shoulders and the mildly-roped sleeve heads to the signature lapel buttonhole and lapel shape, these details combined continue to compliment my rather slender body shape (picture above).
Yet, upon close examination, there appear to be several slight differences that set this RTW piece apart from my existing bespoke ones. Let's compare it side by side with my dark blue worsted wool suit jacket, showcased underneath.
Let's begin with the pros.
First of all, the waist of the RTW jacket appears to be not as nibbed as the bespoke piece.
Normally, a subtly-nibbed waist tends to be associated with more-fitted garments. Yet, in the case of the Anthology, because of its low out-breast pocket, allowing more room around the waist actually permits the wearer's smart device and wallet to be stored more comfortably in the in-breast pockets.
Secondly, the quarters are a tad straighter and the jacket length is longer by a small fraction at the front on the 'Shaggy Dog'.
The Anthology's house style consists of a lower buttoning point, which at times places a stronger emphasis on the chest in exchange for a shorter skirt. While this is rather standard for today's tailoring, I find the reconfigured shape and length of the skirt, though as minor as the difference may be, more balanced and visually appealing.
Thirdly, while this may be of very minor difference, I couldn't help but notice that the distance between the two lapels (apologies for the lack of a better word) appears to be narrower than the existing piece; thus lending it an additional touch of sophistication.
Mind you, however, similar to the point regarding the waist, this is likely to subject to change as one develops his/ her posture over time. This could very well be the case here as well.
Needless to say, the majority of the aforementioned are solely my personal preference. They are not menswear 'rules'. Do take it with a grain of salt.
With that said, there are areas that bespoke will always be superior to RTW.
For instance, while the 'Shaggy Dog' is still fully-canvased, with its teardrop-shaped lapel buttonhole and the out-breast Barchetta pocket being sewn by hand, amongst other features; several details, namely including the hand-attached front canvas, sleeves, and collar, as well as a hand-padded lapel, are not available in the ready-to-wear piece.
Moreover, as in most circumstances, the fit will always be better on a bespoke piece. In this case, I am referring to the ability to account for the imbalances in muscle composition.
As you could observe from the image above, the right side of the back appears to have a bit of excess material and collapse, when compared to the left. This is an issue regarding my posture that both Buzz and I acknowledged when I first had the opportunity to try on the jacket.
The question then evolved into one that asks whether this detail is neglectable, considering the size of the void beneath the fabric fluctuates from time to time. Truth be told, the back of the jacket tends to look neater than what it is in the picture above.
Besides, keep in mind that any small changes to what one would wear the jacket with — a chunky rollneck sweater for instance — could easily affect the appearance of the back. And as a word of reassurance, note that if you have a relatively-normal back, this issue shouldn't affect you.
There are many more design features that would be intriguing to discuss in greater depth, including the mid-brown corozo buttons which give off a mid-century aesthetic, as well as the shape of the patch pockets.
Nonetheless, considering these details almost vary from one jacket to another within the collection, and that by the time this write-up is published, most pieces of the 'Shaggy Dog' would likely to have been sold out, rendering any further conversation somewhat meaningless.
Thence, it is perhaps more appropriate to end on this note. I have attached more pictures of the piece in the following, shall you be interested. As usual, feel free to reach out if you have further inquiries.
Take care and bye for now.
Photography: All except picture 2 and 3, which are from The Anthology, are by The Suitstainable Man Team