At only three years old, men’s tailoring brand French83 has already established itself as a strong presence in the menswear market, having already established an international customer-base with a following in Asia. The brand began with Peter Cheng, an entrepreneur who identified a gap in the market for affordable and high-quality made-to- measure suits in New Zealand. The label has now put out five collections and appeared at two New Zealand Fashion Weeks, most recently showing its Spring Summer 17 collection, Oliver White, conceptualised by designer Nicole Wesseling. Inspiration for the collection was drawn from an urban city environment with the name being that of a fictional character who is described as a successful businessman working in Auckland City, living in the suburbs and enjoying nature in his spare moments. “It’s impossible to go a day in Auckland without experiencing both the bustling streets and the pockets of nature scattered throughout the city,” said Wesseling. The concept is centred on the idea that a French83 customer could end up in the same situation as Oliver White, who is the epitome of a successful entrepreneur. The goal is to be equipped with the right clothes that can take the customer from living in Auckland right through to travelling across Europe.
“The story behind FRENCH83 is paramount to the brand. As the story grows season to season, the brand develops a stronger sense of character and connection to the FRENCH83 gentleman.” Keeping in mind the need to cater for diverse lifestyles in different markets, the collection is constructed in a way that the customer can style it however they need depending on the situation. For the Asian market, French83 customers are constantly on the go, going home only really to sleep, whereas in New Zealand, customers are looking for a more relaxed feel to their purchases that can be dressed up or down.
The simplistic design of the Philip Coat plays to those strengths, for example, the long length trench coat with a geometric buttoned front which is ideal for layering. “The angled front can be either buttoned like a double breasted coat or tucked underneath to create a single breasted front. This wasn’t an intentional function for the coat, but it’s amazing what can happen with a bit of styling and experimentation.” As a whole, the collection walks the line between immaculate tailoring and fluid silhouettes to achieve a smart but comfortable wear while bringing in floral and foliage style prints set against a backdrop of monochromatic tones. This is enhanced by the concrete textures mixed with earthy qualities.
Specialising in made-to- measure suits, the team is used to fast turnovers, which can often see a suit put together in just six weeks from the initial consultation. This rapid construction is translated to the ready-to- wear collections, which often are produced simultaneously with Wesseling designing one collection while overseeing production for another and selling current stock on the shop floor. The result is a twice yearly drop for Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter, with the Beijing store getting the collections shortly after New Zealand. “It’s a massive juggle but as a young brand we’re learning when best to drop for each season and how to manage our own retail stores and international wholesale stockists.” The collection is produced in China, where Wesseling said all the best machinery and experienced tailors are, while suiting textiles are sourced from Italian and UK mill, including the shirting fabrics and cotton prints. Casual pieces usually have their fabric sourced from local Chinese mills, easing the process through to production. And with most tailors, wool is the most important textile used throughout both seasonal collections.
Returning for its second year, the brand presented its collection at the 2016 New Zealand Fashion Week with a larger showcase than the previous year to demonstrate the diversity of what French83 offers its customers.