Recently, brands have noticed female customers drifting towards the mens aisles, looking for items to add other, edgier aspects to their wardrobe. When Selfridges launched its pop-up Agender earlier this year, it was to celebrate this movement.
Streetwear brands offered rich pickings; the relaxed silhouettes of Hood By Air, Trapstar, Bazar-14 and KTZ work well for both men and women. But, on Agender’s roster was another brand challenging the status quo: Eastie Empire, a British sports heritage menswear label, founded by SJ Weston but also offering vintage menswear-inspired pieces for women.
In 2013, Eastie was replaced by a new womenswear label, named for Weston herself. ‘After two years at Eastie, I had an increasing number of women asking me to make my menswear for them and it dawned on me like the most obvious thing,’ says Weston. ‘SJW is for women like me who like the fabrics, traditional detailing and strong silhouettes of menswear but want this combined in a clever way with womenswear so it still fits and flatters.’
Four seasons in, with stockists in Japan and Europe including East London’s Anthem and Son of a Stag, the label is gathering speed. Collections offer fine fitted jackets, tailored in brushed olive green twill and Prince Of Wales check wool cloth; sleek grey wool and tweed Crombies; Victorian bib shirts; rogueish trousers with tapered ankles in dogtooth, check and wool. The effect is charming but laced with attitude, tinted with anarchy.
The label might be born from a lifelong passion for heritage menswear but the modern world has its impact. ‘Brands I admire?’ asks Weston. ‘Westwood for her original punk radicalism and how that manifests in her clothing – the clashes of pattern and tartans; Dries Van Noten for his eccentricity and intricacies, and the clever way his ideas weave though his collections; Alessandro Michele at Gucci for revitalising their heritage in a vibrant romantic way, Visvim and Watanable for Japanese craft and cool mash ups. Lastly smaller labels like The Soloist, Geoffrey B. Small, MA+.’
Autumn/winter 2015 is called Hunt & Victoria. ‘The collection combines two of my favourites genres in the back catalogue of British fashion history,’ explains Weston. ‘Victorian tailoring and its detailing and iconic shapes and hunting for its rich patterns, specific shapes and practicalities that tell a story. We wanted to reimagine these traditions in a way that was fun, cool and wearable for women.’
Who’s the SJW customer? ‘Women with character and strength,’ says Weston. ‘Women who are changing the world. Artists, bankers, teachers, athletes – women who are getting out there and doing their thing. Women who need their clothes to reflect who they are and what they desire. We make clothes that are cut with swagger, detailing that is considered and charming, mixed with a little bit of subversive attitude to make a statement.’ It works. Just add a few pieces to my Christmas list. http://sjw.clothing/