Is This Menswear? Yes? Maybe? It is a store filled with clothing manufactured and designed in Canada; here in Victoria. There is a revolving display of local artists up on the walls. The space itself, flooded with afternoon light, is full of odd angles, and wood, and architectural touches. The beams running across the ceiling remind me of random photos that may have fallen out of William Egglestone’s portfolio.
I suppose that Is This Menswear is as much about the concordance of different sorts of art as it is about clothing. As soon as I walk in, designer and proprietor Iain Russell engages me on the subject of photography, of different lenses. It is how the thematic arc of the conversation goes. Is an Instagram photo still a photograph? What makes film special? Why do anything conscientiously?
A single 35mm film negative is absolutely unique. It can be copied, and digitized, but the original will always be an item unto itself. When an item of clothing is made, by a single store, locally, it becomes the opposite of mass production. It is an item that only you will wear. Nobody else in the world will show up to the party dressed up quite like you are.
Iain tells me that what makes Is This Menswear special is that the design is something that every individual who comes in can wear differently. A rock star or a bond trader might buy a particular shirt, but the way they wear it will be totally different. Individuality means a lot here. At the same time, the designed are meant to evoke a sensibility particular to the West Coast, to the weather and style native to this place.
The talk runs to cabinet making (another trade of mine). Iain’s father builds furniture, his partner, Jason is an urban planner. Whenever we build something, whether it be a rain jacket, or a table, or a city, or a store, the object is to make it something that lasts. The object of the local craftsperson is to create things that will defy disposability and last. They will not break easily. They will maintain a sense of timelessness that transcends the bubbles of fads that rise up, and pop too quickly.
Is This Menswear? The question begs more than whether the clothing has been cut specifically to fit comfortable on the frame of male bodies. It there a men’s aesthetic? Can women wear Menswear, and if so would it be Womenswear? All these things seem better left as questions; as ways of opening up conversations, rather than blunt statements. Even the store itself is an open question, hidden as it is down an obscure side street, yet looking like it should be planted in Manhattan. This is Menswear. It is an interesting place.