Written by: Michael Jodha
Once you see the lipstick kissed collar on the runway, you know you’re watching a Christopher Bates collection.
That’s because this Vancouver-born, men’s fashion designer deals in details. Whether it’s waxed denim, expert stitching, or strategically placed colours, Bates doesn’t create seasonal trends. He designs well-made garments for the urban male.
“I didn’t have any obscure inspiration for this collection,” Bates says in an interview during Toronto Fashion Week. “I really just wanted to do a very urban, modern, contemporary, tailored collection…carrying forward the successful things I’ve been doing in my past collections, and putting in a new spin on the details.”
And his “new spin on the details” was a hit during his runway at Toronto Fashion Week. Model after model walked out wearing traditional menswear, like trench coats, jeans, dress pants and dress shirts. But it was the small, custom accents that made all the difference.
The dress pants opted to replace belts with suspenders, something Bates has been pushing in his collection for a while.
“I just love the way it looks,” he says. “I think it looks very on point, like ‘right now.’ I think it looks sharp and it distinguishes you from other guys.
“You don’t have a belt, or belt loops, and that speaks volumes,” Bates continues. “That’s obviously a custom suit that (you’re) wearing now. It says a lot about the man and it projects a confident air.”
Confidence and immaculate dress are exactly what Bates’ goals are in his collection. His designs mix the romantic appeal of European fashion (daring, tighter fits with a bit more flare) with Canadian practicality. A task, he admits, that wasn’t exactly easy.
“I don’t push the envelope to far forward,” he says. “I’d love to be a more experimental, avant-garde designer – I think a lot of designers would. But you have to temper that flare for the North American market, and do things that are interesting but not overt.
“Keeping things subtle and clever is really important.”
A perfect example of these efforts can be seen in his hunting jacket. Warm, fitted, trendy and perfect for the Canadian climate, Bates predicts this look will eventually replace the sports jacket.
“For years, guys have been incorporating the sports jacket into more and more looks,” says Bates. “Dressing it up, dressing it down, day, night – I see the next evolution of that is working in a hunting jacket.
“It has a little more detail. It’s all about standing out from the crowd, and a hunting jacket is a great way to do that.”