In an industry already saturated with designers new and old, nothing is more important than a distinctive aesthetic. Nobody, perhaps, understands this better than London design duo Ada + Nik, whose Autumn/Winter 2014 collection ‘The Dark Wolf’ premiered just two weeks ago at London Collections: Men. After both establishing themselves as prominent figures in the fashion industry (Ada has her own womenswear and couture collections, Nik has modelled for Jean Paul Gaultier as well as writing for a host of publications), the pair decided to combine their individual talents to create their own line of menswear. Combining Ada’s design background with Nik’s strong aesthetic has resulted in runaway success for the new duo, so I was understandably excited to be granted access to their Paris showroom today to delve deeper into the collection and its inspirations.
‘The Dark Wolf’ is more than just the name of the collection – it is essentially a character which has inspired both the aesthetic of the clothing and an accompanying fashion film (which can be seen online here). The references are subtle, but they are visible when you look closely at the pieces and see the ‘W’ stitched into the back of black shirts and the claw scratches which adorn a metallic logo tee. One piece in particular stands out for its literal depiction of a wolf’s haunches – the piece in question is a black sweatshirt with leather panel detailing and triangular shearling patches which mimic the animal’s anatomy. Another important note is that the shearling used is ‘byproduct shearling’, meaning that no animals are harmed in order to source the material – an innovative textile choice and a reminder of the brand’s eco-friendly stance on fabric. The duo also chose to use fish-skin to decorate the shoulders of classic varsity jackets – a shorter version was on display featuring dyed-blue salmon skin, whereas a longer version used the brown pigmented skin of the wolf fish.
|Salmon skin varsity jacket|
|Wolf fish skin|
In terms of other fabric choices the garments were made mainly from wool and cashmere, both of which were sourced directly from Britain. This isn’t the only nod to their London background - the combination of traditional materials and a rebellious look result in a ‘Heritage Punk’ hybrid, mixing Saville Row tailoring with a punk spirit. The heavy use of leather also reinforces the ‘bad boy’ aesthetic of the brand and there are four examples of the brand’s staple jacket in this collection alone, all unique in their own way. One jacket in particular plays with both colour and texture, introducing navy shoulder detailing onto textured black leather for a fresh take on a modern classic. Navy was the only element of colour in the collection, yet it was more a textural choice than an example of colour-blocking – the fabric itself had a beautiful ink-dyed effect when seen up close, resulting in a hue that was too bright to be navy yet too subdued to be electric.
|Jacket with ink-blue armour panels|
The collection also challenges the notions of masculinity which have become commonplace in the last century. Choosing to ignore the dandies of the ‘50s and the mods of the ‘60s, the duo decided to search further back in time when seeking inspiration for this collection. Instead, they looked back to men such as Alexander the Great and Charles I when compiling moodboards, quoting the intention to look back to an era in which men would literally conquer countries whilst wearing skirts. Nods towards ancient warriors were included in a series of details such as the shoulders of a jacket which were made from overlapping layers of structured leather, resulting in an armour-like effect. The Roman toga was a clear source of inspiration for one particular garment which wasn’t quite a skirt – a hybrid of leather and jersey panelling, the chunky belt and black palette introduced a new, masculine take on androgyny. This was seen elsewhere in shirts which were deliberately extended to knee-length, providing the option either of a bold no-pants look or a more traditional basis for layering.
|Armour detailling on leather jacket|
This dual functionality is one of the most attractive aspects of a collection which consists almost entirely of timeless pieces which are designed to be invested in. The monochrome colour palette eliminates the element of styling and makes this collection the perfect buy for the man who travels – everything goes with everything. The pieces are there to be played with, and designs which are originally overwhelming (the sheer knee-length shirt was a particular talking point!) take on a new meaning when put in the context of a daily wardrobe. The finale look of the runway show was the perfect example of this, combining a classic leather jacket with a detachable cape for an added element of drama. The cape itself is a fascinating piece, made by attaching a train of cashmere to a Dalston leather belt. It adds an element of customisation to the mix and underlines the duo’s understanding of the balance between commerce and creativity.
The overall impression that I got from today was that of two intelligent designers that understand their need to build a strong aesthetic whilst their brand is still young. The monochrome colour palette, hardware detailing and structured silhouettes all form the day-to-day looks of the ‘Ada & Nik’ man, demonstrating clarity of vision that is rare in the trend-driven world of fashion. The duo’s knowledge and fashion also became particularly evident when talk turned towards textile choices, research and the branding behind the collection. Subtle nods towards innovation permeate every piece, whether via unorthodox fabric choices or the inside-out detailing which helped even the basics stand out amongst competitors. All you had to do was listen to them talk about their future plans in order to realise that Ada & Nik will continue to grow and, potentially, become a leading influence in the arena of British menswear.
|A signature logo tee incorporates wolf-scratched metallics|
See the full collection on British Vogue here.
Follow Ada & Nik on Twitter here.