Clothes maketh the man stylish at work and at play

Isabella Verna

If you know anything about men's fashion, you will know that compared with party gear, office wear is another thing entirely - or is it?

Professional suit designer Carlo Gibson from Strangelove offers the Renaissance man a few tips on how to make office wear work for partying too.

The quintessential successful businessman of today is expected to spend a lot of time attending functions and parties late into the night, networking on a professional and personal level.

He understands that though he needs to eat, sleep and live, what he does to get ahead in this world is to take time out to enjoy himself and reap the rewards of his labour.

Essentially, it's all about balance, and his wardrobe should be no different, offering him the ability to amalgamate the formality of office professionalism with the festive requirements of socialising.

Contemporary men's wear designer label, Strangelove, has recently partnered with one of South Africa's most well-established, high-end, made-to-measure suit brands, Peter Reso, to create a new, modern line of exclusively tailored, bespoke men's suits for the up-and-coming younger generation of businessmen.

In the world of business, discrimination by appearance is a fact of life, and clothes comprise 90percent of a man's appearance.

Says Gibson: "One thing about all the successful businessmen the Peter Reso brand has dressed, such as Roger Moore, Albert Finney, John Lithgow, Christopher Lee, and our very own Tito Mboweni for example, is that they understand the importance of dressing well at all times.

"They think of themselves as a brand in itself and know that they must be able to continuously project their best attributes, in and out of the office," he said.

For the older generation, this meant investing in super-formal suits for super-formal business environments, and a separate wardrobe of stylish leisure wear for when they were not at the office.

Today, however, the business environment has changed, and, with it, so has its players.

To a large extent, business has become a lifestyle, resulting in a marriage of both business and leisure-wear clothes that can be worn to the office and then marginally tweaked to create chic and trendy fashion ensembles that will be suitable for after-work socialising.

"Work or play, your wardrobe should work for you," Gibson said.

"And by understanding a few fashion ground rules, knowing a few tricks of the trade and being confident in who you are, making this happen should be an easy undertaking."

Here are a few fashion pointers from men's fashion designing guru Gibson on how to make your office wear stretch into evening wear:

lChoosing the suit:

When buying a suit, stay away from one-directional and sombre suits, rather opt for multidirectional suits that can be dressed up or down as required. The trick here is to choose wardrobe basics that offer you options.

lNow you see it, now you don't: Brightly coloured shirts or waistcoats will for the most part go unnoticed if covered by a jacket for office wear.

At the party, however, you can remove your jacket and make a statement with an unusual and fun choice of shirt or waistcoat.

l Choose well-fitted suits and shirts: A good suit or shirt won't be too baggy or tight, but will closely follow the natural line of the body, ensuring that whenever you wear it you look well turned out. That's the beauty of tailor-made clothing, they are made to fit your unique measurements, accentuating your good points and hiding the not-so-desirable bits.

l Choose a fun fabric: If you opt for a tailor-made suit, then have fun with the fabric choice. Choose something smart, but out of the ordinary so that you will stand out. If you are more conservative, then have fun with the lining of the suit. Though it is out of sight most of the time, glimpses of it will no doubt create an impression because it will be unexpected.

And if nothing else, you will know about it and, like sexy underwear, it will have an effect on your attitude.

lBe adventurous with colour: A major trend today is to mix and match brightly coloured shirts and ties, worn with a dark, formal suit. For example, a lime green shirt with a pink tie, worn with a black suit will look modern and funky at the office and at a party.

l The cut and detailing: Choose formal attire that has been created using adventurous cuts, highlighted with interesting and unique detail. At first glance, it will look like the average formal suit, but look a little closer and you will notice the creative detailing and cut, giving the suit a whole new dimension. Interesting buttons, lapels, collars and pocket detailing can really make a suit go the distance.

l Swap and change: The more obvious way of transforming your office wear into party gear, is to take along an item of clothing which you can change into that will transform the entire outfit.

The most successful items that can really convert formal to trendy casual include a well-cut pair of jeans, or a blazer, or even casual shoes or trainers or takkies for example.

lIt takes more than just clothes: All the fashion sense in the world won't do anything for you unless you have the confidence to carry it well and you are well groomed.

Your clothes should assist in projecting who you are. Find your personal sense of style, explore it and have fun with it. There is nothing more attractive than a man who knows what he is about and is unashamed to show it to the world!

lPeter Reso by Strangelove's Spring Line will be on view at a fashion show to be held during SA Fashion Week, on September 1, at the Sandton Convention Centre.