Jessica Au’s Eclectic Revision of the British Bespoke Suit

Text by Rosa Maria Bertoli

London menswear and bespoke tailoring have long been widely perceived to be inextricably intertwined. From the hallowed tradition of Savile Row’s made-to-measure craft to the instantly recognizable precision of Paul Smith, nothing defines British menswear quite like a perfectly tailored suit. It’s no surprise then that London’s latest Graduate Fashion Week awarded the Gold to a young Ravensbourne College of Design & Communication graduate for her collection of sharp, crisp suits bearing the bespoke craftsmanship of a Savile Row tailor. What did come as a surprise, however, was the collection’s liberal use of bold color and the massive abstract floral prints plastered on traditional charcoal backgrounds.

Nothing was missing: a perfectly fitting wool sport coat, Peter Pan-collared satin shirts, double-breasted jackets à la 1950s Teddy Boys. “I was looking a lot at the early 1950s and the Teddy Boy style,” explains Au. The influence is clear in the loose lines of some of her jackets, as well as the multicolored creepers, which completed each outfit on the catwalk. But the prints were the indisputable showstoppers: faded polka dots and grainy black-and-white photographs coexisted with multicolored flowers of all shapes and kinds. They were small and interlocking on the straight legs of trousers, large outlines on a dark coat, bright and abstract on jackets—a radiant explosion of flora which seemed surprisingly natural on the strict shapes. “I created the prints first to direct the silhouettes I was designing,” Au points out. “At first, it would have been a womenswear collection, but it didn’t really fit in.” So a mere 15 weeks before the show, she decided to switch gears. The result is a successfully eccentric take on a British classic. “This is what I like about fashion,” Au beams. “It’s constantly evolving, there’s always progression. And it’s that concept of constantly reassessing your ideas that I love.”

Au derives inspiration from the traditional but quirky end of menswear, with both Burberry and Paul Smith as favourites, calling them “elegantly stylish with a twist.” She also draws from Marni and Dries Van Noten “for their use and interpretation of color.” Their resonance is undeniable in her first collection, which hits all the right notes, harmoniously merging shades and cuts.

Although most would love to see these prints up close in a boutique, Au has no intention to start her own brand just yet: “At this time, it’s simply not financially possible to set up a new business.” Furthermore, an array of new experiences awaits this young graduate, including an internship with British High Street chain River Island and numerous placements planned for the upcoming months. “Right now, my plans for the future are to make the most out of these opportunities,” Au says. “Then maybe in a few years’ time, I’ll be ready to start out on my own.”