The one name test is the only certified litmus for major designers. Ralph, check. Donna, check. Karl, check. Oscar, check. Simon, no check (yet). Even though Simon Spurr has not quite permeated into the cultural lexicon, he’s nevertheless a major talent and significant player shaping the vision of American menswear.
With Anna Wintour in his front row and CFDA nominations piling up, Simon Spurr is quickly becoming a notable brand and acclaimed auteur. As the 37-year-old moves ever closer to international fame, offerings are expanding well beyond Spurr’s signature three-piece suits and streamlined denim.
The Spurr brand enjoyed a quiet but memorable debut for Fall 2006, with a denim collection at Bergdorf Goodman. By 2007, sportswear, suiting and personable accessories (such as a leather tote with umbrella holder), expanded the scope into lifestyle and ready-to-wear. Having previously designed for Ralph Lauren Black and Purple Labels, Hedi Slimane at YSL, and cK Calvin Klein, Spurr was already an industry vet when he launched the eponymous collection. Describing his demographic, he says, “I design for a man that has awareness of life, culture, proportion and design. A diverse man that understands quality but also has a strong idea of his own sensibility.”
A notable upturn occurred in 2009, as Bergdorf Goodman’s and Neiman Marcus’ Men’s Fashion Director, Tommy Fazio, joined the company as President. Spurr recounts, “Actually, Tommy Fazio approached me. I was naturally dumbfounded that someone of his experience would be interested in working with such a small brand, but he saw the vision from early on having launched the brand at Bergdorf Goodman.”
One of Fazio’s first moves was to establish Simon Spurr as the higher end collection, with Spurr as the more accessible line. By then, retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue, Scoop, Jeffrey New York, Confederacy, Harrods and Bloomingdale’s had all signed on.
A pre-Hangover Bradley Cooper was the earliest celebrity to show support for Simon Spurr. He’s since been joined by young, Hollywood elites like Joe Jonas and Zac Efron, plus name brand stars like Pitt, Clooney and Timberlake.
Working with Slimane at YSL left a deep impression. Spurr recalls, “One of the strongest memories I remember from working with Hedi, was him telling us to throw away the ‘trend books’ that are often used as guidance for younger designers. Set vision, don’t follow trend.” Spurr continues, “I also remember his attention to detail. Saint Laurent was the diffusion of Rive Gauche and was not even at a ready-to-wear level. Hedi once asked me to move a belt loop 3mm, to which I proposed that our factory could only move in increments of 5mm. We did what we could, but it left a lasting impression that the 2mm difference made a difference!”
That learned quality, an ongoing and relentless pursuit to Fulfill a vision, is a nuanced trait. Spurr claims, “My weakness is definitely my stubbornness. I have extreme difficulty in accepting imperfection in product or in the day-to-day activities of running a company.” But on the flip side, he also reflects, “my strength would have to be understanding the construction of a garment, and also what men want to wear. There is a reality to the final product that I’m constantly aware of. I always design from fabric, understand how to use the fabric and what style to make from the fabric. This results in a product that fits, performs, is functional, that guys actually use. This, in turn, leads to building a loyal customer and subsequently an increase in brand identity.”
Native of Kent, England, fashion design was not Spurr’s initial career intention. And while now known for frequent nods toward Savile Row’s bespoke tradition, he explains: “I actually almost fell into fashion. Whilst studying my art foundation course at KIAD (Kent Institute of Art and Design), I was coaxed by my professors into fashion. But even at this early point I remember having a good eye for tailoring. I once laid out fabric on my parents floor and cut a pant without following any pattern, sewed them up and they actually fit pretty well. I thought that’s easy. So I applied, and was accepted, by a great fashion design program at Middlesex University in London and it snowballed from there.”
These days, Simon Spurr’s collections are a biannual and reliable highlight of New York Fashion Week. His ongoing goal is pragmatic, yet ambitious: “Within the next five years I intend to establish Simon Spurr as a global luxury brand that carries a designer edge to it. By expanding the current product range with fragrances, jewelry and stand alone retail stores, I am looking to create a Simon Spurr world that offers a full lifestyle experience to the modern man that understands quality.”
A less-is-more approach shaped both the Spurr and Simon Spurr Fall 2011 collections. Spurr explains, “The reduction of the color palette was a move forward for the brand. The collection is definitely more complex in its offering and execution but that has been the natural evolution of the brand and is in combination to underscore the position of the brand in a more international market.”
The signature Spurr silhouette is an immaculately tailored suit with traditional underpinnings and rebellious edge. Slim, defined and dignified, his three-piece suit is notable for an eight button vest. Recent collections have employed leather gloves, slim ties and street swagger. The Spurr guy both understands and respects tradition, but knows when to break the rules. Spurr summarizes this approach: “Rules of sartorialism exist because people wore clothes in a certain way in a certain period. But then someone like Tommy Nutter comes along, breaks the rules and defines new ones. This is the beauty of life.”
– Michael Cohen