It is with renewed strength that Tim Hamilton has returned to Paris this January and it is because this season heralds the coming of his twenty-first century man – a warrior and a builder and a man given shape. Saluting the otherwise forgotten soldiers, labourers and truants of the 1930s and 1940s, the American designer has transformed classic tailoring into an enduring military utility.
Against the reverberations of bass-heavy New Wave rumbles, a troop of men determinedly march in the darkness of the Garage De Turenne. Snaking, suture-like patterns crisscross over dark short-cropped jacquard and intarsia knits; black wide-lapel wool coats and lambskin bombers fit loosely over black leather trousers. Clothing blends into man and man blends into clothing. Inspired by Sir Harold Gillis, a veteran surgeon of World War I who reconstructed the figures of wounded servicemen using the flesh of their fallen compatriots, there is a sense of urgency about the outerwear: fabrics are graft on fabrics in wool, silk, and cashmere, harnessed beige aprons and corsets underlay blazers. Despite the patent functionality, Hamilton assuredly maintains a touch of hard-bitten glamour: black and grey suit jackets, gum-treated gloves and balaclavas are fabricated in silks and fine wools, and very generously scattered with Swarovski crystals – as are the black gum boots, for that matter.
Dazed Digital: There are so many details, so many fabrics – what just went on here?
Tim Hamilton: A lot of work. I learned something interesting from the last season: you just can’t be too minimal in a runway show! I looked back and I just thought that I had to raise the bar.
DD: What was it exactly that developed in the creative process?
Tim Hamilton: Nothing was over-looked. I spent a lot of time doing hand-tailoring; I worked with some tailors in New York and the rest of the collection was made in Italy. I wanted to push everything through into different shape. I wanted a really complete collection.
DD: Everything was very practical and utilitarian – is that something that is going to stay with you?
Tim Hamilton: Absolutely. It’s my signature! So you see I really like this idea of functional tailoring. It’s funny though because I did bring in some of the pieces I’ve done well with but it’s a new year and a new season so I changed them up a bit.
DD: It all seemed quite different in these new fabrics!
Tim Hamilton: With the tailoring, I wanted to use very unexpected combinations. We had so many treatments on the wool and in the end, we mixed it with silk as it was more refined and not so rustic. We worked with Swarovski on the crystals for the clothes and the shoes, of course. And then I worked with an artist in New York to treat all the shoes – which we basically dipped in gum. I wanted to look forward.
DD: Are there a few pieces of which you’re particularly proud?
Tim Hamilton: The pinstripe, boxy-cut suit jacket is one of my favourite things as it has an American pattern but it is cut very modern. And I loved the two-tone jacket.