Not all brands are created equal. As with cars, watches and fancy homes, the word ‘designer’ is often misused in clothing. Nowadays, designer fashion represents clever craftsmanship, quality fabrics and of course, a blood-rushing aesthetic that makes you have to have that thing, even if it takes your entire paycheck.
Which is why we’ve taken the shoddy away from the sleek, to give you a definitive guide to men’s designer fashion brands this season. Buy one or two, or buy them all (ca-ching!) — just don’t go dressing yourself head to toe in designer logo-ed pieces. That’s trashie, and it’s a style sin.
#1 TOM FORD
Sexy, smooth yet madly masculine, American designer Tom Ford is known for his precision. Balancing the quintessential with the avant-garde, Ford’s incredibly cut dinner jackets and tuxedos are his calling card, coming in a myriad of colours and prints. Or simple-and-chic, black. He also boasts a mean grooming line for men, too. Pucker up.
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The Italian maison has undergone one of the most drastic directional shifts since Milanese designer, Alessandro Michele, took over the creative director helm in 2015. Nowadays, Gucci is challenging archetypal menswear, offering an eclectic and very romantic feel. But, its Italian craftsmanship and attention to detail, starkly remains.
#3 NEIL BARRETT
Britain’s Neil Barrett cut his design teeth at Prada and Gucci in the nineties, before jumping fashion ship and launching his namesake label in 1999. Contemporary graphics — like the lightning bolt — and monochrome hues painted over minimalist style essentials in quality fabrics, are his forte. As is, the leather jacket.
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#4 THOM BROWNE
American designer Thom Browne steeps his collections in tailoring, hallmarked by a distinct grey which dusts-up most of his quality-made, contemporary suiting. Cropped trousers and embellished separates are another signature, as well as pebble-grain leather goods. But the TB moniker isn’t his initials, but rather, a navy, red and white stripe swatch that’s stitched onto the edge of his pieces.
A winning twin combination is behind Canadian fashion brand Dsquared2. Dan and Dean Caten’s tough yet heritage collections play on the North American nation and come as a blend of punch-y prints (think plaids), bold colours and add-ons of clothes, offering the gent an urban twist on a polished looks. Check out their jeans, embellished to ripped to plain, and luxury leather sneakers.
#6 DOLCE & GABBANA
Needing no introduction, the Silcian duo have continued to send out some of most iconic (and extensive) menswear collections down the runway since bowing in 1985. Dolce & Gabbana‘s famous monogram only stamps itself on sleek and luxurious pieces. You can’t look past their distinctly Italian collection of suits, impeccably cut and finished for work and the weekend.
The heritage down jacket maker has established itself as a fully-fledged European fashion heavyweight. At chez Moncler, innovative materials are combined with sporty silhouettes, for a Franco-Italiano spin on contemporary menswear. Check out their quilted outerwear – from blazers to gilets to full-blown hooded parkas with a fur trim. Brrr…
#8 LOUIS VUITTON
The darling of French luxury behemoth LVMH, Louis Vuitton knows what it means to be luxurious. What started out as a trunk maker in 19th-century Paris, Louis Vuitton now offers extensive tailoring and accessories, as well as riffing on a younger-gen cool with luxed-up sneakers and sophisticated streetwear pieces — thanks to LV’s head men’s designer, Kim Jones. But, it’s LV, so it’s still elegant.
More than 100 years since its 1913 debut, Prada has dressed Italian kings and adorned the backs of some of the most stylish celebs on the red carpet. As well as sharp suiting, Prada has ventured into chic athleisure and off-duty pieces, staying molto relevant under the fine eye of Miuccia Prada. Check out Prada’s casual button-ups and knits, and their reworking of classics such as the derby shoe.
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#10 SALVATORE FERRAGAMO
The Italian maestro that is Salvatore Ferragamo now has a new design head, Guillaume Meilland. But the younger creative director still manages to capture Ferragamo’s rakish suiting and smart separates for an elevated but timeless approach to style. Come here for menswear staples like blazers, collared jackets and slim-fit trousers, but the devil is in Ferragamo’s details, with on-point tassel loafers and a leathergoods range that is hard to rival. Stock up.
#11 GIORGIO ARMANI
A style doyen in his own right, Giorgio Armani is one of Italy’s most-respected designers. Known in particular for his immaculate tailoring, you can’t overlook Armani’s marriage of expert craftsmanship and luxurious materials, which makes the Armani legacy top-notch. Lately, Armani has embraced the comfort themes in menswear: louche tailoring, and plush knits off-duty, with flawless suits for work.
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Another maison of the Vieux Continent, Berluti‘s European heritage — which stems back to 1895 — hasn’t been lost with the appointment of the French brand’s new designer, Haider Ackermann. The Colombian-Parisian offers a sweet mix of distinguished accessories and ready-to-wear, but you can’t over look Berluti’s leather shoes, made from its iconic Venezia leather.
With claims to have invented the trench coat, Burberry is one of Britain’s most beloved fashion exports. Known for the Burberry plaid, this quintessentially-English brand is pushing sartorial boundaries with Christopher Bailey — putting off-kilter fabrics such as tech-wools and lace into the men’s fashion mix, as well as graphic prints. Don’t have Burberry scarf or trench yet? Sacrilege.
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#14 COMME DES GARÇONS
With a French name, there’s a certain je ne sais quoi about the quirky Comme des Garçons. Japanese in fact, the luxury streetwear label was formed in 1969 by Tokyo’s Rei Kawakubo and has managed to stay culturally relevant thanks to a monochrome base augmented with rainbow-toned brights for a playful edge. As for tailoring, expect asymmetric cuts with Japanese-expert fabrics.
#15 DIOR HOMME
Dior Homme is one of the most well-rounded luxury brands for men. Traditional pieces revel in the label’s Parisian heritage while innovative shapes, thanks to the recently-departed design head Raf Simons, reflect the brand’s contemporary edge. Expect sleek silhouettes — like suits and topcoats and straight cut bottoms — polished with understated embellishment for a flattering finish. We like their sunnies too. Non, j’adore.
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#16 HELMUT LANG
Helmut Lang is simple elegance. The Austrian designer’s namesake collections feature a refined palette of muted shades in sleek shapes, sometimes spruced up barely-there details. One for the minimalists among us, come to Helmut Lang for clean lines and anti-embellishment items, stocking up on high-quality fabricated basics.
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#17 CALVIN KLEIN
More than just a cool brand of underwear, Calvin Klein the label is now helmed by Raf Simons, and frankly, the all-American outfit is about to turn into a fashion phenomenon. Still a menswear traditionalist, CK boasts a utilitarian outlook but with a sports kick nowadays. While the CK knitwear is iconc, the suiting is not to be missed. Nor, are the old-school, washed out denim jeans.
#18 COSTUME NATIONAL
The Italian-born Costume National isn’t shy in expressing itself. Riffing on the rebellious, designs carry a quasi gothic edge, rock-esque even, sung in the way suiting is super sharp and shirting is dark and moody. Lately, we’re loving CN’s luxury cotton bombers, trouser-like chinos and textural knits, with pops of colour to deflect a totally punk takeover. It’s chic-meets-Beetlejuice.
Founded in 1945, Brioni’s Roman regality has become one of the world’s leading labels of luxury. Known as the superyacht of tailoring and outerwear, a can’t-miss is Brioni’s accessories line, from wallets to belts to bags and shoes. Getting on the cool-guy wagon, casual staples like suede bombers are top-sellers these days too, with all of Brioni’s production still taking place in the motherland. Molto bene.
#20 LORO PIANA
Fabric fiends, rejoice. Founded in 1924, Loro Piana started out as a leading manufacturer of fine fabrics. Now, that exquisite cashmere, plush cotton and smooth silk comes as a Loro Piana sweater, t-shirt or scarf as it later added clothing and accessories to its offering. The brand is committed to quality and textile innovation without shunning timeless Italian elegance. But such standards come at a price. Save those pennies for this one.
#21 RALPH LAUREN
The all-American Ralph Lauren, and inventor of the polo shirt, is far more than a brand for Varsity prepsters. Founded in 1967, Ralph Lauren offers easy-go wardrobe staples in masculine neutrals and classic fits. Tailoring from the Purple Label is a must-have, while Polo Ralph Lauren has your off-duty needs sorted: from relaxed cable-knits to colourful polo shirts to neat chinos and blazers and cardigans. School’s out.
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A true Parisian maison, Givenchy has turned fashion heads since the 1950’s. And still does with designer Riccardo Tisci is at the helm. Combining dark romanticism with a streetwear slang, Givenchy has won over celebrity fans including Kanye West, David Beckham and Justin Bieber, just to name a few. Come here for its pinstripe suiting and printed t-shirts and sweat shirts.
Founded in 1945, Paris’ Balmain has really ramped up its rock star glam and military style, thanks to Olivier Rousteing. Having launched its own version of the biker denim jean — with knee details and waxed coating — the leather biker jackets are a must own, as well as army style peacoats and trenches and kick ass leather derby boots with chunky soles. Join the Balmain army.
Having only stepped down from his eponymous label a few years ago, Valentino is now headed up by Pier Piccioli, coming out as a contemporary range of menswear and accessories with a strong focus on tradition and innovation. There remains an emphasis on tailoring and coats, and studded leather goods are a Valentino charm, but never sacrificing sophistication for rebellion.
#25 ALEXANDER MCQUEEN
Known as Britain’s enfant terrible, Alexander McQueen‘s design genius has been immortalised via longtime friend Sarah Burton, since his tragic death. McQueen’s menswear is drenched in Savile Row-esque tailoring but with a dark, dramatic shadow, hallmarked by the brand’s skull motif. Come here for suiting, off-beat jewellery and cool leather sneakers.
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#26 PAUL SMITH
Representing modern Britain, Paul Smith is known for his sharp suits in comfortable fabrics, statement going-out shirts and even socks, the bolder the better thanks to dare-ish prints and fruity colourways. Of late, his outerwear been dipped into the Skittles mix too, but for the more sound of taste, classic navy, grey and of course, black still form the bulk of his tailoring. We love his burgundy leather shoes; loafer or derby, or get both.
#27 MAISON MARGIELA
Originally under Belgian Martin Margiela, John Galliano flies the Maison Margiela flag today, taking it from a traditional Paris house to one that’s edgy and raw — in true Galliano taste. From tailoring, to jackets, to shirting and shoes, come to Maison Margiela for men’s style classic, but reworked in a masculine and modern way. We love the jewellery and leather bags.
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Cristóbal Balenciaga founded his namesake house in 1918. Today, Balenciaga offers gents a clean cut aesthetic, for clothes that are understated yet chic sophisticated. Come here for kickass leather sneakers, leathergoods and outerwear.
#29 ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA
Suits, suits, suits. Ermenegildo Zegna founded his generational label in 1910, and then went on to transform the cloth manufacturer into a fully-fledged tailoring and ready-to-wear outfit. Zegna is cutting edge for materials, which are worked into business and off-duty suits as well as knitwear and simple tees. Also, their leathergoods are super chic.
#30 SAINT LAURENT
The eminent label founded by Yves Saint Laurent in 1961 still retains its idiosyncratic French irreverence and sleek style. Severely Parisian, Saint Laurent offers sharp tailoring, brooding leather jackets and skinny fit denim; nothing but a rock star you’ll be once you’re donning a Saint Laurent jacket, jeans or Chelsea boot.