What COS x MR PORTER Teaches Us About the Modern Menswear Uniform
By Jian DeLeon

COS and MR PORTER’s collection of problem-solving garments that make everyday dressing easier speaks to what most men look for when buying clothes.

Oct 28, 2016
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cos mr porter collaboration
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The COS Mr Porter collaboration
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As workplace dress codes wane and the most successful man in the room is usually the most comfortably-dressed instead of the most put-together, clothing’s relationship to corporate power structures is undergoing a significant shift. In a recent article on dressing like a grown-upThe New York Times‘ Vanessa Friedman pointed out how “adult clothes have less to do with specific items than certain defining characteristics. This makes selecting them both more difficult and more liberating.”

For men, one solution to the eternal dilemma of getting dressed is an endlessly versatile system of clothes that’s almost foolproof. A wardrobe of neutral colours and subtle statement pieces that don’t scream, trans-seasonal fabrics that work for telecommuters and desk jockeys alike, and a few good tailoring options—because at its core, a suit is still symbolic of a man at his best.

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The idea of a modular, utilitarian wardrobe is the inspiration behind e-commerce site MR PORTER’s latest collaboration with Swedish vertical retailer COS. The two first collaborated in Spring/Summer 2015 on a capsule collection inspired by the idea of a cosmopolitan jet-setter called “The Modern Traveller,” and was unique for MR PORTER since it was with a brand that was not already stocked on the website.

“The conception of the first project stemmed from exploratory conversations between the MR PORTER buying team and Marie Honda, COS Managing Director,” says Daniel Todd, Buyer at MR PORTER in a statement. “After several meetings discussing opportunities and potential directions, what was clear is that there’s a mutual respect and admiration from both brands towards one another.”

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The initial 23-piece collection was so successful that it was a no-brainer to pursue another one for Fall/Winter 2016. Todd emphasizes the fact that each capsule is a true collaboration between the MR PORTER buying team and style director with the COS design team.

“Each capsule has started with a blank canvas with no pre-existing data or reference points, however due to the strong alignment of both brands ethos and aesthetic, the capsule resonates with both sets of customers,” says Todd.  The initial colour palette ideas presented by COS were a brilliant starting point, with multiple range planning meetings incorporating fabric and texture swatches.”

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Beyond mutual respect and admiration, MR PORTER and COS found something else in common: the modern male consumer. A slightly more in-tune man who desires good design and values dressing well, the capsule collection speaks to him by offering a reasonably-priced modern uniform.

Martin Andersson, Head of Menswear Design at COS, grew up in Sweden enamored by seminal British fashion publications like THE FACE and i-D. It started him on the path to be a designer, and after some tutelage from his dressmaking mother, he eventually went to London’s esteemed Central St Martins school.

“We share a lot of values with MR PORTER and like how accessible they are; wherever you are in the world you can access their site and diverse product offer,” says Andersson in a statement. “We also have a very similar customer base; the modern man who knows about good, high quality design.”

Key looks from the COS Mr Porter collaboration

Key looks from the COS/Mr Porter collaboration

At COS, men’s offerings hover between austerity and pragmatism, but have a distinct modernity to the design. If Star Trek and The Jetsons imagined a future with stark jumpsuits and clean lines, COS’ balance of quality, accessibility, and relevant style manifest those concepts into the real world.

“I do believe that form follows function, which leads to timeless design; I hope that our designs are reflective of this,” says Andersson. “When designing, no matter what the inspiration is for the season, quality and attention to detail is paramount. From the functional placement of a pocket, the seam allowance on a pair of tailored trousers to the fabrics used, all elements are consider with the customer’s needs in mind.”

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Andersson doesn’t design for a specific man per se. He compares it more to a group of friends, who are similar in what they like (and what they like to wear), but each expresses his taste in an individual way.

“What they share is their sense of style, confidence and personality,” he says. “They all have busy lifestyles and are interested in current issues—cultural as well as financial and political, and of course, fashion.”

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Understanding the relationship between what influences taste and meshing it into the brand’s universe is something COS has always done especially well, like their art-centric collaborations with Brooklyn multidisciplinary creative firm Snarkitecture, and its most recent collaboration with the estate of artist Agnes Martin. The company even lent financial support to the late artist’s current retrospective at New York City’s Guggenheim Museum.

Perhaps that’s why the clothing, which consists of smart offerings like navy pleated wool pants, stark white band collar poplin shirts, and casual-leaning pieces like tonal blue trackpants with a grosgrain trim, and a dusky pink bomber jacket, almost seems subconsciously stylish. As the site describes them: “These are clothes that slip seamlessly into your weekday rotation, while still giving you a buzz each time that you slip them on.”

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The clear message here is an overall desire for trans-seasonal clothes that take the guesswork out of getting dressed. And at the same time, the collection speaks to a futuristic balance of smart shapes and casual comfort.  They’re almost work clothes meant for people who often work remotely, or from home.

As Vanessa Friedman writes: “Part of dressing like an adult is dressing in a way that distinguishes your grown-up self from your adolescent self—a way that says to you and all who see you, ‘I am now at this life stage.'”

Perhaps for adult men who wake up every morning asking themselves what they should wear, the multiple-choice answer has finally arrived. The latest COS x MR PORTER collaboration is available now on MRPORTER.com.

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