In addition to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics, 2012 is proving to be a fantastic year for Britain and British culture – with fashion being no exception. For instance, Stella McCartney has proudly designed the Team GB kit for the Olympic Games, and Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton has been awarded an OBE at the Queen’s birthday celebrations for her outstanding creative vision in designing the most talked about gown of 2011: the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress. With womenswear taken care of, where does this leave the future of British menswear? Nowhere other than in the hands of new designer, Peter Jeun Ho Tsang, and his nascent label, ‘coeur.’
Described by the Editor-in-Chief of Conglomerate Magazine as “a fashion ‘candy-man’ with an unforgivable appetite for delicious colours”, Peter is here to invite the twenty-first century man on a fashion voyage to discover the finer things in life. Everything from his beautifully-British fabrics to his delicate dandy designs lend the collection a certain child-like innocence which, coupled with conservative and adult tailoring, can only be described as a stroke of fashion genius. In an increasingly-complex adult world, Peter is encouraging his followers to escape their morose corporate surroundings by indulging in the colourful, playful and simply delightful summer-inspired looks of the coeur brand.
As a London College of Fashion graduate and visiting lecturer, it is safe to say that Peter really is an expert in his field. The time and energy that he has invested into his collection in perfecting every last embellishment down to the finest thread exudes from his chosen materials and precise detailing. In an industry where ‘playful’ was an image already adopted by menswear designers and where the quintessentially-British notion of ‘preppy’ fashion was a common sight, Peter brought a unique mélange of the two to the streets of London; ‘playfully preppy.’ As a result, coeur was conceived along with a plethora of innovative and individualistic menswear traits; exclusive British-woven silk, bold colours and a killer attitude, to name a few.
Moreover, behind every brilliant brand is an individual creative force on a mission. With Peter Jeun Ho Tsang, the phrase ‘the future is bright’ could not be more accurate – and coeur is here to prove it. Here, The Flaneur speaks to Peter himself on his inspiration for the brand, his love for London and what we can expect to see from coeur in the future…
What inspired you to create cœur and what was the idea behind the name?
I always knew that I wanted to do my own thing after graduating from my degrees. Essentially all the practical work that I undertook whilst at London College of Fashion was about building the foundations of the brand. The idea for coeur came from my desire to offer beautifully crafted, yet commercial clothing currently not seen on the menswear market. coeur, French for heart, is a caring brand and is caring by nature. Sensitive to emotion, the coeur gentleman wants to show a side to him that loves colour, confidence, and a contemporary lifestyle. The name coeur just felt right and depicted my interest in tactile fabrics that evoke the senses, the relationships we have with clothing and with each other, and the subtle nature of the brand that exudes sophistication and sensitivity.
You were formally educated at London College of Fashion which has proven to be an incredible platform for up-and-coming designers to showcase their designs to the world and develop a successful brand. How would you summarise your time at LCF and the support you were given in undergoing the difficult task of setting up your own brand?
The fact that I am now a visiting lecturer at London College of Fashion says it all. I’ve explored and discovered a lot during my 6 years of studying there, professional goal changes, an awareness of fashion heights, and the perspective changes that an outsider not from the industry would probably even think of. In terms of setting up your own brand, LCF isn’t really there to teach you that because every student’s personal goal is different. It’s great for providing specialist education, but as with any person wanting to set up their own business it takes a certain character and determination. Pro-active discovery to make things happen is key to setting up a brand, and this needs to be done outside of education. Leads can form from university, but it takes that extra mile to make it work. For example, going to see factories and establishing supplier relationships. These are skills you can’t practise within education, nor can you learn how to go about them without self-immersion into whatever the end goal is. The fact that we are in an unstable economic climate makes it even harder, but passion, integrity and determination is what LCF does instil within their students.
I’ve loved every second of it! Having not grown up in London, arriving was a whole new world. I have grown as a person; I have been inspired as a designer from being in such a diverse city. I’ve met amazing people along the way that have also given different outlooks on life. I remember distinctly that it was at some point in my second year on the BA degree that something just clicked and everything just seemed to work by being in London and at LCF. There’s something about London that just seeps into the skin. You don’t notice it, but as soon as you leave the city, one realises the effect that is has on the mind and the characters that the city forms. Having said that, I wouldn’t mind exploring the world further, to push my boundaries and continue that learning process.
As a brand, cœur can be regarded as demonstrating a very similar style to that of fellow British brands such as Jack Wills and Thomas Pink, which also place heavy emphasis on the ‘playfully preppy’ menswear image. How does cœur differ from its competitors and what gives it the edge over other menswear collections?
I would say that coeur is different because of the product. We use 100% brand exclusive silk that is woven in England, which can be found in the entire collection. This has not been used within the preppy genre and certainly gives coeur a very distinctive look. I would say that brands like Jack Wills find strength in being ‘traditionally’ preppy and this works well for them. What coeur aims to do is recode the DNA of preppy by offering slim cut clothing. Preppy is normally associated with being a looser fit, the silk, and also other understated features such as the coeur signature notch found on nearly every product. Essentially we’re updating preppy for the contemporary consumer. We’re using colour in a different way, fabrics not found within preppy clothing normally, and the caring nature is what shines through.
What would you say is your favourite item from your Spring/Summer 2012 collection and what makes it so special?
That’s hard to decide. I love the blazers because of the slim cut, which just fits the slimmer younger man perfectly, but I think the strength lies in the shirts where silk has been used. It just adds that something special and I’m able to wear it either during the day or at night. That’s the playful side coming out of the product. My favourite shirt is the Half Striped Shirt, which most people comment on. Silk jacquard fabric has not been used in such a way before; it definitely makes the products stand out.
To you, what does it mean to be a ‘cœur’ man and which celebrity would you say embodies these qualities best?
Well my strap line is: ‘He is cool. He is confident. He is coeur’. I think that a coeur man is quietly confident. He doesn’t need to be brash or bravado, but is comfortable in his own skin, as well as being in tune with his emotions and this is something that is noticeable. Whilst developing the brand, I was really inspired by Sebastian Flyte from Brideshead Revisted by Evelyn Waugh. There’s something about his character that is intrinsically alluring and you just want to find out more. The actor that played his character in the film adaptation, Ben Whishaw, would suit the clothing perfectly. Andrew Garfield is another celebrity that I would say fits the image of the brand. Both actors just express emotion in such a captivating way.
Your collection features exclusive silk woven in Britain at one of England’s finest fabric mills. Why was it important to you to be so particular when it came to such specific detail and fabrics?
Menswear is all about the detailing. Women’s clothing can get away with just being flamboyant but failing at the detailing. It’s not so easy with menswear – men do take note of what’s going on in the product and this is what essentially sells the product. Producing fabric in England also says that we are proud to be British and celebrating this is most vital. Brand Britain is still alive. The fabric is also what makes the collection that little bit more special and the brand prides itself on that fact.
Every designer has a vision and it is important to set yourself realistic targets. Ideally, what would you like cœur to have achieved by the end of this year, and what would you like it to have achieved in ten years time?
For me at the moment, it’s all about getting the coeur brand name out there and gaining a fan base. This will take time and will mature over the years. The product range is also continually developing, so expect some more exciting things to come on that front. Within 10 years I would hope to be opening up my flagship store where my customers can immerse themselves in the coeur world – that moment of escapism for them. I feel that a lot of new designers rush into things, which I cannot blame them for – that hunger as a designer to always want to do more is always hard to curb, but I would like my brand to grow organically. Of course it’s also every fashion business’ main goal and dream to continually expand the brand internationally. This is my main goal within 10 years to be trading at an international level. Who knows exactly what the future holds – fashion and design is such a volatile environment. Nothing is ever certain.
What is your advice to other up-and-coming designers trying to break into the industry?
I would say persevere. Remove the fact that you’re a designer and really get to know the business side that you never knew you had. If that proves to be difficult, then I would say make it your priority to find someone that can guide or help you. At the end of the day we can’t be good at everything. Since the market is so saturated, finding your place within the industry is hard. I would also say that you must be 100% sure that you are able to deliver any promises that you make. There’s nothing wrong with taking the time to ensure that the business model is sound, that the supply chain can meet demands, and of course that the product is correct for the intended market. It’s no longer about making pretty clothing as a hobby. Thick skin and resilience is key, as well one’s passion, curiosity, and desire to move forward that should never die. If the love for what someone is doing goes at any point, then it’s time to reconsider what the next step is to take. And for the non-fashion designers reading this article, it’s not as glamorous as you think!
Lastly, if you had to sum up the cœur brand in 3 words, what would they be?
Thank you, Peter. We wish you the best of luck with the brand and look forward to seeing you dominate the attention at London Fashion Week in years to come.