A real understanding of style is rare in menswear today. But for the team behind Husbands — a ready-to-wear and made-to-order label based in Paris — style is the best description of their business, because it isn’t just found in the craftsmanship of their clothing. It is also found in the cultural references that have crucially incited each design, as well as the considerate mission statements that drive their professional desires.
“I launched Husbands in 2011 with a desire to cultivate the perfect wardrobe,” says Nicolas Gabard, founder of the French brand. “The perfect wardrobe is like an alphabet, because its building blocks create a universal language for style. We want to offer each component of this at Husbands.” The starting point of this alphabet – and the one for which the brand has acquired recognition in menswear – is the suit. “I think of the suit as a democratic diffusion of taste, because it cultivates the golden rules of style: proportion, texture, silhouette and cultural mythology,” Gabard says.
Each of these rules perfectly collaborate with one another across Husbands’ tailored designs: offered through both ready-to-wear and made-to-order services. The latter brings scope for finer-tunings and tailored personalisation, but any suit from Husbands – be it a single-breasted fresco, double-breasted twill or grain de poudre tuxedo (there’s many more) – has a distinct appearance of the brand, mostly through the long length of the jacket, sharp finesse of the shoulders, high cut of trousers, and ever so softly, a little finishing flare.
“Our tailoring communicates a precise understanding of the body and gives a man security through its balance of expression and seduction,” Gabard states. While this blend is undeniably constructed through a serious understanding of craftsmanship (or savoir-faire, as the French say), so too is it informed by culture. “I’ve always been educated by novels, films, art and music,” Gabard emphasises. “I believe that these cultural mediums are what trigger a quest for your own identity, because they’re all connected by one thing: clothing.”
Regularly referenced next to French style connoisseurs like Serge Gainsbourg, Alain Delon and Jean-Louis Trintignant, Husbands has come to be seen through a lens of Parisian elegance, and while it certainly embraces these associations, it doesn’t limit itself to them. Nods to the wardrobes of English musicians – namely those from post-punk and Britpop bands like Joy Division and Oasis – as well as international cinematographers (the brand’s name was pulled from a John Cassavettes film) are stitched within more casual pieces like turtleneck sweaters, straight selvedge jeans, Western shirts and heeled leather boots.
Gabard amps these styles just as much as suits, because they’re key to Husbands’ proposition of the perfect wardrobe. “My vision is for Husbands to be the place where a man can source every ingredient of style, and so we have divided our formal and casual offerings across two stores.” The first (and longer-standing) rests on Paris’ Right Bank, next to the charming Palais-Royal, with a focus on made-to-order tailoring. The second, opening just five months ago, is located on the Left Bank, just off Saint-Germain-des-Prés, and specialises in the aforementioned ready-to-wear staples. “To feel truly confident in himself, a man has to be seduced by the subtleties of his own style before others,” Gabard states. “And I like to think that all components proposed by Husbands will give him that.”
The concept of modern individual expression lies at the heart of Husbands. “In the past, desire for dress was linked to status, profession and success, but today, it’s a sign of passion, culture and choice. Individual happiness is key to our business model, because people who are conscious of themselves respond to personal satisfaction much more than mass satisfaction,” the founder elaborates. “I don’t think that style can be forced onto you by a collective approach to selling. Where does one find individuality in a world of franchise?”
In a classic French way, Gabard’s question triggers deep food for thought, and while he doesn’t outrightly say it, the answer to it may well just be his very own brand. Simple though the Husbands business model may sound, its age in the industry is still relatively young (twelve years), so to have established such an assured identity and diverse audience (loyal customers range from fashion editors and photographers to lawyers and bankers) is nothing short of impressive. Though he is somewhat self-effacing in conversation, it’s clear that Gabard’s founding trio of traits – culture, craftsmanship and character – have been integral to the success of the brand.
“We still have a lot of things to do and a lot of things to learn,” he respectfully concludes. “But one thing I will always say for Husbands is that margins come after mission statements, because the real profit of a garment is made from the passion a customer feels and the stories he creates while wearing it. More than anything, I want our clothes to put real aesthetics back into the agenda of people’s minds.”