Last summer, in Palma de Mallorca airport, Nicolas Gabard, founder of luxury menswear brand Husbands, bumped into a client dressed in Bermuda shorts. Gabard was wearing one of his own double-breasted suits, cut from Hield cloth manufactured in West Yorkshire. The client admitted he was embarrassed. Gabard replied simply: ‘One must never let go.’
For Gabard, there is no such thing as weekend wear. Clothing makes the man (and can unmake him). Three years ago he created Husbands because he wasn’t able to find the clothing for the man he wanted to be.
It was culture that gave Gabard a passion for menswear early on: ‘You read Proust and you love ankle boots. You listen to The Smiths and you love Morrissey’s clothes. You see Alain Delon in Le Samouraï and you love trench coats.’ He became a lawyer to please his father, but spent his free time hunting through flea markets for vintage clothes. Most of the time, he couldn’t find what he was looking for – even when he started using an expensive tailor.
Tiring of law, Gabard founded a communications agency. But he was still bored, so he sold his stake and launched Husbands, taking the name from the John Cassavetes film. His small boutique is in Paris’s 9th arrondissement, where François Truffaut and Serge Gainsbourg grew up. Albums by Joy Division and The Smiths and books sit on a shelf above a row of jackets. Gabard, who on the day we meet is wearing a Hardy Minnis double-breasted twill suit, denim shirt and silk-knit tie, insists that he deals in style, not fashion.
His catalogue changes little from season to season, and contains the basic components of an elegant man’s wardrobe: double-breasted suits, tweed jackets, blazers, trench coats, Chelsea boots, silk ties and scarves.
Husbands fills the gap between mass-produced and bespoke suits. The three-piece suits (from €1,490) are made by hand and to order in Italy (with personalised sleeve and jacket lengths). A key distinction of the Husbands’ suit is the entoilage, the full-length panel, made of linen and horsehair, that gives it structure and longevity. Another characteristic is that Husbands’ suit fabrics come from England, Scotland and Ireland.
Gabard considers himself to be an archivist not a designer. He scours old photos to find looks he likes, then hunts down the original fabrics. Coming upon a photo of Winston Churchill in a pinstripe suit, he obtained the identical navy wool from Fox Brothers in England. ‘I wake up in the morning and can put on the same flannel Churchill wore to Yalta,’ he says.
Though the fabrics and techniques he employs are traditional, the cuts are slimmed down for modern tastes. Gabard’s sartorial heroes are guys who never spent a day at the gym: Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Serge Gainsbourg, or David Hemmings in Blow-up. They cultivated indifference, but they put a lot of effort into how they dressed. ‘In the 1960s, Gainsbourg and Jagger took their fathers’ clothes and transformed them completely,’ says Gabard. He would like to convince a new generation of men to break the stereotype of the suit reserved for dandies and bankers: ‘A suit is a blank page – you can do what you want with it.’
As originally featured in the March 2016 issue of Wallpaper* (W*204)