In a city like Toronto, we are lucky to have so many retailers provide us with so many options — it can be easy to overlook the local heroes that know what we need because they’ve shared our surroundings. The old adage is that you have to leave home before you appreciate it; many designers do end up relocating or focusing their work on other parts of the world, but they will always have their Canadian roots in mind.
Someone who’s always had Canada in mind is Toronto menswear designer Christopher Bates, who will be showing his fall/winter 2015 collection this week at TOM, the second edition of Toronto Men’s Fashion week, on Feb 27.
Bates, who studied at the Instituto Marangoni, recently relocated to Milan and opened a design studio in the hopes of expanding his brand internationally. It’s a wise idea, considering the quality of the manufacturing found in their factories, and the attention to detail from personal style found on the Milanese streets.
Bates is a designer who wants men to dress up, showing tailored classics that every guy will need at some point in his life: items like a well fitted-suit, a slick tuxedo or a quality button-up shirt. If you can picture an on-and-off-duty James Bond-type who’s “career oriented, style-savvy, and appreciates quality,” that’s the Christopher Bates man.
Bates himself fits that profile. Like many designers, he designs clothes he would wear, and he wears them exclusively from head to toe. I was able to chat with Bates to see how his new life in Milan is treating him.
Are there any new inspirations behind this collection?
The collection is titled Modular — I was inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. The collection is based on fundamental principles of proportion, mobility, geometry, architecture and anatomy. The entire collection is designed and produced in Italy. It’s my most technical collection to date and you’ll see some new styles, like quilted jackets, gilets and bombers, as well as knit jackets and a custom printed dress shirt.
Did you recently start designing shoes? How was the process?
I actually started the designs almost two years ago. It took me quite a while to get the technical designs completed, find the right factory in Italy, source the materials and produce the prototypes. The collection is complete now and will be launching in 2015. Every pair is handmade in Italy. I’m excited to unleash the collection!
You recently relocated to Milan. You studied there, but how has the transition been?
It was very difficult at first. Moving within a city is tough, but moving your life and your business to another continent is massive. Having lived there before when I went to school helped a lot, but it still took me a few weeks to regain my bearings. I think I’m in the zone now.
Is it still important for you to show in Canada?
Absolutely. Canada is an important market for me. I’m doing good business and there is still a lot of room to grow.
How would you describe men’s personal style in Milan?
The men in Milan are among the best dressed in the world. They are consistently stylish. It seems innate. They wear the clothes and not vice-versa. They dress up, but effortlessly. That’s the key.
And in Toronto?
Toronto is a much stronger menswear market than I think a lot of people recognize. A lot of guys have a great sense of style and put a lot of effort into their appearance. I consider Toronto to be a burgeoning market for menswear.
Where do you see the future of menswear going?
In the next few years I expect to see a deeper respect for the classics and getting dressed up. A lot of guys are still learning about the power of a well-fitted suit. I also predict more guys will invest in a quality tuxedo rather than rent something ill-fitting that they feel silly in. Finally, I would like to see less sneakers and more modern dress shoes. Shoes are such a critical part of a man’s wardrobe and can really make or break a first impression, be it professional, social or romantic.
Do you have a dream client? Anyone you’d love to see your designs?
I’d like to dress Ryan Gosling. He’s handsome, talented, stylish and would really help boost my profile. He’s also Canadian!