Natty Threads

Philip Sparks gives guys a new dress code. By Christina Gregory
The best time to check out designer Philip Sparks' menswear collection is right after watching a film like The Thin Man, when you're practically drunk on snapshots of Myrna Loy swishing about in long white furs while William Powell is swilling whiskey and wittily quoting Dashiell Hammett. You'll wonder: Why don't people wear hats and dress for English muffins anymore? But then you'll get a peek at Sparks' dapper double-breasted jackets and polished slim-cut dress pants and it all becomes clear: This is where the essence of old Hollywood resides.
A bespoke attitude via ready-to-wear is part of the appeal. "The pieces become modern because of the silhouette," Sparks says, referring to his choice of trim not-too-skinny shapes. Such grown-up wares belie Sparks' youthfulness. He's just 25, and Canadian, speaking with just a hint of a mid-western lilt. He confided that the calling for clothes came early: At 16 he started making his own garments when the narrow vintage look he strove for was impossible to find. Fashion design at Seneca College of Art followed, and later work with a local tailor and the drama department. Sparks eventually landed at the Stratford Festival costume department, which seems to have informed the stage-worthy maturity that embodies his handsome fall collection.
Much of Sparks' line is based on the traditional techniques he's gleaned from his costume research. "I've always had a love for old things," he says, "and my collection is a way of bringing the old traditions forward. My tail coats aren't stiff, they're comfortable and wearable." The collection ranges from preppy to military with smoking jackets and fine-fitted crew knits in Nantucket stripes, even a soft metallic bomber jacket. "The fabrics I use like a silver-colored leather can make a piece relevant," the designer says. If you're ready to hang up your denim and henleys (if only temporarily) these are the clothes to wear for after-dinner drinks, before-dinner drinks, even a proper breakfast—the Thin Man is reborn.
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Philip Sparks gives guys a new dress code.

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