If prep ever makes a comeback, it’ll be because of lookbooks like Drake’s. For this coming fall/ winter season, they shot their collection of brushed Shetlands and tweedy outerwear against the collegiate Gothic architecture of Oxford University. The combination makes the photos look as though they were lifted straight out of Take Ivy. One of Drake’s employees, an Oxford alum who helped put this project together, led the team through his favorite parts of the campus and his old, familiar watering holes.
Drake’s Creative Director, Michael Hill, doesn’t want you to think this is about Ivy Style, however. “We’ve always been inspired by Ivy clothing, but this isn’t about recreating a look,” he says. “It’s just that we’re close to Oxford and it’s a beautiful setting. Ivy is a style that inspires us greatly – we look back at provenance and history a lot. But this is also very much about doing something right for today, in our own way, and presenting our clothes in a manner that we feel was fun and playful.”
Playful is a good way to describe some of the new items this season. There’s a pocket square decorated with a spinning collage of space-floating astronauts (if you buy a truck-ton of those squares, I imagine they could make for cool wallpaper inside a nursery). I also like the single-stick London Undercover umbrellas that feature an archival print on the underside of the canopy, as well as the brightly colored, Kelim scarves (I bought the blue one). For the bold and fearless, there are block striped Shetlands coming soon. Those look as though Drake’s mashed together all the Shetland yarns they’ve run separately in the past and turned them into a single sweater. David Hockney, a man known for his eccentric embrace of color, would be proud.
One of the things I love about Drake’s lookbooks is how they manage to embody the creative spirit that inspired a collection, but also give practical inspiration for how to dress. If you tone down some of the accessories, you have outfits anyone can wear. Who wouldn’t look good in a comfortably sized, raglan-sleeved overcoat and a chunky sweater, like the model above? Or in the soft-shouldered sport coat, rust-colored cable knit, and wheat cords on the man below? Between the more eccentric styling decisions are some reasonable suggestions for how to get dressed on a daily basis.
Among some of the notable standouts this season are garment dyed, garment washed corduroy suits. Corduroy, being a pure cotton material, is notorious for being slightly stiff and uncomfortable at first. Companies sometimes pre-wash corduroy pants to soften them up, but jackets frequently need to be broken in like raw denim. Drake’s, however, washed their jackets to make them feel more familiar and comfortable from the get-go. “It’s a little easier here because our jackets are only lightly padded,” Michael explains. “We also had to run a lot of tests and set the stitching at the correct tension. This way, things don’t shrink at different rates, which is how we’re able to press the jackets back into proper shape after their wash.”
The company also collaborated with Stoffa on a small collection of naturally dyed scarves and pocket squares, which were made in India using centuries-old techniques. It’s actually not hard to find Indian scarves like these (they’re available in most bohemian stores), but it’s a challenge to find ones with such tastefully designed prints that go easily under men’s clothing. I picked up one of the indigo paisley ones a few weeks ago (it’s unfortunately now sold out). Such generously sized scarves, I find, sit more naturally underneath larger and heavier overcoats.
Drake’s has some other Indian-made items, including a set of handspun, handwoven cashmere scarves, which were specially produced for the company in Kashmir, home of the soft and downy fiber that goes by the same name. “When a fabric is handwoven on a non-electric, mechanical loom, using handspun yarns, it ends up being a little more irregular and slubby,” says Michael. “In the area where we sourced these, the spinners and weavers are so connected to the farms and raw materials. When you see the weave, you feel more of the person’s hand in the finished product than if it came off a modern loom.” There’s something great here about the back and forth between cultures – a British company selling cashmere scarves from Kashmir, designed with Indian patterns originally inspired by British tartans.
The best pieces of all are in the outerwear section. There’s a military inspired, tweedy double breasted that can be worn with Drake’s brushed Shetlands and some jeans. A single breasted, heavy gabardine raincoat that has a corduroy collar, belted waist, and an A-frame silhouette (the design was inspired by something Michael’s grandfather used to wear). A velvety corduroy version of a Tuscan ranch jacket known as maremmana, which is a style that’s traditionally worn by Italian cattle ranchers and cowboys who look after maremmana cows. And my favorite, the raglan-sleeved, green herringbone tweed topcoat you see above. The fabric for that coat was sourced from a century-old Italian mill located in the German-speaking part of the country. The mill is best known for their Loden cloth, but their tweeds are a bit richer and more visually variegated than some of the stuff you’ll find in Scotland. “We lengthened that design and put a deep, inverted box pleat at the back to give the coat some movement and volume,” Michael says. “It’s generously sized, but also not too much so. It goes just as well with casualwear as it does with tailoring, which is the goal for all our pieces.”
Notably, almost every photo in Drake’s lookbook features their crepe-soled desert boots, which neatly demonstrates how well a good pair of chukkas can work in across a range of ensembles. Chukkas were a favorite of the company’s founder, Michael Drake, and their creative head Michael Hill uses them as his go-to travel shoes. “Ours are part of our Easyday collection, which is designed to be our line of more accessible basics that lets you get dressed blindfolded. Chukkas will go with nearly anything. I take mine when I travel and use them with everything from casual suits to old corduroys.”
Drake’s will be releasing a few more things in the coming months. There will be some pocket squares designed in collaboration with Brooklyn artist Kristin Texeira, some Paraboot shoes, and a collection of vintage Swatch watches (Michael Hill is a big Swatch fan and the ones seen in Drake’s lookbooks come from his own collection). There will also be some shirt jackets, five-pocket cords, and chore coats. Basically the kind of classic-contemporary clothes that Drake’s does so well. You can find their new collection at No Man Walks Alone (a sponsor on this site), Mr. Porter, and Drake’s.