Any work of design worth a damn should look good and work well. It should keep on doing so for a long time. As long as possible. As long as it takes. Good design serves its purpose. And is purposefully beautiful. Of course, while beauty is, as they say, in the eye of the beholder, I’m talking intention here. I’m talking design that actually sets out to serve both eye and need with excellence. I’m talking lasting appeal. Form. Function. Equal measures. One and the same.
We often relate these principles to architecture, but overlook their relevance to other key parts of our lives. A man in this country can say, without reproach, ‘now that—that house is a beauty. And with those specs!’ He may have an eye for good design in that regard but his tailoring lets him down. Badly. Needlessly.
Consider all mediums. This means that regardless of whether or not you come to own (or design) a house, organise the materials that you have access to and build a routine and an environment of which you can be proud. A large part of this is in dressing meaningfully. A well-designed suit is part of this. It lasts, it enables us to work well. That is good design. That is an architecture that we can own and live in.
I’m not saying that a good suit will make your dreams come true. You shouldn’t believe those that tell you that it will. I am, instead, endorsing a way of buying things that have lasting appeal. Of appreciating value. Quality over quantity. Necessary investments.
Nor am I overly begrudging those who have worked hard and earned their piece of our land. Well, that’s not strictly true. I do have disdain for those who don’t give thought to using their opportunities to implement good design. I feel the same whenever I see someone wearing (or driving) something that serves as a cringeworthy reminder that ‘money can’t buy you class.’ Don’t build thoughtlessly, don’t buy thoughtlessly, don’t dress thoughtlessly. Have class. Be considered.
The current Rembrandt Autumn/Winter 2017 campaign was photographed in a tailor-made home. In this choice, Rembrandt wished to highlight the equivalence between tailoring and architecture, or more broadly, the values of longevity and beauty that are apparent in all good design. The backdrop for the shoot, a home in Point Chevalier, is a house built of approximately 1000 tonnes of a custom blend of concrete. It’s designed to be remarkable as a visual event. It’s also not going anywhere anytime soon. Reminder—it’s built of 1000 tonnes of concrete. Let that sink in. With the way things are going, it might well outlast our civilisation.
The house took ten years of obsessive planning, being daringly poured on site as it is. The design is at once powerfully attuned to the site, the local history, and the personalities of the family who live in the home. For example, the family is devoted to the ocean. As such, the construction maximises the property’s panoramic coastal views. Six magnificently scaled concrete fin walls and a sharp bow-like point channel the nautical connection. This galleon-esque tone was accented still further in that the concrete itself was pressed in place during the pour with wooden formwork, a move that impressed the organic texture of woodgrain into the concrete. The effect, at the same time, hails the area’s historically weatherboard homes. With these touches, architect David Ponting’s distinctly modernist influences—Van der Rohe, Lloyd Wright—make their mark without taking center stage. Ponting listened to his client, worked with the client and together they created the perfect fit. Here, the expert architect, like the expert tailor, applied good design.
From conversations I’ve had with Jonathon Hall, Design Manager at Rembrandt, this kind of collaborative relationship is what the tailoring label wants to foster with its clients. Hall wants men to take the care and concern they do with architectural—or automobile—design when it comes to the suits they wear. A man’s wardrobe, Hall suggests, should be built to last, and become his visual signature.
Hall’s idea in setting the collection amidst this backdrop is this: when a man walks into a Rembrandt store for a new suit, he brings with him the properties of his body and personality, his history, his hopes and his purpose. These things matter. Just as the architect articulates these values through the conventions of his medium, so should the tailor use his knowledge of the craft to express them in the perfect fit. The customer, in his suit as in his home, will from then on be housed in a piece of good design.
The tailor, like the architect, must be masterful in his planning, and will structure a product so precise in construction that it will, like all things done well, appear effortless. The suit then represents the man’s wider tastes, abilities, aspirations and character. That’s why a good suit turns heads. It’s not just a suit.
As I’ve suggested, we as a country appreciate good design when it involves architecture. But many of us continue to neglect to apply good design to other decisive aspects of our lives. Don’t dress uselessly. When it is time to spend, invest in good design. Exist in the cut between creative flair and perfect method. That’s how you design a life worth a damn.
Michael Whittaker is an international fashion model, and the face of this season’s Wayward Heir campaign. He is currently completing his MA in English Literature and writes freelance journalism alongside works of fiction. His writings have appeared in publications such as i.D Magazine and A Magazine Curated By.