Spies Bring Harris Tweed, Mohair to Fashion Week Debut

The cats Momo and Rugby were nonchalant, but Gatsby, a rescued Brussels Griffon, barked incessantly, sensing something was afoot.

The pets’ owner, 30-year-old American designer David Hart, was enjoying a moment of relative calm a fortnight before the frenzy of his debut show for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week this afternoon. We spoke in the Brooklyn loft he shares with his wife, Daniela, and the four-legged trio.

More than 90 designers will present their collections in the extravaganza that runs through Feb. 14. Hart’s moment will come on the roof of the New Museum, where he’s featuring menswear inspired by the actual and media-made spies of the late 1950s and early ’60s. Think Cold War, the space race and “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”

“It’s so fascinating to me how the media were able to take such a tense period in history and turn global paranoia into stylish social commentary,” Hart said.

After working for Anna Sui, Tommy Hilfiger and designing sweaters for Ralph Lauren, Hart started his own label, David Hart & Co., in 2007 with neckties and later adding socks. His first account was Bergdorf Goodman, followed by Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom. Five years later, he reckoned he was ready for a spot in Fashion Week.

“It’s a big expense, so my hope is that the show will generate interest in our brand and drive sales,” said the designer, who had to invest more than $30,000 in his presentation of tailored garments, sweaters and accessories.

Selling Socks

Half of the money, which came from Hart’s fashion jobs as well as the successful sale of his ties and socks, was spent on the clothing and half on Fashion Week production costs.

From the initial sourcing of fabrics to the finished product, it took him three months to get the collection ready. He found manufacturers and milliners by word of mouth and set up collaborations with other brands for shoes (Walk-Over), gloves (Sermoneta), glasses (Moscot) and hats (Rod Keenan). Most of his pieces were made in the U.S. to support the garment industry.

The look of the collection is both traditional and progressive, with great attention to detail and material.

Shirts have French cuffs with pockets and button-down collars. Tuxedos come with cummerbunds modernized with a pocket for keys or theater tickets; some cuffs have been embellished with humorous monograms such as “LOL” and “OMG.” During the show, driving gloves will be tucked into chest pockets.

Not Fussy

“I imagine my customer as a young professional in his late 20s, looking back at his grandfather and older generations who were really dressing up,” Hart said. “He wants to look great but doesn’t want to feel too fussy about his clothing.”

So, customers have the option of buying the unchallenging dart-free jackets separately from the somewhat outre high-rise, slim-leg trousers.

“I don’t want to say: These are the rules. For me, it’s always been about what you feel the most comfortable in,” Hart said.

For some of his suits, he developed patterns with Harris Tweed, coming up with unexpected, bright colors for the Scottish mill’s classic designs, and with Molloy & Sons, in Donegal County, Ireland.

“There are only two mills left there, so when they talk about the authentic Donegal tweed, this is it,” Hart said.

Mohair’s Sheen

He also used mohair, which was popular in the spy era and then fell out of fashion. “It has a great sheen to it, tailors up beautifully and doesn’t wrinkle.”

Looking ahead, Hart’s next collection will stay in the 1950s but move to the South Seas. It will be about early Hawaiian prints, tailored shirts and full linen trousers.

Prices for David Hart & Co.’s menswear collection are: $1,650-$1,895 for suits ($350-$550 for trousers and $1,200- $1,450 for jackets); $350-$375 for sweaters; $195-$225 for dress shirts; $950-$1,250 for sport coats; $1,500-$1,800 for outerwear; and $125 for ties.

(Lili Rosboch writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are her own.)

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