Christian Kimber, the Melbourne footwear designer behind the eponymous label, which launched in 2011, has always had his sights set on menswear.
Kimber trained at London’s Norton & Sons (a classic tailor on Savile Row) and it was only a matter of time before he expanded his handcrafted leather-shoe label to include clothing.
“I want to represent contemporary Melbourne style,” says Kimber of his recently launched autumn/winter 2018 clothing line. “There are people like RM Williams focusing on classic Australian country style, and then there’s made-to-measure tailors creating a formal look. But I really want to own the casual-elegant space.”
Two years in the making, Kimber’s first menswear collection debuted at an intimate presentation as part of VAMFF. One by one, models filed out in soft-knit cardigans and tonal polos – grandpa-esque on paper but smart and modern when styled with Kimber’s sport-luxe sneakers. Most impressive were the Italian-made bird’s-eye cotton blazers, expertly cut to softly hug the shoulders. Kimber’s approach to tailoring is far from stiff boardroom attire.
“I looked at my clients who are graphic designers and architects and who sit in the grey area between formal and casual,” says Kimber. “I thought: ‘How would artists like Picasso dress casually?’ Then I thought about Melbourne specific scenarios and how people would get a lot of use out of the clothes.”
For the lookbook, Kimber asked his friend Adam Baidaw (a writer and photographer) to step in and model the collection. In Kimber’s mind Baidaw encapsulates the kind of stylish, modern man the label is for. There are shots of Baidawi wearing an ensemble of soft cottons and knits (a smarter look for a meeting) followed by the suave weekend outfits.
Functionality is a focus for the designer who likes everything to be comfortable and “not too tight”. With an aversion to slim trousers and “jeans that make your legs look like sausages”, Kimber’s take on the trouser is relaxed; wide around the thigh and slimmer towards the ankle. Highlights from the collection include cargo trousers that don’t crease; a jumper that comes with internal pockets (perfect for warming cold winter hands); and a field jacket with multiple large pockets for travel, or as Kimber suggests, “walking the dog”.
“I want to be known as an Australian designer with an Australian aesthetic,” says Kimber. “I want to change how people see us … just [wearing] flip flops and a tank top.”
While the stereotype Kimber paints of Australian men may have been true a decade ago, in the past few years we’ve seen the world sit up and really pay attention to local menswear designers. But for Kimber, that perception still exists.
“My guy buys casual shoes and wants to look good for clients, but not too formal – that to me feels very Australian.”
Christian Kimber’s autumn/winter 2018 is now available at its store at 264, Johnston Street, Fitzroy and online.