Chances are you’ve got a white shirt in your wardrobe. But do you have a shirt with elongated sleeves or dramatic cuffs? What about one that sits off the shoulder, exposes your back or ruches in at the waist? This season there are shirts, and then there are shirts.
Anna Quan is the local label to know, responsible for reinventing the classic white shirt and pushing tailoring boundaries. Sydney-based designer Anna Hoang has been making her now top-selling Anne shirt since 2014, but the style’s boyfriend silhouette and extended cuffs didn’t take off until at least a year later.
“What I’ve realised is that people need a lot of time to slowly accept or take on certain details,” says Hoang. “They need to be ready for it. I actually kept up with the Anne design, tweaking it and updating it into something I thought people could accept.”
Hoang’s affinity for tailoring has made her a natural contender alongside Alexander Wang, Jacquemus and Equipment. Anna Quan's sales are now split 50:50 between Australia and international markets.
The signature Anne shirt, with its larger, men’s style collar, elongated sleeves and unfolded French cuffs was modelled off men’s shirting, but done to women’s proportions – “relaxed but chic” as Hoang describes it. It can be paired easily with anything from boyfriend or skinny jeans and flares, to pencil skirts or printed trousers. For a dressier look, style it with a bright clutch in the evening.
“It’s almost fool proof,” Hoang says. “I have the [Anna Quan] Accent shirt and it’s not hard even if you’re bad at fashion. The button holes are functional and the cuffs are detachable, too, so you can wear it as a normal shirt.”
The soon-to-be-released spring/summer 2018 capsule, Nautica, adds a billowly, bishop’s sleeve to a mix that already includes backless and single-shoulder shirts.
“A lot of people think, ‘Gee, I wonder why she’s always doing shirts?’,” says Hoang. “I think creativity comes from having limitations. Otherwise every season you’re going, ‘How long is a piece of string?’ Tailoring is always something I’ve gravitated to, and so much of shirting is about detailing. If you don’t have a great fit, you might as well die.”
The modern shirting movement is now in full flight. Fellow Australian Dion Lee has also been reworking the white shirt throughout his career, from adding subtle cut-outs to resort 2017’s asymmetrical style, which unfurls at the shoulder.
For resort 2016/17, Georgia Currie’s brand Georgia Alice has bucked tradition, serving up a flirty one-sleeve cropped shirt with an oversized cuff.
Other labels making unconventional shirting include French brand Jacquemus, whose perfectly pinched and tucked shirts pair just as well with blue jeans or tailored pants. UK brand A.W.A.K.E has an oversized shirt-dress that buttons up diagonally, and TOME has various iterations, too.
Hoang’s most daring customers are wearing corsets over the top of her shirts. Others are layering them under slip dresses, or flicking back the cuffs and buttoning loosely for a more relaxed feel. “I get the odd order coming from a ranch out in Coober Pedy, or just the most random places I never thought of,” Hoang says. If that’s not inspiration to try this trend, what is?