When Ian Velardi turns to me and asks “so what do you think” I get the sense that he genuinely wants to know the answer. Amongst the innumerable booths of capsule, and even more innumerable boilerplate conversations filled with half-hearted queries, talking to Velardi feels like a much needed respite. He might be soft-spoken, but Velardi seems to actually consider every word he says, and so as I walked through his booth on the opening day of capsule, carrying on probably the only thoughtful conversation I had in a booth all day, I could tell that Velardi pays that same level of attention to the clothes he designs.
What struck me right off the bat was the palate, a toned down series of greys, navys, tans, greens, browns, with just a touch of black thrown in there for good measure. I commented to Ian about how that subdued color scheme was what I’d been drawn to recently, and he echoed the sentiment by saying that lately he finds himself wanting to wear nothing but navy.
Against this pared down background, Velardi’s deftness as a designer really comes through. It’s not the distracting foppery that has marked menswear over the past few months (or possibly years) it’s a style that feels closer to graphic design than anything else. Playing with negative space and a more narrow spectrum of color, Velardi brings the focus towards the details that make the collection so rewarding. It was only after closer inspection that I noticed things like the blank name patch (a la a gas station attendent) sewn on the left side of the cutaway collared oxford, or the rugby style tie closer on a pullover blackwatch jacket, which reminded me of some sort of medieval era overshirt, or the horizontal stitching on the elbow patch of the steel grey suede bomber jacket. These details make the experience of walking through Velardi’s collection feel more like a scavenger hunt than being at a trade show. Ninety-five percent of people might walk through and not notice any of these things, but it’s that extra five percent that Velardi aims for.
At the front of the booth was one of my favorite pieces of the entire show, a double breasted overcoat with a fur collar. The lapels are wide, and the button stance sits fairly low for a look that reminds me of something that you would find in an old Apparel Arts illustration. The aforementioned suede bomber, and blackwatch anorak, as well as a graphite jacket with a diamond quilt round out the outerwear this season, for a collection that runs from the most formal all the way down to “throw-it-on” casual. There weren’t many on display this season but Velardi’s sportcoats once again come through as some of the best that I saw at the show this year. I’m obviously biased because I favor the soft-shouldered, unstructured look of Velardi’s Italian made jackets, but it was the checked patterns, specifically an olive and brown guncheck and a tan nailhead that I was most drawn to. Although the one piece that has had the greatest impact on me, is probably the most unexpected.
I haven’t worn a sweatshirt (or a tee shirt, or anything for that matter) with a logo for a couple years now, but if there’s one piece I’ll be picking up from this collection it’s the USA crew necks. I was instantly drawn to them, and Ian quickly commented that they were actually made in L.A., which is far more than Champion and Ralph Lauren can say of their “American” sweaters. They feel like something you would find in the back of vintage store in the Midwest underneath a pile of sports gear from the fifties. The thick letters are actually sewn on, the jersey knit feels oddly worn in and soft, and that Made in the USA doesn’t look too bad either. At this point, all this should be expected from Velardi – the blend of Italian and American, the wide range of design, the personal touches. It’s really no wonder that when Velardi asked me what I thought, all that I could answer was that “I love it all.”