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.
I realize that describing a brand that only went belly-up a couple years ago as “ahead of it’s time,” might feel like a bit of a stretch, but when it comes to Hickey, I really don’t think there’s any better way to classify the unfortunately defunct label. Hickey only existed for a handful of years (maybe even less, it’s tough to tell what the exact beginning and end of the brand were) in the aughts, but looking back they feel more like a brand from years down the line.
When they began Tommy Fazio was at the helm, but after a few years he left to head to become men’s director of Bergdorf Goodman, and after his departure Aaron Levine, (now Creative Director of Club Monaco) took over an incredibly talented design team that included Ian Velardi, who also went on to become one of the most talked about designers of the past year with his namesake label. Hickey was an offshoot of the aging suiting brand Hickey Freeman, but unlike their parent company Hickey understood how to adapt and appeal to the burgeoning class of twenty-somethings and teens that were suddenly changing the game simply by caring about how they looked for a change. While other labels ignored this generation or created clumsy capsule collections, Hickey dove in head first, they slimmed down their cut, opened up a store in Soho, and boldly flashed their pot leaf logo (a constant point of polarity for their fans), but where they really made their mark was in the details.
Menswear, especially in America, has become a game of reappropriation, where the design process is really centered around picking and choosing different elements from every conceivable era and region of men’s style, and it was Hickey that really led the way with this attitude. If Hickey Freeman was for fathers, then Hickey was for their sons, they had to make their clothes different and also flattering in a way that made sense to a younger, smarter customer. Hickey used Italian-style shoulders on their jackets, they tapered their chinos, they cropped their outerwear, played with Fair Isle, blackwatch, elbow patches, windowpanes, and extra pockets. They were essentially the template for so many “young” brands today. Unfortunately, most of the imagery and product information from Hickey disappeared when they went under (most people say it was largely for economic reasons), and Hickey Freeman got rid of the website, and any trace of the once great brand. Although the few remaining images that I was able to scrounge together still do provide a wealth of inspiration, especially today. Note the bellowed pockets, hoofpick belt, yellow harrington, three-piece suits, cropped pants, paratrooper pants….