Aleksandar Cvetkovic is a menswear writer, podcaster and consultant. He lives and breathes the industry, so it's with great pleasure that we sit down with him to discuss all things fashion, style and sustainability:
Can you tell us a bit about your background? How did you find yourself in creative and men's fashion?
I’m a freelance fashion journalist and creative strategist. I work with brands across various different industries to shape their storytelling and creative. In a nutshell, I help brands to engage consumers with the right words or images, on the right channel, at the right time – I try to, at least. My background is in men’s magazines, I worked as an editor at The Rake for the first few years of my career, before being one of a team of four to launch a new men’s lifestyle magazine in London called The Jackal. Today, I write for a handful of magazines and newspapers alongside my strategy work. I also host a men’s style podcast, HandCut Radio.
You've been lucky to speak to stalwarts of contemporary menswear through your podcast Handcut Radio. What has the consensus been on sustainability in fashion and how has your view developed in line with those conversations?
Generally, I find that smaller, thoughtful independents are more convincing on the subject of sustainability than the big international players I encounter. Smaller brands with a couple of founders at the helm often have the clearest vision for what they want to achieve from a responsible manufacturing or retail perspective – and are more prepared to compromise on profitability in order to do what is right. As soon as you bring shareholders into the mix, the need for more and more profit overrides the imperative to do things the right way – not always, but often. I also think – and I first realised this in speaking with Brendon Babenzien, the co-founder of Noah – that there needs to be a more meaningful dialogue between the consumer and fashion brands today. Ultimately, huge chunks of fashion consumers continue to shop at fast fashion brands, as opposed to boycotting them and using their spending power to articulate a desire for change. If we, the consumer, fail to communicate how we wants brands to behave, we can’t expect them to do the right thing.
Creative and how a brand presents itself, predominantly online, is paramount to success these days. Photography makes up a key pillar of that creative, but the written word still holds sway, which fashion writers do you admire and how do you see writing playing a part in fashion going forwards?
Such a good question. With the exception of a choice few writers, I tend to find more inspiration from journalism in other creative fields. In fashion, Vanessa Friedman is a hugely important voice, of course and I love receiving her regular subscriber emails. I also enjoy reading Alexander Fury, a fashion critic who contributes regularly to the FT. I would say this, given that I’m an occasional contributor, but I find the editorial in How To Spend It magazine teaches me more about fashion, what’s in and what’s relevant, than most other print titles I pick up regularly, which I mean as a huge compliment to the editorial team there. I hope one day to have a voice that’s really respected in print; to be an influential critic on style and luxury with a regular column somewhere, but who knows whether that will ever come to pass in this age of relentless digital media!
You work with Monocle who champion the kind of business we're trying to become at Coalo, a slow brand that's rooted in the community yet has a global, slightly analog outlook. Do you think that way of working can apply to a contemporary fashion brand? And are there any examples of brands you think are doing it well?
I absolutely think it can, but it’s important to remember that it can take years of consistency to achieve this. A brand like Saman Amel in Stockholm is a great example. Today, it’s got a global following for its thoughtful, understated and beautifully made tailoring, but it’s taken the co-founders years to gain that status. They started I think over a decade ago now with one tie, and grew organically. The same can be said of Stòffa in New York, another thoughtful brand I love, which is doing some great work in educating consumers on made-to-order product, as opposed to ready-to-wear. Both are building hugely loyal cult followings, but it’s taken them years of belief in their vision to get there.
Aside from a drift towards sustainability, how do you see menswear developing, both at the premium/luxury and affordable levels?
The biggest trend to me revolves around traditional suiting, luxury business dress is well and truly on its uppers. I suspect the business suit or office ‘uniform’ is going to have a tough few years and be squeezed more and more into the middle market. That said, it’s an oversimplification to say that men aren’t dressing up any more, because they are, but they’re doing it in new creative ways and on their own terms. Today, I think most men more likely to wear a killer suit out to a posh dinner with friends, styled with a crewneck tee beneath, than they are to dress formally in a traditional setting like the office or for client meetings. That creates the opportunity to be more creative with formal garments, and I think the next few years of men’s style are going to be defined by a “high-low” aesthetic – mixing different genres of clothes like formalwear and streetwear, or denim and fine tailoring, to create a look that feels much more dynamic and much more fluid than men have been comfortable with historically. That’s my hope, anyway.
At Coalo, we're interested in exploring what sustainability means and can be to a male customer. How do you see it developing and how do you engage with it when buying fashion?
There’s huge potential to rewire consumers into thinking more conscientiously about how they shop and which brands they choose to support – and we’re seeing that start to happen. But, sustainability is also one of those words that can turn the consumer off to a brand. No one likes to be told what they should or shouldn’t buy. Personally, I think it’s more productive to talk in terms of responsibility; gently encourage consumers to think long-term, think about how they want to support other human beings and to think of getting dressed as an act of respect for yourself, those around you and other human beings in the global fashion system. Humanising what sustainability actually means is hugely important for this reason too. If you present me with a pair of jeans that is better for the environment, I’ll take a look. If you show me the hugely talented, committed and creative craftspeople, or the community of workers that those ethical jeans help to support, I’ll fall in love.
Following from the above are there any brands you can think of that are doing a good job on sustainability, taking into account not just environmental factors but also labour practices and design?
11.11 is one to watch, for sure. Well worth looking up for all they’re doing with natural dyes, locally produced ethical cotton, preserving and promoting local craft skills. I’m also a huge admirer of Brendon Babenzien’s work at Noah, and I’m curious to see how he can move J.Crew closer to being a responsible brand over the next few years.
Finally, what three pieces from the Coalo catalog do you like the most?
- This jacket has a great cut, the colour feels quite rich and I’m a sucker for corduroy.
- Who doesn’t love dip-dye? I also like that the base for this tee is cream and not white – feels a little more considered and sophisticated. Would work a treat under that military jacket with some pale jeans or chinos.
Fisherman Beanie in Rust
- The perfect watch cap in a great autumnal colour. Buy now, enjoy all winter (and for many more after this one, mind!).