Founded by Charaf Tajer in 2018, Casablanca started life as a lush, elevated take on après-sport attire, but quickly grew into a full fashion offering known for its electric, vibrant prints and unique take on casual-luxe. Its roots may be in tennis, but its clothes are more ready-to-wear than activewear—they have all the ease of sportswear, but the pieces are refined into something more elegant. A tracksuit, for example, comes with a swaggering 1970s flare; tennis shorts and shirts are in silk, and tracksuits, in cashmere terry cloth.
Casablanca’s product range spans the requisite t-shirts and sweats and shorts, but there are also silk shirts, printed denim, knitwear and woven jacquards. There is a tenderness, too, in Tajer’s approach to menswear—evident in his penchant for pearls, crystals, and the softest knits and silks. Even the suiting has a loucheness about it—it tends to sit on the body like pyjamas. It’s what you’d imagine the Cafe Society crowd and the Bright Young Things of the 1920s would wear if they were transposed into the 2020s.
It is an alluring aesthetic that has drawn the attention of some of the world’s most influential retailers. Sam Kershaw, Buying Director at MR PORTER, shares: “Casablanca’s approach to colour, print, and the blend of tailoring and leisurewear—all with a unique design language—is what I find most exciting. It has a recognisable and signature look, and crosses over a variety of cultural binaries. Each collection has easy-to-wear pieces, which allows men to experiment with their style more.”
And the MR PORTER customer has indeed flocked to the brand. “It has been popular since we launched it in 2020, with many items selling out within days of release. The printed silk shirts are a particular favourite with our customers, as the unique and colourful prints are very suitable for summer. They recognise and appreciate the hand-painted prints, which, if you look closely, are a blend of architecture and nature,” says Kershaw.
For fall/winter 2021, Tajer looked to the opulence and hedonism of Monaco. With the glamour of the French Riviera as his starting point, the designer drew from the Formula One races and the casinos the country is known for, and imagined the clothes the beautiful people would wear to the racetracks and then the parties after. The collection also marks the launch of Casablanca’s full-fledged women’s line, which comes on the heels of a limited, exclusive capsule he created for Net-a-Porter this year that proved a huge hit.
The New York label started as a womenswear brand, launched in 2018 by three friends, Dylan Cao, Jin Kay and Huy Luong, with common roots in their East Asian and Southeast Asian upbringing. The trio quickly gained attention for their take on ’80s and ’90s Asian Mum style— looks inspired by the ones you’d see if you flip through your parents’ photo albums. Think pencil skirts and padded shoulders, and prints inspired by couch covers, tablecloths, curtains, tiles and other staples in Asian households.
For fall/winter 2021, the designers launched menswear for the first time and the offering sits comfortably in the Commission universe they have built. The aesthetic is not so much about an Asian Dad look as it is an evocation of the way Asian men dressed in the ’70s: Boxy tailoring, Communist suits, knit polos tucked into belted, high-waisted trousers or straight-cut jeans, silky shirts in red or leopard print, a little leather bag for the belongings. You could practically picture the pieces on the anti-hero in a Wong Kar Wai film.
The strength of the Commission designers lie in their ability to take the chintz and the kitsch and turn them into chic. They dabble in nostalgia, but the output isn’t retro nor costumey, but wholly contemporary. This is a credit to their strongly developed sense of restraint and refinement—they know when to play it straight and when to subvert. And now, made even more evident by their first menswear collection, they really know how to cut a jacket and a pair of trousers.
Eli Russell Linnetz only launched his first full collection last year, but already, he has won over fans as high profile as A$AP Rocky, Ye and Justin Bieber. In fact, Linnetz pretty much won the most recent Met Gala when Rocky rocked up in an ERL patchwork quilt over a shrunken tuxedo. The quilt—an American staple since its pioneer days—proved that Linnetz was one of the few who got the assignment; the Gala’s theme was, after all, “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion”.
It is a lexicon that Linnetz understands very well. His clothes are all about the American Dream, filtered through a distinctly West Coast lens. His fall/winter 2021 collection plays with the tropes of the jock, the cowboy and the prom king; there are references to football, wrestlers and summer camps. Over long johns, boxers and undershirts, Linnetz layered on plaid, jersey, jeans; stars and stripes; and red, white and blue.
The commercial appeal is undeniable. Damien Paul, Head of Menswear Buying at MatchesFashion.com, says: “The ERL oeuvre marries equal measures of nostalgic charm with tongue-in-cheek worldliness—it’s classic Americana with a subversive, modern twist.” And it’s a vision that has resonated. “There has been a trend for embracing the joy in fashion after these uncertain times,” Paul notes. “We’ve seen huge uplift in pieces that speak to craftsmanship, tactile fabrications in bright prints and colours, and a continued sense of comfort. ERL speaks to this—it works well in our new wardrobe of comfort, but there are also items for the man who wants to dress up for himself.”