He might just be 23, but first-time designer Matthew Gideon isn't obsessed with ironic slogan tees, joggers or other "normcore" essentials favoured by his peers. Instead, his menswear brand Deboneire, which targets men in their mid-20s to 40s, revolves around dressy dinner jackets, tuxedo shirts and evening slippers.
The entrepreneur, who has launched his label in upmarket Amoy Street barbershop Jermyn Street, said: "It's for men who already own a few workhorse suits of their own and want something special - classic but decidedly fashion-forward."
The label was born when the style aesthete struggled with shopping for chic, off-the-rack garb that flattered his frame.
"There are a lot of men who, like me, are built lean, and that makes it very difficult for us to find clothes that fit. By 'fit', I don't mean pants that just stay up, but clothes that fit how they should, and I found that the more formal I got in the menswear spectrum, the harder it was to find something."
The brand's first Spring/Summer collection comprises 15 suits and separates like printed jackets and trousers, retailing exclusively through an online boutique that includes sizing charts and detailed images of each piece from multiple angles.
Mr Gideon hopes men here will consider incorporating the suit into daily wear, not just for work or black tie events. He said: "It wouldn't be a stretch to say that every week in Singapore, there's a suitable occasion to wear a suit.
"That said, the collection includes separates - whimsical prints on trousers, dinner jackets and even T-shirts - which pair with and dress down our suits. You could also wear a shorter trouser cuff to reveal some ankle and match it with casual footwear like sneakers for smart-casual events."
Deboneire was a dream three years in the making. The idea for it came he was studying at the Textile and Fashion Federation (Singapore) while waiting to do National Service.
"Lecturers and industry trainers would tell me I was doing good work and encourage me to take this passion further," he said.
National Service gave him the time to develop the idea of starting his own label, so when he was done with his stint in the army, he started travelling around Asia, sourcing for fabrics and manufacturers.
His financial backers have requested privacy, he said, but disclosed that Deboneire is run by a small team in a few points across Asia; marketing and publicity are done in Singapore.
One thing Mr Gideon aims to do is spruce up the perception of menswear as purely utilitarian and predictable, so that men can share the spotlight with their stylish better halves.
No more than 10 pieces of each design are produced. While the collection is purely ready-to-wear, it features details commonly found on bespoke suits, such as functioning sleeve buttons.
He said: "On most award shows and at major red-carpet events, the focus is on what or who women wear. It is an amazing parade of fashion, yet the men, however suave, are usually in black, ivory or dark blue - and side-lined."
Singapore actor Andrew Lua wore Deboneire at the New York premiere of Marco Polo last December, he said.
To obtain the quality of craftsmanship typical of more formal menswear, he spent two months in Cambodia looking for a manufacturer.
It was while he was there that The International New York Times Luxury Conference 2013 taking place in Singapore cited Cambodia as the place to which luxury brands should explore moving their production.
"That assured me, but just a month later, the Cambodian garment industry riots took place," he recalled. "Our factory wasn't affected, but it got too unstable and sometimes dangerous to stay, so we had to give up on our production plans there and shift our sights to China.
"It was a little sad, because we had developed a good relationship and were about to begin production, but giving up was never an option. It was do or die and that drove me on."
He then chanced upon a manufacturer for Oscar de la Renta and was impressed by the craftsmanship. Now, most of the pieces are produced in China, with fabrics from all around Asia. This includes the brand's "hero product" - a printed dinner jacket.
"It is made of a rich wool and silk blend, digitally printed with a wonderful blackberry plant motif and lavishly lined with pure silk. It has the biggest personality in this collection," he said.
And something tells us that fashion-savvy Singapore men now have the personality to rock such statement-making suits Mr Gideon stocks.
From S$129 for a shirt to S$1,500 for a suit at deboneire.net
This article was first published on Feb 6, 2015.
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