Bringing Sexy Back (Into Menswear): Phipps’ Spencer Phipps Is Our Final Designer To Meet
Instead of asking one person to curate their world for us, for Issue 51 of 10 Men, we presented our own list of designers who we think are making menswear sexy again. While some like the instant reveal and others prefer the more subversive kind of erotica, they’re all giving us hope for a hotter tomorrow. Our final designer to meet is American menswear maven Spencer Phipps, founder and creative director of Phipps.
Grab a fan, boys and girls, it’s about to get hot in here. No, we’re not (just) talking about global warming – it’s the Cali mountain hunk Spencer Phipps, single-handedly breathing fresh (and sexy) air into hiking gear. Born and raised in the Bay Area, he’s been an outdoorsy guy from an early age. His first attempt at fashion was at the age of 13, when he made a pair of pyjama trousers in a sturdy upholstery fabric. “I remember making a draw cord and pockets and realising how insanely complicated garments are… They fit terribly and were super thick and uncomfortable.” Well, he’s made it very far since, pouring his interest and love for the fantastical aspect of fashion into a design aesthetic that’s rooted in reality.
Fresh out of Parsons School of Design, where he was named Designer of the Year of the 2008 graduating class, Phipps got a job at Marc Jacobs before departing for Europe to work as the first American on Dries Van Noten’s design team. Acknowledging the expertise and craft he built while with these extreme dreamers, Phipps decided to go back to his roots when he launched his own brand in 2017. Following an outdoorsy vision that has heaps more sex appeal than the bouldering outfits you might pick up at Decathlon, he set up his business in Paris and started building a story. One rock at a time, the story of Phipps was built into a massive boulder (like one the designer himself likes to climb in his spare time), with a peak being a spot in the 2019 LVMH Prize finals.
Sustainability is part of his brand’s ethos, and all of the products are “made with integrity and created with consideration for the environment using sustainable manufacturing practices and ecofriendly materials”. But to call Phipps an activewear brand would be totally diminishing its extensive offering, which now includes reusable water bottles and trekking trousers, as well as fine shirting and formal tailoring. Think modern-day mountain rangers lost in the woods. If Pedro Almodóvar directed a 2021 remake of Brokeback Mountain starring Timothée Chalamet and Jacob Elordi, we’d expect Spencer to be the head of costume design. You’re welcome, Hollywood.
Phipps SS20, photographed by Jason Lloyd-Evans
Who are the menswear designers that inspire you?
“I think my favourite designers are people like Ralph Lauren – cinematic designers who are able to make even the most common items feel surreal, like part of a film. Designers like Marc Jacobs and Hedi Slimane as well, they have a unique and very personal point of view, with a heightened sense of drama but still very much based in reality. It’s such a pleasure to disappear into their respective universes.”
When in life did you feel your sexiest?
“I’m not sure I’ve gotten there yet, I’ll let you know. I guess I feel sexiest when I’m out in nature, in the sun…”
What do you wear when you want to feel sexy?
“Not much [Laughs.]. But seriously, lately I’ve been dressing more like a proper adult and it feels really good – tucking my shirt in, wearing a suit or blazer, nice shoes, clean clothes with no holes. It’s probably basic rules of etiquette for most people, but for me, it’s a big difference to not wear my usual grubby street clothes or sports gear. I finally feel like a grown-up man and it feels quite empowering, which I find sexy.”
How would you describe your SS20 collection?
“It was titled Like a Rock, which was an exploration of geology, specifically in the shaping of American culture, from gold miners and cowboys to climbers and new-age crystal healers.”
What’s your perfect date-night scenario?
“It would depend on who I was with, but I don’t really need anything special, just some time to hang out together. It doesn’t have to be some big ordeal, I’m pretty low key in that way. I’ve never really been on a ‘date’ in the traditional sense. That said, if you’ve got a boat or a nice car that we can take somewhere really beautiful, it might help.”
Top image by James Giles. Taken from Issue 51 of 10 Men – GENTLE, SENSUAL, FANTASY – available to view for free here.
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