The black pantsuit could be from 1966, when Yves Saint Laurent first created a woman’s tuxedo. He was talking about the suit – part of his Autumn Winter collection – when he uttered the famous line, “fashions fade, style is eternal”. He wasn’t wrong; a version of the tuxedo was included in each of his brand’s collections until 2002.
The black pantsuit I’m looking at is different. It is less structured; the jacket is double breasted and falls to mid-length. The pants have a wide leg, a single pleat and a flat front. They fall straight but loose, close to the leg without touching it. They are made from a Merino twill with a soft lustre that was grown in Australia and milled in Italy. The jacket is lined with a satin viscose so the wearer can very literally slip it on.
These details, these small luxuries, are important to Gabriella Pereira. She launched her label, Beare Park, at Australian Fashion Week in 2021, wanting to fill a gap in the market for locally produced, high-end clothing made from natural fibres.
The suit is the first look in her Pre-Fall 2022 collection. It is styled with an untucked, oversized white shirt that has a cuff so long it covers half of the model’s hand. This cuff is the first of several details that give the impression it could have been borrowed from a boyfriend; the others are a dropped shoulder and the length and volume of the body.
This luxe minimalism in masculine shapes so slouchy and undone they become feminine has been en vogue for decades. From Yves Saint Laurent to Jil Sander, from Helmut Lang to Phoebe Philo and The Row, deconstructed softly tailored suits, crisp shirts in baby blue and pant sets in glossy silk blends have been reinvented again and again. But despite the fact the shapes are not new, Pereira’s execution is hard to fault. She is working with some of the most skilful makers in the country and legacy textile mills in Italy and Japan.
Beare Park is a small, grassy reserve on the water in Elizabeth Bay, Sydney, just around the corner from the terraces and leafy streets of Potts Point. When Pereira was coming up with the concept for the brand, she was living a two-minute walk away and drew inspiration for the relaxed silhouettes and styling from the juxtaposition of this “tranquil harbourside park, with boats and dogs and people strolling around” and the vibrance of the restaurants and boutiques nearby. It’s a contrast she describes as intrinsically Australian, that’s reflected in “our tendency to pair everything with a beautiful, flat sandal”.
If her tailoring and shirts feel familiar, the femininity and playfulness of her dresses are more novel. A wool dress with spaghetti straps is artfully seamed through the waist to perfectly fit the stomach. The line along the decolletage is gently geometric, framing the shoulders and bust, in symmetry with the seam work. The silhouette closely follows the hip, stopping just above the ankle. It is finished with a split up the back that runs to the mid-thigh and an invisible zip.
A strapless mini-dress made from brown velvet is more likely to have been inspired by Hedi Slimane’s Celine than by Phoebe Philo, but it is sweeter than the designs of fashion’s enfant terrible. Pereira’s wish for her clothes to feel comfortable on the body is evident. The dress is boned through the bust and waist and lined with a stretchy fusing and soft viscose.
In opposition to the fitted structure of these first few dresses, the collection is balanced with several gowns that envelop the frame in reams of French silk. They drop to the floor – for Pereira, the added length was important to make them feel significant, expensive and generous. One style has a single spaghetti strap on the right shoulder that becomes what the rest of the dress is fixed to – a cord that wraps around the chest. The silk falls from it, gathered and ruched. The result is an expanse of soft brown satin that hides the body, revealing only the shoulders, chest and back.
Another is a wrap dress with a long, grown-on sleeve. It has a tie at the waist that allows for a tighter or looser fit, for it to be sexy or robe-like, or both. It comes in black and deep teal; the extra silk shimmers and billows around the body.
The offering, which is just 30 pieces, is rounded out by two twinsets. The first is made of black silk, a pantsuit version of the silk wrap dress. The top has a long sleeve and is fastened around the body with a tie, the pants have a wide leg and elastic waist.
The second is a sumptuous wool-silk blend in golden-brown charcoal with a woven stripe running vertically through it. The pants have an elasticated waist and two pockets; they are so relaxed, the use of fabric through the leg so liberal, you would be forgiven for mistaking them for pyjamas. The shirt is similarly oversized with the masculine details that punctuate the rest of Pereira’s shirting: the elongated cuff, the wide shoulders, the length.
This play between genders is often described as the future of fashion. Pereira proudly says, “it’s really important to the brand” that the clothes are often bought by “people who don’t identify as women”. This stretches to age and body types, an inherent flexibility embodied in the deconstructed silhouettes.
The hero of the collection is a long shearling coat. It is the most exciting piece, evidence of where Pereira – who is only 27 – may be able to take the brand.
Sourced from sheep farmers in the central west of New South Wales and produced in the Sydney suburb of Drummoyne, the coat is made of pelts that are a byproduct of the meat industry and fully traceable. It is white and fluffy, cloud-like, with carefully considered details. One horizontal seam at the knee extends the hem to the bottom of the calf. The shoulders are slightly dropped, the sleeves are straight. It has two hidden hip pockets and a matching belt.
It is an impactful piece. Its presence among the impeccably executed shirts, gowns and suits suggests Pereira is not afraid to take risks, to play with the absurd and go further in her designs, to produce more than fresh takes on classic styles. Living by the adage of Yves Saint Laurent, however, perhaps there is a bright future in doing both.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on March 26, 2022 as "Style laid Beare".
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