Thank you for joining SEQUENCE's newsletter. We started this newsletter for two main purposes.
The first is purely practical: to keep folks updated about releases. Until now, the only way to stay up-to-date was through our Instagram account. We wanted to offer an alternative for those who are trying to be mindful of their time on social media. On that note- our second collection releases next week. Watch this space for the exact date, we’ll always announce on this newsletter first.
The second was to create a space for us to talk directly about the work. Instagram is less-than-ideal for short-form writing. And we want to reserve our website, social media accounts, and editorials for world-building. Abruptly addressing the audience in the first person on those channels felt a bit too cheeky, but a newsletter felt like an appropriate way for us to do just that.
Before we release our second collection, we wanted to take a look back at Prelude, our inaugural collection. We started working on this collection in 2017, and released it in October of 2019.
At the time, the two of us were particularly focused on two aspects of men’s clothing: traditional tailoring and military uniforms. And so SEQUENCE’s first collection started as an interrogation of utilitarian clothing. What does it mean today to recreate uniforms of war? How does wearing these garments affect us? And finally: can we reimagine utilitarian garments to acknowledge our humanity while still preserving their function?
At this point, the aesthetics and functionality of military clothing and uniforms is deeply entwined in men’s clothing. So much so that it’s become completely abstract. If you see someone walking down the street wearing an MA-1 Bomber Jacket, you don’t consciously think about its relationship to armed conflict.
Mainstreaming aside, military motifs and inspiration still have a certain degree of prestige in fashion enthusiast circles. To the fashion enthusiast, what’s the allure?
To some, it might be a sort of low-grade fantasy fulfillment. Just putting on an M-65 field jacket imbues its wearer with the feeling of militant readiness. We like to think of ourselves as a sort of hero in battle, even if our daily life is quite mundane. And once you know the historical significance of a garment, you can almost imagine yourself there, alongside the soldiers.
To others, it’s about the functionality. Field clothing has evolved and adapted since antiquity to meet the challenges of soldiers across innumerable environments and circumstances. At this point, the details in many garments are ridiculously refined. A cargo pant designed for the battlefield is equally capable in civilian life– why reinvent the wheel?
We wanted to think about how to play off of both of these aspects, but in a way that would be relevant to the world we live in today.
Reading and watching the news in 2017 - 2019, two troubling themes for us were:
Rising nationalism around the world and political unrest. From Beirut to Hong Kong, protests erupted in response to mass surveillance, police brutality, and draconian laws.
Technology-induced anxiety. The pervasive, digital news cycle bombarded us with information. Algorithms tuned to maximize user activity inadvertently exacerbates the mental consternation.
Combined together, we saw online radicalization, the rise of conspiracy theories and disinformation campaigns. Many became numb to the news and retreated into their bubbles for comfort. In both cases, the threat was at least as much psychological as it was physical. We realized that clothing, in particular military inspired garments, had also been used as a defense mechanism to escape from the world.
However, no matter how many layers of protective clothing we wear, our minds remain vulnerable and broken. We wanted to make clothes that made us feel safe but at the same time acknowledge our psychological vulnerability. We felt that this was a missing aspect in fashion’s ongoing dialog with military clothing.
Rather than focusing on the traditions and aesthetics of military wear, we wanted to consider a different approach– subverting the aesthetics, but retaining the functionality. We decided to focus on this tension between the rigidity of exterior armor and the interior, psychological and emotional space it guards. This became a sort-of thesis for the collection, against which we developed a series of design principles.
Anatomical Construction: Highlighting the wearer’s body with organic lines inspired by the anatomy, but merged with tailoring construction to increase wearability.
We wanted to surface the interior and fragile but have anatomical lines juxtaposed traditional tailoring elements. For example, a traditional pleat in a pair of trousers would transition into a line following the sartorius muscle, forming a shield-like shape in our layered pants.
Structured Drape: Durable fabric which structured nature hides the body at first glance with geometric shapes but softens and moves with the wearer in motion.
Silhouette is important to us. We wanted to strike a balance between novel, architectural shapes and the elegance of traditional tailoring. The first step in realizing this vision was to find fabrics that were hard-wearing and capable of structure, but at the same time allowed for drape.
We came across Cordura® Combat Wool™ during a sourcing trip in Japan. Combat Wool™ is roughly ten times as abrasion resistant compared to natural wool, as it’s blended with ballistic nylon. Even so, it retains the hand of wool twill. We thought this transformation was a great metaphor– ballistic nylon (originally developed for use in WWII) woven together with natural wool becomes soft in hand.
We worked to create shapes that were geometric when still, but flow with the wearer’s movement. Most emblematic is the deep-pleated yoke at the back of our overshirt, shown here.
Hidden Functionality: Hidden pockets with strategic placement preserves a clean facade.
We wanted to avoid loud external pockets that evoked uniforms of war: pockets shaped to hold magazine cartridges, gasmasks, and weaponry.
Instead, we spent a lot of time testing where placements would be the most natural for storage but would utilize the void spaces created by how clothing hangs off the structures of the human body. The result are voluminous pockets that don’t restrict movement or bulge out when filled. These pockets were then hidden along seam lines or flaps to make their existence intimate to the wearer alone, further conveying the sense of safety.
Just like our collection name Prelude suggests, we are just beginning to develop SEQUENCE’s world, design language, and stories. Last week, we released a preview of our Second Collection on our site. After reading this, we hope you see how it builds the ideas we laid out in our first.
Thanks for reading. In our next newsletter, we’ll give some background into how we imagined, developed, and shot our editorial.
To be continued...
–Brian and Kevin