With the pantsuit currently making a major comeback — as seen on the runway at New York Fashion Week, on the streets at Milan Fashion Week and as one of the biggest bridal trends of 2017 — it seems like perfect timing for the Art of the Gentlewoman to make its debut. The new label launched on Wednesday and co-founders Melissa Martinez-Booth, who studied at FIT and has spent the past few decades designing and trend forecasting, and Melissa Kanarek, who trained in London for couture upholstering, are creating a core collection of pieces that make up the modern-day pantsuit.
"It feels like the category needs to evolve," says Martinez-Booth. "It's time to really look at the suit and create a new standard. So that's what we're hoping to accomplish and working towards."
Both based in Laguna Beach, Martinez-Booth and Kanarek have applied a laid-back West Coast sensibility towards their idea of today's pantsuit. The blazer and trousers have a slightly slouchy fit; both pieces are made from a linen-and-viscose blend that drapes well, is soft, breathable and also wrinkle-resistant. As far as the design process goes, the co-founders spent the past year analyzing the details and offerings of their favorite designer-name pieces, like a Norma Kamali knitted blazer and a pair of Givenchy tuxedo pants — and then figuring out how to make them better.
Art of the Gentlewoman's blazer, for example, has a boxy fit, but it's flattering, too, because of its brought-in seamlines. Martinez-Booth and Kanarek found standard straight pockets uncomfortable, so pockets are placed at an angle, while the jacket's inside pocket has also been redesigned to actually fit a cell phone. The sleeves' insides have ribbed cuffs, so you can push them up — and keep them there — with ease. "We want a woman to put on her suit and have these details kind of quietly reveal themselves," says Martinez-Booth. "We want them to go, 'What? That does that?'" As for the trousers, they added traditional adjustable tabs on the inside of the waist for a more streamlined design.
Since the brand is direct-to-consumer, Art of the Gentlewoman boasts accessible price points for its quality and attention to detail. The blazer, the brand's most expensive piece thus far, rings in at $280 while the pants go for $168. The rest of the collection includes a classic graphic T-shirt ($68), an undone tie with brass and chain details ($98) and the "Trousseau" ($125), a Helmut Lang-inspired bandeau top with adjustable ties for multiple styles, as well as guide to help you recreate them.
Lastly, there's the suiting shell ($148), or a sleeveless collared top made from silk. It's the designers' hybrid take on a dickey and a Japanese-style apron, as well as a solution to ill-fitting shirts worn under a suit jacket. "One of the biggest issues that women spoke to us about is [the shirt] would pull right at the bust and you get this weird, awful gap," says Kanarek. "We tested our top on our model who's a double-D and it adjusts to and moves with your body." The two came up with a design that would always lay perfectly flat on a woman's frontside thanks to its crossover detail in the back.
These days, it's a given for brands both old and new to give back, and Art of the Gentlewoman has developed a relationship with Dress for Success Worldwide West in Los Angeles. Together, the label's co-founders will participate in lecture series, give donations and plan to ultimately hire from within the charitable organization as the brand grows.
In the fall, Martinez-Booth and Kanarek plan to release a convertible turtleneck, a square scarf and a duster-length jacket; for the holidays, a lounge wrap jacket is in the works. Since Art of the Gentlewoman isn't bound to the traditional fashion calendar or trends, its collection will likely remain small, but each item aims to be highly versatile. "We like the idea that we're curating it for the woman by offering her something that all works together," says Martinez-Booth. "Every season we'll have pieces that update the look, but it's all an evolution. What we see that's missing, we're going to make it."
See Art of the Gentlewoman's newly-launched collection in the gallery below.