Style Counsel

Material World

Questions for textile artist and menswear designer Michael Cepress.

By Laura Cassidy September 16, 2009 Published in the October 2009 issue of Seattle Met

Your Capitol Hill showroom—with its displays of your slightly eccentric, dandy-meets-modern menswear line—feels like an art gallery but functions as a full-service made-to-measure clothier. My studio practice is that of a visual artist more than someone conventionally trained in fashion design. After years in art school studying textiles, I came to realize that the lived experience of any person could be really beautifully and powerfully expressed in cloth. Clothing becomes a carrier of meaning, of history, of culture, and I really love that about it.

Classic styles need not look like costume or some awful bit of irony.

Is it possible to balance current trends with a studied, historical perspective? Do you even want to? Life is much different today than it was 50 or 100 years ago, so instead of insisting that styles from the past reappear exactly as they once were, I reconsider them for modern eyes, and for modern bodies. I’m concerned with an overarching sense of art and style that people can live with for years. Iconic design transcends generations. It always has a home.

For some that translates as minimal, clean lines, but you’re known for high-neck capes, ruffled flourishes, and short pants. What I show on the runway—ruffles, skirts, extravagant sculptural paper collars—provides a look into what my label offers in terms of the creative spirit and its endless potential in menswear. At my shop this spirit remains but is embodied in a range of entirely wearable options.

As with many designers, the clothes you wear are a walking advertisement. You make jewelry and neckwear particularly approachable. They’re my favorite accessories. It’s time for the ascot to move beyond the yacht club and become a mainstay for guys who don’t like the buttoned-up feel of a necktie. And for guys who do love ties, there are widths, designs, knots, and fabrics that can be played with endlessly. Classic styles need not look like costume or some awful bit of irony.

Trace the evolution of your style. When I was young I was especially fond of that place where clothing becomes theatrical and especially expressive and exciting. I rarely dressed like my peers, and never fully understood why so many people were so keen on following the dress codes presented to them.

You have a fine arts background in fibers; give us a sartorial intro to textiles. Care instructions are sewn into garments for a reason; follow them closely to keep favorites looking their best. Commercial dryers are incredibly hard on clothes; avoid them if you can. Button-down shirts are best served with a cold wash in the machine; hang to dry and touch them up with an iron before wearing. At the very least, always press your collar and cuffs.


Show Comments