The Czech Republic may not be the first place that springs to mind when thinking about menswear, but that may just be about to change. The opening of several exciting new multibrand stores in Prague and the growing number of world-class home-grown designers – all championing style and craftsmanship in equal measure – means the local menswear scene has never been more intriguing.
Making room for men
Jan Lichý, one of the owners of menswear store The Room by Basmatee, is the first to admit that the city is still finding its feet as a fashion destination. ‘I wouldn’t say there’s a Prague style as such. Prague has never been renowned as a fashion hub. It hasn’t really developed its own fashion style in the manner of big cities such as Berlin, London or Tokyo.’ That said, the store, which carries a variety of designers including contemporary Danish menswear label Libertine-Libertine, German knitwear specialist Tom & Hawk and Swedish workwear brand Dunderdon, is helping to lead something of a Prague menswear revolution.
‘Our customers are open minded, well travelled and accustomed to a certain standard, and that is why they come to our shop: because they know they can get that here,’ says Lichý. ‘Even though they have their own unique style, our customers are happy with what we pick and offer to them.’ And while the city’s ‘look’ is beginning to develop, it’s clear that there’s room for growth. ‘The menswear scene is at an early stage of development, so you can hardly expect new stores popping up on every corner of the city,’ Lichý points out. ‘However there are a handful of brave pioneers who have dared to step into this unexplored market.’
Another of these pioneers is Stanislav Procházka, founder of Denim Heads, a contemporary heritage menswear store with a strong focus on denim, located in a concept store set up by Qubus Design Studio. The reason for opening the store was, as Stanislav puts it, ‘because it wasn’t much fun going to Berlin or somewhere else to buy a pair of simple but honest jeans’.
It was the evident lack of good menswear in Prague that created the gap in the market which Denim Heads has occupied, with happy results. ‘I think there are lots of shops with “high fashion” and tons of department stores carrying the same products and brands as everywhere else,’ Procházka points out. ‘There weren’t many stores with a certain level of style and quality, but now it seems to be better.’
It’s the focus on quality that appears to be the defining factor that makes Prague’s new menswear stores stand out from the rest. With places such as Denim Heads following in the footsteps of the Scandinavians and Germans, craftsmanship is becoming key in Czech menswear. Procházka agrees: ‘Both for our store and for our clients, we look for something which is a bit different from today’s normal fashion, but still in keeping with tradition and clothing from the past: good, durable fabrics and a certain level of craftsmanship.’
This demand for excellence is reflected in the list of international brands that Denim Heads stocks, which includes British heritage clothing label Barbour and Swedish Sami-inspired denim brand Denim Demon. ‘The customers coming to our store know that they do not want just fashionable items, they want garments that they can have for a long time, and for most of them anything they buy in our store gets better with age,’ says Procházka.
If the shoe fits
This new appreciation for high standards and sleek looks among Czech men isn’t just confined to clothes; Prague has a growing number of well-heeled footwear fans. Classic Shoes, one of the city’s newest stores, showcases the best of men’s footwear. It sells some of the finest leather shoes from across the world, made by everyone from historic English label Church’s and Budapest based Vass Shoes to traditional American bootmaker Alden, upholding its promise to ‘provide Czech men with the opportunity to buy quality, timeless and elegant shoes from world’s best brands’.
Sign of the times
In addition to the city’s retail revolution, over the past decade Prague has also seen a new wave of home-grown menswear designers whose work displays the highest levels of craftsmanship. One such is Jozef Sloboda; five years after opening a luxury menswear boutique in 1998, he launched his own label, creating hand-crafted, high-quality menswear collections of innovative workwear-inspired casuals such as shirts, knitwear and sweatshirts. Respectful of heritage but embracing the future, designers such as Sloboda are a sign that Prague’s menswear scene is rapidly becoming as fascinating as the city itself.