When people are referred to as ‘overqualified’, that description can often be inflected with derision. It implies a certain overabundance of knowledge, perhaps irrelevant to the discharge of the task at hand. And yet, there is perhaps no apter way to describe Agyesh Madan – founder and designer of tailored menswear brand Stoffa. The recipient of a prestigious education at both Stanford & The Parsons School of Design, Madan went onto become most prominent in #menswear circles during his tenure at ISAIA. Heading up product development within the Neapolitan heavyweight’s sportswear arm, Madan is celebreated for his extremely easygoing and comfortable personal style. He is, in the words of the kids, a bit of a big deal. But all that is faint praise given Madan’s latest venture, which combines manufacturing centric design processes with an eminently wearable aesthetic.
Stoffa appears to me, at its core, to be about the immanence of good design within high quality manufacturing. Working observe to most fashion brands, Madan starts by honing in on how a garment is going to be made and how its raw components are to be individually treated. More predictable industry people would perhaps start from a conceptual point of view – with a theme or a visual inspiration. Madan’s time at ISAIA provided him with access to some of the most innovative textile processes in the world, in addition to a supply chain that looks almost unrecognizable to brands that rely on outsourcing assembly and cheap labour. As a result, what Stoffa customers are presented with is the purest distillation of menswear obsessives – something so well made that its physical quality manages to enhance all the other more obvious aspects of its use. This is doubly reassuring when you hold it against the few interviews Madan has given. A far cry from the self-important perpetually tormented ‘designers’ of pop culture, he is a refreshing non-conformist whose life philosophy more roundly permeates his design practice. ‘I never thought of it in such finite terms. Style is just better left undefined’ said Madan in an interview conducted with Finnish blogger Atte Rytkönen.
In an online market lousy with enthusiast turned retailers, Stoffa is a welcome respite that stands as the clear product of Madan’s many years as both an academic and collaborative designer. Interesting (and tasteful) cultural references reign, perhaps unsurprisingly, given Madan’s knowledge of Indian, Italian, and American manufacturing. Highlights include Chiyogami print neckties using silk/wool blends that are made with a digital printing process, and MTO trousers cut with an extended waist closure and traditional double-reverse pleats. The feeling of most Stoffa products I have seen is at once cosmopolitan and yet universal. Things such as the brand’s hats are comfortably familiar but remain just exotic enough in aesthetic to be coveted.
A year after its establishment, Stoffa continues to reflect (to me at least) the austerity of good design. The brand’s products are stylistically muted, but wearable in a variety of contexts with a wide array of applications. While Aussies are not yet able to take advantage of the brand’s MTO programme – I direct you to the outerwear photos so luxurious they are almost tactile – Madan holds frequent collaborative fittings with CHCM in New York City & Marcus Malmborg of Stockholm. There is perhaps the tentative possibility then, that an Australian visit may be on the cards in the near future.
Shop Stoffa products here
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