Fashion: Bailey's cream

His Jigsaw Menswear was a sensation. Now Chris Bailey has gone one better with his own VIP range. Report by Tamsin Blanchard. Photographs by Amelia Troubridge

hen Chris Bailey, owner of Jigsaw, created the company's first men's collection just four years ago, there was nothing else like it: you had a choice between the likes of Burton, Gap, M&S or Next, and designer labels such as Paul Smith, Katharine Hamnett or Gucci. Nothing in between. When Jigsaw Menswear arrived, however, it had coolly designed shop interiors and a collection by a thirty-something designer who understood what men like him wanted. "I wouldn't put anything in the shop I wouldn't wear myself," says Bailey in his gruff, gravelly voice.

Jigsaw Menswear's success proved just how many men-like-him there were. The stores, with their modish staff and deafening, hip soundtrack, resembled a very of-the-moment nightclub. Of course, the problem with trendy nightclubs is that once they get too popular, the core audience stops going. To many a designer, the fact that everyone was wearing their clothes would be cause for celebration. But when Bailey read a magazine feature in which several men commented that Jigsaw had lost some of its kudos now "everyone's wearing it", he agreed: he wouldn't want to wear something everyone else was wearing either. So he set to work again. What Bailey has come up with is the shop version of the VIP room in a nightclub. This autumn, he launches a new collection within Jigsaw - called Bailey. It was shown for the first time at Tokyo Fashion Week earlier this year to great acclaim and the collection is available from Jigsaw Menswear stores around now.

"Jigsaw is for a much broader base," he explains. "Bailey is for people like me." As Bailey designed the original Jigsaw menswear for people like him, we must assume he's moved on. "The intention is to offer a smaller and more select collection - more considered in colour and styling," explains the designer. There will be better-quality yarns and fabrics giving the clothes all-important feel appeal. It is not necessarily more expensive than the main line, but there will be limited production on many of the pieces of, say, just 50 of a certain jacket. It is a clever move. If anything is going to make a collection desirable and sellable, it's making it a limited edition.

I manage to catch him on the telephone at his office, despite the fact that his publicist informed me that he was in China. "I've missed my flight two days running," he laughs. When he finally manages to catch the flight, he will travel to Hong Kong to sort out some business involving knitwear and then on to Japan where three more shops are opening in the next couple of weeks, making a total of eight (the first Jigsaw menswear store in America opens in New York later this year). There are 13 Jigsaw Menswear stores in the UK. Bailey does not hang around.

"Men are far less gullible than women. You just can't convince a guy to buy an item of clothing if he thinks he doesn't look good in it," he says. Ten years ago, the majority of men considered clothes shopping a chore and a bore and, though some still do, Bailey believes that men are beginning to gain confidence about the whole business. They have even started to see shopping as a form of entertainment, as women, of course, have done for years. And if Bailey has his way - this autumn he is selling trousers that stop six inches short of the ankles - the fun is only just beginning

Above grey duffle coat, pounds 395, black wool suit, pounds 420, white shirt, pounds 65, all by Bailey, available from Jigsaw Menswear, 27 Brook Street, London W1, and branches nationwide, enquiries 0171-499 2521

Above right black three-quarter length sheepskin coat, pounds 475, by Bailey, as before, oatmeal wool zip-front cardigan, pounds 98, by Jigsaw Menswear, as before, beige broken-stripe shirt, pounds 65, by Bailey, as before

Above (left to right) black suit, pounds 420, white shirt, pounds 65; beige wool suit, pounds 420, beige broken-stripe shirt, pounds 65; charcoal suit, pounds 420, grey rollneck pounds 85; all by Bailey, as before Above left red sweater, pounds 85, by Bailey, as before

Stylist Catherine Hayward

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