MANY in the fashion industry consider that Joseph Ettedgui, London's master retailer, runs the finest high-fashion stores in the world. From his Joseph emporia in Sloane Street and the Fulham Road, west London, he sells his Tricot own-label sweaters and Equipment silk shirts as well as a mix of the best European designer fashion and furniture. At a time when clothes designers are supposed to be out of fashion, his flourishing empire goes its own sweet way.

Now there is Joseph menswear. He has been selling his own men's knitwear and other designer labels for years, but this autumn marks the launch of a full Joseph Homme collection and the opening of a shop in South Molton Street, central London, devoted to menswear.

Joseph has called in Peter Sidell, a former buying director with the Jones store in Covent Garden, London. 'I've always admired Peter's attitude, his understanding of the menswear market,' he says. 'We make a good combination.' Mr Sidell understands the young, clubby London set, and Joseph has an eye for simplicity. Their aim was to produce a collection that would appeal to clubbers as well as young City bankers.

They have drawn inspiration from the country and workwear themes that are popular in menswear this year: square-cut shapes and sturdy fabrics such as drill, moleskin and corduroy. The difference is that they have moved them upmarket by using sumptuous fabrics; everything suggests softness and comfort. Mr Sidell refuses to hype the collection. 'It's about nice pieces, not high fashion. I wanted the clothes to be unfussy and comfortable - I'm fed up with designer clothes that are full of tricks and no substance.'

The collection is built around big jackets and stretch-jersey trousers. Stretch jersey is not a fabric one would normally associate with menswear, but that is Mr Sidell's point. 'We wanted to give men fabrics they don't usually have in their wardrobes, in shapes everyone can wear,' he says.

Joseph makes the point that his male customers are not so different from the women. 'They buy the same sort of labels, they share a language. If a man buys Dolce e Gabbana or Joseph Tricot, I find the same type of woman also buys those clothes.'

Leading a tour through the Joseph Homme collection in the menswear department of Joseph's big Sloane Street store, Mr Sidell apologises for name- dropping, but then Joseph does have some rather well-known customers: a pair of black stretch trousers (95 per cent cotton, 5 per cent Lycra), priced at pounds 95, were snapped up by Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney; 10 suede shirts have found their way into Elton John's wardrobe; 'and you see that jacket?' - he points to a grey stretch-corduroy coat-jacket with three double pockets, a drawstring waist, and a hook fastening at the neck - 'Bowie bought it, and the whole outfit with it.'

The garments are all big, particularly the high-buttoning waistcoats. 'We designed every piece to go over big sweaters,' Mr Sidell explains. 'The waistcoats are almost dustman's waistcoats. These sort of clothes don't really date. They may be particularly fashionable now, but you'll still wear them next year because they are genuinely functional.'

Joseph Homme is sold at Harvey Nichols and at the following Joseph stores, all in London: 26 Sloane Street, 77 Fulham Road, 16 South Molton Street.

(Photograph omitted)

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