I am very wary of making predictions. Dining on my own words has always put me off soothsaying and I am unpleasant when humbled. However, there is one thing I am confident in claiming, something I am almost certain will be proved to be correct. And that is that COS, the stylish little-sister company to Swedish behemoth H&M, is the future of style for the man on the street.
I am famous for my unswerving loyalty to Zara, and for good reason; Zara is a breathtaking success in terms of fashion. When I first experienced the London store those 4 or 5 years ago, I was stunned. Now, unsurprisingly, I am used to it. Also, in that period, Zara has, unhappily, let me down on a number of occasions. In its bid to capitalise on the tastes of all men, the menswear department’s audacity has gone. It still offers excellent design, but with a rather depressing familiarity to the clothing. While the women’s department still offers some of the best and most innovative designs I have seen for the high street, the menswear designers seem keen to give us rehashed, and to be frank, rather ordinary versions of items that are available in countless other stores.
COS on the other hand is a revelation. And why, you may ask, am I not concerned that COS will turn the way of Zara? Why will it not bend to fashion and to the collective taste of the average man on the street?
To answer the latter question first, COS does not seek to clothe the average man on the street. COS seeks to appeal to the disenchanted man of style, the dandy without a tailor. The man who seeks style and form rather than cheap slogans and throwaway fashion is at home in COS. Suits are well made; the cut is simply superb, and by far and away, they are the best suits on the high street for form. Colours are seasonal, but subtle; do not expect the rainbow of colours on offer at H&M, COS is about sleek clothing. Black, white and grey prevail. There are country colours on offer too; khaki, browns, dark greens and blues, but there is a COS mission to provide excellent quality basics at affordable prices. In other words, don’t come here for pink braces.
To answer the former question, I refer to the comments of Michael Kristensen, head of COS menswear design and flag-carrier of this new movement in providing style and form rather than fads and frippery. When asked what character the current collection at COS evoked, Michael replied the collection calls to mind “…a modern man with a big city mindset. He understands and definitely appreciates good style and great quality.” He was also asked to name the strongest defining characteristics of the collection and, though this was specific to Autumn/Winter 2007, they could easily be applied to all collections available in store as I believe this quote defines COS as a store; “Upgraded qualities and clean, modern silhouettes.”
With a captain like that at the helm, there seems to be no worry that COS will start downgrading for popular appeal. H&M doesn’t need COS to be a flyaway success with bright young things throwing clothing away like empty packets of Marlboro Lights. It needs it for what it already is and what it currently stands for. My only wish is that they open more stores around Europe, and eventually, the world, so more men of my leaning can appreciate the spectacular sensation of COS for themselves.
If you are German, you are very fortunate; there are six stores. Apart from London, Brussels, Antwerp, The Hague and Copenhagen are the only other cities to have a COS store. Depending on how successful COS is in the next sixth months or so, I would imagine more stores would open, including perhaps one or two in Stockholm. I doubt it will hit the United States for another 12-18 months, which makes it a very long wait, but in my opinion, it is definitely worth it.