downshift – present participle: downshifting
1. slow down; slacken off
2. a social behavior or trend in which individuals live simpler lives to escape from the rat race of obsessive materialism and to reduce the “stress, overtime, and psychological expense that may accompany it”

Recently I’ve been working on this concept that’s somewhat related, essentially paring back everything that we cling onto and all these notions we have built in our head through society & our peers. While it’s still very much a work-in-progress, it does touch on the idea of taking a break from the digital scheme of things, spending less than 18 hours of our days looking at pixels. I work quite regularly in social media so this is a little conflicting, and much of my research is done online because of course the internet is such a brilliant resource, but there’s other ways to step away from digital such as headphone free walks (and not speakerphone blaring either) or reading something not on a screen. There’s a few ways to describe such behaviour, which I believe falls into several vague categories such as slow-living; digital detoxing and well, downshifting.

Velvet by Graham & Spencer launched their menswear collection back in 2007. The very, very relaxed brand was founded by Jenny Graham and Toni Spencer, a duo with a clear eye for a clean Californian lifestyle. The brand started out primarily producing staple womenswear in various fine fabrics for the purpose of as they say, understated luxury. With three principle values in mind: quality, construction and comfort, the brand has certainly churned out clothing which fits all of the above in mind, and while they are by no-means unique values for any brand, they are certainly paramount to one which creates clothing for living as opposed to simply “looking”.


So going back to this notion of ‘downshifting’, Velvet & Spencer pretty much nails the brief on the head. If such an idea could be epitomised through clothing, I’d imagine Velvet & Spencer and its ilk of ‘luxury basic’ brands would be at the forefront of representation. The clothing is supple and slouchy, both comfortable and comforting, and deceptively basic. A tee may just be a tee, but when you call it a “Howard Whisper” tee it seems to take on some ethereal form that makes you wonder why the hell you’ve been wearing 4 for £10 t-shirts your whole life. The few knitwear pieces in the collection are particularly soft, and while I’m still not 100% sold by the idea of wearing joggers out the house, I can at the very least accept waltzing around in them first thing in the morning while the coffee brews, or even to the corner shop for an emergency milk run. Daring.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been listening to Goldfrapp on repeat, or the rest of my playlist consists of Chopin and The Cranberries, but I’m certainly buying into the idea of switching off. Stress is a bitch. I think it’s safe to say that many people are impulsively buying with style over substance in mind, but there is no indication at all that the two attributes can’t live in harmony. Deconstructed fits are when the clothes tend to be a little more slouchy as they don’t have “solid frames”, such as the peaks on suit jacket shoulders, or the darting around the waist, which provides that V-shape often found in Italian tailoring. Depending your build, deconstructed fits give off a very relaxed unforced vibe that people often strive for, and can be just as smart (and sometimes more suitable than) as your three-button tonic suit.

If I’ve tempted you with the notion of doing nothing, start with walking to the office without headphones, or if you’re daring enough, turn your bloody phone off when you’re having a sit down meal. I’d also like to mention, though it’s primarily targeted at womenswear, the Velvet blog has some brilliant imagery as far as brand blogs go, so check it out.



All clothing by Velvet

shot by Dom Fleming

[originally posted 17th September 2015]