Howe to Find Trousers That Fit

Designer Jade Howe gives us clothes strong enough for a woman, made for a man

Photo by Matt OttoJade Howe is riding the hottest trend in men's sportswear—the slim-fit silhouette—which he flatly says will last 10 years. "We're about three years into it," the designer for self-named Howe Denim says, which gives him, his two Chihuahuas and his new Main Street Santa Ana loft boutique, Howe Homme, about seven years before they're as obsolete as the Fresh Prince look.

It's a weird mash-up: on the one hand, Howe's luxurious fabrics, tailored jackets and fitted low-rise jeans give men good reason to be into clothes again. They look nice, and they fit you. On the other hand, in conversation, Howe veers from design-speak to fashion talk to barefaced marketing—he isn't just selling himself; he's telling you while he's doing it. Most designers just give you the spiel.

But in Howe's case, it's pretty easy to swallow. He blames himself for the '90s proliferation of baggy sport-inspired streetwear, and self-effacement is always attractive. Being a Southern California native who worked for Quiksilver and Fox Racing in the shapeless '90s gives his rap street cred.

"It was the darkest period for America, and I was right there designing it," he says dramatically. Then—finally—inspired by Hedi Slimane and John Galliano and partially funded by Tony Hawk, he started his own line.

It's a full collection, now in its third year, and it manifests Slimane's painstaking approach to fit and Galliano's meticulous detailing in each piece. Howe's creations are beautifully constructed, from Japanese denims, 10-year-old wash T-shirt fabrics and Italian broadcloths—yet they have a rough and ready, offhandedly sexy vibe, the way a Dior suit might look after 12 hours of prodigious partying. He calls the effect "deconstructive," and tells me it's "the best thing to happen to the design community."

Virtually everything at Howe Homme—except the space, a lush boutique reminiscent of an English nobleman's parlor, with overstuffed leather chairs and dark wood—is slightly distressed. Fabrics are washed or faded; even suit jackets have secretive hard-to-see graphics. Only the fit is tailored, for this is key.

"The worst style crime is trousers that are cut to fit the 'asses of the masses,'" he says firmly, lank blond hair askew, pounding the side of one hand into his palm for emphasis. And so come fitted-to-the-max jeans and trousers, jackets with details more akin to the Arcade Fire than Brooks Brothers, and pre-stressed T-shirts with designs ranging from faux rock-band logos to titty imagery. My favorite was a cotton-cashmere blend hoodie that was, thankfully, shaped more like a man's torso than a packing crate, with tiny skull detailing and a motif reminiscent of classic-rock-album art.

It's all very detailed, very metrosexual, except that word is . . . out of fashion. Howe calls his clients "indie executives," which he defines as artistic, traveled and in charge. Mainly, though—thank God—he talks about the silhouette. It's all about the silhouette.

HOWE DENIM MAY BE HAD BY APPOINTMENT ON FRIDAYS OR THE FIRST SATURDAY OF THE MONTH AT HOWE HOMME, 212 N. BUSH ST., SANTA ANA, (714) 953-1120.

 
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