When the Autumn/Winter 2011 menswear lookbook for fashion label Aqua landed on The Style Examiner’s desk, we found the designs appealing and were curious to find out more about the collection. The label describes itself by resorting to unabashed PR prose, as being ‘synonymous with fashion forward thinking and boundary pushing collections 10 times a year meeting the insatiable demand of the image conscious youth of today for style leading design and point of difference on the high street.’ However, after our initial optimism we examined the garments further and realised that Aqua may have what it takes when it comes to design but fails miserably when it comes to selecting fabrics and patterns.
Aqua launched their first store in Leeds, UK, combining menswear and womenswear with the design studio above the retail space. Two years after opening a womenswear store in 2009 in a side street just off London’s Carnaby Street, Aqua launched their first standalone menswear flagship in nearby Beak Street in June 2011. The opening of the menswear store was part of a concerted strategic marketing approach, with the simultaneous launch of a menswear e-commerce platform featuring fashion films and styling by high-profile stylists and photographers.
The first menswear range was entitled ‘Volume 1 – Introducing the Future’, and it offered jersey basics, casual tailoring, denims, and sportswear at reasonably economical retail prices. However, when we visited the menswear store to inspect the clothes, we found that the patterns chosen did not fit most men, with a size Small t-shirt so oversized that it nearly reached the knees and shirts so tight that even a much bigger size did not fit properly. In addition, the stitching was far from perfect, with threads being visible where they were not supposed to be. Not to mention that the affinity for man-made fabrics made the garments extremely uncomfortable to those of us who tried shirts, jumpers and jackets with high percentages of polyester and lycra.
Our verdict: even though Aqua does have promising designers and marketers behind their creations, there is a serious lack of investment in paying attention to detail and in sourcing natural fibres such as cotton and wool. Despite our negative approach, we are keeping our minds open and look forward to examining how the label develops over the next collections.