Image: Shayne Gray
Christopher Bates
Image: Shayne Gray

Fresh off his Spring/Summer ready-to-wear 2016 collection, we check in with fashion designer Christopher Bates to discuss some big things coming down the pipeline.

Christopher Bates has had a busy week.

Last Friday, the CAFA-nominated menswear designer debuted his Spring/Summer 2016 collection at Toronto Men’s Fashion Week to a wave of applause.

The collection was fittingly titled Cote D’Azur and displayed casual-chic styling in summer-ready hues (a purple double breasted suit jacket-and-shorts combo was particularly dapper), suede leather bombers, crisp monochrome suiting, and several preppy accents begging to be on display in some luxe resort in the South of France.

Christopher Bates
Christopher Bates S/S 16 ready-to-wear (Image: Shayne Gray)

This is Bates’ second collection since opening a showroom and design studio in Milan—and his largest ever, clocking in at over 60 pieces—and Spring/Summer 2016 was produced in Italy, in conjunction with Italian manufacturers. The designer clearly understands the appeal of Milanese fashion and workmanship, having studied at the Istituto Marangoni in Milan.

Christopher Bates
Christopher Bates S/S 16 ready-to-wear (Image: Shayne Gray)

Hawk-eyed onlookers may have caught the curated styling—Italian leather belts and silk ties, Cutler and Gross eyewear, socks from McGregor and polished footwear from Browns. Pretty soon, however, Bates will be adding another title to his wheelhouse—footwear designer. This fall, Canada-wide Browns retailers will be stocking “Christopher Bates for Browns,” a range of dress shoes, tuxedo slippers and boots that are 100% made in Italy and will retail for around $400. Bates describes the collection as showcasing “contemporary classic style. Look for a modern toe-shape, exotic materials such as python-stamped leather and striated velvet, rich texture, and tastefully bold colour.” A peek at the first 6 styles to be rolled out confirms this: these are not for the wallflowers among you. They’re statement-making pieces, one and all.

Christopher Bates
Christopher Bates for Browns (Image: Marco Esposito)

In a press release, Bates shares the motivation behind this foray into footwear. “After finding it impossible to find contemporary classic dress shoes in Canada I decided to expand into footwear. It took me 2 years to develop my first collection.” He adds that Browns was always his first choice to partner with.

We inquired further about the inspiration behind the designs, and Bates hints that the footwear will be a chip off the block that is his celebrated fashion line. “I’m inspired by classic Italian dress and formal shoes. For me the toe shape is critical. We spent a long time getting it just right. I’m also inspired by colour and texture in the same vein as my clothing collection.” As for his target audience? “I’m targeting professionals who appreciate the finer things in life and dress for success. They are looking for something tasteful, stylish, different and high-quality.”

Christopher Bates
Christopher Bates for Browns (Image: Marco Esposito)

But that’s not all the Canadian designer has up his impeccably cuffed sleeves. Last Friday, Air Canada took to Twitter to announce that, come 2017, Bates would be designing uniforms for its 28,000 employees. Well played, Air Canada, well played. Bates certainly has his work cut out for him—pilots, flight attendants, concierges, airport agents will all get made over. “My initial thoughts were: Canadian, red, classic, modern, professional, and refined. I am working on incorporating all of these elements into the new designs,” Bates says of his early thoughts on possible designs.

Christopher Bates
Christopher Bates S/S 16 ready-to-wear (Image: Shayne Gray)

One of Bates’ accents is a red lipstick print on the collar of a white shirt. Might that saucy detail (or some other Batesian signature) find its way onto the uniforms? “I would love to include the lipstick-printed collar, but it’s not appropriate for a corporate uniform. (Editor’s note: Too bad). Although, several Air Canada staff members have already messaged me asking for it. There will be signature details consistent with my collection, but they will be more subtle. I can’t divulge design-specific information at this point.”

However, what he can share is the synergy between his own brand and the airline: “My style is contemporary classic which is perfectly suited to Air Canada’s brand and mandate for the new uniforms. My foundation is classic but the details will make the uniforms modern.”

Christopher Bates
Christopher Bates S/S 16 ready-to-wear (Image: Shayne Gray)

This isn’t the first time Air Canada has brought cool Canadian design on-board. Winter-pale passengers heading for warmer climes aboard Air Canada Rouge have surely noticed the air crew’s playful uniforms (complete with hats), but their funky red-trimmed shoes are courtesy of John Fluevog.

What’s certain is that this new collaboration is another step into the international spotlight for the 7-year-old label. We asked Bates how he felt about the new venture and he replied, very graciously, “I’m honoured. Air Canada is such an iconic brand. Designing their new uniforms is my most high-profile gig to date. I look at this as a chance to make history and to show the world that Canada has good taste and style.”

Truth.

Related Link: The future is bright for Toronto designers Sully Wong

Are you excited for Christopher Bates’ collaborations with Air Canada and Browns? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below, or tweet us @ViewtheVibe.