PARIS — Antik Batik has been creating boho chic ready-to-wear for women for the past three decades. Pieces such as airy linen shirts and ’70s-inspired embellished vests proved popular enough that men were snapping them up for their own closets.
“We had a lot of men who were buying the women’s pieces, so I decided to make a dedicated collection for men,” Cortese said. “It just felt like the right time.”
Enter Paris Opera Ballet principal dancer Germain Louvet. The two were introduced by a mutual friend, and he became a bit of a muse for the line. He also serves as the face of the first campaign.
“He spoke so much about movement, how he wants to move and feel completely comfortable,” she said. Louvet is steeped in culture, music, art and literature and those notes colored her ideas about what a collection should be. Louvet wanted to cultivate a sense of freedom for men’s clothing.
Thus Cortese worked with light, airy materials and reinterpreted the traditional trouser shape, which resulted in a patterned, legging-style pant coordinate in soft jersey that bridges the gap between traditional trousers and athleisure.
The men’s collection maintains many of Antik Batik’s core codes such as embroidery and handmade block prints in loose linens and organic cotton, translated into generous, boxier cuts for men. “We adjusted the shapes and proportions — sleeve lengths, shoulders — for the fit.”
Cortese used traditional Indian Khadi, the hand-spun woven cloth championed by Gandhi to promote native handicraft and self-sufficiency, for several pieces. She spent a month in India working with the stable of local artisans she has cultivated over the last 30 years. Block prints come from Jaipur, while specialty weaving is sourced from Kolkata.
She reinterpreted tuxedo shirting in longer, kurta tunic shapes, with contrasting stitching and traditional buttons made of metal and intricately webbed thread, for key elevated touches throughout the collection. Other shirts boast coconut shell buttons.
She also pulls global inspirations together with Hungarian-inspired embroidery on Cuban-collared shirts that have a relaxed, French Riviera feel, while cargo coordinates in quilted paisley work together as a modern suit.
Shapes are loose and breezy, in plaids and patchwork coordinates. Shirts are deceptively light. One key piece is a purple floral shirt with appliqués on organza. It reads bold print from afar; up close it is transparent and gauzy.
“The shapes are quite acceptable for men, but you have transparency and some fantasy with the Lurex threads and everything is very light, very colorful,” she said. “Every man that is dressed up in winter with very stiff clothing loves to wear these kinds of things in the summer.”
Accessories include a woven belts and a cylindrical bucket bag in brown or black leather, with cutout detailing.
Cortese started with the intention of doing a capsule, but as ideas sprouted it grew into a full line. “I started with a very small collection but then when I started, I wanted to do more and more,” she said. “It looks very [extensive], but there are core shapes in different colors and you can wear pieces day to night. It’s a really cool way of dressing.”
For Cortese, entering this new category comes at a time when there is an increasing focus on menswear. “What is happening now with men’s collections is very important,” she said. “The category is growing more and more every year, so this is the right time.”
Antik Batik continues to expand as a lifestyle brand in several categories, including homewares. The designer is also celebrating summer with a pop-up in Saint-Tropez, as part of her retail growth strategy in key vacation markets.
The men’s collection will launch in February 2024 at Le Bon Marché in Paris, rolling out to selected retailers in key locations including Italy, Germany and the U.S.
Cortese is clear the collection isn’t a one-off or a capsule. She intends to present two men’s collections a year to buyers going forward, in conjunction with the fashion calendar.