Working Style looks to up its global profile, gets big name on board

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  • March 14, 2014
  • Ben Fahy
Working Style looks to up its global profile, gets big name on board

A couple of years ago, New Zealand men's fashion brand Working Style launched a DIY print campaign that focused on New Zealand men who were making their mark overseas. Now it's gone the other way, enlisting one of the world's best male models, Aiden Shaw, to star in its latest campaign.

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In January, Working Style brought Shaw, an English author, musician, model, former porn star and potential candidate for a real-life version of Dos Equis' Most Interesting Man in the World to New Zealand. And he proceeded to deliver a series of bearded 'Blue Steels' for the shoot. 

“We knew we had his attention and a shot at getting him here when his New York agent told us he had never been to New Zealand and that he was interested in coming,” says Working Style founder and managing director Chris Dobbs in a release. “Fortunately, a business class ticket from London and a week’s accommodation in Auckland sealed the deal. It helped that Aiden is also good friends with Paul Rutherford, who owns a vineyard on Waiheke Island.”

Rutherford used to be in the band Frankie goes to Hollywood and Dobbs says Shaw, who has featured in editorials in Vogue, GQ, CR Fashion Book and Harper’s Bazaar, was very keen to make the trip down-under for the opportunity to catch up.

“He was a pleasure to work with and a total pro, which is what you would expect with someone who has such extensive experience and has represented many of the world’s greatest brands," he says. 

While Working Style, which kicked off back in 1987 when Dobbs first harnessed the primal urge "to have a sartorial edge over your fellow man" and started selling made-to-measure shirts door-to-door, proudly focused on 'real' New Zealand men in its campaign from 2012, the decision to work with the 47-year-old silver fox who's popular with the international fashion cognoscenti is an attempt to grow its global profile. 

“There is increasing interest from people in the know who are attracted to our luxe New Zealand brand, its muses and its Australasian handwriting," says Dobbs. And, as a result, he says there is an increasing number of parcels being shipped to all sorts of locations around the world (Dobbs was unable to be contacted to discuss Working Style's financials, but in a Herald interview last year he said globalisation meant the Kiwi was "evolving into a far more sophisticated bird", with expats returning, new migrants arriving and home-grown success creating plenty of opportunity to sell classy and expensive mens' clothing).

And if America is any gauge, that's a global trend, with the Wall St Journal saying that "the man's shirt is having a moment". 

Stores are giving shirts more prominence. Barneys New York's Madison Avenue flagship store recently freed shirts from their plastic bags and boxes to display them colorfully on its shelves. British brands such as Thomas Pink and Charles Tyrwhitt have brought brighter colors, bolder patterns and slimmer fits to the U.S. Men are more free to go far beyond white and French blues into more daring territory like gingham checks and lilac hues.

Apparently, the average working man in the states has around 20 shirts in his closet. But "the top 50 customers at Ledbury, an online shirt retailer, each own, on average, at least 60 shirts." And according to market researcher NPD Group, while sales of men's suits fell, sales of men's dress shirts in the US rose nine percent to US$2.9 billion last year.

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