In the cinematic universe of Ernest W. Baker, character progression shapes this current collection. For Spring Summer 2023, designers Reid Baker and Inês Amorim reverted to a backstory, or rather the periods in life where childhood attitudes towards shelter, comfort, and unfettered joy manifest themselves in clothing. Through the lens of a child, the latest chapter in the Ernest W. Baker story is defined by strong primary colours, original patterns, and proper dress.
Unlike costume design, the socks and sandals that accompany tuxedo blazers and tailored shorts, the rain-inspired pinstripe and custom check on blazers sans lapels, are given real world gravitas with the spirit and skill of sharp tailoring and handcraft. Adult flourishes like leather pants and accessories present a contrast that rings true to the Ernest W. Baker identity: a sophisticated edge in juxtaposition with limitless childlike imagination.
“We’ve started to reference ourselves and this season, we continue to push these codes of the brand and everything we want to express. Each season is a slight adaptation,” Baker said in a video call from the brand’s Porto studio.
Would you describe yourself as an explorer?
We consider ourselves as observers. It’s the foundation of who we are. We reach the aesthetic and the ideas of the brand through observation. From this, we have curiosity that then trickles down into exploration. We get to explore through curiosity and observation. By nature, I’m an American living in Porto [and Inês is from Viano do Castelo, Portugal] so we’ve been in a lot of different cities and have had a lot of different experiences. It comes from this eagerness to learn and see new things.
How does Porto compare to living in a typical fashion hub?
There are pros and cons. I would love to be based in Paris, London, or Milan; but being based in Portugal is so facilitative to the creative process. We’re able to move very quickly on developing skill levels that wouldn’t be the same if we were based in London or Paris – from sending samples, getting them back, writing notes, and doing technicals. If there’s a problem with manufacturing, it can be resolved quickly because we’re working with the factory. It’s hands-on and because we see them so frequently, they’re almost like an extension of the brand. There are many fruits and this is like working in the garden; it’s farm-to-table and this is the farm, we’re here and developing it.
Tell us about a concept or idea you have explored this season?
There are some parallels to Spring Summer 2021, which was put together when the pandemic began. Our photographer and director, Vladimir, is Ukrainian and we began to develop this collection when the war started. We’re very personal in our approach and we wanted to let it flow through our work – not so directly but through certain feelings that we wanted to express this season. We naturally gravitated toward those references of childhood naïveté – an innocence, but also this sense of shelter. It’s about playing with these elements in a way that is comforting. It’s chic, but it’s soft, innocent, and relatable. We’ve all been there and we’ve seen it before. And so those feelings felt comforting.
Some designers talk of exploring the world around them — places, culture, issues; while others explore internally — feelings and responses. Tell us what comes more naturally to you?
It’s a bit of both. We would be naive to believe that what Inês and I are experiencing internally will resonate with such a large population of people. We look at cinema, the world around us, and some things that will relate to a bigger audience. We take those feelings and combine them with a personal, familiar feeling of our own. As a brand, we had been referencing cinema since the beginning, and I think that it’s helped how we even develop the collections. Ernest is the fundamental foundation character of the brand. We look at that character and see how our feelings are going to change.
In what ways are you exploring new materials, methods, technology each season — or with this collection, specifically.
We never start from zero and we try to continue from previous seasons and push everything forward. We’re working more with handmade knitwear and that sense of craft is giving things a homemade feel. Rain is a motif that we like to play with: the emotion of rain. We wanted to develop some fabrics that were referential to this rain and the emotion of rain, but still relative to the brand identity. Since the first collection, pinstripe suits have been the foundation of the brand, so we developed a new rain pinstripe.
Why does exploration feel like such a fundamental part of fashion?
It opens up doors to different people, to different cultures. Exploration allows people the sense of fantasy, the sense of curiosity. I think, at the end of the day, this is why we’re working in fashion. To allow people to dream is to allow people to resonate with something. Exploration or observation is the direct line to a portal to your past, or something that you want to do in your future.
What is something or someplace you would like to explore in your lifetime?
It’s quite simple, but I’d like to go to New York City. I’ve never been there and I have a lot of friends there!