Meanswear designer Don Robbie says things a lot of people think about fashion, but few fashion, people will say.
"Fashion," he begins, "is something of the moment to try and get your money."
Encouraged by the smile of a listener he goes on, "It's a tease. It's a way of trying to get my hand (as a manufacturer), into your pocket (as a consumer)." There's more, "It's a cover-up for someone who didn't have any money yesterday to show that they have it today."
Don Robbie likes to outrage people, largely to call attention to himself. He starts by crediting himself as once the menswear designer for Pierre Cardin and then Yves Saint Laurent.
"Cardin said to me, 'I make the publicity, you make the clothes," Robbie recalls and just as straight he adds, "I did the Saint Laurent menswear and twice a year they took me to lunch to thank me."
(A spokesman at Cardin said Robbie did work for Cardin and left to work for YSL, but as for designing the clothes, "I'd say he interpreted Cardin's designs for the American market.")
Now Robbie is doing for the American look what he once did for the European look. "The European look was there," he admits, "I just made it wearable for the Americans."
When he first started his own line, his style was largely Latino. "I just picked up what was going on in New York in music, dance and food," says Robbie.
This season he's on to a strictly "WASP" look as he calls it, with sport coats, natural shoulders, no dart jackets, narrow lapels. "Everything as anti-European as it can get," says Robbie.
"The young guy who needs a job has to look like the guy who is going to hire him," says Robbie. "If you can't lick 'em, you got to join 'em.' Later he added, "If you want that guy's money, you have to pose."
The difference between WASP clothes now and 20 years ago, says Robbie, are the people wearing them. "I guess you'd call them the wrong people for WASP." They are the browns, the black, the Italians the young Jews. They are into them just as something different.
"Hippie clothes started going out when kids saw their grandmothers in jumpsuits," Robbie says. "But young kids never gave up the idea of wearing old things. Old clothes have more style and are better made than anything today."
To make the point, for his show last night at Landover Mall for Woodward & Lothrop, Robbie showed a tweed sport coat with a pair of jodphurs bought in a second-hand store, white sweat socks and Bass Weejuns. ("There can't be anything bad about a guy who wears sweat socks," he said, laughing. The jodphurs he expects to copy for his next collection.
The clothes he designs are strictly for the 22-to-oi age group which leaves him out. "I'm too fat and old for my clothes," he says. "My customers expect me to be 29 and black but I'm 52 and white and hate it."
His garb for his Woodies' visit is from the Harvard Co-op in Cambridge, Mass., the wing tips from Crimson's "where Harvard professors buy their clothes," he says, and the narrow bow tie from Brooks Brothers.
This is just the beginning of an "American look" which Robbie thinks is going to be around for a long time. "At the moment it is very conservative. But by next year the jackets will be well oversized, maybe even just sized small, medium and large, and the regimental stripes in all the bright colors. Only just to be different," he said.
"And who knows where we will go from there."