Luxury high street retailer Jigsaw introduce a new autumn/winter collection, with buying manager Tom Saunders talking us through the stories behind it

Canvas the fashion hall of fame about the difference between fashion and style, you’ll probably hear the same thing. Fashion is temporary, style is permanent. It’s a sentiment that’s driven designers and stylists to set trends and never follow them. It’s also a statement that Jigsaw have taken fully on board in every release since their start in 1972. But it’s in menswear where the retailer has had a truly original history. Their Christ Bailey-styled outfit was selected for the Male Dress of the Year award back in 1998. A bold look, the fit was comprised of a silver-grey suit and ankle-length puffer jacket. Jigsaw stayed on the cutting edge throughout the ‘90s, expanding to Tokyo, launching their menswear brand and commissioning minimalist architects to design their London high street stores. These days you can find Jigsaw in the Duke St. Emporium on Mayfair. The flagship store is Jigsaw’s hub, bringing the brand together with The Shop at Bluebird for the first time.

With designer details at a high-street price, Jigsaw are still selling stylish clothes in inspiring surroundings. This year’s autumn and winter menswear collection is as brave as ever, fully embracing the oncoming weather and elements. Drawing unique influence from retro Americana and the 1960s Winter Olympics, new releases like the Cashmere Woolen Beanie and Windowpane Check Scarf have got you covered, literally. For frostier conditions, there’s the Italian Cotton Blizzard Coat and sharp knitwear crewnecks inspired by sixties ski apparel. It’s hard strolling through autumn without denim on your back, so Jigsaw decided to experiment. The Vegetal Dye Chore Jacket is a trend-setting two-ply: a garment-dyed workwear jacket. Their Bloomsbury Italian Denim Suit Jacket is similarly casual, if not for more formal night out. Guiding us through the diverse collection is Jigsaw’s Tom Saunders. With almost a decade in menswear, the buying manager has an acclaimed reputation. He was listed as one of Drapers’ 30 under 30 in 2015, now bringing high calibre knowhow to the prestigious high-street retailer.

Introduce yourself, what is your background? How long have you been at Jigsaw? What does your role involve?

My name is Tom Saunders and I am the Buying Manager on Jigsaw Menswear. I’ve been in the industry for almost 10 years now, always in buying, but prior to Jigsaw I worked with branded casualwear and specialised in tailoring and formalwear. My role is to drive the menswear strategy and three year plan, which covers everything from sourcing, sales and trading to liaising with the Retail, VM, Ecommerce, Marketing and PR teams.

Tell us about the new AW17 collection. What was the inspiration behind the pieces?

This season our design team took inspiration for our pre-collection from American abstract expressionist painter Kenneth Noland – the palette is paired-back with pops of primary blue, red and green. Going into winter, the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics informs the narrative, so it’s all about layering. Blizzard coats, heavy-gauge knitwear, plaids and shearling all feature.

Tell us about the fabrics used in this collection.

Provenance is everything at Jigsaw – we don’t compromise. Our shirting is all woven in Italy, Japan or Portugal. Our selvedge denim is woven by Kuroki in Japan and our Bloomsbury suits are tailored in Europe, woven in Italy and constructed with a half-canvas. I could go on but you get the idea! Expect to see plenty of flannels, quilting and garment dye corduroy in the collection. We’ve also got some great cashmere knitwear this season; from a double faced cotton-cashmere jogger, to a wool/cashmere waffle, to a Mongolian pure cashmere crew neck. A personal favourite of mine is our Japanese cotton/wool grandad collar shirt.

Tell us a bit about the Jigsaw brand.

Jigsaw was founded in north London in 1972 and was one of the original premium high-street brands of the 90’s. Jigsaw Menswear was re-launched in 2012 and we currently operate out of 3 menswear standalone stores (Islington, Mayfair and Spitalfields), 15 mixed stores, as well as online. Jigsaw’s ethos is Style & Truth – the latest issue of our in-house publication has just been released.

What was your route into menswear?

I worked from the ground up, building my experience in various roles until I was identified as a strong candidate for John Lewis’ Management Development Programme. I started out in men’s brands, then on to formalwear as an Assistant Buyer. This role allowed me to develop extensive knowledge within tailoring and in 2013 I was promoted to Buyer on men’s formalwear. In 2015 I was one of Drapers’ 30 under 30 and I’ve been at Jigsaw for the past two years as Buying Manager on Menswear.

What would you have done as a career if you hadn’t chosen your current path?

When I was a boy I wanted to be a chef!

Who are your menswear heroes/heroines?

There’s a few obvious ones, but I’d have to say Bowie as The Thin White Duke. As a kid I remember my mum having an album by Robert Palmer – there’s a guy who knows his tailoring!

Are their specific touchstones in culture that inspire you? Whether music, design, photography or something else?

Music, definitely music. I also have a weakness for a nice piece of furniture and lighting – one day I’d love to own a Hans Wegner lounge chair.

Tell us about your daily routine.

Like most, my day starts with a coffee. I swear by my Alessi espresso maker – it’s such a simple thing but it works so well. When I get to work I’ll check the sales for the previous day – it’s always great to see what customers are picking up. We hold fit sessions once a week when a model comes to our offices – this ensures we deliver the right design, fit and quality to the Jigsaw customer. Throughout the day, every day, we are in touch with our suppliers; maintaining contact is key to the development process. Each season we’ll travel to London, Paris and Milan to source fabrics, and to visit our factories.

What was the last book you read? Film you watched? Album you listened to?

I’ve been reading ‘Born to Run’ Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography. Honestly I can’t remember the last really good film I watched, but music is a big part of my life and I suppose my taste is quite diverse. Radiohead are pretty much a staple, but I also love a bit of the blues; B.B. King, Fleetwood Mac (Peter Green era). Lately I’ve been listening to Badbadnotgood and I’ll always come back to Future Islands.

Where is your favourite place in the world?

I’ve just got back from my honeymoon – we visited a hotel called Miramonti which is near Merano in Northern Italy. It’s in the mountains so the scenery is incredible, and the hotel itself is like something out of a Bond film. Food was great too! Other than that I love South Africa – especially Franschhoek and Stellenbosch.

What are the three most timeless pieces of menswear?

You can’t beat a well-tailored suit, a decent pair of jeans and the faithful white t-shirt, but I think a classic watch and a good pair of shoes also go a long way!

What’s the riskiest thing you have ever done in your career? Did it pay off?

Probably passing on my degree placement at LCF in favour of getting straight into the industry. It’s personal preference, and I had no idea if it would pay off, but I think experience in this industry counts for so much.