For those who follow fashion, Christian Restoin isn’t exactly a household name. If it wasn’t for his longtime partner Carine Roitfeld, former editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris and Harper’s Bazaar, and his model daughter Julia Restoin-Roitfeld, he’d be nearly, well, un-Googleable.
It’s ironic, when you consider that his greatest contribution to the industry bears a very recognizable name: Equipment. The womenswear brand, first launched in Paris in 1976, has been a perennial favorite with some of the world’s coolest film, music, and fashion stars. Lauren Bacall was an early adopter, seamlessly incorporating the brand’s menswear-inspired designs into her famously no-frills wardrobe.
From Equipment’s inception, the silk button-down blouse was its signature piece, one meant to be both provocative and timeless. On one hand, it was a harbinger of the Annie Hall aesthetic that would begin transforming women’s wardrobes the following year. On the other, it was a throwback to Katharine Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, and other powerful style icons of Hollywood’s Golden Age.
But the brand’s early years were indeed part of a new era for women’s fashion. Whereas Ms. Hepburn had to discreetly purchase men’s shirts from a secret counter at Brooks Brothers, Equipment’s female customers bought their button-downs without impediment. It was perfect timing, considering the androgynous evolution of fashion, particularly in rock ‘n’ roll. David Bowie and Prince were wearing flowy blouses with the same universal sex appeal as Patti Smith or Debbie Harry.
A few successful decades later, in true rock-star fashion, Restoin turned off the lights at Equipment to pursue other projects. But in 2010, with encouragement from Serge Azria (the driving force behind two of our other favorite brands, Joie and Current/Elliott), Restoin relaunched his landmark label. Azria felt that no one had picked up Equipment’s slack with luxury women’s shirts, so he and Restoin did so with aplomb. They set to work on a heritage collection that maintained the trademark shirt’s androgyny while introducing boldly modern prints and colors. Azria also expanded the brand to include sweaters, slip dresses, and even silk trousers.
Today, walking into any of Equipment’s bicoastal boutiques feels almost like perusing the macaron case at some bakery in Restoin’s native France. Racks are neatly lined with a spectrum of silk blouses—some with collars and sleeves, others without; some bright as citrus fruits, others pale as crème fraîche. In any color, the garments stay true to Restoin’s standard of exquisite construction.
It’s that craftsmanship—along with, no doubt, the romance of a vintage brand reborn—that’s charmed the new age of fashion elite. Equipment’s lookbooks feature some of the European fashion world’s coolest figures: Garance Doré, Caroline de Maigret, and Daria Werbowy. The label is just as coveted in Hollywood, worn by A-listers such as Amy Adams and Kristen Wiig. The Kills frontwoman Alison Mosshart regularly wears Equipment silk shirts while performing, which is no surprise considering bandmate Jamie Hince is married to Kate Moss.
Moss has designed multiple capsule collections for Equipment, including a 2016 selection that drew upon everything from Bowie-esque astral prints to textiles screen printed with her own autograph. They’ve been collaborations as reflective of Equipment’s lineage as they are of Moss’ personal style: classic, cool, and just a little bit rock ‘n’ roll. A 2018 collection with CFDA–winner Tabitha Simmons, an English designer and editor, feels as influenced by Savile Row as it does by Kew Gardens.
It just goes to show that Equipment manages to take inspiration from all over the industry and produce garments that feel instantly familiar—even if you don’t recognize their founder’s name.