Smooth Criminals: Vanishing Elephant Breaks Out

Photographer Ross Mantle
December 06, 2011

Sydney, Australia’s Vanishing Elephant steers clear of any modern focus for their fall collection, instead seeking influence from their homeland’s troubled past. Settled by England as a penal colony in the early 20th century, Australia has lately been equated with the blindingly bright colors and surf-inspired style of Bondi Beach. “We used books of sepia criminology photos from 1920s and ’30s Sydney,” says Huw Bennett, one third of Vanishing Elephant, about the line’s shining examples. “[We] thought about a guy down on his luck who might only have one suit, but he makes the most of the piece.”

Looking through old mugshots and crime scenes, Bennett and his partners Felix Chan and Arran Russell were impressed by how gussied up the guys looked. To recreate that speakeasy sharpness, Vanishing Elephant’s suits are three-piece, almost stiff, styled into completion with hats and heavy, square-edged cotton ties. “It’s an attitude,” Bennett says. “A lot of the success coming out of Australia is denim brands because people just want to wear a relaxed, comfortable look here. But we’ve noticed guys seem to have graduated into khakis, so maybe they’ll evolve into even neater looks.”

Despite the dour mood of their source material, there are some lingering aspects of Australia’s meteorological comfort that inevitably seep through. “It never gets too cold here and we can’t handle extreme weather,” Bennett tells me by cell phone while strolling on the beach in the middle of Sydney’s winter. “We love warm wool coats, but we don’t know how to make them properly. Some of our North American distributors have asked us to make our coats heavier, but it’s not something we understand. We can’t do it.” Poor guys.

Styling by Abdoul Diallo. Model Randy D'Amico. Photographed at McSorley's Old Ale House, NYC.

Smooth Criminals: Vanishing Elephant Breaks Out