Port Magazine 12: Saint Laurent’s Inspired Tailoring
Tailoring, you could argue, is the backbone of menswear. A navy blue pinstriped suit is, in many ways, the male equivalent of the little black dress in women’s fashion: so simple and effective in its aesthetic, but very difficult to get exactly right. Get it wrong, and you risk an air of ‘repressed banker’; get it right and it is a template for pure menswear.
The suit’s absolute beauty lies, naturally, in the design, but also, perhaps even more importantly, in the construction of the suit jacket. As such, tailoring transcends trends; it is style, not fashion. And, as menswear tends towards restricted shapes, the suit’s reliable rigidness has made it the blueprint for daily quasi-uniforms. Due to this elevated status, classic tailoring has been toyed with for decades, as designers try to upgrade it by changing a few key details every other season. Others, like Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent, understand that a suit’s success is determined by technical know-how, alongside a construction process defined by authentic craftsmanship. In honour of that rare skill set, Slimane last year relaunched the French brand’s specialist Tailleur atelier.
Setting up the atelier was part of Slimane’s general image shake-up at Saint Laurent. A shortened name led to a new logo and typeface, while all the stores were given new identities. But those were cosmetic changes. Slimane also fundamentally altered the direction of the brand’s catwalk collections. Though distinctly Slimane in its design DNA, his grunge, rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic can be traced back to Yves Saint Laurent himself, as the clothes combine a rebellious attitude with supreme craftsmanship – just as YSL designed in the 70s. The suits, specifically the famous Saint Laurent ‘Le Smoking’, are part of Yves’ sartorial heritage. In the 70s, he created his own ‘new look’ by crafting a formal suit silhouette for both men and women, but with an important difference compared to his contemporaries – no alterations needed.
The garments were tailored by his atelier to personal perfection. Now, 40 something years later, Slimane applies the Tailleur atelier knowledge to his four annual ready-to-wear collections, giving contemporary tailoring a professional and much-needed facelift. The result has been visible on the Saint Laurent catwalk since Slimane took over in 2012: a reinvigorated passion for tradition and appreciation for expertise, in line with Yves Saint Laurent’s sartorial vision. For once menswear leads the way – with the unisex silhouettes based on a masculine, tailored look. This is the closest to haute couture menswear will ever come.
Port Magazine Issue 12: Evan Lysacek - This Charming Man
As an Olympic champion, figure skater Evan Lysacek is under no illusion about what it takes to win. “Perfection. I think what makes skating difficult is not particular tricks or moves, but the fact that it demands perfection. There is absolutely no margin for error in this sport,” he explains. Having just finished his rink shoot for Port, the Chicago, Illinois-born athlete is enjoying a rare breather. With his eyes set on winning gold at the Sochi Olympics in Russia next year, there are few moments for quiet reflection. “My daily regime includes on-ice and off-ice training, as well as physical therapy. I’m getting back to my full training schedule, which is about five to six hours on the ice and three to four hours off the ice per day.”
But, having won the free skate program at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, Lysacek is now battling injuries to defend his medal. Were he to win, Lysacek would make history. “I have the potential to win back-to-back gold medals, a feat so difficult it has not been done in more than 60 years.” So the pressure is on, and no one feels it more than Lysacek himself. “Luckily, I thrive under pressure. I get more anxious than nervous before I compete. The anxiety is in part because I’m excited.” What he’s after, alongside gold of course, is that feeling of ecstasy when all the hard work pays off. “After months of intense training and all the blood and sweat, the biggest rush is the execution of the perfect performance under the immense pressure of competition.”
Figure skaters on Lysacek’s level tend to have short-lived careers. So intense and demanding is the work, that the athletes only can maintain gold status for a few years. At 28, Lysacek isn’t old by any means, but his days as a competing top-level figure skater are numbered. In addition to technique and timing, the sport requires strength and stamina. Building up the strength to withstand the torque of the jumps is crucial to mastering them. Then you have to gain the stamina to perform those skills in sequence through the 4m40s routine.
Add to that the high injury count. “I’ve suffered five major injuries, but minor ones are almost a weekly occurrence because of the physical demands.” The injuries are a consequence of falling but these accidents are part of the learning process. “You must fail and fall thousands of times to learn. Skating tricks are so difficult, dangerous and technical that the beginning of the learning curve is always experimental.” That said, Evan is hell-bent on giving it his best shot. “I always think I can do more. I’m rarely satisfied and never complacent. I will be ready by the time I have to take the ice in Sochi,” he says with gleaming determination in his eyes.
Port Magazine: Studio XO and the Future of Fabrics
Nancy Tilbury and Ben Males talk to David Hellqvist about making science fiction into science faction with their wearable technology
In a lively and clustered studio, a brisk 15 minute walk north of the Finsbury Park tube station in London, magic happens on a daily basis. Here, amid overlock sewing machines and pneumatic drills, between CAD computers and rolls of toile fabric, the XO Studio crew is changing not only the way we wear clothes, but also how we define the purpose of fashion.
Operating at the “intersection of science, technology, fashion and music”, founders Nancy Tilbury and Ben Males are busy merging the different creative fields, creating a brand new discipline: wearable technology. Though in theory, and in different guises, the concept has been around for quite some time, it’s only now – with Studio XO as flag bearers – that the idea has reached a mainstream audience. In the case of Studio XO, the message has been communicated with the help of world-famous pop stars. Over the last three years, Nancy and Ben have worked with stage artists like Lady Gaga, Azealia Banks and Black Eyed Peas, to mention but a few.
“Yes, music artists are key to what we do here,” Nancy explains. “Other companies maybe have couture lines where they showcase their abstract pieces, we’re finding that these really innovative music artists are adopting us and our technologies to create these big effects and monumental moments for their fans,” says Ben. Recently, the best example of that is Volantis, the ‘flying dress’ Lady Gaga premiered last year for a packed IRL audience, and an even bigger cyber crowd. But the XO story really began in 2011. The duo met while teaching at two of London’s top universities: “Our paths had crossed while I was teaching at the RCA and Nancy was running the MA at Kingston and at the time and we’d talked a little bit about maybe doing some work together. We could both see there was something there,” Ben remembers. “I was getting asked by a lot of artists and designers to help integrate technology into their products. I call it the ‘grow-space’ in between – traditionally there’s been a wall between engineers and designers and if you get rid of that wall there’s space to grow. I suppose Nancy and I met together in that grow space.”
Nancy comes from a fashion background, having studied at Royal Collage of Art herself, but was early on keen on exploring new areas. “I pretty much spent the two years at RCA navigating away from fashion, focusing in on engineering, trying to understand if our clothes can do more. After I graduated I went to work for Phillips, the electronics company, while my peers all went to the ateliers in Paris and to the studios in New York. Most of my friends thought I was bonkers: ‘why are you going to go and do that?’ I felt that before I did my own thing and moved forward I needed to have some depth and breadth,” Nancy says, looking back.
Ben, on the other hand, emerged from a technical environment. “I studied mechanical engineering. Very, very theoretical, very old-fashioned engineering. I studied at Imperial College. We did a lot of modelling of things; we didn’t really do much design. I specialised in nuclear reactor design. But I also had an ambition to make clothes. I was interested in fashion.
I bought a lot of stuff from charity shops, I was into the process of fashion.” So, through Ben’s desire to work with fashion and product design and the niche market they were both honing in on, their two career trajectories were bound to meet at one point. Meanwhile at Philips, Nancy had started fusing fashion with technology. “I was essentially working with designing pure fashion, it just happened to integrate product design and engineering, and functionality – what we call ‘embedded functionality in wearable tech’. It wasn’t traditionalist and we weren’t doing seasons; they were putting out product lines every 18 months so we were looking at much longer cycles. I suppose what I did there was hone a methodology and navigate away from fashion.”
Once Nancy and Ben had joined forces and XO was formed there was no going back. As mentioned, the most accessible platform for XO has always been the music industry, and that’s where they got their first break. “We got a call from the Black Eyed Peas’ stylist in 2011. She was like ‘I want to make robots’. We knew that we needed a sponsor to do something really grand. I went back to Phillips and said to them, ‘let’s do this, let’s embed some of your older technologies and bring them up to date’. We took those things and merged them. I had a small collection of students who’d been working with me and we kind of merged our consultancy and came together.” All of a sudden, the small Finsbury Park crew was playing in a whole new league.
But it wasn’t until the Black Eyed Peas were on stage, wearing the XO-built costumes and projecting their LED-driven lyrics, that they knew it was a success. “When you build fashion technology for the stage, the first thing you do is look towards the stage to see if everything’s working. The you look towards the audience and make sure they’re having a good time,” Nancy says. “We had this moment at the side of the stage – there was 80,000 people at the Stade de France – and everything was lit–up and operating as it should. We looked towards the crowd and everyone had their phones in the air, taking photos!”
This, for both Nancy and Ben, is what it’s all about: “Yes, there was a sort of gasping – it’s what we call ‘intimate emotional technology moments’, which is what we’re in the business of. We looked at all these fans and were like, ‘well, that’s fantastic’. We want to continue to make couture, but our ready-to-wear can be all these fans that are navigating around the world and want to take a piece of this magic away with them,” Ben says.
Having worked with ex Dazed & Confused fashion director Nicola Formichetti on the Gaga projects, Studio XO is no stranger to high-end fashion. But they are very aware of the challenges that the industry faces, and what the fashion stalwarts need to look out for in the future. Formichetti, now the artistic director of Diesel, have always been good at thinking outside the box, but it takes more than one person to change the landscape. Nancy’s point of view is coloured by realism: “I think the fashion industry are going to wake up like they’ve come out of a pool of water and go, ‘wow, how did we not see that coming, it’s like a fashion tsunami.’”
Going forward, Studio XO plans on taking their ideas beyond the stage and to the general public. “We want to move on from couture to ready-to-wear, looking at how we can take our couture from the stage and launching it as more mass products. That’s what you’ll see from a company like ours over the course of the next couple of years,” Ben says. Nancy agrees. “Yes, the X and O is our identity and it’s starting to take shape. And it’s really interesting to watch that evolve; the digital space is inspiring what we do in the physical space. In the course of the next year we are going to design and render some of these pieces that will be more of a focal point for fashion people to grasp onto.” Whatever the future holds, be sure that XO Studio will be on the barricades, wielding both sewing machines and computers.
Guardian: Copenhagen fashion week - six things we learned
From the dark underbelly of Danish fashion to a whole new shoe shape, Copenhagen fashion week proved Scandinavian style is about more than nice knitwear
Anne Sofie Madsen, Freya Dalsjö, Barbara í Gongini.
Shoehorned in between the official menswear shows in January and February’s womenswear collections, Denmark’s fashion week is a healthy mishmash of both. In the impressive city hall, a stone’s throw away from the Tivoli amusement park, the latest fashions from new and established designers were on display last week. Anyone expecting to splurge on monochrome minimalism left empty-handed; Scandinavian fashion, at least the more forward-thinking brands, moved on ages ago.
But of late, it is not the country’s leading designers – Day Birger et Mikkelsen, Mads Nørgaard, Bruuns Bazaar – who have done Danish fashion most favours. The recent influx of stylish and beautifully shot television crime dramas have put Scando clothes on the map. The Killing, Borgen and The Bridge all feature well-dressed and groomed police detectives. Cleverly, though, the AW14 collections showed in Copenhagen looked beyond the knitwear, coats and leather trousers made famous by Sarah Lund and Saga Norén. As stylish as those women are, these shows were all about finding a new and individual aesthetic, just the way it should be.
The “dark underbelly” of Danish fashion really stood out. Barbara í Gongini’s black and gothic looks, Asger Juel Larsen’s futuristic and urban aesthetic and Anne Sofie Madsen’s cyberpunk girls helped define the fashion event. These designers brought a much-needed serving of attitude and energy to Copenhagen.
Danish menswear is currently doing very well, having found a great balance between wearability and directional fashion. Anchored in contemporary streetwear, Soulland, Wood Wood and Han Kjøbenhavn managed to focus on the product while still putting on good shows. Silas Adler and his Soulland brand especially impressed with a strong and coherent space-influenced collection.
Malene Birger, Wood Wood, Day Birger et Mikkelsen.
There was fur in every other collection showing in Copenhagen – mostly mink, which is a major fashion export for Denmark. The fur was used on coats, jackets, trousers – even shoes. Freya Dalsjö, Kopenhagen Fur, Day Birger et Mikkelsen, Malene Birger and Anne Sofie Madsen, to mention but a few, chose the controversial material. It all went ahead without any sign of protest. Peta must have looked at the -5C weather forecast and rescheduled the trip.
Bruuns Bazaar and Stine Goya applied a catwalk technique that, so far, only Giorgio Armani has mastered: they sent two or more models out on the catwalk at a time. It might not sound very experimental, but it can be a tricky way to squeeze more looks in, though here it actually worked fine. Goya even added mid-show clapping and cheering, another Armani staple.
Don’t leave Copenhagen without having smørrebrød for lunch. Think of it as jazzed-up Pret a Manger: essentially a sandwich with extra-generous fillings, the base is rye bread covered in roast beef and pickled cucumber, say, or pan-fried sea bass topped with prawns. For a more expensive and expansive food experience, try to get a table at Noma. The wine tasting lunch includes 20 small dishes with as many different wines. Some of it is plain weird (ant-flavoured onions, anyone?), but it is a gastronomic experience you’ll cherish for ever.
One detail that stood out was Freya Dalsjö’s new shoe shape. Actually, it was more of a footwear accessory. Dalsjö’s pumps featured a rectangular box on the heel, giving it a skyscraper structure. The almost architectural shape is quite possibly good for balance, and certainly made us sit up and pay attention. A few of them came covered in fur as well. Obviously.
With LC:M underway, David Hellqvist talks to Saif Bakir and Emma Hedlund about enlisting the help of German digital artist Gerhard Mantz
As one of the new brands showing during LC:M for the first time, Swedish COMMON are partly responsible for injecting new and exciting blood into the AW14 season. But both Saif Bakir and Emma Hedlund have been around the block; the two of them studied in the UK before moving to Paris to work with as diverse brands as Wooyoungmi and Kanye West. And somewhere between the UK, France and Sweden, COMMON found its unique aesthetic, and it’s one Port has highlighted in the past. Described, by COMMON themselves, as “London-edge, Paris-chic and Scandinavian minimalism”, the brand personifies the clever yet elegant 21st century wardrobe; suave cuts and premium fabrics mixed with technical solutions and street savvy prints.
The prints have, with their seasonal diversity, become a COMMON trademark. Each collection hosts a new guest collaborator, an artist whose work COMMON admires and respects. Swedish bird illustrator Lars Jonsson kicked it off with AW12, legendary textile designer Hans Krondahl took over for SS13 and graphic design duo STSQ covered the AW13 season.
For SS14, COMMON collaborated with the New York-based graffiti artist Rubin. Now, for Autumn Winter 2014 and COMMMON’s LC:M debut, Bakir and Hedlund have enlisted the help of Gerhard Mantz, one of Germanyʼs most well-known digital artists.
David Hellqvist: Where did you encounter Mantz’s work? COMMON: First time we saw Gerhardʼs work was at the DAM Gallery in Berlin. The main focus of the gallery is early pioneers of computer art and Gerhard Mantz’s work instantly caught our eyes and fascinated us.
David: What attracted you to his work? COMMON: Gerhard’s virtual images seem sculptured to evoke feelings and moods. They leave you in ambivalence. At first they appear realistic, in some cases even photographic. But, at a closer inspection, the seemingly realistic details shift to reveal a strange virtual realm that really draws you in.
David: How is his work relevant to COMMON? COMMON: Mantz creates his art objects with a computer, independent of the limitations and of the physical world. Our inspiration for AW14 is Tech-Noir and the engineered, polished and purified world of Gattaca where the past and the future are combined and interconnected to create a perfect balance. Mantz work reminded us a lot about this utopian and model world created in the film.
David: How will this be incorporated into the collection? COMMON: The colour palette of Mantz’s work has become the highlights of the season and his virtual images has been reworked and digitally printed onto technical fabrications for outerwear and sweaters.
David: What is this particular piece called? COMMON: It’s called ‘Blinde Freiheit’ and was made by Gerhard in 1996
David: Itʼs computer generated – how is it a development on prints in prior seasons? COMMON: Our collections are continuous, a story under constant development. While last seasonʼs collaborator, graffiti artist Rubin,
creates his graffiti by hand it hold a similar complex, futuristic and almost virtual form as the work of Mantz. They are both unique in their field and so are the artworks they’ve created for COMMON.
David: Why always include a new artist each season? COMMON: The idea behind our collaborations is to continually develop exciting and unique products, which reflect the ethos of the brand as well as serve as a complement to the collection. The collabs are always exciting as they force us to step out of our comfort zone and to create something from an existing idea that is not initially ours and might not have been our own obvious choice. The resulting products reflect our style and ethos and always serve as highlights of the collections.
David: How do you, generally, find them? COMMON: We always find inspiration in our surrounding and in current events. Our eyes are always open to new interesting art and design. We don’t always search for our collaborators, it more happens so that we stumble upon them.
David: What are you looking for? COMMON: Challenges.
Photography Jerry Buttles, Styling/Text David Hellqvist
The (capsule) trade show really is a rolling fashion circus – but without the clowns. Each season, the crew goes on a menswear tour, taking in Berlin, Paris, New York and Las Vegas. Countless brands showcase their upcoming seasons and, besides placing orders, it’s a great place to meet new friends, discover interesting brands and examine amazing product. Last week, when the road show hit New York’s Basketball City on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, photographer Jerry Buttles and ex-Saint Laurent model Beau Buckley braved the cold winds and heavy snow to shoot a few of the (capsule) highlights.
Shooting Beau in the nearby projects and down by the East River overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge, we managed to incorporate some of the finer threads we found on display. The Fall/Winter 2014 season, judging by the (capsule) brands, is defined by great texture and a subtle color palette. At least those were the pieces we went for, mixing everything from NEIGHBORHOOD, Soulland and Woolrich Woolen Mills to Baartmans and Siegel, Tourne de Transmission and CASH CA. Other highlights included Norse Projects, Shades of Grey by Micah Cohen, Universal Works and Mark McNairy, to name a few.
Port Magazine: Menswear Round-Up: Milan & Paris AW14
Port’s fashion features editor, David Hellqvist, on the European men’s shows and what collections stood out
The menswear season is a journey, both from a sartorial and geographical point of view. Hundreds of shows in three countries showcase the best men’s fashion out there, offering niche as well as mainstream brands. London kicked off the AW14 season with youthful energy, Milan continued with sophisticated elegance and Paris closed the trip with a never-ending mixture of storied Houses and avant-garde conceptualism.
In many ways Stefano Pilati and Ermenegildo Zegna sum up Milan. Extremely formal and elegant, Pilati has labelled his work ‘couture’. And it’s true, few countries can pride themselves on such fine fabrics and craftsmanship. For AW14, maybe as a consequence, Ermenegildo Zegna – like Marni, Missoni, Jil Sander and Calvin Klein Collection – seemed more product-focused (think thick Vicuna coats) than hung up on mind-boggling concepts. Others, like Prada, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana, had all very clear themes. “Yes, two aesthetic strands dominated Milan: the all-inclusive collections that catered to multiple lifestyle situations, and the brands who showed specific and strong themes with very particular visions, which is much more inspirational,” reflects David St John-James, Port Magazine’s fashion director.
Prada, even if it’s an off-season, is brilliant – the true highlight of the show schedule. For AW14, Miuccia presented imaginative actors from an alternative theatre; bohemian artists dressed to the nines. As last season, the show also featured womenswear. Actually, for AW14, this was a bit of a sub-trend. Other designers featuring girls on the catwalk included Matthew Miller, Moncler, Carven, Haider Ackermann and Givenchy. Dolce & Gabbana continued their Sicilian theme but with more of a medieval royal slant – manifested by models wearing golden crowns. Gucci, moving on from their high-tech sportswear spell last season, found the perfect balance away from their luxe 70s obsession and settled on a sharp, coherent and beautiful Mods-inspired look.
But it wasn’t just in Milan where the artisanal qualities of Haute Couture made a mark. In Paris, the first ‘big’ show came courtesy of Valentino. Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli has constantly expanded their signature aesthetic since 2008. Mixing street staples, like trainers and camouflage, with extreme elegance, they’ve managed to dominate that play field. Bruce Pask, Men’s Director atNew York Times and T Magazine, agrees: “Paris is both simplified and purified, as well as luxurious. Brands like AMI, APC and Officine Générale are high-design but mid-range prices… it’s a lot more relevant to me than that persistent heritage trend. But Houses like Valentino actually do Couture; in their Paris and Rome stores you can have those double-faced cashmere coats made especially for you.”
Pask’s point about a new mid-range market is valid. Paris attracted a wide range of brands for AW14, not all of them ancient and reinvigorated catwalk Houses. There’s been a recent influx of contemporary streetwear brands in town for the shows, most notably Visvim, Overall Master Cloth, Pigalle, Hood By Air and new brand Off-White. Still, it’s important that those presentations are, quite literally, side shows. Paris, in its truest essence, belong to high-octane and ultra-luxurious fashion. This is where the Japanese master trio of Kawakubo, Miyake and Yamamoto show. This is where Ann Demulemeester, Rick Owens, Damir Doma present their tribal fashion. This is where Kim Jones and Louis Vuitton rule.
Many shows stood out but to Bruce Pask, but especially fellow American Thom Browne. “It was weird but wearable. His stuff is always provocative but those tweed suits and the raw shirt edges were great. I also liked AMI – it was a charming presentation, utterly wearable. If only more men dressed like that!” On another note there were two reasons to like the Raf Simons show. A) his collaboration with Ruby Sterling and B) his return to an aesthetic resembling his punk past with slogans and messy colours combos. Raf managed to reference himself while still looking ahead.
Dries Van Noten created colour-coded gangs, at least for the finale. In the gritty basement of the Grand Palais he showed intricate details and an interesting colour palette, making the collection next to irresistible. Meanwhile Rei Kawakubo opted for a super-niche look, showing black hair pieces with a tight wardrobe of mostly black causal tailoring. To be let into her universe of “beautiful chaos” twice a year is a treat.
Dior Homme head honcho Kris Van Assche has steadily grown into his role and improved his vision for the brand since he took over in 2007. For AW14 he managed to mix traditional pinstriped tailoring with denim pieces and army-inspired khaki garments. The mixture, at least in the first half of the show, made for an interesting watch as Van Assche pushed the Dior Homme style forward while staying true to its sartorial legacy.
Guardian: Google Glass's Frames: the fashion verdict
Technology and good design rarely go together. But Google’s range of titanium glasses are sleek, minimal – and, yes – stylish
It’s not often that we can rejoice in the design of a hi-tech and fashionable product – we usually have to choose between the two. But the newly announced Google Frames buck that trend. The Google Titanium line, a collection of four unisex styles constructed to easily fit with the Google Glass camera, is spot on. The black titanium is sleek and minimal. These are the glasses Jil Sander wished she made, that Helmut Lang must be kicking himself for not putting out before retiring from fashion. These frames have all the hallmarks of timeless design – and that makes them stylish rather than fashionable.
When the concept of Google Glass was unleashed on us last year, most of us imagined a fusion between a pair of frames and a laptop. The result was far less chunky and, actually, quite subtle, considering that you’re accessorising your forehead with a camera. But any attempt to just wear Google Glass on their own – and all the time – did make the wearer look like a Star Wars extra. Google’s solution is to produce well-designed frames that are compatible with the camera equipment.
The frames come in four different styles: Split, which is loosely based on a Ray-Ban Club Master with a thick top half and slim bottom frame; Thin and Bold, both of which are rectangular in shape; and the Curve, with its slightly more rounded shape. Although all the frames leave nothing to wish for in terms of design, there’s no denying that having a camera, albeit a small one, attached to one eye kind of cramps the style. But we’re always more comfortable with what we know and like – and scared and uncertain of something new or groundbreaking.
Technology and fashion often struggle to go hand in hand: we rely on the former to be functional, versatile and practical, while the latter is anything but. Fashion is for now, not five years’ time. The challenge for all the hi-tech giants such as Apple, Microsoft and Google, is to develop and produce tomorrow’s gadgets in a tasteful way. Google appears to have risen to that challenge with their Google Glass frames.
So here we are. Apple are hiring Burberry executives, and Google has designed fashionable glasses in-housethat I would argue transcend seasonal fads. Also, at less than £140, they’re actually affordable – but bear in mind that the Google Glass technology will set you back just north of £900.
Port Magazine: In Conversation - Enzo Fusco, CP Company
The Italian fashion CEO and David Hellqvist discuss Japanese micro fibres made out of garment-dyed polyester and the iconic goggle jacket
It’s a well-known fact that the actual design process is only one aspect of fashion. Shapes and silhouettes are defined by the fabric; the best sketches can be ruined by the wrong choice of material. This knowledge is of course not lost on designers who spend time, energy and money on finding the best possible fabrics. But some brands refuse to play this game and to be dictated to by others around them. Instead, they develop their own materials. For Italy’s CP Company and its current owner, Enzo Fusco, this has been a sartorial reality since the brand’s inception in 1975.
The brilliance of CP Company is heavily cemented in this devotion to fabric innovation. During the 80s and 90s, CP invented a range of hi-tech materials that broke the mould and furthered fashion’s quest into fabric research. “For us, the iconic fabrics from our archives are the so-called ’50 threads’ – cotton and nylon weave, garment-dyed military twill, rubber wool and rubber flax,” Fusco says. But CP isn’t resting on its laurels: “Our most recent fabric innovations include the over-dyed and bonded natural performance materials, a Japanese micro fibre made out of garment-dyed polyester, and bonded Lycra fabrics”. These materials prove that CP Company is still at the forefront of fashion, 37 years since it all began. The revolutionary materials were all developed in CP’s sartorial laboratory, outside Bologna. Some of them have ended up on catwalks around the world, respectfully reinterpreted by designers who are themselves unable to create such innovative materials. And most of them wound up on the streets, in their natural habitat, worn by people looking for style with substance. What’s next for Fusco and CP is naturally a secret, it’s not wise to disclose too much about future plans: “The Holy Grail cannot yet be revealed, for now it remains our Top Secret!”
Fashion isn’t brain surgery, sometimes it doesn’t have to be that difficult. Realise who you are, what you do best and stick to that. That’s exactly what Fusco has done: “We’re a historical brand made in Italy for an elite sportswear consumer. It’s a mix between military aesthetic and British and American styles.” The natural inspiration source for a brand like CP Company are the army uniforms the military use. They offer an important mixture of attitude and details that give CP pieces an utilitarian edge. “The best qualities of uniforms are their functionality, the elegance and the sense of belonging to a group they bring. And then there’s the importance of the detailing; everything on a uniform is significant and there for a reason.” But when it comes to high performance sportswear, Italy often gets left out. Famed for fine cashmere and soft merino wool, the Italians are more about luxurious elegance than selvage denim, multiple pockets and taped seams. In workwear terms, the holy grail is Americana; no-one makes chore jackets and heavy duty boots better than the Yanks. Well, except for the Japanese of course, who have perfected the art of taking American staples and adding their own details. Then there’s the Brits; with their Northampton-made shoes, Scottish knitwear and Savile Row tailoring, they have cornered the dapper cad market. But brands like Stone Island, Woolrich Woolen Mills and CP Company have altered that perception.
These three brands have raised the bar for Italian contemporary and urban fashion in the last 30 years and, to this day, they operate at the forefront of forward-thinking and smart sartorial technology. A lot of that is down to one man. Massimo Osti, the graphic designer cum fashion designer who started CP Company and Stone Island in the late 70s and early 80s, is not only an Italian hero but a worldwide icon and deservedly mentioned in the same sentence as the other great Italian high-end fashion designers. Osti passed away in 2005 and CP was run by Stone Island’s Carlo Rivetti for a few years before Enzo Fusco took over the reins in 2010. Last year, Fusco reunited old colleagues Alessandro Pungetti and British designer Paul Harvey, who previously designed for Stone Island, as creative directors for AW13. Together the three of them will take the heritage and traditions that Osti cemented three decades ago and make CP Company a 21st century brand. “Paul Harvey and Alessandro Pungetti have created collections for both CP and Stone Island in the past so their brand knowledge is impeccable. For the current season, they’ve added their own innovation and taste whilst maintaining the true style of CP. I was keen to get Paul and Alessandro back on the team because, in my opinion, no-one else can retain the magic the brand has always been able to create around its garments,” Fusco explains.
One of the aspects of that ‘magic’ is the fabric dying process that CP made famous. “The process starts with a scrupulously meticulous selection of the materials and the fibres that go into them, dyed all together in a unique bath that creates natural colour differences due to the absorption capabilities of the various fibres that, when made up into the garments, produce a correspondingly unique mix. The CP Company collection is 90% garment-dyed which is a big undertaking from all aspects, but the results are unique.” And when you combine that unique technique with an iconic shape, that’s when you’ve created fashion history. In the case of CP Company, it’s the goggle jacket that ticks all the boxes. Invented in 1989, the three quarter length coat is equipped with lenses in the hood and took its inspiration from a Japanese military jacket with a collar that could be zipped up as a mask. “The goggle jacket was created for the historically important Italian vintage cars race, Mille Miglia,” says Fusco.
“Today, it’s a very important symbol of the brand. Significantly, this is still a best seller for us and we have now other products that incorporate the lens, such as sweaters and caps.” CP Company manufacture two versions; the ‘Explorer’ is similar to the original Japanese coat and the ‘Mille Miglia’ style, which comes with a mask in the hood and a round glass disc on the left sleeve, enabling you to see the time. It’s difficult to get the balance right between style and substance, but when you do the result is timeless pieces that just keep coming back, better and better.
In the wake of all the exposure, after the dust has settled on previous collections, and as we await next season’s product at the end of another year, it’s the ideal time to consider Gyakusou in a broader context. Alongside some of the iconic imagery created around the brand, David Hellqvist examines a collaboration between Nike and Undercover that has been successful in design, performance, and sales terms ever since its arrival in 2010
In a time where fashion – and menswear specifically – is all about fusing and merging styles and brands, it’s easy to tire of collaborations and sartorial remixes. Too often quality is diluted as marketing strategies replace a genuine desire to further design ideas by enlisting outside help with a completing skill set. Nowhere else is that as visible as within the increasingly grey area between sportswear and high-end fashion; luxury houses team up with sportswear brands to gain access to iconic styles and a younger, more street-savvy audience. The results are, not surprisingly, mixed. But thanks to the car crashes, the honest ones stand out even more. The ones where you can see and feel a genuine respect between the two labels, where a whole new brand is born – not just a short-lived collaboration gaining blog hits and release day queues.
One such setup is Gyakusou, the high-tech running gear partnership between Nike and Undercover head honcho Jun Takahashi. Seven seasons in, Tokyo’s Gyakusou International Running Association (GIRA) has gone from strength to strength, practically revolutionising the idea of mixing high-end fashion and exercise clothing. It would be inaccurate to say that Gyakusou was the first such collaboration, and it’s not the only successful one. Yohji Yamamoto and Adidas have, with Y-3, created a brand with its own life through shops and shows. The main difference is that Gyakusou will most likely never have either of those. Early on, Nike and Takahashi realized there was a niche gap in a niche market and they went to work filling it. They probably don’t have world domination plans for the line, and it will definitely never be big enough to cater for a mainstream market. But, in only three years, Gyakusou has identified a problem and solved it. Arguably, GIRA should not even function within the traditional biannual season system. Instead, view the brand’s collection as Takahashi constantly working on developing and improving the brand rather than just remaking his first Gyakusou collection over and over.
Although Takahashi is the creative brain behind Gyakusou, it’s important to remember the group that enables the success. Behind each big-name designer there’s a team of talented and hard-working helpers; it’s often the assistant designers, pattern cutters, PR officers, studio managers and interns that carry the brand, making sure there’s a coherent collection to show twice a year. It’s not due to lack of involvement from the creative director, merely a sign that fashion is an ever-escalating business, constantly demanding ideas, concepts and products. Like his fellow catwalk designers, Takahashi relies on creative help for both his main line and Gyakusou. For his GIRA collections, Takahashi is able to draw on Nike’s longstanding expertise; few other brands posses such knowledge when it comes to innovative materials, high-tech details and advanced technology. As is often the case, this is all down to the staffers.
Ushi San is a product developer for Nike Japan. His job is to help create and merchandise the sportswear giant’s Asian output. “I’ve been working for Nike for 20 years, so I know all Nike’s sports history,” San says. “I was there when Nike Air Max came in! So I know all about Nike’s innovations as well as the necessary features that an athlete needs for particular activities, whether that’s for basketball or for running outdoors.” Which is probably why San was asked by Fraser Cooke, the Nike Global Energy Leader who initiated the project, to assist Takahashi on the Gyakusou brand. San was tasked with facilitating Takahashi’s creative directions: “Every season we’ll have a kick-off meeting where we decide what we’re going to do. Jun will always come to the meetings with his recent discoveries, and he’ll always bring up real needs,” San explains. This is key to Gyakusou: it’s all about substance – style is only a pleasant side effect. “For example, he’ll say, ‘Ushi, I went for a run this morning and I think we need more breathability,’ or maybe he’ll say, ‘It was really hot yesterday – we need more sleeveless singlets, or shorter lengths.’ A lot of the detail comes from his actual running experiences.”
If you study the Gyakusou collections – or better yet, if you wear them – you’ll soon discover a slow and organic change in the fundamental design approach. The focus has shifted from intricate and lavish concepts to a more stripped-down take on pure exercise. “Jun is getting more and more serious about running and his needs have become more specific and professional,” San says. When visiting the Gyakusou Paris showroom for a collection launch last season, Takahashi echoed San’s point of view: “Design-wise, it’s getting simpler. I wanted to focus more on the functions – and for the functions to work, the design doesn’t need so much space. The first season had more of a sharp design to it and that was a design that was not necessary for running – now it’s a lot more functional.”
As a designer Takahashi benefits from having two very different outlets. Undercover is a Paris catwalk line committed to mind-bending concepts, while Gyakusou deals with reality. San agrees: “It’s about function and purpose. For Jun, running is real life, which is a totally different process in terms of the creation of the collection. All the storytelling surrounding the [Gyakusou] collections comes later on, and it’s more like a movie-ending. We are not creating the products for the core seasonal theme – which itself is actually more the result of what we’ve done.” If anything, this makes Gyakusou more credible. There’s enough image-led collaborations merging fashion and sportswear out there. No-one questions Nike’s running commitment and, the way things are going, the same can be said for Jun Takahashi. Last year he ran the Honolulu marathon for the third time in a row.
Inventory Magazine 9: Shopped - Claire de Rouen & MHL
Claire de Rouen Books, London
You could be forgiven for missing it. Only a lonely street placard shyly announces the existence of Claire de Rouen Books on Charing Cross Road in London. But its ultra-loyal following of course know the way by heart, having come to see Claire and her pug Otis since she opened up the doors to her L-shaped first floor store above a sex shop in 2005. Specializing in photography, art and fashion publications, Claire de Rouen Books has been a Soho institution since. Lucy Moore, who took over when Claire sadly passed away last year, has also lost the nearby Central St. Martins college customers and suffered from the new Crossrail line remoulding the area’s buildings and streets. But the store – with its rare titles by premium photographers and authors – is still capable of drawing the crowds. Once you’ve found the space and climbed the narrow staircase, a world of lost treasures, beautiful images and carefully selected magazines awaits. Only a few doors down from bookstore giants Foyles and Blackwell’s, this is the kind of personal and dedicated specialist bookshop that the internet’s mass consumerism can never replace.
In the 50 square meter space, Lucy regularly organizes literary events; recent book signings have included Christian Patterson and Tim Walker. This year Claire de Rouen Books will also launch Juergen Teller’s latest title in-store, and there’s a project with German artist Christian Flamm lined up. The shop holds over 3,000 publications and Lucy’s favourite is the Eley Kishimoto-curated issue of Singapore-based Werk magazine. According to the current proprietor, Claire herself preferred challenging and difficult photo books, like the work of Antoine D’Agata. “On the other hand, she loved Bruce Weber, and I have a feeling he loved her – he still visits when in London,” she says.
Ask designer Margaret Howell to define her brand and she’ll most likely use words like functional, utilitarian, timeless and authentic to describe the clothes. These are characteristics that inform both the mainline and MHL collections. Over the years, Howell has become known for this pure and simple approach to life in general, and clothes in particular. But hers is a lifestyle brand setting the tone for more than just wardrobe staples. Howell’s devotion to this particular aesthetic obviously colours the whole company. Visit one of her London stores – the Wigmore Street HQ, the MHL shop in Shoreditch, or this newly opened store at 22 New Cavendish Street – and you’ll get a holistic 360 degree insight to Margaret Howell, the person and the brand. Just as the clothes are an extension of Margaret herself, her shops are brick and mortar versions of the brand: simple, light, versatile and modern. Although of course limited by physical dimensions, Howell’s stores boast a sense of space and light. Maybe the collection’s sparse colour palette helps create this? Or the neat merchandising and shop staff’s subtle style? Like the Wigmore Street shop, the new MHL store is deep. As you enter, you get a feeling you’re not only walking into her shop but experiencing the full might of Margaret Howell’s sublime sartorial universe.
As a follow-up to London’s first standalone MHL shop, situated on Shoreditch’s Old Nichol Street, the new Marylebone location is a 47.5 square meter space housing both the men’s and women’s MHL collections. Like all Margaret Howell shops, the New Cavendish Street store is designed by William Russell, a partner at Pentagram Design. Featuring the original parquet flooring, a wooden shop front, birch wood shelving, stainless steel fittings and bespoke lighting track, it’s moulded in the aesthetic of Howell’s Japanese MHL stores, of which she has opened ten in the last four years.
Criss-crossing every continent, we find David Hellqvist stepping off the catwalk conveyor belt and onto the beaches of Rio
The waves crashing in on Rio de Janeiro’s famous Copacabana beach are some of the fiercest I’ve ever encountered. You can only battle them for 15 minutes before having to leave, completely exhausted but it’s one of the most enjoyable exercise sessions I’ve ever experienced. Luckily, the many beach bars dotting this legendary spot are selling strong and sugary Caipirinhas for eight Reals (just north of £2) that will perk you right up again. Smack in middle of a beautiful Rio triangle, lined with the Sugarloaf mountain, the Christ statue and the equally classic Ipanema beach, this is a golden spot to observe casual Brazilian life. And it’s true; just about everyone - bar the lads and European tourists - wear thongs on the beach.
You just have to get used to it, it’s a way of life here. Though it’s tempting to stay on the Copacabana beach all week long, I was actually in town for Fashion Rio. As the other fashion week in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro has always taken a back seat in this emerging economy as São Paulo is considered to be more urban and gritty with higher quality collections. But I’m not sure Brazil is still ‘emerging’ though? Has it not got ‘there’ yet? In terms of fashion, its biggest claims, from an international POV, is having Francisco Costa heading up Calvin Klein Collections womenswear, and Alexandre Herchcovitch showing at New York Fashion Week. Not bad going for a country otherwise mostly known for flip flops and bonkers carnival outfits. Having just got here from Moscow Fashion Week, Rio actually showed off a mature and refined side for autumn/winter 14. I visited Rio two years ago for the same occasion, and this was definitely a step in the right direction.
Except for Herchcovitch, who was the undoubted star, despite only showing his denim-heavy diffusion line, a number of talents impressed with coherent and conceptual designs. Second Floor was a stand out show. Despite the shockingly bad name, Second Floor displayed a brilliant and consistent print throughout the mixed men’s and women’s show. Remixing a vague floral print, it appeared in different colours and fabrics - and skilful layering made the looks even more appealing.
Alessa took a more conceptual approach by working mannish silhouettes into her womenswear collection. Though on the formal side, she played with proportions by including oversized collars and shoulders - all in a monochrome colour palette with a stylish splash of red. Sacada, although quite Dries-like in its aesthetic, managed to create an intriguing collection - mainly through mixing and matching odd colours and fabrics; black with blue, brown clashing with gold, and denim, lurex and brocade-style fabrics mixed with oversized T-Shirt and sweatshirts in cotton. I liked it, it had an air of understated elegance to it, that kind of relaxed luxury we all strive for but struggle to nail.
Ausländer was less subtle. With body-con silhouettes, lots of black and white, angular shapes and plenty of capes, this is supposedly how we’ll dress tomorrow. I’m not sure about that one. I think Rio and São Paulo will benefit from encouraging more designers to take the Alexandre Herchcovitch route. With his utilitarian and wearable yet challenging aesthetic, he’s right on the money. It’s aspirational as much as it’s achievable - just the right balance between fiction and reality.
Varon Magazine 7: Dries Van Noten - The Last of the Independents
Last of the Independents Standfirst Dries Van Noten and David Hellqvist discuss the Belgian designer’s romantic aesthetic, his upcoming Les Arts Décoratifs exhibition in Paris and the pros and cons of total independence
Dries Van Noten is quiet for a moment as he ponders the validity of his brand. Not that I have questioned it, but he seems the kind of person that evaluates and analyses a situation thoroughly before making a decision. All of a sudden he breaks the silence: “As a businessman I ask myself sometimes if there’s still space for someone like me and my brand – or am I just like the musicians playing violin on the Titanic?” Thankfully he concludes that, yes, there is a gap in the market for a designer and person like Dries Van Noten. And most people in the industry would agree. Ask any editor or buyer on the circuit what shows they liked that season or what designers they keep coming back to, and the soft-spoken and humble Belgian designer’s name is bound to pop up. And if there ever was any doubt, the Les Arts Décoratifs museum in Paris has decided to dedicate an entire exhibition to the designer’s aesthetic next year. That sort of settles it, doesn’t it?
Van Noten seems to be having a good run at the moment, and there’s a plethora of reasons for the current love-in with his designs. In the last few years, most of his collections – for both men and women – have been positively reviewed and critically acclaimed among movers and shakers. Previous seasons have seen him explore a wide variety of sartorial themes – subcultural punk (SS11), high-tech sportswear (SS12) and army camouflage (SS13), for example – while keeping a romantic slant to the clothes. Dries agrees but, like any designer with integrity, adds his own safety clause. “Yes, people sometimes call my clothes romantic, and some of them are, but more than that I follow my own feelings – I want the collections to be modern, cool and relaxed,” he says. “I want people to want to wear the clothes, for them to become their own garments so they have a personal relationship with them.”
As one of the Antwerp Six, a clutch of Royal Academy of Fine Arts graduates who made a splash by travelling in a truck to London in 1986 to show their avant-garde fashion, Dries Van Noten needs little or no introduction. But ‘avant-garde’ is far from accurate as a way of describing Van Noten in particular and his menswear vision is not as conceptual as, say, fellow Belgian Martin Margiela. Instead, Van Noten pursues a wearable aesthetic sliced and diced with bouts of elegance and the aforementioned romanticism. “It’s 2013,” he says, passionately. “Men can easily look masculine in silk and floral prints. Menswear is all about materials – it’s limited in other ways since it’s not as rich as the womenswear prints.” Van Noten believes a lot of the potential beauty of menswear is lost in this fear of pushing boundaries. “Floral prints used to be accepted… how come men can wear Hawaii-printed shirts but a rose print isn’t okay – what’s the difference?” He namechecks Jimi Hendrix and Brian Jones as colourful personalities who wore bright velvet jackets and got away with it. “We look towards Louis XVI, Oscar Wilde and Cocteau for inspiration, they all had extravagant looks.” But it’s all about small and subtle changes in the colour palette and choice of fabrics: “I don’t want women’s clothes for men – that’s cross-dressing…”
Long before he left for London, Van Noten had his fashion career carved out. He came from a long line of tailors and menswear-shop owners. “That’s where it all started for me,” he remembers. “My grandfather owned a men’s store and my father worked there before opening up his own shop. I went there after school to do my home work, looking at fashion while studying. It was the beginning of my passionate affair with fashion – that’s where I learned the trade.” It’s telling that his background involves as much number-crunching retail as it does creative high-end fashion. Today, and ever since he launched his eponymous brand in 1986, Van Noten is in control of his business, which is still independently owned. In the late 90s and early 00s, contemporaries of his, such as Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney, were picked up by big fashion conglomerates, which injected money into their brands but asked for access to the creative process in return. Going back to his initial thoughts in our conversation, it’s clearly a subject Van Noten struggles with a lot. “It [being bought up] wasn’t a solution for me. I needed to stay independent. Admittedly I have nothing to compare it to – this is all I’ve ever known – but it just felt right.” But there’s no denying that running his own company has its downsides. “Yes, it’s a big responsibility. I look after a lot of people directly and indirectly. I suppose it’s both nice and scary.” Van Noten employs about 150 people worldwide but also keeps over 3,000 professional embroiderers busy with his four annual collections.
His Antwerp base is very much part of the brand. It’s reassuring to know that not all designers have to live in New York, Paris or London to feel in control of what they do. The tempo and hectic lifestyle of the metropolis doesn’t fit everyone, and there’s something about the mental image of Van Noten pottering about in his garden before walking to his studio that fits with the man, the brand, the business and the clothes. “I get a healthy dosage of fashion here – I don’t have to go to a fashion party every night. It’s a calming lifestyle but still central. It only takes a few hours to Paris or London.” He raises another valid point of life in the big city: “There, people tend to live in villages anyway – they live and work and hang out in the same area without moving about. I’m always surprised by that when I visit London.” Anyone living in a capital city who took an honest look at their lifestyle and social patterns would surely agree.
Once Van Noten is in Paris, though – he shows there four times a year – he’s got no problems getting involved. After all, the occasion is joyous: he’s showcasing his latest collection. Unlike many other big-name designers, he even cherishes the mundane sides of the show day. “I love the creative side of my job but also the other bits, like staging the shows, choosing music and lightning.” He also uses interaction with his models as part of the process. For him, they’re not just male machines parading the collection, but people wearing his clothes. “Yes, I learn a lot from seeing how models react to the clothes when they play around with them, style and body wise. It has to fit the model otherwise it turns into a lie on the catwalk. I need them to feel ‘happy’ in the clothes. It might sound slightly naïve, but it’s important to dress the character and personality rather than the model.” For his latest collections, AW13 and SS14, this meant models stomping down the catwalk in a ‘walk of shame’ look: “They look like they’ve just grabbed the clothes from the floor and walked out. It’s an eclectic look. We mixed nightwear, like pyjamas or robes, with rough-looking leather trousers.” The result was, once again, a rich and sophisticated elegance mixed with masculine attitude.
The major Dries Van Noten exhibition at the Les Arts Décoratifs museum on Rue de Rivoli kicks off in late February. The display – “It’s not a retrospective. I’m still alive and kicking” – will look closer at Van Noten’s career and highlight his sources of inspiration. “It’s an insight into my world,” he explains. “But it will also give people a good idea of how a designer works creatively. In this case it’ll take you deeper and deeper into the brand’s history and you’ll see how it’s all connected. For me it’s all about intuition and connotations; it’s about stimulating the mind, whether I’m looking at grunge or couture for inspiration.” The expo preparation fed into the SS14 collection, shown back in June – Van Noten used prints found in the art institution’s archives and adapted them for his show. “The best thing with this exhibition is that it is completely my story, but also that, as opposed to a ten-minute catwalk show and a two-minute post-show interview, people visiting the expo can spend three hours looking at the clothes if they want to!” That’s Dries Van Noten for you – always putting the punter first.
The minimalist New York-based designer tells David Hellqvist about his Scandinavian roots, his love of American sportswear and how he created his own camouflage pattern from scratch for AW13 Copy Born to Swedish parents and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City-based menswear designer Patrik Ervell has an impressive troika of geographical inspirations to draw from. His Scandinavian roots have given him – aside from his fair skin and blond hair – a humble point of view, a slightly introverted manner and a sense of minimalism that he applies to life in general and his collections in particular. Growing up in northern California gave him an all-American can-do attitude and a romantic love of sportswear. These core ingredients of Patrik Ervell – both the man and the brand – were given knife-sharp edge and a true understanding of fashion’s fickleness by his move to New York. “I can trace my aesthetic back to being Swedish and living in the Bay Area,” he says now, speaking in Paris. “They have a lot in common. Both cultures frown on status dressing and obvious luxury. Bear in mind that northern California is very different from Los Angeles. San Francisco is the home of North Face jackets – it’s the native habitat of that style.” Ervell is drawn to this appreciation of anonymity. “Over in San Fran, industry leaders dress in jeans and t-shirts. If you see someone in a suit, he’s most likely working in a restaurant.”
Ervell is arguably the most talented menswear designer still showing at New York Fashion Week. The seasonal showcase is part of the womenswear schedule, leaving him out of sync with his European counterparts. When we meet, in the midst of the spring/summer 2014 Paris menswear shows, he’s in town to present his collection to buyers in a showroom, three months before it will ‘premiere’ at New York’s Milk Studios. It’s an irony that’s not lost on him: “I know, it’s weird. I would consider coming to Europe to show, and I have been in talks with the British Fashion Council about it. I kind of prefer Paris – I feel more at home here – but my aesthetic is maybe more in line with London’s fashion?”
The Patrik Ervell look is difficult to pin down, as it should be. It’s diverse enough not to be pigeonholed but uniform enough to give it a strong brand identity. That might sound easy and obvious, but it’s a balancing act many designers struggle with: either they constantly swap styles, confusing the buyers, or they stick with one for far too long, boring the press. As I said, it’s a fickle business. Ervell, whose label started in 2005, has managed to identify a handful of looks, styles, garments and shapes that perfectly define his brand while still adding a biannual refreshment, without touching on the concept of ‘fashion trends’. Ervell explains his core design idea: “I’m very much into the history of American sportswear. That’s what New York fashion gave to the world – sportswear. My collection sits within that remit. I try and take a more emotional and romantic approach to modernism.” And for Ervell, romanticism is a concrete concept, not an academic notion. “For me, a hooded North Face jacket is romantic – it reminds me of something but there’s also the form and the hood silhouette. It’s an archetypical garment that’s beautiful and romantic but still like a protective shell – a latter-20th-century version of a cape.”
That’s not to say academia is a no-go area for Ervell. He studied international relations, political science and economics at UC Berkeley in California, his sights set on a career as a diplomat. There were no obvious early signs of his future creative profession. His parents worked for shipping companies. “I wish I could say they had travelled to San Fran because they were into counterculture, but that wasn’t the case. They came over from Sweden separately and met in a Euro expat community.” Though no fashion degrees existed at UC Berkeley, in a weird way the seeds of Ervell’s fashion career were planted there. “I met Humberto Leon while in my second year. Of course, when we all moved New York, he and Carol Lim opened up the Opening Ceremony store.” The sisters behind Rodarte also graduated from Berkeley too, and, according to Ervell, San Francisco was a creative hotbed in the late 90s: “At that time, the Bay Area was culturally important – it was a centre of artistic creativity. The internet culture was very much being invented there. I don’t think people realise how important San Francisco has been from the 50s up to present day for the creative industries.”
Once New York had lured Ervell over to the east coast he got his first job in fashion, working as a contributing editor at V magazine. Although this was a good job with career opportunities, he was not happy. He was on the wrong side of the fence. “I was at a great magazine but it wasn’t a creative job. It was great to learn and see the world but I felt it wasn’t right for me. I quickly got frustrated and felt like we just recycled references.” Ervell began harbouring the ambition to create his own clothing line, free of third-party interference. “My initial goal with the brand was to have no references. I felt it should be more about form and colour, especially in menswear, but it still needs to have context, otherwise it’s meaningless.” The result was a collection of t-shirts with faint screen-printed details of marble statues. “They were subtle, beautiful, but pushing my limits for what I knew technically at the time.”
The tops were picked up by his friends at Opening Ceremony. “Their store was like a mom-and-pop shop back then. Humberto and Carol stood behind the cash register themselves every day. For three or four years it was my only outlet – it was like a nursery for me, an incubator. Such a thing couldn’t be replicated today but it worked for me at that time.” The step from a t-shirt collection with only one retail account to a full-blown fashion label showered with industry accolade and worldwide stockists is a time-consuming, complicated one, full of challenges – especially if, like Ervell, you don’t have a formal fashion education. But he claims he was better off that way. “I have a classic liberal-arts background. That’s knowledge for life – it’s the best approach, I think. I took technical fashion classes at Parsons later on but mostly it was learning by doing for me. I think that learning how to see and interpret the world is more important than a fashion degree.” His take on the industry makes complete sense considering the clothes he makes. It is and isn’t fashion. Ervell complies with the biannual seasonal schedule and adds showpieces to the collections, but at the end of the day his clothes are, as Style.com’s Tim Blanks once described them, “glamorous everyday clothes”. Ervell agrees: “It can sometimes be a challenge to apply my aesthetic and style on the fashion scene and the catwalk format. But I also like that element and I sometimes remind myself how lucky designers are who get to say something new every six months. I have a lot of friends in other creative fields who maybe get to do that every sixth year!”
So what are the clothes like? How are they defined and categorised? They are occasionally described as ‘minimal’, but not in the sense of 90s minimalism heroes Jil Sander and Helmut Lang. It’s a very Scandinavian sort of minimalism: purpose and common sense with, as mentioned, an anonymity that stems also from his north Californian upbringing. “Yes, New York can be so much about dressing for status and events, whereas Sweden and the Bay Area are the complete opposites to that,” Ervell says. “My brand doesn’t fit with normal fashion trends – it’s a bit of a uniform. I admire people who find a uniform and stick to it, sometimes for life.” The idea of the uniform is sometimes used literally – military gear and army uniforms are a major influence. “For sure, they inspire me a lot. I like to come back to this archetype piece that is more or less recognisable and familiar. I often look to army garments for inspiration – I collect military pieces. They were made for an extreme utilitarian purpose and to use that as a starting point is always interesting. There’s different kinds of uniforms. I wear one kind. I tend to wear the same clothes every day for months at a time, I go through six-month cycles when I wear the exact same thing. Find a uniform and stick to it!”
In that spirit, some of his signature pieces are garments that have been with him since he set up the brand. The club-collar shirt is a great example. In different colour combinations and in various fabrics, the shirt – with rounded collars – is instantly identifiable, and together with sweatshirts and M65-style jackets form the sartorial backbone of the label. “The club-collar shirt came just after the t-shirts. there’s a slight 19th-century romantic feeling to them, which I like,” Ervell explains, linking them back to his fundamental brand concept. For autumn/winter 2013 all of this – the signature pieces and army fascination – comes together in the ‘Sylvan’ collection, for which Ervell created a unique pattern based on Realtree camouflage. “In the US it’s a commercial camouflage used by hunters, but you’ll also see hicks wearing it down the supermarket. It’s a night camo we built from photos of ivy and dark bark, a reinterpretation of the those classic North Face and Patagonia jackets and fleeces you see a lot of in and around San Francisco.” Asked to describe the pattern, he says it’s a “romantic camouflage”, perfectly summing up not only the key AW13 print, but also the Patrik Ervell brand.
The blog founder talks to David Hellqvist about how his hobby grew into a worldwide publishing empire for both digital and print media
In a day and age where media organisations struggle to make ends meet as the advertising pools dwindle, and with the collective print press looking towards ‘the internet’ as some sort of confused solution to all their problems, it’s refreshing to encounter titles that buck the trend and editors that follow their own vision, often against the advice of fellow industry insiders. A recent example of said phenomena is Hypebeast founder Kevin Ma. Launched in 2005 in Hong Kong as a footwear-orientated blog, Hypebeast is today a fully fledged publishing empire with 40 staff members working on a blog with 2.45 million uniques per month, an online store, a quarterly print magazine and a creative agency.
And like many other success stories, the Hypebeast project has gained its momentum through trial and error: “I have no connection to print other than my love of magazines when I was growing up, and always wanting to do our my own one day”, Kevin says from his Hong Kong office. “It was a challenge because we really had no experience but it was well worth it because we’re pretty happy with the results.” The magazine works due to the readership and fan base Hypebeast has built up through the blog over the years. Ask anyone who’s remotely interested in trainers and streetwear where they get their daily updates from and Hypebeast will be the first of just a few blogs mentioned. There are only two or three other names in the same league, and Hypebeast is the one most brands and PRs want to be affiliated with. “In the beginning, I never thought Hypebeast would become anything as it was just a part-time hobby but somehow traffic grew and six months later we had 10,000 users coming to the site every day. It was pretty amazing how many people wanted to check out the same things I did!”
But Kevin is still humble and hungry: “I never consider Hypebeast ‘big’… not even now as I’m always trying to grow it. But I guess the day I quit my full-time job to pursue Hypebeast as a career was a turning point for me.” The secret behind Hypebeast‘s success can partly be found in its name. “The origins of the name came from fashion forums where you would call someone a ‘Hypebeast’ if they bought into the hype without thinking about that individuals really liked the product themselves. I found this amusing so I decided to use the name for the website,” he explains. The blog concept is based on people obsessing. It’s about products, it’s about wanting the new releases and wanting – needing even – to know when and where they will launch. It’s about being ‘in the know’. “I grew up with computers and the Internet. During my university years in Vancouver, Canada, I would buy these imported Japanese magazines that talked about the latest fashion items and trends. I thought it was amazing what was happening on the other side of the world so I decided to catalogue this information into a blog format. That’s how it all started.” Never, it seems, underestimate people’s thirst for trainer news and fashion updates.
Today, Hypebeast covers a mixture of trainers, streetwear, fashion, music and gadgets (watches, cars, phones etc) – basically anything that can be described as ‘desirable luxury’. But it all began with trainers. So are they the ultimate Hypebeast item? “Yes, I would say so. Footwear for us is always the core and probably will always be the core. It always comes back to the shoes, sometimes in the form of trainers, sometimes boots and sometimes more causal shoes.” Where women have the ‘it’ bag, men obsess over trainers. It’s somehow a legitimate sartorial hobby. Of course women are also drawn to shoes, but the difference between a trainer and a pair of heels can be spelt ‘limited edition’. The big brands re-release old styles, change colour ways and bring in guest collaborators to feed the beast from their end. And it works – there will always be sneakerheads willing to queue over-night to secure a pair. Hypebeast is a forum and platform – a temple if you like – for this kind of dedication, it’s where people come to worship. And, to a certain degree, Kevin lives the life he preaches. “For the past eight years, I have on a daily basis – Monday to Sunday – looked at my RSS feed and checked all the hundreds of sites in my bookmarks. This is very important for me, becoming almost like a daily ritual. I feel if I ever stopped doing this, I would be disconnected from what’s going on in the world. I assume it’s like training for a sport; if you ever stop, you’re going to be out of shape.”
The difference between Hypebeast the blog and Hypebeast the magazine is palpable though. Mainly because you can’t run a magazine the way the Hypebeast blog is edited. The blog picks up news bulletins from brands and re-writes them for the blog within minutes, it aggregates content from other sites and tweaks it to suit the blog’s agenda and readership… it’s all about being instantaneous. The minute it’s been published it’s old news – on to the next one. The lifespan of a Hypebeast post – and the ones from all the other, similar blogs – is no more than a few hours. Like a newspaper site, it’s about breaking a story and moving on. It’s all very different from fashion magazines, which Kevin Ma found out when the first Hypebeast Magazine issue appeared in June 2012.
The magazine is different on every single account, except its fundamental choice of topics and subjects. “The print magazine is a place where quality matter, not quantity. We have always loved print and always wanted to do something in the print world but never had the time nor resources to do it,” Kevin explains. “Now that we have a great team on board, we are able to dive into that realm and create something that we feel can be tangible and timeless for our readers to enjoy.” What makes Hypebeast, and other blog/magazine titles like High Snobiety, unique is that they have identified a gap in the market. Early on, Kevin – probably based on his own preferences – realised that most people don’t just buy streetwear, and few customers solely shop high-end fashion. The truth is that most of us mix and match in a healthy way. Just wearing visvim or Stussy is as unappealing as constantly being dressed top to toe in Givenchy or Dries Van Noten.
But streetwear and high-end fashion both have snobbish tendencies. For many years the connection was not made; they were seen as polar opposites. “Traditionally, streetwear and high-end fashion did not mix. It was due to the politics of the industry, or that the two groups just didn’t really see any areas where there were crossovers. However, I feel this is changing.” Partly this is because there’s a new generation of designers heading up the top end luxury houses – they are now run by a generation that actually grew up on the street and not, as it were, a catwalk: “Yes, and so naturally their collections are going to be inspired by what they grew up with. And vice versa as well,” Kevin agrees. “Streetwear designers are taking hints from high fashion brands for their own collections. It’s a very interesting time and this I feel will continue to merge together.” The first ever Hypebeast issue had Belgian designer and Dior Homme head-honcho Kris Van Assche on the cover, the second featured a Maison Martin Margiela-masked model. Number three was covered in A Bathing Ape camouflage, while the fourth one was dedicated to Saint Laurent’s Hedi Slimane. The latest one, out last month, was plastered with Supreme logos – talk about merging the two categories.
The features and shoots fuse the two different styles, intertwining luxury fashion with luxury streetwear. And that’s basically the point right there; many of these contemporary ‘street’ brands are just about as luxe these days as any ancient Parisian design house… the quality, craftsmanship, attention to detail, premium fabrics – they’re as vital for White Mountaineering as they are to Balenciaga. The trick is to never close any doors, never all victim to close-minded snobbism: “We never cater Hypebeast for any market. We would write articles about whatever sparks our interest. However, I do see that taste differs from region to region. Everyone loves products, but at the end of the day it’s what type of products appeal to which crowd that matters,” Kevin says.
Around the same time as Hypebeast launched its print magazine, Kevin also took the unusual step of opening up a web shop. Today, with the likes of Mr Porter and Matches, editorialised online stores are no longer rare, but Hypebeast differs as it’s a blog cum print magazine that also ventured into retail. It’s a clever move especially when, as mentioned, the traditional magazine model struggles to stay profitable: why not sell some of the brands you already cover? It might make sense now but that’s not to say it was an easy decision at the time. “We really debated the idea in the beginning because while it made a ton of sense to offer people access to the product we talk about on a daily basis, how would that affect our editorial standard? We came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t because we wouldn’t post anything we don’t believe in anyway, whether it came from other stores or our own online shop.” Kevin’s point makes sense, but even though, for example, Vogue could easily have got away with opening up a store 20 years ago, he doesn’t think it applies to all magazines. “It wouldn’t necessarily work. Our site focuses on product so it made sense for us to try it. However, not all magazines have product ties so it might not be a good fit for everyone.”
“Streetwear designers are taking hints from high fashion brands for their own collections. It’s a very interesting time and this I feel will continue to merge together” Seasoned industry observers are likely to view a blog that all of a sudden launch a print magazine and a web store sceptically. The competition is already fierce and you have to question the motives, need and purpose of such a venture. But for Kevin it all makes sense, he knows who the reader and customer is: “Obviously, people who follow Hypebeast would be interested in reading the magazine but I hope people outside the Hypebeast realm are able to pick it up and read the stories we present. My goal is to educate people and tell them that there’s amazing things happening around the world. It doesn’t have to pertain to fashion, people can also learn about what’s happening in different cultures as well.” So far he’s been able to deliver on that, and it will be interesting to see what the future holds for Kevin Ma and his Hypebeast machine.
Port Magazine: Soulland x Goodhood: Silas Adler on Skateboarding
The Danish designer on growing up on a skateboard and his new upcoming collaborative collection with Kyle Stewart from the Goodhood store
Inspired by 80s skateboarding, Copenhagen-based Soulland and East London store Goodhood are this week launching a small capsule collection of shirts, Tees, sweatshirts and a jacket. In a monochrome colour palette, the collection plays with founder Silas Adler’s love of graphics and comfortable yet stylish garments – perfect for skating whether it’s 1983 or 2013. “I started skating when I was 10 years old. I just saw a kid on the street and instantly knew that it was something for me. Both me and Kyle from Goodhood grew up on skateboards; me in Copenhagen and Kyle in Edinburgh. So for both of us it’s an important part of who we are. Growing up, the skate culture was very important. It taught me all the most important things I know. I learned so much about being open and thinking of the world as something that’s there for you to discover. I learned to think internationally. When you travel with skateboarding you see cities and countries from a different angle than a tourist, and that is something I still do when I travel today. But it has for sure also been the saver for many kids that had a hard time growing up. I had a tough time in school and got into trouble a lot – but skateboarding made me focus. It made me stop thinking of all the everyday stuff that fills your brain and just be in the present. It´s hard to describe… and maybe that´s the point.
Skateboarding in the 80s was very special. It was what you call the second wave. The whole Powell Peralta movement made Hosi, Hawk, Mullen and Gurerro in to mega superstars. Skateboarding was extremely big. But then something happened. Vert skating died and so did skateboarding in the public eye. And a lot of these kids with no education that lived like superstars where all of a sudden on their own. Skateboarding in the 80s was also neon flashy in a cool way. And when street skating took over and re-boosted in the 90s as the third wave it was a lot more rugged. Today I don’t get to skate as much as I’d like to; a kid and a busy job takes up most of my time. But I skated everyday between the ages of 10 and 20. So I consider myself a skater. I check skateboarding on the internet every day. In that sense I think it´s the same today. But now there is just so much money and big corporate companies that are in it for the cash. I don´t know if it’s good or bad. And I think a lot of the skate clothing is defined by bad quality and logo prints… plus it looks the same every season. It´s very conservative if you think about it. But I grew up on it so I really love it. I rarely wear skateboard clothing but a lot of my Soulland clothes are inspired by it actually. I never thought about that before but I know it´s pretty clear to me… For the Goodhood collaboration we also added bits of Oscar Wilde’s poetry. We wanted to put in a tint of culture in the design. And a contrast. That´s when clothing is the most interesting I think…
We’ve been working with Kyle and Jo from Goodhood for many years now. They’ve been supporters since day one. We talked about doing a collaboration in the past but this time I just felt like all the pieces fell into place. I like how they have the ability to have a clear vision and also, when you get to know them a bit, you start to understand that everything they do is about them and their personal aesthetics. I think that’s something that’s rare these days. “Skateboarding in the 80s was also neon flashy in a cool way. And when street skating took over and re-boosted in the 90s as the third wave it was a lot more rugged” I think it’s a strength when you can see and feel the personality – their style and visual image are very strong. We try to do the same thing with Soulland. We want a strong design DNA and a red thread running through everything we do and still make it personal. But, of course, a store and a brand is different. I have to create the feeling based on one collection and Goodhood has to do it with a wide roster of brands. Both things can be a struggle… but it’s also very rewarding at the same time!”
Guardian Fashion Blog: Rio fashion week 2013 - five things we learned
Rio fashion week 2013: five things we learned Coca-Cola clothing and anti-cellulite jeans were among the talking points at Brazil’s unpretentious fashion shows
Brazil may be preparing to host the 2014 football World Cup and the summer Olympics in 2016, but that didn’t stop fashion’s biannual circus rolling into town last week. Cue Rio de Janeiro’s autumn/winter 2014 shows. Thanks to Francisco Costa heading up Calvin Klein Collections womenswear and Alexandre Herchcovitch showing at New York, the fashion pack were talking about Rio this week.
Rio de Janeiro v São Paulo
Brazil actually has two fashion weeks, one in Rio and the other in São Paulo. The two differ in style and attitude towards fashion. You can compare them to the differences between Los Angeles and New York. Rio is like LA: very relaxed and beach-focused (and why not, when you have Copacabana and Ipanema around the corner?). São Paulo is more like New York: gritty, hard and urban. Traditionally, Rio is all about carnival, not just as an event but a way of life, and that makes for an interesting fashion week.
Alexandre Herchcovitch is top dog
There is one superstar designer in Brazil and that is Alexandre Herchcovitch. Creatively, he dominates the domestic fashion scene. Showing during New York, he then takes his collection on a two-city tour of Brazil, showing in Rio and São Paulo. Rio gets the diffusion line, a denim-focused brand with a casual and sporty direction. And Herchcovitch’s dominance is such that his second line impresses more than any of the other participating mainline designers. He shows off genuine quality, a perfectly put-together show with a coherent theme. Herchcovitch also introduced anti-cellulite jeans in his collection this season. After testing the fabric for five years, the designer claims that the manmade fibre, Emana, harnesses body heat and turns it into infrared rays that are relayed back to the skin and stimulates the areas most at risk from dimpling.
Coca-Cola clothing? Really?
As a sponsor, Coca-Cola’s fashion collection is given one of the main spots during Rio fashion week. It’s a bit like Topshop showing a catwalk line at London, but nowhere near as good. Whereas Topshop, a genuine fashion brand, has style and a purpose, Coca-Cola has neither. That void is filled with brash colours and C-list celebrities, often walking on the catwalk as opposed to sitting front row. For autumn/winter 2014, Coca-Cola went futuristic with a predominately white collection spaced out with bits of silver and gold. Who, when, where and why anyone will ever wear this remains to be seen.
The ‘no bikini’ policy
Now, you could be forgiven for thinking that Rio fashion week is jam-packed with bikinis and swimming costumes. That is not the case. Not one featured throughout the event. People often laugh at regional fashion weeks and, in Rio’s case, assume that it’s not serious fashion. There are duds on the schedule, of course, but overall Rio – and São Paulo even more so – shows signs of maturing its fashion. To name but a few, there is the futuristic fashion of Ausländer, Alessa’s conceptual proportions, and the understated elegance of Sacada.
The stand-out star
Although the name is questionable, Second Floor still showed one of the most consistent collections. Thiago Marcon focused on a monochrome floral print that was used on several fabrics. It was layered and clashed against a similar pattern with green or red accent colours. Frilly skirts and frayed seams made the flowers look less cute. The one eyesore was the Little House on the Prairie-style bonnet hats.
Port Magazine: Red Wing Iron Works: London, United Kingdom
Shop manager James Moss talks to David Hellqvist about the iconic boot brand, 200 year-old beams and the new Soho store
On the corner of Newburgh Street and Ganton Street, in the heart of London’s Soho district, shop manager James Moss – a young gentleman wearing high-waisted trousers with slicked back hair and a well-trimmed beard – is standing in front of the Red Wing store’s newly painted facade, pointing at an Irish Setter boot from 1953 in the shop window. “You can see that the leather just carries on going, it gets better and better,” he says. “We wanted to make an example that in the store, you’re spending money on an investment but you’re going to get your money’s worth.”
“These have stood the test of time for 70 odd years. It’s nice to show customers that. It’s a durable piece, it’s well-made and it’s not something you’ll throw away in a year – you’ll get attached to it. It’s your personal piece. That’s very valuable.” Red Wing boots, and admittedly other qualitative leather footwear brands, are like good denim; they only get better with time and, more importantly, it’s you the wearer who shape the look of the garment: “The leather will age accordingly to how you wear them, what terrain you’re going to be on, where the pressure points are and how your foot moves and things like that. Each boot will be singular to the wearer. It’s nice to see that.”
Moss, and his Red Wing colleagues, has taken over a classic spot in a great Soho corner. The street has had its ups and downs over the last decade, trying to find its sartorial voice in the battle between commercial tourist brands and authentic and independent shops trying to to make and sell qualitative products. The new Red Wing store, plus a few of its neighbours, are a definitive step in the right direction. And Red Wing, although a giant on the durable footwear market, doesn’t have that many stand alone retail spots. “No, we only have six in Europe – four in Germany, one in Holland, one in the UK now. The first one was in Frankfurt 35 years ago. Then it took us 30 years to build the second one.” The expansion and increasing popularity of the brand is organic: “I think one reasons why it didn’t grow earlier is because the company just has a very different focus. They never really looked outside of oil platforms. But the owners soon noticed there were a lot of people wearing the boots for leisure as well, so he decided to expand – but his purpose was just to bring them good footwear, he never intended it to be a fashion thing. It still isn’t for him, which is good. Then I think, about 10 years ago, our boots got more grounds for other people to wear. So it kind of grew.”
As a brand though, Red Wing is next to ancient. “Yes, since 1905 it’s been supporting America and its growth as a country – and it’s spread to the world,” James says proudly. Founded in Red Wing, Minnesota, by Charles Beckman, the footwear company produced army boots for US soldiers during both World Wars, and in between they specialised on functional and durable workwear boots. The combination of the heritage, craftsmanship and classic design has made Red Wing a well-respected and much-loved footwear staple. “Guys don’t want to just go and buy a fancy old boot, they want a boot that’s going to last. It’s not the guys that wear all the gear; it’s not necessarily just them we’re after. It’s the everyday man,” James says.
Inside the store, the 1950s boot James was holding, and many more like it, are scattered around. Though not for sale, they help paint a picture of what it means to own a Red Wing boot. They are there to remind customers and staff alike of the timeless quality of the boot, and that – with a little bit of TLC – they can hang around for life. The sole can be upgraded, and you can get new laces here – or come in and learn how to best treat the leather. The aim is not just to sell you another pair, but to help you get the most out of your existing ones. “This is the reason we’re displaying all the old stuff – you can see for yourself it’s clearly going to last you for the rest of your life. People will feel more comfortable with spending that money as well. Sometimes we get E-mails saying ‘these are my pair of boots’ and they send an image, and they tell us ‘I got them form my father’. They’re 50-year-old boots and they’re still wearing them! We actually got donated two pairs of 50s Setters by two young lad that came in. Their dad gave them both a pair of old boots for their 18th birthday or something and they still had them to this day and it was really cool that they’ve passed on. The dad had used them in the fields, on the oil rigs!”
Once you’ve stepped over the store’s Red Wing emblem (“It says Red Wing Iron Works, London, United Kingdom. Every shoe store has one of these. They just took a picture of one of the few remaining manhole covers in Redwing, Minnesota. Those say ‘Red Wing Ironworks, Red Wing Minnesota’ and we make them for each store”) you’re almost as taken aback by the interiors as the boots; the first thing you see is an impressively oversized shelving unit. “This interior detail is inspired by functional factory cabinets. It was built by the Red Wing handyman, Jacob, and it’s 3.2m wide and 2.1m high. It’s made out of solid steel, inspired by the industrial aspect of Red Wing boots.” Further down the store, sitting comfortably on the wall, are two wooden beams. Up to 200 years old, these pieces of wood even pre-date all Red Wing boots in the store. “We found them a couple of hours outside London. It took us, I think, about four different trips before we found the correct ones. Wood makes sense in here as it’s a material that gets better over time,” James explains. “Like Red Wing boots, wood turns more beautiful as it grows older!”
Guardian / Comment Is Free: The Sale of Dr Martens
These boots are a part of fashion history – from skinheads to punks to pop stars. Their sale to Permira won’t change that
Here we are again with news of a family-owned company selling and giving up control to a private equity firm to the tune of several hundred million pounds. British boot company Dr Martens, once famed as the footwear of choice for punks and skinheads, is now owned by Permira Funds, which also handles Hugo Boss and New Look. But the reason Permira approached the Griggs family to acquire Dr Martens owes less to Sid Vicious, Kurt Cobain and Pete Townshend wearing them and more to Rihanna, Miley Cyrus and Agyness Deyn being photographed in them. Or does it? Although Permira, I’m sure, is aware of the brand’s history, I sincerely hope it understands why today’s pop stars are keen on being seen wearing Dr Martens.
We’ve seen a resurgence in interest for the brand, but the reason for the bootmaker’s recent return to favour goes deeper than being spotted on celebrity feet. Like all design classics, the Dr Martens 1460 eight-eyelet boot is steeped in cultural and historical significance. The boot transcends trends – but that’s not to say it’s immune to them. Fashion, by definition, is cyclic, but being a design classic means you have the sartorial stamina to ride it out. Clarks Wallabee, Converse Chuck Taylor, Nike Air Max, to just mention footwear, are all styles that come and go but still maintain style credentials.
In the case of Dr Martens, it’s down to two important factors: music and politics. Like the bomber jacket, Dr Martens boots were important element of a rightwing skinhead uniform. The skinheads didn’t own the boot but they tried to make it theirs – and they nearly succeeded. When I was growing up in Sweden, wearing DMs to school was frowned upon because of the skinhead connotations. Still, we wanted them. There was something exhilarating about owning boots associated with danger and attitude, our own form of teenage rebellion. The reason skinheads picked up on the boot, originally designed as workwear, was the steel toe cap and menacing look when you rolled up slim jeans to show off the length of it. Perhaps it was also this notion of power that meant feminists and musicians, such as Sinéad O’Connor, donned them in the 90s.
Fashion and music has always gone hand-in-hand, borrowing from each other. But for Dr Martens it wasn’t a case of being inspired by rock stars. The boot was created by German army doctor Klaus Martens, who designed the air-cushioned sole to help relieve his back pain – not very rock’n’roll. Still, the simple design, the workwear connection, the characteristic yellow stitching and streamlined shape made it popular with musicians in the 70s, and later with Britpop in the 90s. But it was the punks who reclaimed the boot from the skinheads; bands such as the Clash, Buzzcocks and the Sex Pistols refused to let rightwing hooligans define the footwear, and instead they made it part of their aesthetic, together with ripped jeans and leather biker jackets.
In rough street politics and sweaty gig venues across the country, the Dr Martens mythology was born. Soon Rihanna might stop wearing them and Miley Cyrus will perhaps move on to another brand, but Dr Martens will remain timeless. There is no trend, or multimillion buyout for that matter, that can change that.
Adam Atkinson and Becky French talk David Hellqvist through their tweed and silk tie collaboration
Sitting at a corner table in St John’s Bread & Wine restaurant on Commercial Street, washing down toast with cappuccinos, Marwood’s Becky French and Adam Atkinson, the designer behind Cherchbi, are considering the concept of collaborations. Mainly because they’ve just launched their own; an especially designed tweed bag containing a bow and a bow tie. “There’s lot of brands who collaborate and it’s purely a marketing exercise, it’s not about the products whatsoever, it’s just about getting two brand names together and hoping the other will do them some good – that’s not in the spirit of collaboration,” Adam says. Marwood and Cherchbi though, two British specialist accessory brands dedicated to UK-only production, takes a different point of view: “What we’ve done is taken two things that are inherent to our brands and combining them in an equal way that creates something that represents both of our brands and creates something new”, he explains.
Combining Cherchbi’s signature heavy Herdwyck tweed and Marwood’s neckwear expertise and fine staircase silk, the product is truly unique to this set of creatives. By being recognisable to both customer bases, yet introducing new shapes and materials – and ultimately new products – the Travel Case is perhaps the definition of a ‘good’ collaboration. Having met at a Centre of Fashion Enterprise course, the two instantly found each other’s brand compelling. Though different products, Marwood and Cherchbi share many fundamental DNA strands. “They’re [CoFE] an organisation that help on the business side of things, they’ve got various stages of programmes that you can go through. I think it was an accounting meeting,” Becky remembers. “We realised we’ve got a really similar customer who appreciate the same things – I really loved Adam’s Cherchbi bags and what they stand for, the shared qualities are definitely innovation with fabric.”
Later on, after a few months, the idea of a collaborative product was born: “I saw Marwood in a few places, and I thought I’d get in touch. I just wanted to say hello so we could introduce ourselves properly, and maybe do something together in a slightly more interesting surrounding,” Adam says. The rest, as they say, is history. Originally inspired by a 1920s collar case, the bag that the neckwear comes in is very much part of the story. Bags, in general, is Cherchbi’s area of expertise. For the Travel Case, Adam developed a completely new bag, a wash-bag style version featuring a waterproof silk lining and trimmed with English saddle leather and a solid brass Riri zip. Deciding on the tweed and silk combination was an easy decision. “They complement each other; they’re completely different, the staircase silk is really refined and beautiful while our tweed is robust and they really work together beautifully straight away,” Adam says. And in terms on settling on the actual bag contents, Becky adds, “we were thinking of something that uses the Cherchbi skills from the bag making without making a bag. We talked about different ideas and ways of keeping ties – we make boxes, so when you buy a Marwood tie online you get a cube box and the idea is you’re supposed to roll your ties rather than keep them folded or pressed.”
The reason for rolling the tie is practical: “It’s a good way to keep them and make them last. It’s the trickle down affect, if you keep all the stitching lined up, the whole thing is pivoted from that central construction, so if you start to fold it you’re going to weaken it and you’ll get folds in the tie and it won’t wear as nicely. So that was the main point of having that packaging and thinking how can you encourage people to look after their products,” Becky explains. Marwood makes ties, bow ties and pocket squares in its fine silk and famous lace. This bow tie is made out of a thick and harsh tweed, not a combination that’s often seen. “Yeah, the factory was like, ‘really, do you want to do this?’… I don’t think they enjoyed making those ones as much as the ties! We tried backing it with silk to make it thinner, but it actually worked better with double wool, which is strange,” Becky says. “I have to say I had never worn a bow tie in my adult life before, but I thoroughly enjoyed wearing it and I’m not just saying that because of the collaboration. It’s a lovely thing and it raises a smile,” Adam adds.
Though often seen as preppy, something Becky works hard to avoid, the bow tie gets a completely new look through the unconventional use of fabric. “I think it works in another way as well, the same reason the bags work; it’s an interesting fabric with great texture. It’s monochrome, it’s all about the texture, it’s greys and browns, the ties work with lots of different colours,” Adam says. Coming full circle, analysing the idea of collaborating again, now against the back drop of their own product, Becky is happy with the result: “It’s very satisfying to be part of a collaboration where you learn something through it and you feel like two people are bringing something to the table and you come up with something that you couldn’t have done on your own, collaboration is something that people use time and time again as a term, but it’s such an important part, and something that I will carry on doing with Marwood.” I feel that’s a pretty good way of rounding up this piece.
The immaculately dressed Chelsea manager shares his style wisdom with the world
For the launch of the AW13 collection from Porsche Design Sport, José Mourinho – the brand’s ambassador – discussed questions of style. Here are five lessons we learned at the Mourinho School of Fashion.
Colourful fashion does not make Mourinho happy. Would he consider going beyond his tried-and-tested monochrome colour palette to brights? Dark blue is the furthest he’ll go, he says. And he isn’t joking. “Personally, I just like to wear dark colours. I’m not a person who has orange and yellow jumpers.”
He established his style early on. “I prefer black, grey and dark blue and have since I was 18 or 19, when I started dressing more discreet,” he explains. This is a good sign, it shows loyalty and consistency, albeit to charcoal jumpers and black loafers.
Mourinho has his own take on the style evolution among football managers. “In Europe, during the 70s, everyone was wearing suits in the dugout. Then, during the 80s, the fashion moved on to tracksuits, some of them with the trainer’s initials on them. In the 90s we saw a mixture of those styles.” An excellent fashion and football lesson, I’m sure you’ll agree.
He knows he’s Special. “For me, a while back, I felt that everyone was in a suit and tie, and it was time for me to make a difference,” he says. “The way to do that, as it was my work clothes, was to dress very comfortably but keep elements of style.”
Quality over quantity is the way forward. “There aren’t really any garments in my wardrobe that I don’t wear,” he says. “I don’t buy a lot of clothes, but when I do, I know what I want.” Mourinho points towards his seemingly plain and formal trousers. “See these Porsche trousers, they look like normal black trousers but they are made out of a high-tech and innovative material so I can wear them here and at a practice.” Day-to-night, Mourinho-style.
Port Magazine: The Art & Science of Flex: Nike x Daniel Widrig
The artist and designer explores 3D printing for Nike’s Feel London expo, creating a four-metre long computer-generated piece of geometry that moves through space and inflates and deflates
Art and science. Not normally two areas that go hand in hand. It’s very much a case of the two different brain halves clashing. That’s probably we don’t see many projects from either side approaching the other for creative input. The upcoming Feel London exhibition at 1948, Nike’s exclusive Shoreditch space, is an example of a project bucking that trend. It makes perfect sense, though, as Nike – almost per definition – is a trainer and apparel brand hellbent on fusing the two. For the 10 day expo, kicking off on October 10th, Nike invites a wide array of artists interpreting the art and science theme of through the festival programme and creative workshops. The line-up includes Hellicar & Lewis, Universal Everything, Quayola Signigaglia and artist Daniel Widrig to mention but a few.
Widrig, a former Zaha Hadid employee, works across sculpture, fashion, furniture design and architecture, but many of his projects also embrace digital systems. Inspired by the Nike’s ‘Nature Amplified’ ethos, Widrig used his “unique approach to digital and generative design to explore the concept of freedom using animation software to create multiple snapshots of an abstract geometric figure”. The result, a four-metre long 3D printed sculpture, challenges not only idea of what art and science can create together, but also interprets movement and flexibility in a new way.
David Hellqvist: Can you describe what we are looking at?
Daniel Widrig: The original brief was to make a piece that deals with emotion in general, a manifestation of the body in motion. It’s basically a four metre long printed object, computer-generated piece of geometry that moves through space and inflates and deflates in a way. It’s a snapshot of a piece of geometry that moves through space in 3D and then is materialised using 3D printing processes. It’s pretty big, I think it’s one of the largest 3D printed sculptures so far, to my knowledge. Normally, 3D printing is used for smaller objects and prototypes.
David: Who did you collaborate with?
Daniel: We did it in Belgium, I work usually with Materialise. They’re a company that normally work with automotive industry, they normally do car parts and prototypes for designers. They have the biggest 3D printers in the world that allows them to do this, they also work with furniture in experimental prototype work. They’ve invented their own software and printing technology, they built their own printers and they have these big 4m machines and they build and construct them.
David: So when working with Materialise, what’s your role?
Daniel: With the Nike project there was a certain direction with the design needed, they wanted something that referred to visual motion and flexibility. So I proposed this geometric investigation and topology, geometry that flexes and bends and twists. Every project is different, when I was working with fashion designer Iris van Herpen she had the idea to apply some of my sculptural ideas to a human body. Then we took structures and sculptures that I already developed and we developed a composition together on to the body.
David: What was the starting point with the Nike project
Daniel: The topic was motion and flexibility, so I was trying to find a digital process to work within the brief, a process that creates snapshots of geometry. For this particular piece I looked at the research of Etienne Marie Jules who’s an iconic 19th century photographer; the body has a certain indication of movement and that is captured through photographic techniques. With today’s technology you can simulate similar processes digitally, so that’s a source of inspiration here.
David: What’s the material made out of?
Daniel: It’s a resin. The way it works is you have like a bathtub full of liquid resin, like a virtual piece of geometry on the other. You take that geometry and the software slices it into layers, if you look at the growth a tree it’s a series of rings, it’s a similar process in a way, it’s layering. Let’s say the object is sliced into several thousand slices, the resin is printing these contours onto its surface, and gradually the piece builds up. So it’s a resin that’s been hardened by a laser.
David: Can you explain the manufacturing process?
Daniel: This piece took 10 days and we had to move it three times. A third of it took around 20 hours, it wasn’t a continuous 10 day process. So it’s four metre long and the height is something like 65cm. That was the piece and then we worked with light and there was LED to illuminate changes. Once it’s here we’ll take photos. It’s already been shown in Milan and at Portland at the Nike factory. This is a reference to the Nike flex technology, the way the segmented part with a flexible join that then flexes and bends. This is how it turned out from the brief, there’s a reference from the shoe to the brief.
Kenichi Kusano, designer for Baracuta’s Blue Label, talks to David Hellqvist about the water-repellent and breathable fabric technology
The holy grail for any respectable fashion brand – and especially one that’s pre-occupied with substance as well as style, like Baracuta – is a new garment technology that allows the clothes to both look good while still fulfilling its purpose. It’s not a new proposition, and it’s been achieved before by countless brands and designers. Though, that doesn’t make it easy. Finding that balance is increasingly difficult as fussy customers refuse to pay big bucks for sartorial one-trick-ponies, clothes that doesn’t tick all the boxes and lets the wearer down with lack of quality. British cult brand Baracuta, one of the original makers of the classic Harrington jacket, has had this quest on the agenda since it began producing the G9 Harrington jacket back in 1937, and continue to do so till this day.
“When I wear a Baracuta Jacket I need it to be very functional and suitable for all weather conditions. Technology and sartorial innovation is very important, especially for the Blue Label line. I’m always thinking about how we can bring it in to update daily wear without losing the look and the heritage style that Baracuta is famed for,” says Kenichi Kusano, creative director of the Blue Line. What this search for innovative technology means differs for each decade as new machinery constantly moves the benchmark forward. In the last few years, a lot of the energy has gone into developing new water-proof materials that allows you to stay dry. Gore-Tex technology and taped seams were for long the ultimate combination. A while back the Swiss-based Schoeller Technologies AG developed the 3XDRY technology.
“The technology was developed about ten years ago. It’s a water-repellent and breathable technology that does not affect the original texture of the fabric itself and continues to maintain the texture, touch and feel of the fabric,” Kusano explains. With its ‘Advanced Moisture Management’ finish, 3XDRY combines two technologies in one fabric: on the outside the textiles is coated with a water-repellent function, called the hydrophobic effect, while the fabric’s inside absorbs perspiration (hydrophilic). This means that moisture hitting the jacket as rain is repelled, and that body sweat is quickly absorbed by the material, keeping you dry both on the inside as well as the outside. “I first heard about the company and the technology at a fabric exhibition in Hong Kong, it was already being used for sportswear but I could see the potential of using it with outerwear/daily wear. I’ve also used the technology for Beams Plus.”
The 3XDRY technology has successfully been implemented into Baracuta’s Blue Label collection for AW13, which, Kusano says, was themed on “the coast and sailing with the inspiration for the colour block line, which uses the 3XDRY technology, coming from international signal flag colours for ships.” Kusano set out to make them “very durable and comfortable”. Other, even more high tech fabrics, are available but, according to Kusano, they are for pure outdoors brands. “For Baracuta, we didn’t need a fabric to be this high performance as comfort and style have to be considerations when designing casualwear.” So in many ways, 3XDRY and G9 go hand in hand.
T Magazine Fall Travel Issue: Feeling For | The Enduring Appeal of the Patagonia Fleece
Patagonia — the Southern California-based sportswear brand once relegated to the world of steel pitons and bivouac sacks — has become the outdoorsy label of choice for the stylish set, with vintage versions of the classic Retro-X fleece today as likely to be worn by hipsters as they are by hippies. While Patrik Ervell and Marc Jacobs showed Patagonia-inspired jackets and sweatshirts in their fall collections, the trend seems to have originated with the Japanese, who have recently revived other earthy items like Tevas and Birkenstocks — accessorized, of course, with ragg wool socks. “It’s a style that becomes shorthand for a certain kind of lifestyle,” Ervell says about the durable fleece, which he argues is as archetypal a garment as the biker jacket or the trench. “Simple and utilitarian: it’s a very California ethos.”
The photographer and publisher talks David Hellqvist through his new book and explains the difference between ‘vintage’ and ‘revival’ clothes
Too often these days people are obsessed with constant change in order to please society’s thirst for superficial fads and shallow personalities. But not everyone is preoccupied with the latest gadgets, upcoming trends and disposable lifestyles – there is of course a resistance movement to this phenomena. As long as commercially-driven entities in society wants you to compromise on integrity, there will be individuals who resist. That goes for music, art, film and, of course, fashion. For Nick Clements, a veteran photographer and publisher of Men’s File magazine and the recently released The Revivalists book, this ethos form the fundamental foundation for his entire lifestyle.
Clements’ magazine and books, the latest of which we here showcase images from, are dedicated to the people who go their own way in search for a society anchored in revival values. “The Revivalists have an over-riding interest in mid-century style but also a major rejection of the ‘throwaway’ society. Many of the people in this book are living a truly ‘underground’ existance. Me putting them in this book will mean they have to go even deeper. I think they will enjoy that,” Clements says. Clearly, for the Devon-based creative, the concept goes beyond clothes: “Yes, it’s partly about wearing itchy wool against the skin and a tie done up tight against the neck and enjoying it, but they are also reviving a time of great elegance and self discipline.”
Clements is in it for the long run; the book is the result meeting interesting people over the course of several decades. “It took me over 25 years to select the people who went into the book. Some of the shots are that old,” he says. And in that time, a lot has changed; style isn’t what it used to be. “In just 20 years, style has become one of capitalism’s most potent commodities. One of the most stylish things you can do today is to side-step that commodification. Standing out by not taking part. When everyone is wearing shorts and flip-flops tie your neck-tie tighter.”
For Clements, who also run The Curator, a clothing store and café in Totnes, Devon, differentiating between the various terms for vintage clothing is important. Heritage and revival is not the same for him. “These [vintage and heritage] are just labels used to describe mid-20th century style to different audiences. Vintage and heritage in particular are marketing terms. That’s why I use revival.” And Clements himself lives true to his words: “95% of my clothing is either original mid-century or a replica of that period.” According to the photographer, whose last book dealt with cars and motorbikes, “there are two main ares that interest revivalists: transportation and clothing. This series of books will continue to explore these subjects in the widest sense. The next one is called The Westerners & Miss Banbury Cross, then Vintage Girls.”
To Clements, all the people in the book matter; these are his friends and people he share a deep-rooted lifestyle with. But when pushed, he mentions one person as an unofficial highlight from the book: “Perhaps the most outstanding person is Brian Bent. This man is an outstanding artist, musician, car builder and surfer. He can make or play anything and he isn’t even trying to impress people, he’s just doing it for the art of it. Brian Bent is an outstanding individual.” Having flicked through The Revivalists, I’m sure you’ll agree Nick Clements is too.
We Are The Market: In the Name of the Trainer, Sneaker and Shoe. Amen
Generally speaking, bag mania is a female phenomena, and when a handbag is prefixed with an ‘it’ it means that particular bag is the most exciting accessory around at the moment. Women will queue for hours, spend thousands of dollars and put up with just about any hardship to get their hands on a Wang, Balenciaga, Céline or Dior bag. In menswear, rucksacks do not possess the same sort of iconic status. Instead we have trainers. True, shoes are also an object of desire for women, but when it comes to trainer-mania, men are pretty damn good at obsessing themselves. Last year there was a trainer expo in London and when writing a piece on it for London’s local newspaper, the Evening Standard, I spoke to Hannes Hogeman from Trés Bien. From a high-end retail point of view, he confirmed the potentially instantaneous impact trainers can have on his clients: “Certain shoes can sell out in minutes, even seconds. The most intense one for us so far was Nike’s Air Yeezy II. Our web shop was down for eight hours because of the amount of traffic,” Hannes confirmed.
So trainers sell and they sell in massive quantitates. A major player like Kanye obviously helps boost the desirability of them, but even if it’s ‘just’ a standalone Nike trainer, without the hip hop cred, there’s plenty of money to be made. First of all, trainers from the likes of Nike, adidas, Puma, New Balance etc are fairly affordable. Most people can pay round about $150 for a pair without breaking the bank. It’s also one of few men’s fashion pieces it is acceptable to own many of. Trainer heads and sneaker freaks are not looked down upon; it’s socially acceptable to collect trainers whereas if you, say, collected shirts a few eyebrows might be raised. It’s also ‘OK’ to collect watches. I suppose it’s because trainers and watches are more like gadgets than trousers and waistcoats.
What’s interesting to observe is how high-end fashion brands, normally not associated with a streetwear staple like the trainer, have really jumped on the bandwagon and are flogging trainers like their lives depended on it – which, quite ironically, is sort of the case. Because, just as trainers is the male equivalence of a Dior handbag, it also represent the Chanel lipstick and the Gucci sunglasses. It’s an entry-point purchase. It’s a (fairly) affordable way for a first time luxury goods buyer to get his hands on some ‘Made in Italy’ action. Add to that an enlarged logo and you are all of a sudden buying into an aspirational lifestyle.
Luckily not all brands go for the cheap thrill of an oversized logo – if anything, as customers get educated, it’s a dwindling trend – and today the high-end trainers are defined by design rather than marketing. It’s surprising how many Parisian luxury brands today have their ‘own’ trainer design, a calling card that instantly means their footwear is recognisable, not only on the catwalk but, more importantly, on the streets. Kris Van Assche has his laced high top boot, Lanvin is famous for its patent toe cap trainer in suede and Hedi Slimane’s Dior Homme managed to ring fence the retro look with his white low top trainers. Long before that, Gucci helped pave the way with their G logo trainer. The list goes on. Then we have the ‘proper’ shoe brands; high tops from Pierre Hardy, shoe trainers from Common Projects and Mr Hare’s Vonnegut.
Of late, though, we’ve seen a shift from high tops and traditional luxe trainers (leather, suede, gold etc) to a more sport-influenced style. It, of course, goes with the general high-tech tendencies on the catwalk (Gucci showed jackets with taped seams for SS14!) but few other garment types take it as far as the trainers. Look at the pictured ones. The Raf Simons one is the result of an adidas collaboration; big, clunky and a mixture of mesh and plastic, it’s an aesthetic smörgåsbord. The colour combinations are important, and so is the shape. These ingredients form the recognisable ‘garment logo’, they are what breed the desirability.
The pictured Lanvin trainer is, when inspected closely, almost identical. Instead of Raf’s mish mash of colours, Lucas Ossendrivjer went for a tasteful combo of different shades of orange. The visual impact is strong, this is a trainer that will be seen and it’s proud of its extravagance. The price tags is steep, these are not cheap. Still, many buyers still prefer a pair of trainers to investing in a shirt or trousers from these designers. But, when you think about it, you get more use out of a pair trainers; you can wear them seven days a week without anyone questioning it. The same can’t be said for a shirt. Lastly, going back to the hoarding of trainers, Hannes points out that not all customers buy trainers to flaunt them: “There’s a true collectors-aspect to sneakers since they come in different editions and models; collect, not wearing them, keeping the box, selling, exchanging – it can be done with most expensive things, including trainers”. True that.
Port Magazine 11: The Technology - Gyakusou's Aeroloft Vest
Six seasons in, Gyakusou - Nike’s partnership with Japanese Undercover designer Jun Takahashi - is a tried and tested fashion slash sportswear collaboration. Where others get the balance between and style and substance wrong, resulting in too many details and over-designed exercise gear, Takahashi’s Gyakusou International Running Association early on toned down the trend aspect and, due to the designer’s ever-increasing marathon obsession, focused the brand on maximum mobility and functionality. With such ambitions it’s crucial to constantly develop high-tech fabrics and innovative sartorial solutions.
Thankfully, Takahashi has the entire might of Nike’s Portland, Oregon, laboratory at his disposal. In line with the sportswear giant’s ‘Nature Amplified’ ethos, Gyakusou aims to increase the human body’s ability to push its limits. For AW13, Gyakusou tackled that challenge with a new temperature-regulating technology; Aeroloft is designed to enhance the running experience, whether it’s in a warm or cold climate. Exclusively used in the Aeroloft 800 vest, the ultra-light insulating layer is composed of perforated down allowing for precision ventilation. “Movement activates ventilation in the vest, enabling heat to escape the body through laser-cut holes situated between the down chambers. The 800-fill down is body-mapped to maximise mobility and warmth where needed most,” says Lee Holman, VP of Nike Apparel Design.
Tested by in Japan and New Zealand, on a specially designed sweating mannequin and by elite runners in trying conditions, the technology perfectly sums up the Gyakusou DNA; performance-enhancing technology that looks good. “Wicking Dri-FIT side and shoulder panels further boost breathability, while the rip-stop nylon exterior provides durability and protection from wind. Lightweight and low-profile, the Nike Aeroloft 800 Vest folds up to fit in a pocket for easy layering and carrying,” Holman explains. In Nike’s world’s, data-driven knowledge and human athleticism go hand in hand.
Photo by Thomas Brown, Styling & Text David Hellqvist
For American designer John Varvatos, fashion and rock go hand in hand. Since setting up his brand in 2000, Varvatos has weaved the legacy of rock’n’roll into his collections, and the clothes are not only defined by qualitative fabrics but by the attitude and soul of music. It was from this dual passion that the idea for his new book, ‘Rock in Fashion’, came. The book, written with Holly George-Warren, contains over 250 images of rock icons, personally curated by Varvatos himself. Staying away from obvious and well-known images, Varvatos sought out never-seen-before pictures by photographers like Mick Rock, Janette Beckman and Lynn Goldsmith. The point of the book is that the artists portrayed - everyone from Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin to Jack White, Paul Weller and Pete Townshend - not only influence through their music, but also with their wardrobes - and this book pays tribute to both.
Uncovering the state of Danish menswear in the aftermath of the Copenhagen shows
Copenhagen is just about the perfect summer city. When the plane comes in for landing at Kastrup, Denmark’s biggest airport, it circles the city centre and continues out over the sea. Here it makes a sharp turn to the right, allowing the passengers to view the capital from a beautiful panorama perspective. The sun plays its games with the glittering water and the plane’s shadow is clearly visible in the waves as we come in for landing. It’s a scenic introduction to Copenhagen Fashion Week’s Spring Summer 2014 season. Danish fashion, though, isn’t known for its glittering, larger-than-life aesthetic. Like its Scandinavian neighbour Sweden (who’s got it own fashion week coming up), Danish brands have long been synonymous with monochrome and minimal fashion, as opposed to shimmering extravagance. Comparing Copenhagen and Stockholm is inevitable; visitors can expect a similar climate, view, nature, attitude and fashion spectrum. Traditionally the two countries share the same fundamental aesthetic and core design values.
As such many of the Scandi brands are pure products of the 90s, and for quite a few of them very little has changed in terms of their sensible approach to life in general and fashion in particular. The likes of Swedish Filippa K, Whyred, J.Lindeberg and Hope and Denmark’s Samsøe Samsøe, Sand and DAY Birger et Mikkelsen all share common grounds in their sartorial trajectory. But most of this success was heralded in the field of womenswear, and it required a new and fresh generation of Danish menswear designers in the 00s to put Scandi men’s fashion on the map. Henrik Vibskov and Peter Jensen took on Paris, and then the world, with their quirky designs, injecting their humorous and continental approach to life in their clothes. At the same time, Swedish Acne rose to prominence - but considering their international fame and critical acclaim of late I no longer consider them a ‘Scandinavian’ brand per se; Acne has, over the last few years, shown in Paris, London and New York - just about everywhere but in Stockholm!
Instead, another new generation of menswear designers has emerged in Scandinavia. The likes of Sweden’s Common, Our Legacy and Uniforms For The Dedicated are transforming the outdated idea of what Scandinavian menswear is all about. In Denmark that creative wave was felt during Copenhagen Fashion Week trough Wood Wood, Soulland and, in a non-inclusive way, Norse Projects. Although Norse doesn’t present a catwalk collection, the brand’s presence was still felt during last week’s fashion bonanza through a party at their HQ. Their clean streetwear style is conclusive of contemporary Danish menswear. Wood Wood and Soulland are both 10 years old on the domestic market, but it’s only in the last few years they’ve matured in to brands worthy of worldwide attention.
It would be unfair to label what they do as ‘fashion’ though; these collections would not necessarily sit comfortably on a Parisian catwalk. What Karl Oskar Olsen and Brian SS Jensen from Wood Wood and Soulland’s Silas Adler show is a fashion-ised version of contemporary and urban streetwear. Think button-down shirts with all-over prints, loosely cut khakis and M65-inspired jackets. These brands are defined by prints - marble in the case of Wood Wood’s SS14 collection - and shirts with embroidered words or symbols for Soulland. And that’s why the clothes work: these are the kind of pieces that young guys actually want, these are the kind of clothes they buy. The quality is good, the design solid - this is the street fashion of today.
Heavily influenced by sportswear, especially in Wood Wood’s case, these clothes boast high tech details and sartorial solutions worthy of professional outdoors brands. Besides such stand out pieces, both Wood Wood and Soulland mix in standard wardrobe garments; mac coats, varsity jackets and tracksuit bottoms. Wood Wood also showed bucket hats as a sportswear alternative to baseball caps. Soulland took a more tailored approach, presenting tailoring and formally cut jackets mixed with its signature graphic sweatshirts, lots of stripes in green and brown and a coat in a subtle camouflage pattern. How these shows were presented is also interesting to highlight.
Wood Wood went for a traditional catwalk show format, albeit in the amazingly odd environment of Glyptoteket, an art museum in central Copenhagen. Among palm trees and neo-classical marble colons, the collection looked exotic and out of place, exactly the kind of ‘opposites attracts’ feeling that made it a memorable show. Silas Adler, on the other hand, chose not to conform to standardised fashion norms and existing show formats. Instead, selected press and buyers were invited to a seven-course meal at an one-off bespoke restaurant. In a very relaxed atmosphere of comradeship selected guests were treated to chef Adam Aamann’s smörrebröd menu, plus a few other bits and bobs of culinary delight, such as vodka-infused cabbage soup, crab bisque on rye bread and trout served with onion powder. In a break from eating, Adler showed a pre-filmed catwalk show staged a few days prior in midst of the Danish countryside.
The mentioned menswear brands are defined by a wearable creativity. The designs go hand in hand with the age-old Scandinavian demand for versatility, functionality and common sense - but they manage to keep themselves, and their customers, interested by examining new themes and visual messages from season to season, cue Soulland’s Bauhaus-inspired modern wardrobe staples and Wood Wood’s sporty and urban vision, influenced by Parisian architectural history á la Le Corbusier. Following on from Vibskov and Jensen’s quirky designs, these Danish designers represent a more accurate vision of not only what men actually wear but what Scandinavian menswear should look like in 2013.
T Magazine (New York Times) - Soulland SS14: Perfect Pairing | Fashion and Food Collide at Copenhagen Fashion Week
Last night, in the middle of Copenhagen Fashion Week, Silas Adler of the Danish men’s-wear brand Soulland welcomed guests to a pop-up restaurant at the center of Denmark’s capital. The 28-year-old designer teamed up with the chef Adam Aamann to recreate a 100-square-meter version of the chef’s fashionable sandwich shop, Aamanns (he also owns a restaurant in New York, Aamanns-Copenhagen, in TriBeCa), which served an imaginative six-course meal accompanied by a video presentation of Soulland’s Bauhaus-inspired spring/summer 2014 collection.
It seems natural for this fashion-week format to emerge from Copenhagen, where an innovative food culture led by the Michelin two-star restaurant Noma has been flourishing alongside an influential men’s-wear scene. “The catwalk show can be a wonderful way to present clothing, but unfortunately it often becomes very boring and still,” Adler said about his decision, after last season, to stray from the runway-show format. “I liked the idea of doing a show in a setting that’s not really suited for a show.” Chef Aamann — famous for his beautiful smorrebrod, or traditional open-faced sandwiches — served an inspired interpretation of traditional Danish cuisine, including sea trout with onion powder, crab bisque on rye bread and pork belly with pointed cabbage.
Opposites attract in Our Legacy’s Spring Summer 2013 collection. Focused on both law enforcement and criminal elements, ‘Smile’ investigates ‘white collar’ crimes where bank balances, not people, are the target. Here, high society crooks in sharp suits and crisp white shirts partake in corporate swindle, high stake bribery and money laundering. It’s daylight robbery. These bad boy bankers are fought by a police force taking the fight to the City, to the criminal’s own home turf. Wearing the same slick suits, undercover cops square up with the crooks looking equally smart. Their uniforms speak a different language to that of their colleagues.
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the bad guys from the good ones; who’s your friend and who’s the enemy. What separates them can be found on the inside; an invisible moral compass, a sense of right and wrong, an air of authority. The cops - no matter what they look like - are there to serve and protect. The crooks, however slick and proper they look, will rob you. From a distance you won’t be able to tell them apart; you need to look closer, inspect the details. Not everything in life is what it looks like. A smile can be deceiving.
Across town, the police is fighting street crime. In order to beat them, the cops must join them. Uniform tunics with shiny gold buttons are swapped for jeans, printed T-shirts and trainers. All of a sudden cops look like a hustlers and dealers, a 21st century crime fighting chameleon. This is the twilight zone that ‘Smile’ investigates. Set in a 90s context, youth gangs come together around a thriving rave culture, bonding over the music. In this world, things - images, clothes, crowds, feelings, objects - aren’t always what they seem. Look again, you might have missed something.
In ‘Smile’, suede and nylon are given equal importance, tiger embroideries on the back of jackets share the stage with tropical shirt patterns, double-breasted suits fight for attention with printed T-shirts and khaki bomber jackets take on formal coats with tuxedo lapels. Opposites not only attract, it appears they also match. :)
The Green Soccer Journal Issue 5: 6876 x Cash Ca Shoot and interview
On a sunny spring afternoon, shoehorned in between his son’s football practise and an Arsenal home game, I sit down with 6876 designer Kenneth Mackenzie in his Brunswick Centre studio to discuss the brand’s collaboration with the Japanese arm of Cash Ca. Consisting of just two coat styles, the SS13 collection is concise and focused; for Mackenzie it’s clearly all about quality over quantity. “The collaboration works really well because we bring different things to the table; I make sure that the shapes are modernist while Kazuki Kuraishi and Cash Ca brings a high-tech and innovate approach to the materials.”
The studio is small but still houses a group of like-minded creatives. Like the nearby Barbican complex, the Brunswick Centre is a majestic concrete construction, a relic from the 1960s when architecture had great ambitions for both scale and function. And the building structure and 6876 are equally anchored in a modernist approach to design. The Russell Square space was built for both shops and housing. Similarly, 6876 manages to balance style and substance - and the Cash Ca hook-up only reinforces that sentiment. Few other collaborations merges such a strong design aesthetic with knowledgeable craftsmanship. Kuraishi, having worked with BAPE, adidas Originals and fragment design, contributes high-end sportswear expertise: “In the UK, Cash Ca is a very traditional knitwear company, but Kuraishi has changed it into a totally different brand, which is very Japanese and quite amusing. In Japan they do stuff with Tricker’s and Donegal Tweed, developing the brand, launching collaborations and inventing hi-tech fabrics.”
For Mackenzie, this sort of collaboration (he’s also designs a capsule collection with outdoors label Rohan) makes complete sense in terms of his current business model. Having set up 6876 in 1995, Mackenzie worked the fashion treadmill with two annual collections until 2002 when he grew tired of the industry’s cyclic behaviour. He stopped, started consulting fashion brands, and did some teaching. A year later, Mackenzie returned with a scaled-down and sharper vision for 6876. The Brunswick Centre building is Grade II protected - it can’t be changed. 6876, though, is constantly evolving. Today, Mackenzie is no longer dependent on wholesaling his collection to Selfridges and Barney’s. Instead, 6876 is sold through his website and a few key retail accounts like Hanon. “I might wholesale again in the traditional sense, but not to too many stores - I’ll keep it with close and stick to people we have good relationships with. At the moment I work around three corner stones: rolling 6876 product, brand collaborations and consultancies.”
For Mackenzie, the key word whatever creative project he’s working on is ‘modernism’. Whether it’s his newly bought Norfolk bungalow, 6876 mainline or the Cash Ca collaboration, there’s a coherent red thread running through his work. It’s this consistent DNA that makes his work not only recognisable but also brilliant. “For me, ‘modernism’ just explains the aesthetics of the product; it’s a pure approach to designing and detailing that’s practical, functional and interesting.” But you get a sense it’s about more than the products, this is a lifestyle choice: “Sometimes, if you’ve been doing something long enough, you can just ebb and flow within the same interests. But I want to interact with the second generation of 6876 fans, the younger guys who are into football and everything like that.”
Having lived next to Highbury’s Arsenal stadium for 20 years, Scottish-born Mackenzie is now a Gunners fan. Him and his wife regularly attend games and their son plays Sunday football around the corner - but Mackenzie could maybe have played there himself, had life taken him in a different direction. “When I was growing up, aged nine to about 17, I played football quite seriously back in Dundee. And when it looked like that wasn’t going to happen, I went headlong into music and art school. But my football interest has got bigger again over the years, though all I do now is watching, and trying to get my son playing.” But football isn’t necessarily an inspiration for 6876: “I don’t go to a game looking at what people are wearing, but I think the truest manifestation of it as an inspiration is my communication with 6876 followers who are supporters of the smaller lower league clubs who still have a sense of community in the way they follow their team and their passion for the clothing and sharing ideas, which I think harks back a more innocent age… I find those guys interesting.” Customers are into Mackenzie and 6876 for the same reasons; he represents an honest approach to real design, the best possible combination.
PORT Magazine: Ebbets Field Flannels - Authentic Baseball Americana
Jerry Cohen talks to David Hellqvist about reproducing 20th century sportswear, Canadian Broadcloth wool and the most stylish baseball decade
In fashion, like any other creative field, authenticity is key. It doesn’t really matter if you create something new from scratch or reproduce existing designs as long as what you do is the real deal and completely in line with the original. Of course, birthing a new concept is tough but to painstakingly recreate someone’s intricate designs can sometimes be equally difficult, at least for different reasons. If you add to the equation, like in the case of Ebbets Field Flannels (EFF), that the gear you are working with has historical and sport cultural value, then the work is all of a sudden in a whole new ball park. The Seattle-based firm specialises in baseball uniforms from the turn of the last century all the way up to the 60s – you won’t see the famous contemporary New York Yankee logo on one of their wool caps. Instead, founder Jerry Cohen will have researched a vintage design for his collection. For Cohen, Ebbets’ foundation is easily summed up: “Every garment has to have a thread of authenticity that takes you through to something real. We don’t create out of thin air, that never existed. We just happen to believe that the middle-decades of the last century were the best for graphic sports design and clothing; original, natural fabrics – not polyesters or other fabricated materials from the 80s or 90s. That doesn’t interest us.”
Jerry Cohen set up EFF in 1988. The US has always been obsessed with baseball, and the need for merchandise has grown over the years, alongside people’s increasing disposable income. But for Cohen and co-worker Lisa Cooper, Ebbets is definitely not just a money spinning machinery, cashing in on people’s thirst for throwaway fashion. “We ensure these styles won’t become extinct – that’s exactly how I see my role. I’m sort of an archivist, more than a designer anyway.” But it’s key to keep the craftsmanship alive, as well as the designs: “One of our main missions is to preserve a certain style of design that isn’t used anymore because nobody draws these days.” The logo lettering used to be made in wood, cardboard or metal. It was a manual process that went hand in hand with the design, driving a lot of the fonts used. “The scripts were beautiful because someone sat down to draw it – the Dodgers one is still used today. But when a script is created today it’s awful, done on a computer. We’ve gone back and recreated fonts from sports catalogues from the 20s and 30s, and those fonts are not in any typography book, nor on any computer software.”
Jerry Cohen was born in Brooklyn, New York. At the age of 15, his family moved to Arizona and in the mid-80s, Cohen moved to Seattle to pursue a music career – “I was playing in a Rockabilly band at the time, the Seattle grunge scene hadn’t burst yet, I kind of missed that by two years!” – and wanted to find oversized woollen baseball shirts to wear when playing live. There were none around and Jerry set about researching the garment and its history, developing his obsession with the style along the way. Like all the best collectors and designers, Cohen’s career started as a consumer. “Over a two year period I gradually became more and more obsessed with the idea. I eventually located some of the old fabric in a warehouse and started to make shirts for myself, and other people wanted them and one thing led to another.” Exactly 25 years later, Ebbets Field Flannels not only make and sell baseball shirts, jackets and caps all over the world, but also collaborate with everyone from BAPE, Our Legacy, Supreme, YMC and J. Crew, to mention but a few.
But, to be fair, Cohen’s immersive attitude towards vintage baseball gear goes deeper than his need for stage costumes. “Yes, my Dad was a big Jackie Robinson fan and used to go to Ebbets Field stadium – then home to the Brooklyn Dodgers – and he told me stories… before I could even walk I was listening to stories about baseball in the 40s and 50s, and that really got into my blood.” The love of the game, an appreciation of quality wool and family memories are good starting points for an adventure such as EFF, but for Cohen there’s a fourth dimension to his work; history.”At the time, I felt like there was a lot of history that wasn’t talked about; everyone had heard about the Yankees or the Red Sox, but in the US there were these strains of history that were really different, what I call ‘alternate universes of baseball’. The obvious one was the Negro Leagues, which no one had really acknowledged in a wide way in the 1980s. So I thought there was an opportunity to talk about some things that interested me and that maybe they would interest other people, too – telling those stories through the garments seemed like a natural way to do it. I didn’t want to do something that had already been done so this enabled me to do something completely authentic yet completely original in terms of the apparel world.”
And Ebbets Field Flannels sure is original. There are three types of baseball clothes out there, the generic fashion styles inspired by loose ideas of fit and colour ways, plus the corporate merchandise put out by teams for supporters to wear. And then there’s Ebbets. Cohen’s brand isn’t necessarily about wearing the emblem of the team you support, and it certainly isn’t about fashion. “We were the first to really take a team logo and make it something other than about being a supporter of that team. In the States, the mainstream teams are very well-known but we don’t do any of those. So the hat I’m wearing right now is from Cuba’s national team in 1971. It gives the customer a little bit of cache because they’re wearing something that’s like a cognoscenti thing, and they see each other and go, ‘Oh OK, that’s the Brooklyn Tip-Tops form 1914′. It’s a bit more like a club, y’know? We don’t think anyone needs another Red Sox or Yankees hat, we’re not in that game at all, because there’s plenty people that do that.” EFF is about is honouring the teams, the players, the fans and the designers that sold, wore and made those products at that time.
To achieve this Ebbets early on turned to the premium wool suppliers for material. Using 100 per cent virgin wool, Cohen is able to produce a hat with supreme fit and longevity, something many of his competitors are jealous of. “Our wool is not contaminated or blended with other yarns. We have two or three wool sources, depending on what colours the customer wants – some have all colours available and some have a limited palette. This wool is what we call our Wool Broadcloth and it is Canadian. People try to imitate our hats and use wool-flannel but it doesn’t have the fineness of the weave.”For Cohen, there’s a definite point in US mainstream baseball when the focus shifted away from qualitative wool fabrics to cheaper materials. “Yes, in the late 70s and the 80s the uniforms became very ugly. Aesthetically, they were very offensive to me because I grew up with the end of the wool era in the 1960s. Later, they wore these polyester v-neck, elastic pull-overs, with three-coloured waistband, hats with very high and structured crowns.”
Looking at it from another, more positive, point of view, Cohen has no problems pinpointing the more stylish decades. “There are things about each of the decades from 1900 to the 60s that are great. My personal favourite is probably the 1940s, I think it was the peak of the design that I like. But I love the 30s, there are good things from the 1920s – earlier than that and things tend to get a little fussy! We were talking the other day in the office about the 1960s and the Space Age, and that’s exciting too, in a different way.” And in terms of what teams wore the best uniforms, well it was never going to be an easy question to answer. Cohen, of course, has many favourites. A few stand out, though: “The most imaginative and innovative were the teams on the West Coast, form the old Pacific Coast League. The Oakland Oaks, the San Francisco Seals – those teams had a new uniform design almost every year. And even in the 30s, when Major League baseball was very conservative, on the West Coast there was lots of colour: different coloured sleeves, block colour uniforms – things that you didn’t see in the Major Leagues until the 1970s!”
Small steps have been taken to create newly designed sportswear in the Ebbets HQ – “We can move emblems and logos around and put them on garments they didn’t necessarily exist on back then” – but they will always be anchored in history. So for Ebbets Field Flannels the quest continues; more authentic baseball clothing is coming your way. The well seems to be never-ending. “When we started, 25 years ago, I thought, ‘What am I going to do when I run out of stories and that there are only so many baseball jerseys to make?’ Turns out there’s no bottom. You have to get more creative and dig deeper and you have to be able to tell people a story they haven’t heard before but really, that’s no different to what we did at the beginning.”
PORT Magazine: Private White V.C. - The Making of a Pocket Jacket
James Eden walks David Hellqvist through his Manchester factory, showing the manufacturing process behind a Pocket jacket
James Eden is not only the 29-year-old owner of the Manchester-based Private White VC brand, he’s also the great grandson of Private James White who founded the fabric factory after being awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War. Eden knows the story very well: “He was on the Diyala River in Mesopotamia in 1917. Under intense enemy fire he jumped overboard and tied a telephone wire to himself and swam to shore, saving the lives of the six soldiers onboard, and all the supplies and armaments that were on board at the time”.
Once back in the UK, the young war hero needed a job. “There were thousands of jobs for youngsters in the textile industry and so he started work here, like many of his peers, as an apprentice in this raincoat factory. From there he became a pattern cutter, garment technologist, general manager then subsequently owner,” Eden explains. The factory, only a few hundred metres from the Manchester city centre, in a surprisingly run down industrial area, is today the main creative and technical hub for Private White VC, a truly British brand in more than ways than one. As well as an aesthetic firmly based in domestic workwear and wardrobe staples, the company strongly believes in the ‘Made in Britain’ motto: “We’re trying to sustain, promote, redevelop and revitalise the British garment making industry, that’s why this factory is here, that’s why all these people are here, that’s why my sister is here, my dog is here… we care passionately about the craft of garment making.”
When visiting the factory, Port asked to select a jacket from the brand’s sartorial repertoire and to follow the manufacturing process on the factory floor. We chose the Pocket jacket, a waist-long jacket in khaki green with multiple pockets and a corduroy collar. Influenced by duck hunting gear, the jacket has one long horizontal pocket at the back where the catch is meant to go. “We call our style techno-retro as some of the garments are influenced by the military and we update them with slightly new designs, add a twist and modern fabrics. This is a canvas from Rochdale, the corduroy is from Lancashire and the military combat buttons are from Derbyshire, so everything in this garment has been sourced within the UK and made in Manchester.” While walking around the floor, meeting some of the 85 in-house staff and documenting the birth of a Pocket jacket, Eden talked us through the process:
The Design: “Our designer, Nick Ashley, takes his inspiration from the past 57 years of his life, drawing from his personal influences. We also have quite an extensive archive as well, and there’s a huge archive out there in the real world. So Nick produces his sketch, his concept comes together with some suggestive fabrications, we then have a meeting with our pattern cutter to discuss the fit, silhouette and the stitching details.
Pattern Cutting: “From then, the pattern cutter takes Nick’s brief and gets to work on cutting the pattern which in turn becomes the stencil and the building blocks for the pattern. So it starts with a blank piece of card in our case, and then each pattern piece – for this jacket there is probably about 35-36 pattern pieces which are all done by hand – is laid out like a big jigsaw. The card is then cut out to be used as a stencil.”
Fusing: “When the fabric has been cut, the relevant pieces are fused to give certain fabric areas additional support. On the Pocket jacket only the placket needs fusing so that the button holes gets extra strength, rigidity and a bit more drape. Once the relevant pattern pieces are fused, they’re then bundled up and put in the trays upstairs and then taken down to the factory floor.”
Assembly: “Once they’re on the floor, we have a team that focus on the fronts and pockets, and a team that work on the back and collar. Others do the sleeve and the lining, attaching the sleeve to the front and the back and pulling it all together. In between, whilst the garment is on the line, there’s a process called under pressing to make sure that when you’re inserting the sleeve head it’s crisp and not crumpled… you want it to fit harmoniously. Once it’s been made up, it gets a final press and the cuffs, collars and buttons are all inserted using our 40 year machines by our 80 year old button hole machinists, Gene and Edie, who are also sisters.”
Quality Control: “Then the garment is sent for cleaning, final checking and QC-ing, which Dot does, quite cruelly, on a table with a lot of natural light and a pair of snips. She goes to work measuring, spot checking and double checking it’s all tip top. There’s two of them and they look over every jacket before they get sent down to the warehouse where they’re bagged, boxed up and distributed around the world.”
The journey of a Pocket jacket, or any other Private White V.C jacket for that matter, is a long and complex one, that’s the price they pay for hand-made quality: “From sketching to pattern cutting to fabric cutting to machining and finishing a garment takes about a week for us.” The jacket is a good example of how the brand manages to take a historic garment out of its context, modernise it and make it relevant for a 21st century wardrobe while keeping the production local. Best of both worlds.
Outerwear brand Descente and Japanese designer Yono collaborate on a line of Kevlar-enforced jackets
Today, quite a few brands make a big deal out of just using natural and organic materials. The idea is that these are environmentally friendly and better suited for the body, itself a natural product. On the other hand, at the opposite spectrum of fashion – the one obsessed with innovative technology – brands swear by man-made excellence, fabrics that are so artificial that there isn’t a single trace of mother nature in them. Then we have the sensible middle ground, the brands that realise customers gain from garments that subscribe to both schools of thought. Japanese brand Dual-Ism, a two year old design project launched by Descente and Yono, has found the right balance between these opposites in their line of jackets. “Dual-Ism is built around the ancient oriental thought that all things have two different parts – a ying and a yang – which become one,” Yono explains from the Tokyo HQ.
The USP of Dual-Ism is the ability to pick out natural fabrics that sit nicely on the skin, and combine them with a high-tech coating. The result is a material that interacts with the skin on the inside and protects the body on the outside. The brand’s motto, “from street to extreme”, means adding high functionality to urban style. “It’s a concept in which it should be possible to use for gym or in the city as well as having the urban look when climbing mountains”, says Yono. There are plenty of brands out there who’s chasing the same sartorial chalice, the ultimate outerwear… stylish yet functional. According to Yono, “a surprising effect and unpredictability” are the two words that best describes the brand: “Our unique combinations keep our brand at the forefront of design.” Yono is referring to the use of Kevlar in the AW13 collection.
Few other material has such a mythological reputation. Thanks to its light robustness and military use, many brands aspire to incorporate Kevlar into RTW collections, but – as Dual-Ism proves, it’s in a functional outerwear range that the material has its natural home. “This season we are using natural fabrics such as cotton and wool, and combining them with more futuristic fabrics such as nylon and Kevlar. This fits in with our ying and yang philosophy. We have been using Kevlar since the project started two years ago. The idea behind this is that the fabric is very much in line with Descente philosophy: strength, toughness and protection.”
Metro: The Wool That Keeps You Cool - Christopher Raeburn SS14
Christopher Raeburn started his career restyling army surplus – now his new collection is defying the weather, writes David Hellqvist
Desert landscapes and pink military vehicles from World War II were the inspiration behind designer Christopher Raeburn’s SS14 collection, unveiled yesterday at British Fashion Council showcase London Collections: Men. ‘The UK Special Forces drove pink Land Rovers in the desert,’ he says, referring to the colour’s unlikely quality of being hard to spot in sand. ‘In the collection it all comes out in the silhouettes, the colours and the way we’ve layered it.’ Raeburn (pictured above), a remarkably technical designer, has made a mark in the industry with his Re-Made line, surplus Army materials recycled into a functional yet directional fashion line. It was set up five years ago and today he sells his re-appropriated military gear worldwide and works as the artistic director of Swiss lifestyle brand Victorinox.
Raeburn’s style mines the past while employing new technology and referencing military clothing. This season, he took on a new challenge: working with a dynamic new material known as Cool Wool. It’s a lightweight merino-fabric used as an alternative to cotton. Trends are cyclical and the fashion industry’s biannual seasons are predictable – or at least they used to be. Traditionally, autumn/winter collections require thick wools and lush cashmeres, while the spring/summer collections are full of breathable cottons and lightweight fabrics. But two aspects of the modern world mean this is no longer set in stone. Firstly, the regular climate schedule doesn’t seem to apply any more. Snow in April and Indian summers often mean retailers don’t always have the appropriate garments in store.
Secondly, the development of new fabrics – or at least new ways of using old fabrics – has had an impact. Materials such as Cool Wool, which is suitable for near-tropical climates, offer fashion designers a way to cheat global warming. During the most recent London Collections: Men SS14, prominent designers including Raeburn, Lou Dalton, Richard Nicoll and E Tautz teamed up with wool textile organisation Woolmark to showcase the benefits of Cool Wool. ‘One of the stipulations is that the yarn is below 190g per sq metre, which leaves you with a relatively lightweight garment, keeping you cool in the summer,’ says Raeburn. The fabric is hardly new; a campaign to publicise it started more than 30 years ago. The difference is that now it is being used by young designers with avantgarde attitudes. ‘When Woolmark approached us, they knew we weren’t going to be doing two-button suits,’ says Raeburn. ‘It’s great other designers do that but it’s not our world. I think they were interested in the mixing of fabrics, the functionality and authenticity we try and bring to the product.
‘For me, this is a massive opportunity to reimagine a traditional fabric,’ he adds. ‘Our opportunity here is to do things a bit differently and hopefully make people think twice.’ Raeburn relied on military and hunting meshes, desert camouflage and high-density cotton as well as Cool Wool. Incorporating fine merino wool into a functional, utilitarian hi-tech collection was a big test, perhaps more than for other designers. ‘One example is our classic hood, referencing the parachute fabric we often use,’ he says. ‘To see it reimagined with Cool Wool was great. But the biggest challenge was to make the wool work in the hybrid garments where we play with a mix of fabrics, such as desert camouflage, which is used for hunting.’ It was exciting opportunity, he says. ‘We face challenges every day, that’s part of a small business. But as long as you’re thirsty and want to learn, that’s the main thing.’
The designer’s message to anyone doubtful about the use of wool in the summer is simple: ‘Look out the window, it’s most likely wet or cold, even though it’s summer.’ Another important aspect of Raeburn’s work – and that of London’s other menswear designers – is catering for a worldwide audience. ‘Yes, we’re working in a global economy with a global geography,’ he says. ‘The weather is different in many different places. Cool Wool works for all of them.’
With the Victoria and Albert Museum’s sensational David Bowie exhibition a sell-out, Director of Programming Damien Whitmore is on a roll. He tells David Hellqvist about Bowie hysteria, creating the Tate Modern and the V&A’s mission to inspire creativity
Damien Whitmore’s two-storey urban cottage sits just off east London’s Columbia Road, close enough to enjoy the perks of the vibrant area but far enough away for the Sunday market craze not to bother him too much. Although he seems to enjoy the hustle and bustle: “I always have friends over for coffee once the flower market is closed. Sometimes there can be between 10 and 15 people in my front room.” The space, where Whitmore now sits, comfortably sipping coffee, is dotted with artefacts, books and objects. Had I asked, I’m sure I would have discovered a fascinating back story for how each and every single piece was acquired. It’s almost like they’re laid out on display, which makes sense given that Whitmore is Director of Programming and Public Affairs at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), Britain’s premier art and design institution.
When we meet on a cold March morning, the V&A’s much talked-about David Bowie exhibition has been open for two weeks. “It’s just about sold out,” Whitmore says. It’s one of the museum’s biggest blockbuster expos, and it’s interesting to note that, after the ‘Art Deco: 1910–1939’ show in 2003, last year’s ‘Hollywood Costume’ was the most visited exhibition so far. It’s clear that the V&A is on a roll. “Yes, we have 3.2 million visitors a year,” Whitmore says, beaming with pride. “Over 20 million people interact with us online. About two million people see V&A shows touring around the world and 50,000 people read our magazine.”
The vague and open-ended title of the Bowie display makes sense to Whitmore. “I love the ambiguity of the title, ‘David Bowie Is’. As you walk through the rooms, what you realise is that David Bowie is many different things to different people. The one thing he is to all of us, though, is completely surprising.” The idea of the exhibition was first mentioned in Whitmore’s South Kensington office about four years ago. Two curators pitched the exhibition and Whitmore, with a trained eye for zeitgeist moments, didn’t hesitate for a second. But at the time Bowie was six years into a sabbatical from the music business, and there was no hysteria around his work. “No, there wasn’t this kind of interest back then,” Whitmore says. “We even had problems finding a sponsor initially. Then, last year, it all came together, it all clicked – everyone started talking about Bowie.” And that was before the artist’s comeback album was announced in January. Whitmore recalls hearing Bowie’s single ‘The Stars (Are Out Tonight)’ on the radio for the first time. “I remember thinking that this is on a different level now, it’s going to be massive. We had been told (by Bowie’s people) that something amazing and extraordinary would happen but not what it would be. Bowie is so big because he says, ‘We can all be creative – it’s in all of us, be who you want to be!’ It’s a positive message, and, therefore, a feelgood exhibition.”
But the exhibition is not ‘The Life of David Bowie’ or his entire performance career in one building – that was never the V&A’s ambition. “This is our David Bowie story, how we see him. He gave us access to his archive and we chose 300 outfits from the thousands available, so it’s our take on him.” This notion of authorship is important to Whitmore and the museum. “Yes, we have a specific task and a unique approach – our purpose is to inspire creativity. We do this by asking ourselves, ‘How is that made?’ All our exhibitions start that way: how is that shirt made? How is that Versace dress made? How is David Bowie constructed? How is that Russian silver spoon made?” No wonder then that the V&A is a hub for designers, artists and anyone on the lookout for inspiration. “Half of our audience work in the creative industries. Whether you are Paul Smith, Christian Lacroix, Vivienne Westwood or Norman Foster, whether you’re a student, teacher or a filmmaker, you come to the V&A to be inspired.” As far as a statement of intent, it’s as crystal clear as it’s overwhelming and daunting.
Damien Whitmore was born in Birmingham and raised by an English father and an Irish mother. After reading English at university he started teaching, but found himself working as a radio broadcaster at the BBC shortly after. He soon realised neither job was ideal for him. “Working as a broadcaster taught me how important the visual aspect is in life,” he says of the experience. “I wasn’t very good with radio – you can’t paint pictures with words.” After leaving the BBC, Whitmore ended up at the Arts Council, tasked with organising visual-arts education. “It was great. I combined my love of visual arts with teaching. We did things like taking opera and ballet into schools and introducing art into prisons. Looking back, it started a process within me. I became dedicated to making art accessible to people, just like museums do.”
His career in the museum world started when he helped set up the Design Museum in 1989. In 1992, he joined the Tate Gallery (now Tate Britain), which carried modern, classic, ancient and British art. There he helped birth the idea of a new museum dedicated to contemporary art. Tate Modern was created in 2000. It was a zeitgeist moment, as were, later, the ‘Art Deco’ and Bowie exhibitions. “We had to get people thinking differently about modern art,” Whitmore says, “so we spent the first few years of the 90s using the Turner Prize to really get people talking about it. It was all changing in the art world at that time, it was very exciting. Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin were making their own art in their own venues, showing in car parks in Peckham and Shoreditch. They weren’t into the idea of working with mainstream galleries but we brought them in through the Turner Prize, and everyone was all of a sudden talking about modern art – sometimes in a good way, often in a bad way, but the fact is, they were talking about art. And that’s how we built Tate Modern, by creating debate.”
Naturally, the roles of different museums and galleries vary. And just as Whitmore can spell out the V&A’s brief in his sleep, he knows exactly what the Tate Modern is designed to achieve. “If the V&A is all about process and craftsmanship, for Tate it’s all about ‘meaning’. It helps to know what a Damien Hirst piece is made of, but what’s important is the provocation in his work – how it makes you feel and what it makes you think of. We built a brand with Tate, but for me the idea of a brand doesn’t sit very well with a museum. I think the word ‘purpose’ suits it better, and the purpose of Tate is to help people understand modern art and make them think critically of the world.” But his reach goes beyond the two art institutions that defined his career; today, Whitmore is a respected consultant, travelling the world to aid faltering art museums and galleries. “I know a little about a lot,” he says, smiling. In the last few months, he has worked with Dasha Zhukova’s Garage Center for Contemporary Culture in Moscow, Design Museum Holon in Tel Aviv and a major art museum in Quebec. Soon he’s off to China to research the V&A’s next blockbuster expo.
Even though the V&A has collections of everything from furniture, glass and graphics to photography, jewellery and ceramics, there’s no doubt that fashion is a major part of its output, often anchored in another pop-cultural aspect. In its mixture of film and fashion, the recently closed ‘Hollywood Costume’ was a prime example of that, but the exhibition also highlighted another part of the V&A’s DNA: its scholarly approach. “Scholarship unites all the displays,” Whitmore explains, “whether it’s one on Bowie or on 17th-century Russian silver. And even though ‘Hollywood Costume’ was very emotional – you couldn’t help but weep when looking at Charlie Chaplin’s tramp outfit – it was also extraordinarily scholarly. UCLA Costume Design Professor Deborah Landis and former Royal College of Art Rector Sir Christopher Frayling wrote the exhibition book, in itself a work of the highest academic standards.” One of the biggest problems facing a museum exhibiting clothes is that fashion is meant to be moving. “The challenge is how to show fashion statically but I think we get it right with (catwalk series) ‘Fashion is Motion’ – it’s like a moving exhibition. Three times a year we invite designers to show at the V&A. There’s three retrospective shows per day, and they’re much longer than normal fashion shows, close to the 15-minute mark. Fashion shows are so one-dimensional in a way, whereas we show the history of the brand.”
But no doubt it is difficult to get it right. Plenty of contemporary museums try their hands at fashion exhibitions, some with great success but others less so. Somerset House’s ‘Valentino: Master of Couture’ could have been a powerful homage to one of the great couture designers, but was instead a corridor lined with glamorous outfits. Whitmore, aware that all museums have different approaches, won’t pass judgment, but is quite clear that the V&A would have displayed Valentino’s rich archive differently. “We would have ripped those dresses apart. If you see haute couture at the V&A, the first thing you notice is that it’s deconstructed – that’s what interesting about it. Fashion isn’t art, fashion is fashion. Don’t show it as works of art. We want to see why they look like they do, how are they made. Otherwise it will just look like a shop. Fashion exhibitions have to be careful; the fashion world wants to be in museums but for me, it’s about looking at the clothes, ripping them apart to see how they are constructed. You have to learn something. That’s what museums are all about.”
Lastly, before Whitmore has to run off, I ask him what his dream exhibition is. What does he long to put on at the V&A? “I would love to do one about the future,” he says, “how the past has depicted the future. How did Michelangelo and the Victorians see the future? How did people in the 60s depict 2013? And did they get it right? I think that’s fascinating.” Who knows, one of these days, maybe it will be another blockbuster V&A display. What is certain though, is that with Damien Whitmore in charge of commissioning, the museum will continue fulfilling its grand purpose of inspiring creativity for a long time to come.