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Monthly Archives: June 2013

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Courtesy of my friend Kyle, here’s the greatest photo of RL I’ve ever come across, blurry and all. If it doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will. So, have a great weekend everyone, and if you’re around New York this weekend stop by the “Sean Hotchkiss Wants You to Buy His Menswear Clothes Yardsale.” More info on that here and here.

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For once, I’m going to be brief, as Umit Benan tends to have that effect. Whatever words I have to say about this latest collection will end up being meaningless, as I believe it will be at least two years before we all even begin to understand the importance of “Efendi.” There’s been much talk about Umit’s Turkish heritage in relation to this collection, particularly in terms of the current state of flux (if not total unrest) within his homeland. But I for one think Umit’s work, much like the revolution in Turkey, isn’t ready for a comprehensive interpretation. For now at least. What I will say is that between the raised button stances, the non-traditional double-breasted waistcoats, the high trouser inseams coupled with longer jackets, the banded collars with throat clasps, and the slouchy tops, it’s clear that Umit is changing the tides, while we’re all just waiting for the waves to finally lap up on the shores of our consciousness. Whether that’s a month from now, or five years from now is to be seen, all I know is for now I wish Nepenthes would hurry up and add Umit to their roster.

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For my money, the best shot from Pitti Uomo this year didn’t come from some fancy schmancy booth, nor from the street style feeding frenzy out on the Palazzo, nor from a dimly-lit Trattoria during the twilight hours. In fact, my favorite photo didn’t even stem from the trade show at all, it actually surfaced during the week or so prior to Pitti, in a series titled “Vroom Vroom Pitti” that went along with this year’s (inexplicable) motorcycle theme. Included in that collection of photos was the gem that lies at the top of this post, which shows a boastful Luciano Barbera on one helluva chopper. While the sheer absurdity of the photo is enough to make even the most jaded menswear aficionado crack a smile, it’s Luciano’s own smirk that really left an impression on me, as if he’s mocking all the rules of the past by buttoning only his bottommost button. Now, Barbera is one of the godfathers of eccentric Italian style so these are the sorts of off-kilter sartorial choices that we should not only expect from him, but in a way we require this form of rule breaking from intrepid men such as him, to pave the way for us all. I would’ve left the “last resort” button stance at that – an example of unbridled experimentation – if it wasn’t for the fact that it popped up again just a week later in MP Massimo Piombo’s latest look book.

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I’ll admit that it’s tough to rationalize why any of our modern “style icons” do anything, (I mean just take a look at Lapo Elkann and his denim refrigerator) so trying to analyze Barbera’s look would be a waste of bandwidth but for MP Massimo Piombo, I would daresay that the bottom button stance actually gives us a lot to think about. I know, I know, this shatters everything you’ve been taught up until now, but before you start throwing the book (which I imagine would be written by Alan Flusser) at my head, just hear me out.

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Stutterheim

Yesterday, about an hour into my trip from Maryland back to New York, the quiet early summer rain and pale skies that had greeted me at dawn finally fell away, and I was greeted by glassy blue skies stretching across horizon. As those grey clouds receded, I could feel my spirits rise steadily, and there’s certainly enough pop songs about the blues, and dark days from across the years to prove that weather and emotion are forever married. There’s an inescapable sadness that accompanies a driving rain, but as those pop songs also prove, there’s a certain creative air that comes along with a bleak sky, and it’s with this in mind that the Stutterheim story begins.

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“Swedish Melancholy at It’s Driest,” never has a raincoat sounded more poetic, but if you’re going to make a jacket for dreary days, why would you not just embrace the gloom? Stuterheim was founded just three years ago by Alexander Stutterheim, but you could say the idea was born decades ago, when Alexander’s grandfather first bought a standard rubbery raincoat to wear during his fishing trips out near Arholma Island in the Stockholm archipelago. Alexander would find that classic oilcloth raincoat, with it’s sealed seams and boxy fit, years later in an abandoned barn, and it was just the spark he needed to start his eponymous brand. With a ream of oilcloth in hand, Alexander set out to recreate his grandfather’s no frills rain jacket in a fit that was more complimentary to the modern man (and woman.) Alexander’s took that prototype (fittingly named the Arholma) which he had cut by hand on his kitchen floor to the last remaining textile factory in Boras, Sweden, and he soon turned around his first batch of two hundred raincoats, a number which Alexander of course has long since eclipsed. To this day, each jacket that passes through that factory is not only sealed and stitched by hand, but also signed and numbered by the seamstress that sews it all together. Some days, you just have to brave the weather, no matter how miserable it may be, but with a Stutterheim on your back, a melancholic day can suddenly become your best day. Onward into the darkness.

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Right around this time of year (it is the first official day of summer after all) I always come across these stories that praise the “purity” and “simplicity” of this season, but quite frankly I just don’t see it. Fall, winter, those seasons make sense to me. It’s cold, you put on a jacket. It’s really cold, you put on another jacket. It’s really, really cold, well you don’t leave your apartment. But summer on the hand, summer is a problem.

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Details (that seven letter word that seems to encompass every single thing you read about on blogs such as this) are always paramount (or so we say) but in summer their importance is heightened. There is a reason Hillary and Norgay are still brought up for simply looking so damn cool during their Everest expedition – there was a lot to see in their outfits but there was also a lot to miss. In summer, we don’t have the luxury of hiding behind layers, so there’s less room for both experimentation and error. Which is why in my eyes, the only real solution is to lean more towards the casual side of the spectrum.

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In 1941, Elliot Noyes the curator of the Industrial Design Department at the Museum of Modern Art here in New York opened up the doors on one of his first major projects, “Organic Design in Home Furnishings. The exhibit would show for only a month and a half, but it forever changed how Americans view mid-century modern design, helping to transform it from a short-lived craze to an immortal style. The idea behind the exhibit was born a year prior, when Noyes, in his first year as the first ever curator of the museum’s Industrial Design Department, decided to hold a competition based around furniture. Inspired by his mentor Walter Gropius, and architect and the founder of the Bauhaus school, Noyes’ goal was to find the intersection between man and material, or as he put it “organic design.”

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The competition, which brought together some of the design world’s biggest names, was ultimately won by Eero Saarinen and Charles Eames in a joint production between two of the most famous men to ever turn sketches into seats. The Saarinen/Eames chair was a design feat in that it looked like it hadn’t been designed at all – it was at once innovative and yet so simple that it easily could have taken straight from nature. This was Noyes’ vision come to life, and a year later when he put on the “Organic Design” exhibit in celebration of all the entries that he had received, it was a marriage of design and function.

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First things first, I know nothing about golf. I have never in my life spent a clear Saturday out on the links, and it’s probably been just about a decade since I last picked up a club, and even then it was probably just to play a round of putt putt. Despite my glaring lack of hands on experience, I’ve always found the sport fascinating. There’s something about the singularity of golf – how one player, one stroke, one slight shift in the wind can change everything, that I can’t help but love. For a sport that relies so heavily on decorum and it’s methodical pace, I’ve also always enjoyed watching golf. So this weekend, I like so many others will be watching the U.S. Open live from Ardmore, PA. While I do relish a good match-up, the one thing I do abhor about today’s golfers is their regrettable attire. In my opinion style is never more evident than in sports, when a player’s internal feelings are most outwardly perceivable, which is way I’ll always revere Arnold Palmer.

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I recently met up with a friend of mine who had just returned from a trip to Japan, but after a night of listening to his tales of sensory overload, meticulous storefronts, and inexplicable addresses I was left with the feeling that I’d been to young to ever appreciate Japan. When I visited that gloriously overstuffed country, I was only in middle school and while I could somewhat understand what was around me, so much of Japan’s beauty fell on my deaf ears, or really my blind eyes. I only wish I could visit Japan now, armed with a much keener eye for the multifaceted landscape of Japanese design. Every time I hear my friends stories, or unearth a new brand from that island on the other side of the globe, I yearn for crooked streets and murky udon all over again. So, this past week when my friend Mitch passed along the Okura web store with the simple message, “check this out,” I dove headfirst down an indigo dyed rabbit hole only to resurface hours later with a newfound infatuation for Okura’s house brand Blue Blue and their technicolor (well, if you consider a hundred different shades of blue “technicolor”) dreamcoats.

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From the site’s rough English translation, I was able to discern that Okura opened in 1993 as Blue Blue Japan’s flagship store in Tokyo. Prior to that, Sellin & Co., the brand behind Blue Blue, had owned and operated Hollywood Ranch Market (a name you might recognize from Unionmade’s webstore), which opened in 1972 and was, according to their site at least, Japan’s first ever vintage store. With the creation of Blue Blue’s Okura store, the company set their sights on developing their house brand, which has now evolved into a smattering of different designs, some of which allude to the company’s Japanese heritage, while others reflect a clear foreign influence, mainly that of Americana or the mid-century trad look. The common theme of Blue Blue though, as the name not so subtly implies, is that almost everything is either blue, or at least has a slightly blue cast to it.

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Brandon Capps is the sort of guy that I could prattle on about all day long. In an age where the word “inspiration” has been tossed so liberally you could quickly believe everyone is inspired by everything, Brandon truly does embody that term. I personally first was turned onto Brandon’s work through Drinkin’ and Dronin’ back in probably 2009. At the time it was a WordPress blog, one of the first, and still one of the best ever created about menswear, and as I joke about in the episode, his blog from a handful of years ago, looks like what most people’s sites aspire to be today. What really makes Brandon so admirable as a figure though is his day job. As Billy Reid’s made to measure specialist, Brandon has been able to harness his love for menswear into something that is not only tangible, but nothing short of remarkable. As a self-taught savant of sorts, Brandon is one of the most knowledgable and talented people that I know working in the field today. What’s more amazing to me, is how genuinely excited Brandon is about his work. Brandon’s passion and his dedication to his work first make him a personal role model of mine, and so I’m honored to present this latest episode of the The Menswear House podcast, with Brandon as our first ever guest.

I’d like to extend a massive thank you to Brandon once again for joining Kyle, Jeff, and I on the show.

Brandon "on set" for the show

Brandon “on set” for the show

An example of Brandon's work for Billy Reid's runway show. Note the roped shoulder.

An example of Brandon’s work for Billy Reid’s runway show. Note the roped shoulder.

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