In Capsule Haerfest MARCH LA.B Yuketen

Finishing Touches

Let's face it, fashion can be quite an investment.  I'm not just talking about the price either.  Consider the task of keeping up with the cycle of fashion and how 'express train' fast it moves.  (That's if you choose to board that train).  It seems every season you need a new something to go with something else, but that something else has slightly been modified so now you need a new something else which would inevitably require a new other thing.  It's all very pointless to some, confusing to others, tasking to a few and imperative to the rest.  Well I fall somewhere in between those who find the retail hunt tasking and those who can't get enough of that electricity that makes it all glow imperative.

Capsule is a clothing tradeshow that shows in New York, Las Vegas and Paris showcasing men's and women's fashion separately.  It's focus is on the best high-end contemporary brands, directional independent designers and super premium street wear labels.  Its melting pot of brands, from nationwide to worldwide, make it a go to for buyers, stylists, designers, photographers, editors, retailers and marketers alike searching for a great pulse in modern fashion.  This past January was the Capsule NYC show for men's Autumn 2011 and as always on-hand were great established brands and noteworthy up-starts in clothing and accessories.

Which brings me back to something I've noticed in menswear for quite some time.  While clothing is of considerable importance and intrigue, those accents we know as our accessories can be our personal rabble rousers or understated cherries on top.  I wanted to spotlight three brands at Capsule whose retail appeal is evident and relevant and leaves this clothes-hound shuffling further over the line separating tasking from imperative.

Men are putting a lot on their wrists nowadays, which is good; but nothing says rigidity and masculinity than a great wristwatch.  MARCH LA.B is an eclectic and amazing line of superb quality, artistic watches that are heavily inspired by strong elements in men's culture and history.  It was launched last March in Paris and has one office in Los Angeles and one in Biarritz, hence the name.  The brand is like an adventurous transatlantic juxtaposition between France and America.  All of the watches are made in Switzerland with Swiss movements while the croc, lizard and perforated leather straps are constructed in France.  What they offer are vintage inspired watches and timepieces influenced by vintage airplane, submarine and auto models from eras like the sixties.  This also, thankfully, means that their watches are more similarly sized to watches men would have worn during the sixties with some 37mm models.  Sounds enticing?  They are; with even some offerings for the ladies.  Explore MARCH LA.B below!
 Carroll Shelby Limited Edition watch offerings celebrating the Shelby EXP 500 aka "The Green Hornet"

In channeling George Costanza, the time may never come when it's socially acceptable to drape yourself in velvet.  However, the time has come where a man carrying a bag has trumped a man overstuffing his pockets.  Its easy to get lost in a sea of bags in todays bag market.  From the tiny, suitable for contraceptives or spare change, to the enormous, suitable for a weekend trip or a body, there's a lot to choose from.  Which is why when I came across Haerfest (pronounced Harvest) at Capsule I was immediately intrigued.  Something stood out.  Was it the fact that these premium lamb and cowhide leather bags had that 'look twice' appeal in their detailing?  Was it the fact that they were stylish without being trend driven? Or, was it that the urban sensibility was immediately evident and relevant?  It was all of these things.  Tim and Dan Joo of Haerfest have created a simple brand that uses both the strong and silent to make their bags appealing. 

Rustic, rugged leather American footwear goes back as far as the country has history but the unique artisanal styles from the brand Yuketen has been leaving a stamp since 1989.  Based in Hermosa Beach, the brand is all handmade and hand-sewn in the USA and Canada.  The designer of Yuketen, Yuki Matsuda, has aesthetics for the brand of comfort and quality over quantity.  This is oh-so evident when seeing the well-made crepe soles and durable stitch work put into each boot, chukka, moccasin, oxford, loafer and bag in the collection.   This footwear is made by some of the best artisans in the world, many of whom have been crafting quality leather products for over 40 years.  Talk about durability, one of their shoes is even Goodyear welted.  With strongly sewn uppers and sturdy soles it's easy to see how the brand has had longevity while not having to sacrifice its aesthetic.
 One of Yuketen's best selling models, The Maine Guide Boot
 Chukka model with that flexible crepe sole

Leather Apron not for sale but I just loved the effect with the vest and bow-tie

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All Day I Dream About Sneakers

Go to any cool clothing website today and you are going to hear the word collaboration.  Or collabo? Joined forces?  Well whatever.  It's easy for labels to join forces but not so easy to make that union relevant.  After all, a phone call and a handshake in a boardroom is easier to produce than notoriety and sales at the register.  Adrian Joffe, the president of the cult Japanese label Commes Des Garcons, was quoted during an interview for as saying "There’s no point to collaborate with another designer or artist unless there’s something that can be found in between. For example, we don’t make swimwear so we collaborated with Speedo who is the best swimwear makers."  Further, far from dual marketing, what good is a collaboration that doesn't pull out the best representation of each brand.  So who did Diesel call when it needed to combine its edgy, tongue-in-cheek style with a line of sneakers that was as classic as it was modern.  It called Adidas.  

Released on January 27th and limited to a run of only 10,000, was Adidas' and Diesel's new collaborative effort for a line of five sneaker styles.  This collaboration works.  The line combines the spirit of Adidas by simply following those classic shapes like the Stan Smith and the Forum Mid with the bold aesthetic that Diesel has cultivated since 1978.  The zippers, the studs, the seaming together with the premium leathers and sturdy construction make this a collection that is attractive as it is sellable.  However, here's a key phrase for the 'non-sneakerheads' written out detailed-style for emphasis.  It's quote (Limited Edition) unquote :-) so once it's gone, it's gone!                                                        
 Stan Smith 80's Brown
 Stan Smith 80's White
ZX 700 Diesel 

 Forum Mid Diesel Lea

 Forum Mid Diesel TXT


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Four Corners, One Location

I love that menswear has become all about option.  Never before in the history of men's fashion have men been cajoled to find a look that first, fits well and then are invited to play, explore and sign on to make it their own.  Men's clothing has always been dictated by a set of rules; but once tailoring was lesser scrutinized, the rules became broader defined.  Now there are levels of fit for all segments of tailored clothing and sportswear that only contrive to some core menswear beliefs; that it fit well, be of good durable quality and balance not overpower a man's personal strength.  Also, along with the option comes a greater sense of responsibility to invest in better clothing, better bodies and better eating and living habits to have fuller more balanced lives.  For my last post on the Project trade show I thought I would shed some light on a few brands' offerings for fall 2011, some old, some new.  Their endurance and debuts seem to be hitting menswear from different angles but give it just what it needs to survive; fresh, thoughtful approaches and easy to swallow craftsmanship.

With so many denim brands out there today you tend to think that everything they do has already been done.  Not so!  In walks Private Stock, a denim company whose offerings are quite unique and easily desirable to the average denim enthusiast and denim newbie alike.  The company offers an impressive 17 different kinds of raw Japanese selvedge denim made on right and left hand shuttle looms.  Particularly of note is the company's use of slub denim with black dot selvedge, chain link selvedge and deadstock black dock selvedge from Japan.  And if you know anything about deadstock, you'll know that it's a term to refers to an item that's no longer produced.  Well Private Stock has it to offer.  In addition to broken twill jeans and 13 different washes in their wash program, the company offers more hues of denim in many different varieties than any other denim company in the market.  While they offer a selection of coordinating tops and even accessories like watches, Private Stock's belief is not to sell you a lifestyle brand but rather meticulously concieved clothing to incorporate into your own existing wardrobe.

So last fashion week I'm rushing to a fashion show at a place in the city called Exit Art and of course the logical happens.  My cab hits Sunday traffic and I miss the show literally by one minute.  Doors locked, no mas entrada!  The show was for Simon Spurr and after learning the he was applauded by the Divine Ms. Wintour I, of course, needed to see more of his vision.  Spurr is a very talented designer at combining his British tailoring sensibilities with the sportswear attitude of American menswear.  For his secondary line Spurr by Simon Spurr he takes the cores of American sportswear like denim and casual separates and laces them with a bit of Britain so that it translates as a refined label that can be dressed up or down if need be.  For fall 2011 he continues on with the heavy hitting denim in wider colors but also offers great fitted leather and shearling outerwear, knits and peacoats with slight nods to Americana and the British navy.  Also, although this is his secondary line, quality is not skimped on with manufacturing in the US and suits and outerwear in Italy.  It all begins with the fabric and then is seen how best that fabric can be utilized for what kind of garment and cut.                                              

I used to call Lafayette Street between Prince and Houston Streets Skaters Row.  Reason being was that there was a plethora of stores within that block that catered to skate-heads and hype-beasts alike.  Well times may have changed and some stores may have closed but WESC has endured.  WESC which stands for 'We Are the Superlative Conspiracy' is a Swedish lifestyle streetwear brand that has offered coveted products like Japanese selvedge denim, great knits and those 'oh so cool' headphones.  In addition to producing a collection for men and women, they also have shared their design aesthetic through various collaborations over the years.  Their latest collaboration for fall 2011 is with NYC based jewelry designer Anna Sheffield's lower-priced line called Bing Bang.  It's a collection of mostly unisex necklaces that co-exist rather nicely with the Swede-come-American style of the collection.  If in Nolita checking out their store is a must for that cool speciality knit, smooth collaborated sneaker or amazing  headphones.                                                                         WESC 282 Lafayette Street

There's something rewarding about ordering a specialty item in your choice of materials and seeing who makes it and even how its made.  Then in less than 20 minutes you get to own it.  That was how ETWAS bags reeled me into their durable and attractive line of thick leather bags, although it was hard a catch to hook.  Will Lisak started ETWAS bags to be a 'handmade, energy independent operation with consistent design values through objectives and means'.  At Project, ETWAS gave attendees the option to select their skin, watch and wait while their bag was made before their eyes.  It gave a real sense of value to their line of carryall bags that you would not necessarily get in some overseas factory.  An attractive sturdy bag that the manufacturer will fix for free for life is a very desirable commodity in this day and age that makes investment spending plausible.  

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Redemption Song

Why is it that all colleges try to intimidate young brooding impressionable freshmen when they first get to their new oasis away from home?  "Look to your left, look to your right, some of those faces won't be there when you graduate!"  I vividly remember how my foray into the Howard University architecture program left me to become one of 'those' faces.  I had an epiphany mid first year and changed majors and schools for my second year.  And while dear friends tried to make the transition easier by giving me books like "Architecture In Fashion", the morph from becoming Le Corbusier deep in Brutalism to entering the realm of Louis Vuitton waist high in crepe-back satin was risky but necessary for me.  Every young student who knows what they want has a yen to change the world by creating that ultra-desirable product or magnetically attractive idea that will shape cause and culture here on out.  However, just like the truthful omen issued by first year deans to freshmen, not all the starry-eyed can overcome adversity and become the next Levi-Strauss.  So for the thinking class (especially more today, than yesteryear) a consciousness of finding redemption in the fickle arenas and essentially 'making bad food good' is what merges art, talent, purpose and social responsibilities and awareness.

As I strolled through the Project Show giddy from all the fall 2011 wares to don, I met a few labels whose purpose struck me as redemptive in the money hungry, bottom line world of men's fashion.  And while yes fashion is essentially a money-making business, these following brands seem to be making it their business to not only turn a buck but also turn consumers onto becoming more stylishly informed and socially aware.

Bowery Lane Bicycles was founded in the good old NYC back in 2008 and makes handsome looking bikes for men (and now women).  So, what's their schtick?  You're not getting a bike that came off some QE2 sized assembly line but rather a hand welded, painted, assembled, packed, shipped and affordable bike for the urban cyclist.  This is all done with hints and nods to traditional bike-making by the label's manufacturers, an NYC family owned and operated company that has been making bikes in NYC since the 1800's.  The company has three word mantra to support their slogan of 'Unity, Tolerance, Freedom': functional, stylish and local.  What I found appealing about these bikes were the usage of natural materials like Dutch saddle leather, locally crafted wood for bike storage and sustainable cork for the handle bars.  These details reminded me of the kinds of things you find in a vintage shop that you will will look even more desirable as they age.                                                                    

So Project this year had a pop-up store that supported local labels and I found myself drawn to the whimsy and stellar craftsmanship of Ernest Alexander.  I had to do a double take on the eclectic little contrast textile bow-ties, belts and braces, the perfect size leather document holders and utility bags and sturdy dopp kits that made you want to travel with more toners and moisturizers.  The year and a half old NY-based label focuses primarily on the strengths of waxed canvas and leather and sources all of it fabric and manufacturing within the NY garment district (YAY!!) and greater US.  What struck me as nice about the label (as I was ringing up my bow-tie) was that you could get a sense the the line can appeal to the younger or older working professional but also the modern dandy and 'artsy fartsy' fellow.  Great accessory design that keeps it all in the communal family to help the NY and US economies.

I can't imagine one gal or even guy in NY that does need a good bag every now and then.  Skinny Vinny, designed by Vincent Lai is a 'Straight Outta Brooklyn' well-made collection of bags, wallets, ties and other accessories that are built with a cosmopolitan aesthetic.  Frantic and in a rat-race are we New Yorker's (I think the pace of popular culture got it from us), so we need sturdy, attractive and 'easy to get into' bags with functional zips and durable fabrics that won't fall apart on our 'uptown to downtown and back' subway treks.  Skinny Vinny offers great totes with well-designed proportions and easily placed pockets that would make getting to their Metrocard-designed wallet fast and easy.  The label's foray into ties is a nice play on texture and the streamlined non-fussiness that fuel city living.                          

In the 80's, the oldest homosapien ever was found in a cave in the Italian Alps.  Nicknamed Oetzi, he dates back to about 3300 B.C.  It was soon discovered that not only did he have intact tattoos all over his body (a copy of the tattoo is the brand's logo) but he was also being treated for arthritis.  Lots to think about, lots to be inspired by.  Oetzi3300 is the footwear brand that became inspired by the treatment of Oetzi'sergononmically molds to the shape of the wearer's foot.  The redemption, besides happy feet, is that a portion of the sales of these shoes go to support the arthritis foundation.          

Probably the most redemptive line at Project was Falling Whistles whose line of jumbo whistles call awareness to the atrocities of war in Africa's war-torn Congo.  Proceeds go to rehabilitate the children forever affected by the senselessness of misused power, greed, sexual violence and unprovoked murder.  Far beyond the attractive whistle to wear around your neck is the life that may be aided because someone on the other side of the world cared to hear the stories of children refugees torn from their families and made to live like less than human.  Please become more aware by visiting                    

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