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. www.bowerylanebicycles.com
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 www.fallingwhistles.com.