Where The Devil Lies

Have you ever been in a department store and heard something calling you?  Yes, 'something' calling you.  Not the loud speaker singling you out to come to customer service because your significant other can't find you and your charge card;  but rather a more muted summoning.  If you listen closely you hear it almost like a faint breeze sending a shiver down your spine.  Tracking the voice, you realize that it's not a boisterous appeal to your eardrums but actually a silent appeal to your senses.  Oddly enough, you may have walked by something and sensed that very thing say "come back and touch me, try me on, experience me!"  Doing so might have meant that you got to discover the softest cashmere you've ever fondled or the perfect shade of indigo you've never witnessed on a jean or that shoe that fits and feels like a bedroom slipper except with a 'brogue-ish' disguise.  The point is that when things are well executed it pulls you into its design by appealing to all your senses whether by color, texture or fit.  What's even more interesting is what seems to be a collective return to something that appeals to the senses in a very personal and satisfying way as the aforementioned.  Its those pesky little details, what you and only you need and where the devil lies.

The newly revamped Project Show came back to New York on January 16 after a two year hiatus and definitely stoked the fire with a setup and labels that appealed to the enlightened male consumer.  You got the sense that you were circumnavigating through an updated men's club or lodge complete with a gentlemen's grooming corner.  The air of the show was one that brought various forms of men's fashion into the light all under the umbrella of a new masculinity defined by the male seeking comfort, accessibility and designing eyes attuned to detail.

What I found most remarkable was the way in which the labels who showcased were slowly pushing men forward by taking cues from the past.  There was a keen focus on those seasoned and established traditions of personal touches in finishings and adorning that have always given menswear that stable edge over womenswear.  It was these details that I believe men have become trained to look for and therefore will grow to expect.   Subsequently, this will in turn raise the bar and push fashion and dressing forward.

For example, I chatted with representatives of a label called Descendant Of Thieves whose label puts an edge on traditional menswear shirtings by adding well executed personal touches.  The label's fit is definitely cut closer to the body for a more streamlined tailored fit countering the all too familiar 'American' fit.  Ribbon trims on the insides of collars and edges finished with contrast color bindings give an air of going the extra distance to make a garment feel special.  Adding to the personal touches on one shirt was a tiny pocket on the inside lower hem of a shirt that was no bigger than a jean's fifth pocket.  It left a brain hurtling an array of possibilities as to what could be tucked away inside for only the wearer, and those he may wish, to know.  The hidden details.           

Nicholas K loves to tango with the devil as the label is always chock full of thoughtful, desirable clothing full of detail.  I chatted with Chris Kunz, one of label's collaborators, and found out that his attention to detail comes from what visually feels right to the brand's organic aesthetic.   Additionally, the details come from the brand's strong desire for the wearer to experience and have options with the clothing by way of closures, fabrications and personalizing through functional fit.  For fall 2011 Nicholas K showcases a return to great executions on knits, versatile city to country outerwear and a new foray into rugged broken-in boots.  Sweaters invite men to decide how they want to button a cardigan or pullover and collars and sewn into necklines complete with buttons and zips let the wearer decide which detail suits him best.  Your chosen details.                                                                  

All Willie Fung, the designer of Loft 604, had to do was place the 'oh-so plush' cable knit cardigan in my hands to have me realize how torrid his love affair with cashmere was.  This Toronto-based knitwear label made me smile in its certifiable attempts to merge high quality environmentally friendly (YAY!!) fabrics with the most subtle yet quaint details.  Take if you will (and you will want to) an incredibly soft reversible cashmere hooded sweater.  The execution is superb and without all the pulling and distortion that reversible knitwear can sometimes be marred by.  Add to that, the center-back panel and under-cuff complimentary detailing adorning cashmere and cashmere blended crew-necks, trousers and blazers and what you find is an attentive eye.  Along with his wife, Fung loves to globe-trot and capture snapshots of those historical sites whose classic beauties obviously have a place in his psyche when he sits down to design a simple cashmere pullover with his signature vintage camera logo.  Far from fussy and certainly not too bland to experience visually and sensually.  The strength of subtle detail.

Sergeant Snorkel, Otto, Miss Buxley and of course Beetle.  Who doesn't remember Beetle Bailey from the Sunday and weekday funnies.  Well, enter 2011.  Dissect the troops and remix the renegades because Mort Walker's legendary comic strip Beetle Bailey has met its modern avant advocate in Darren Romanelli (aka Dr. Romanelli).  The over fifty year old comic strip that gave Americans a funny insight into Army mischief merged with this 'slash and rebuild' newcomer of modern menswear in a capsule collection launched at Project.  Romanelli, known for 'frankensteining' classic American military surplus staples into innovative outerwear, has dressed the likes of Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco.  With this collaboration, Romanelli takes his whimsical aesthetic then merges them with familiar army emblems, silhouettes and functional ideas and turns them into jackets, hats, and tees.  What's even more exciting (especially to a sneaker-head like me) is his reworking of one of the symbols of classic Americana, the Chuck Taylor Converse.  Romanelli has a eye for understanding what fabrics, shapes and details can be pulled from the past and implemented into a modern clothing that affects our perceptions through its familiarity and clever newness.  The details we knew, renewed. 

 Mort Walker
 Mort Walker with Andrew Pollard, President of Project

Come one, come all to the greatest show in Brooklyn, The Brooklyn Circus.  A show? Hardly.  Great? Very!  Ouigi Theodore, founder of the Brooklyn Circus, is clearly a match for where the Project Show wants to go.  Theodore produces clothing for men that seems to appeal to their senses through American history, vintage inclinations and a classic refinement.  At first the tendency is to think The BK Circus is heavily inspired to rework American vintage clothing.  However, the real inspiration is the idea that makes American vintage clothing desirable.  There's a strength in looking put together that doesn't create the individual but rather co-exists with the individual that must naturally be a leader, informed, secure and fearless.  For fall 2011 The Brooklyn Circus continues in its quest to keep men and women looking nattily and insightfully attired all within the confines of cut, structure and a dash of whimsy which is easily found in the strength and quality of things made in a time when durability, toil and longevity was the only option.  All of BK Circus' clothing is made in the U.S. (YAY!!) and consists of no synthetic fabrics.  This fall will also showcase the return of their now renowned varsity jacket in a wider range of colors (a must buy, the fit is superb) and their 'bread and butter' Japanese selvedge denim.  The haberdasher's details.                                                                                      

Ouigi Theodore (center) and his two 'favorite inspirations'

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