Smoke & Mirrors

Skinny mirrors, widening mirrors, fun house mirrors, vanity mirrors, rear view mirrors, compact mirrors!  Ever passed by your reflected image on the street and nearly had a coronary?  No matter what the mirror does to us it can't alter what's really there.  And let's not even talk about the aspect of lighting.  Fluorescent, halogen, daylight, strobe light!  "Those powder grey corduroys looked like they went with my puffy vest in the light above my bedroom mirror but in the reflection of this store front window, I look as though I had a lot on my mind while dressing this morning"!  Getting the combination right can be quite an undertaking.  I, for one, advocate a full length mirror with natural daylight but realize that sometimes dressing before the sun comes up in an 18 inch square mirror might be the more common inner city ritual.  

Now crack that mirror, neigh shatter it, in that seismically radiating almost web-like way.  It doesn't matter what the light is now.  At this point the fragmented pieces of glass are taking on so many positions of non-uniformity that a bevy of tones and values are expressed.  Literally your image is chopped up and distorted.  However, figuratively, some artists treat this metamorphosis in the way of the wabi sabi, as in finding the beauty of the disharmony of the broken glass.  Other artists, choose to focus on the fractured visual image reflected back but shine the brighter light on the brokenness inside the individual behind the glass.  

Glass, the figurative shattering of the surface and a little of the soul bared was on my mind as I watched the BCBG Spring Summer 2012 collection presented by Max Azria.  Have you ever watched the bizarre uniformity and story of stained glass but looked close enough to see the disconnected fractured elements of its skewed lines with the beautiful outcome?  This collection by Mr. Azria was a continuation of a strong ethereal meets the graphically draped and patterned story that BCBG has been telling for the past few seasons.  What stands out and continues the prologue in a strong way this season was the melange of lines with abstract seaming and fresh color that called to mind a balance of sensuality with vulnerability in giving just a bit of a natural feminine essence.  Similar to the riotous control of shattered glass were the vertical, horizontal and asymmetrical convergence of lines that sang a song and bared the soul just a bit while the color-blocking seemingly mocked the many different and distinct ways in which a woman can attach her persona of color to the cordoned fragments.  

The collection was flirty, modern and feminine with the shapes giving a streamlined air of strength to the models.  The prints and embellishments were evocative of the twinkling of the city's night skyline, champagne bubbling in a flute and the characteristic strikes of color during  Art Deco and forms like the Empire State and Chrysler buildings.  What Mr. Azria has excelled at doing with this collection is further combining the world of 'sellable' mid-designer retail with the look of high designer fashion in a cohesive artistic way.  Shattered or whole, daylight or neon light, reflective pool or driver's side mirror, objects in fashion can clearly be more than they appear.

*Special thanks for the photos courtesy of

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In Del Toro Shoes

It's Gotta Be The Shoes

It all started with a pair of Paul Smith sneakers made into technicolor footwear madness by the art group E-Boy. Then after that came my first pair of Carroll 4 mids from Lakai. It was basically a wrap after that. The proverbial 'John' of sneaker fanaticism had captured me and had his way with me thereby transforming me into a hypebeasting, store-scouting, junior sneakerwhore. However, I fancy myself an artist and like many artists my passion for sneakers has cultivated itself over the years. I've gone from desiring the bizarrely coveted Nike Dunk to the iconic Puma Clyde and finally feeling at home with limited edition Chuck Ts.
So what do I look back on now.  Well besides my attempts to pull out the bottom shoebox without having all of them topple over on me, I am now faced with a mountain of shoes that I probably won't wear again anytime soon.  However, I still feel drawn to the memory (emotional attachment, if you will) of the hunt, find and plunder of acquiring the mashes of laces, leathers and gum-soles.  
Well now I am faced with the problem of going forward with the affections of my past still lingering in my consciousness.  I am older, wiser and have a better understanding of quality materials, craftsmanship and the certain value of longevity associated with the aforementioned.  It's interesting, although not surprising, to learn this at my age (don't ask) but after meeting Matthew Chevallard of Del Toro Shoes I thought it more interesting that he kind of thought the same way.

Mr. Chevallard is the president of Del Toro Shoes, a relatively new and impressive label dedicated to combining the inspirations of his Italian heritage, American rearing and love of sneaker culture.  However instead of just remixing a Dunk or Chuck T the brand aims to use the quality of Italian materials and craftsmanship together with an 'easy living', globally influential American aesthetic to introduce the appeal of updated mens footwear classics to those who appreciate premium quality, comfortable design and sneaker culture alike. Those classics include modernized moccasins, driving shoes, slip-on smoking shoes and espadrilles.

Del Toro aims to fulfill its modernity claims through materials such as butter soft skins, plush quality velvets and fine wovens.  Its design claims are fulfilled  through clever uses of color and technique giving a fresher and different perspective to mens footwear staples and by instilling cheeky embroidery for a personalized statement.  One key attribute that Mr. Chevallard and Eliza Allen Aho, the Managing Director, say the brand aims to adopt is a lighter weight to their shoes than say your dad used to wear.  Del Toro desires to be comforting and satisfying for the sneaker-head who enjoys the feel of a sneaker but desires something more refined and for the enlightened gentleman who just wants non-fussy footwear that kills several 'lifestyle birds' with one stone.  For example, for spring 2012, the company will offer a super lightweight brogue model  that is considerably easier on the feet than the common brogue seen on the street without sacrificing any of the bespoke panache.  Literally and figuratively.  The shoes are all made in either Italy or Spain, countries that made a tradition out of fine tailoring and crafting.  So the approach to bespoke is essentially the same in attention to craft and detail with just a more modernized outcome.

Catering to the versatile lives of the modern man is key to many designers and retailers alike today.  Since you can be a 20 something CEO or a 40 something web designer or vice versa, age or status do not dictate knowledge, need or demand of quality anymore.  Society has proven that anyone can become anything at any age and the things, like design, in society should reflect that.  Rounded collections that have depth and cater to many reflect the fact that the late teen entrepreneur may know just as much about a well-made shoe as a 50 year old financier; and both may demand various kinds of design on the same level of quality.  I'd like to think that Del Toro Shoes is one brand that could dress the feet of the snap-back wearer and the weekend duffel carrier alike.

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