In Richard Chai

Thinking Outside the Sandbox

I often wonder about kids' clothing choices.  Or are they choices?  I guess I wonder if certain kids I see are subconsciously choosing to look like carbon copies of mommy and daddy or opting to be inspired by their latest exploration of the wonderlands inside their little heads.  Opting to give your kids free will to choose their style no matter how whacked out it is, in my opinion, says a lot about the individual they'll become.  When I see 'Mini Me' walking beside their not so thrilling 'Bigger Them' I often wonder if lack of creativity or insecurity is at play.  Nonetheless, there's something thrilling about deciphering what went through a kid's mind when looking at say, polka dot tights, a ballerina skirt, mini pink trench and technicolor 'ode to the Muppets' sweater.  The precocious mind of someone who hasn't quite perfected the art of talking back yet? Perhaps.  For the rest of us, maybe an honest look at color, shapes, form and print from the unobstructed vantage point of association by identification.  They are wearing what they like.

Richard Chai's Spring Summer 2012 collection reminded me of that young go-getter once inspired to color outside the lines, but now all grown up.  The collection of men's and women's clothing was a delving into modern ways to exhibit color saturation in modern dressing.  Mr. Chai offered up rich examples of denim-esque blues, lively salmons, adobo oranges, seafoam greens and sunny purples but gave them a modern hand by diffusing their saturations with concentrated but soft abstract floral motifs, linear prints, clever seaming and dew-kissed finishes.  For those colors left intact, he showed superb draping in the form of dresses  and tunics and offered cuts that made innovative layering seem fresh and streamlined.

The other strong story from Chai for Spring was his further exploration of layering and the ways in which one can use light, texture, fabric, color and perception to create a kind of 'wardrobed poetry'.  In the right weights and silhouettes such as shapely translucent tees over colorful prints and trim blazers cut with elongated front halves, a fresh perspective was introduced by appealing to the simplicity of a piece's beauty paired with the irreverence of things worn in ways that challenge our accepted understandings of sequence and ritual.  This remains a modern way to pair our basic understanding of shape, color and form with our cultivated learning of fit, quality and fashion.

Again, here is a designer that shows men and women on the same runway but with each gender represented equally in respect to the brand's aesthetic.  There was a cool way in which each piece was given an arts & craft jolt of modernity while an homage was paid to the way in which cosmopolitan men and women think.  Chai is a designer that has a target customer who understands the need for pieces in their wardrobes that delve into forward sportswear but don't necessarily subscribe to a particular culture or trend.  Each piece has the appeal of appearing to have been fawned over in simple yet detail driven design thereby giving them a special air.  The remix, the design and the difference becomes focused on pushing forward using the basics of color, proportion, texture and form to create a balance between the familiar and inventive.  Past finger-painters, fantasy-makers, make-believers and free-thinkers unite!

Special thanx to my friends at

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In Nicholas K

The Garbs That Keep On Giving

What do many popular fashion offerings now-a-days have in common with an amazingly unique and memorable evening gown?......Give up?  It's that unspoken thing that keeps many an individual from buying too trendy; yet it cajoles them to splurge like their fashionable livelihood depended on it.  It's the shelf life.  

Yes the shelf life.  "The" show-stopping evening dress can really only be worn once or twice to keep the moment when eyes first gazed upon it enraptured up in the experience of beholding it.  Off to a Costume Institute it goes (and nowadays back to the showroom from which it was borrowed).  Similarly, the trendy shoe or 'it' bag has such a short shelf life today that it's usually overexposed, it seems, within three months.  Keeping up with the Joneses was never so hard (especially when you get to realize that the Joneses are living off of their unending inheritance.). Now there are some 'it fashions' that move you to the point where you can't help it and they must be acquired.  I'll give you that.  But here's what I also propose.  Kill all of the nest's inhabitants with one stone.  There's something extremely advantageous about about buying 'fashion' that lasts beyond the trends and hype, maintains a level of cool and rides the laurels of timelessness.

In times such as this, I find that fabrication and versatility for the wearer all under the umbrella of quality are key factors to achieve the aforementioned.  Although I occasionally bite the trendy apple of hype, I find that when I look through my closet, I'm still wearing coats and shoes that I bought 6-10 years ago.  And the quality together with designs that can incorporate a mélange of styles from tailored to military surplus all on one piece, make them still appropriately relevant this season and most likely the next too.  Why?  The appeal rests on the standards of great design and quality which is never out of fashion while pulling from classic themes that transcend culture, genre and nationality. I also like to think that the design's killing several birds with one stone affords it the longevity of not being categorized strictly as fashion, but well-rounded clothing that speaks long term and not just for the moment.

I first discovered a brand in 2007 and it now has become one of my favorites.  Not only due to a keen design hand that merges tailoring with a rustic technical aesthetic but also due to the fact that the pieces are still as relevant today as they were four years ago.  The brand in question is Nicholas K.  This brand continues to explore the clever ways in which layers create a dialogue, texture demonstrates depth and functional cut plays with tailoring for comfort.  What I saw in the brand from the onset was that the designers Nicholas and Chris Kunz actually design with a double-edged purpose of developing a well-honed design sense while concurrently offering styles that were on the pulse of fashion.  


For Spring 2012, Nicholas K offered a great collection that was peppered with the brand's seasoned way of creating layers on top of layers, literally and deceptively.  The collection told a familiar spring story the 'Nicholas K way' by starting with a heavy offering of white garbs from the fly away ethereal to the textured body conscious.  Then in true fashion of how the brand offers up longevity, great outerwear, sumptuous knits and edgy sportswear were offered up in a realtime gradation from beiges to 'greiges' to greys to soft subtle color in great innovative patterns that showed that these designers actually think.  There was an influx of colors like lagoon teals, faded adobes and washed navies through abstract wave prints and remixed tie dyes that had enough zest to be 'on the pulse' yet non-descript enough to become a long-standing staple of one's wardrobe.  In true Nicholas K fashion, the textured fabrics like khaki twills, denims, lawns and jerseys were washed, beaten and sun-kissed while gossamer like sheers were kept light and flowy even when done in silhouettes that one would normally see executed with heavier fabrics, hands and finishes.

I like seeing men and women on the runway and both done well.  It tells a story of intention, capabilities and the close interplay involving mens and women's clothing in modern dressing.  There were some pieces in the collection that definitely had an androgynous appeal in working for either sex in its oversize or undersized cuts and colorings.  The potential to extend your wardrobe with a wardrobe that will last for much more than a New York minute?  How's that for longevity!

Special thanks to my friends at

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