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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