In Marlon Gobel Mens Spring/Summer 2014 Review Mercedes Benz Fashion Week New York Fashion Week

The Silent Dignity in Construction: Marlon Gobel Spring/Summer 2014 Collection Review

I often challenge friends to find five square blocks in Manhattan where there is no construction going on.  Be it due to the housing market, the Bloomberg Renaissance or the city's tax structure, there has never been more drillings, digging and scaffolding disrupting New York City life.  The high rises going up every week, the annoying midtown traffic being backed up by some flatbed delivery or the infamous street closures due to some giant crane has narrated the real estate boom in the city for years now.

Now shortly before Labor Day this year I was dog-sitting for a friend whose rooftop had the most amazing view of the Chrysler building.  As I was sitting there on the rooftop sketching at dusk, the lights of the famed NewYork landmark came on and it got me to thinking.  While some of them are not as fantastic as the Chrysler, buildings shape and catalogue the city in its various stages similar to how someone regards important life events on a timeline.  The beauty of the buildings and the legacy they create for the face of the city led me to ponder if those men who built these buildings were looking at this as just work or if they foresaw the impact of what they were building at the time.  It's a message of those who work behind the scenes just doing their jobs but create the things that affect our lives so deeply, be they the contractor, the metalworker, the seamstress or the tailor.  

For one second, connect those last four occupations by thinking of the attention to detail, the knowledge of craft and the persuasion of great construction.  Although they take a backseat, they are no less important to the design process.  This is the thinking conjured up when I watched to Spring 2014 Marlon Gobel show.  Inspired by the quiet heroics of the city's metalworkers, Mr. Gobel showed a collection that merged his patented eye for building suits with the patented eye of those who 'built this city'.

It was a story of paying homage, American heritage and city construction as models sauntered out to a pounding remix of "We Built This City" appropriately between the wrought rafters of the iconic Park Avenue Armory.  Mr. Gobel lent his polished aesthetic to streamlined denim workwear cut with familiar lines but updated by being tailored closer to the body with a clean sense of the natural fitness of a man who works with his hands and also his mind.  Strewn throughout the collection were builder references like tethered belts and prints/treatments that called to mind a construction hub like a trim suit with contractors blueprint lines & markings or woodgrain printed dress shirts.  I can only imagine what Mr. Gobel's mood board for this collection must've looked like.  The riveted safari and leather jackets, the speakeasy style fitted vests and the varsity bomber style jackets all looked like what a turn of the century metalworker would see on his worksite and even after he punches out his timecard and catches some ale at the local watering-hole.  

There was also an exciting fabric that Mr. Gobel used in this collection whose technical texture served as one that may have been used to ship and protect steel.  However, being the lover of color that he is, this crisp, structured but soft fabric called Aeronylon was shown in vibrant 'contracting-esque' colors like florescent orange and yellow that served as a perfect balance of the themes of precision and construction especially in the expert hand of this seasoned designer.

What's always nice about a Marlon Gobel show is that he is inspired.  That's a very easy thing to do when you know your craft.  Having worked on both sides of the curtain, he knows how to personally  handle the design process from pencil to fabric to first-fitting to sewing machine to final fitting.  This also means that when you experiment the outcome will still have the polished aesthetics that show you know your craft as opposed to just looking costume-like.  After all, like the iconic Chrysler or the defining Empire State, a great design is only as good and lasting as those who construct it.

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In Mens Spring/Summer 2014 Review Mercedes Benz Fashion Week New York Fashion Week Nicholas K Womens Spring/Summer 2014 Review

The Fabric Unites: Nicholas K Spring/Summer 2014 Collection Review

Tribes can be anywhere.  They can dwell on the plains, up in the arctic or way down in the jungle deep.  From a modern standpoint, what's notable is not just that they exist but how their existence influences other more progressive cultures.  It could stand to reason that the influences could be so grand due to the preservation of the rites of passage, rituals and adornment that often seems opposite to the rapid daily pace in cultures of those looking at the tribe.  There is also something uniquely organic about what the simplicity of the vacuum that certain tribes dwell in teach us about what we overvalue and undervalue.

I always like to see how a designer can take influence from a tribe of people and make the outcome sway more integrated to modern inner-city society and less like a literal interpretation.  Not many fashionable people want to wear a costume representative of a tribe admired, they'd rather wear components that show they admire in their own modern way.  Enter Nicholas K Spring 2014.

Inspired by the indigenous peoples that formed the Ndee and Apache nations, The Kunz brothers took the medicine man lore, shamanistic mysticism and natural earth wrought metals and textures to make a collection that was both purist, nomadic and enlightened.  The collection had a languid fluidity to it with washed silks, drapey leathers, wispy cottons and gossamer-like knits.  Long duster jackets, oversized necklines, puddly collars & lapels and loose cut trousers & shorts all had a swaddling-like and comfortable quality to them.

Colors and prints hearkened to the land and abstract imagery of the Western US terrain which created a beautiful palette on which to infuse color from other pieces of one's wardrobe or to display the beauty of the fresh pattern-making.  With melding and cleverly interpreted collections like this, apparently tribes can exist in the metropolis as well.

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In Mark McNairy Mens Spring/Summer 2014 Review New York Fashion Week

In Vogue, Gone Rogue: Mark McNairy New Amsterdam Spring/Summer 2014 Review

You ever think about phrases that mean exactly what they sound like.  Stuck up!  Backed Up! Dumbfounded!  Well, I'd like to focus on one phrase, or word rather, in particular that relates to old versus new perspectives in menswear.  Uptight!  

All I can think of about menswear growing up were the rules.  "You can't wear that color after Labor day", "This hem must be this much above your heel", "You must see you face in the shine of your shoes".  Fast-forward to modern menswear where the rules have taken a backseat to the more progressive movement that says 'make your clothing your own'.  So where before menswear was literally 'uptight', stuck so far up a dude's hind-parts that he couldn't even think of wearing anything else but grey flannel with his navy blazer, it's now more commando, in a sense, 'balls out' by allowing him the option of understanding the rules and following them to his discretion.

Thankfully, Mark McNairy's discretion is on high wattage.  Known for the rabble-rousing impressions he left at labels like J. Press and Engineered Garments, Mr. McNairy has not let more commercial endeavors like his Gap collaboration last year steal away his maverick-like penchant for making the familiar seem a bit more tongue in cheek.  As infectiously witty as his beautifully 'cobbled' footwear, he adds a similar verve to his ready to wear that is far from uptight.

For Spring 2014, Mr. McNairy showed a fresh collection of menswear ideas and turned them slightly on end to arrive at a color-induced, updated romp for the unhindered modern gent.  What's interesting to note about McNairy from his shoes to his clothing is that their appeal can receive a collective nod from the majority suit-wearing dandy to the punky downtown entrepreneur with tailored sensibilities alike.  He showed remixes of ivy league themes paired with camouflage and slight nautical references that were made fresh by pops of color and more youthful proportions that take menswear seriously, but  not uncomfortably so.  

Much of what he showed had a modern punkiness to them in the irreverent fabric mash-ups of plaids, ginghams and camo, the cheeky against the grain phrasing and the placement of rubber duckies on traditional hunting camos.  McNairy's show is testament to what happens when shock value goes right and in the case of right, I mean wearable.  Each piece had a character all their own and, while not every piece will appeal to everyone, one or more pieces could speak to any man's understanding of comfort, tailoring, expressionism and individuality.  This is no time for the uptight.

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