February 25, 2009

Michael Londrigan on the Recession, Sustainability & the Future of Menswear

What are your thoughts on sustainability and menswear; for example, are green trends making inroads?
"You raise valid questions regarding green and sustainability, but my contention is that menswear is inherently sustainable. Think about it compared to women’s wear, which is pretty much disposable clothing. What a woman wears one season, you will not see the next (of course, this is a generalization but one that holds truth). Whereas menswear, you invest in pieces—a suit, sport coat, dress shirt, casual pants—you wear these for a long time and they do not usually go out of style. That is why I say menswear is inherently sustainable: we don’t throw things away. I am a member of the Taconic Road Runners Club based in Westchester New York; I have t-shirts from races that are 20 years old!"

Do you feel complete "green" collections of menswear are easy to find?
"Look at a company like Bagir, they are making men’s suits out of recycled fibers. It is out there you just have to look."

Will eco-fashion catch on in menswear or will it become a niche market because of costs?
"Will it catch on big? No, but it will continue to gain momentum and play an important role in the menswear industry."

How has the current recession affected the menswear industry?
"The current economic crisis has affected all industries, and menswear is not immune. Sales are down; it is harder for new designers/labels to break out; and the traditional companies are hoping to hang on until this passes, as it will. The ones that survive will be stronger and in a better position to compete for the remaining retail dollars."

What direction has menswear taken within the last 20-30 years, and where do you think the industry is going?
"I think the direction menswear has taken over the last 20-30 years is great. Men started to and still enjoy the ability to wear color like never before. I think menswear will continue to evolve with more and more younger guys getting into fashion. Men are no longer dressing for success but dressing because they feel like it. They are dressing because they want to look and feel good and, of course, attract their opposite—whatever it may be."

Do you have any advice to the reader who is contemplating whether or not to enter the menswear industry, say, as a designer?
"I am not so sure I am the right person to give advice on entering the menswear industry as a designer, but I would encourage any student or individual that is interested in menswear to get involved in the industry either in sales, marketing, sourcing, planning analysts, merchandising, product development, buyer, etc. It has served me well and I enjoyed meeting the many people that I did and traveling all over the world, conducting business as I did."

Michael, thank you again for sharing your years of experience and expertise with us! We look forward to hearing more from you in the future and even from your students at LIM College, who are reading! Next time, you must tell us what you are doing in that cold water!

Michael Londrigan: the Man behind the Book

Michael Londrigan—author, educator, and former businessman with 28 years experience under his belt in the menswear industry—shares his personal life and tastes in the first half of this exclusive 2-part interview with Men's Fashion by Francesco.

Tell me about your upbringing...
I was born and raised in Jersey City, NJ, one of six children, third oldest. My father was a police officer and my mother a homemaker. My parents took good care of us with what they had. When it came time for college, it was up to me to pay the way, so I loaded trucks from 6-12 pm, six nights a week while a freshman in college. As a sophomore, I took a job with Morgan Guarantee Bank in Manhattan, working from 10 pm to 6 and going to school full time during the day.

Did you ever dream of doing what you do today?
I had no clue I would ever end up in the position I am in today. After I graduated from St. Peter’s College in Jersey City, I took a day job at the bank. But it was not for me.

What led you into the clothing industry and, specifically, menswear?
I applied for a position with JC Penney (when they had their corporate office in Manhattan) and was offered a job as a catalog control buyer. I was assigned to the menswear department and, from there, promoted to an assistant buyer. After several years I decided to try the wholesale business, and the rest is history.

How did you wind up teaching at LIM College?
I first starting teaching 15 years ago at FIT; it was a very political atmosphere and almost soured me on the entire teaching idea. I was there for two years and was not reappointed. Through a series of events (companies closing, divisions closing, relocating) I wanted a change and got back into teaching. I started with Berkeley College in New Jersey and made the switch to LIM College last July when I was approached by a search firm when LIM was looking for a Chair of the Fashion Department.

The US has undoubtedly produced world famous menswear designers and labels. At the same time, I do hear the comment from others that men in the US do not dress stylishly. Do you disagree?
I do disagree with that statement, as the US is a very big country with many different dress codes around the nation. So when one looks from another country or visits from another country, they are going to tourist areas and not seeing the stylish types. They are not seeing the fashion innovators. Sit in an airport and look at what men are wearing, and it is no wonder that this is the impression from outside the country. If they are not businessmen wearing suits or sport coats, then many (not all) look a little slovenly. I know you are from Italy and men pride themselves as being always well-dressed, but you have to take into account different cultures. The US is that melting pot and accounts for all sorts of different looks, and that adds to the richness of the menswear industry.

Do you prefer a certain period of menswear?
Partial to the 70’s, I am a t shirt and jean kind of guy.

What is your favorite men's look?
My favorite look is a great wool suit matched with a great dress shirt and tie!

Thank you, Michael, for acquainting us with the man behind the book!

Menswear: Business to Style by Michael Londrigan

For years I had surveyed the landscape, searching for anyone who would engineer their expertise into a comprehensive blueprint of the modern-day men's fashion industry—but to no avail!

Finally I stumbled upon an ad for the latest publication entitled Menswear: Business to Style. Advertised as an exhaustive exposé on menswear based on the author's numerous years of experience in the field, I purchased the book and set about reading its entirety.

Chapter after chapter, like an endowed architect, the author lays a solid foundation of the menswear industry, starting with the ancient Greeks! Then, brick upon brick, he builds the theme throughout the centuries until he arrives at a skyscraper of knowledge covering every corner of the present-day menswear industry.

In addition to the cover, the first few chapters so enthralled me that I sat down to write to this illustrious author, whose name is Michael Londrigan. To my surprise, Michael responded to my email without delay, requesting permission to use my articles in his syllabus at LIM College where he chairs the Department of Fashion Merchandising!

I discovered from Michael that LIM College focuses on the business of fashion, educating men and women in retailing, buying, management, product development, marketing, visual merchandising, publications, and cosmetics—since 1939!

Located in the heart of Manhattan, LIM College runs 4 locations, offering associate and bachelor's degrees, as well as an MBA. To think that my articles would have a role in training the next generation of men and women who will drive the fashion industry, I was beside myself!

A week later when I was privileged to speak with Michael by phone, my first question was obviously, "What inspired you to write such a thorough exposition on the menswear industry?"

"The genesis for the text," answered Michael graciously, "was an existing text published by Pierson, titled Menswear: Suiting the Customer. I was using this text teaching menswear for Berkeley College and realized it had been published in 1993 and not updated; it had and still has a picture of OJ Simpson in the text as a fashion icon! I knew something had to be done, so I decided to take on the project. Fairchild liked the idea, so I used my industry experience and research to compile the text."

With 28 years of experience in the menswear sales, merchandising, and marketing for several private label companies, Michael Londrigan shares many insights into the industry.

For more from this menswear guru, stay tuned for a 2-part exclusive interview with Michael Londrigan, as he discusses his personal life and professional experiences, sustainability, the current recession, and the future of the menswear industry!

Photo Menswear: Business to Style Copyright 2009 Fairchild Books, used with permission by author.

February 23, 2009

London Fashion Week: Doubly Green

On Friday, February 20th, the British Fashion Council kicked off the 6th season of estethicaLondon Fashion Week's green initiative. Reputed as the world's leading showcase of sustainable designer fashion, estethica has grown from 13 to 37 designers, who adhere to one of three guiding principles: organic, fair trade, or recycled. From design to production onto retail and disposal, estethica aims at promoting sustainable life cycles in high end fashion. Encouragingly, several notable menswear collections were in attendance.

Born in Denmark of a Portuguese father and Danish mother, Naia Rico studied at the London College of Fashion, going on to design for Article 23, which inherited its name from the 23rd article of the Declaration of Human Rights. Inspired by the legendary 19th century figure Sherlock Holmes, Naia combined retro and contemporary styles to create a timeless selection of British poshness and "falsely neglected dandyism." Using organic cotton and natural materials, the collection was produced by a women's co-op in India.

Promoted as the voice for animals in the fashion industry, the impassioned knitwear designer from North Yorkshire, Izzy Lane, runs a Sheep Sanctuary of Shetland and endangered Wesledydale sheep that have been saved from slaughter. Portraying a cosy "1970’s goes to the country" theme, her ethically and sustainably Made-in-Britain collection was woven at an ancient mill in Selkirk, using hundred year old Victorian machinery and, then, hand knit into plush chunky garments.

Prophetik presented its preachy, almost apocalyptic "wearable philosophy" in the Impulsion collection, which represents slow fashion advancing with wisdom and substance. Inspired euro street wear that manifests art, love, poetry, and internal freedom, Prophetik supports numerous children's charities around the world, working also with the Asian Elephant Art and Conservation Project. "In raising funds to buy land for the elephants," says designer Jeff Garner, "our partners train the elephants to paint on our organic silk fabric, which we turn into dresses to sell for the cause."

Based in Paris and produced by local co-ops in the Amazon, the Veja collection of comfortable shoe wear was inspired by 1970's Brazilian volleyball styles, merging an urban and vintage feel. Utilizing organic cotton canvas and Amazonian rubber soles, Veja rests on three pillars: 1) use of ecological inputs, 2) fair trade cotton and latex, and 3) respect for workers’ dignity.

Since Men's Fashion by Francesco will be contacting these four designers in the next several days, please feel free to present your questions concerning sustainability and menswear below!

Photo Sherlock Holmes Copyright Public Domain.
Photo Wensleydale sheep by Vicky Brock Copyright Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike 2.0.
Photo Asian Elephant by Rajesh Kakkanatt Copyright Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike 2.0.
Photo Amazonia by Phil P. Harris Copyright Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike 2.0.

February 21, 2009

Jazzy "Midnight Sessions" by OntFront

Addictive for its unusual beats and rhythmic surprises, Jazz originated at the dawn of the 20th century in cities from New Orleans to Chicago and was soon popularized through mediums like the phonograph record, the radio, and the advent of sound movies. The music genre hit a crescendo in the Roaring Twenties, spawning numerous subgenres thereafter like big band swing, Dixieland, bebop, and hip hop.

The 1920’s have been syncopated as the Age of Jazz, when a minority’s melodic subculture harmonized with the chords of the majority's mainstream. Jazz soon danced right out of its own shoes and into social movements, propelling women’s liberation and the entire fashion industry. Imagine swinging to the Charleston in Victorian clothes!

Earlier jazz musicians performed behind the closed doors of dark, smokey brothels, speakeasies, and bars in New Orleans' red light district, donning sport clothes, high waisted jackets with belts, and straight legged trousers that were cuffed high enough to show the socks! Within this underground scene of sweaty jazz, Midnight Sessions were born, mixing it up with trench coats, baseball jackets, hooded sweaters, blazers, and double breasted vests!

Nostalgic as the blues, yet futuristic as urban rap, Midnight Sessions was inspired by musicians like Sonny Rollins, Jelly Roll, Count Basie, Tommy Flanagan, and Benny Carter for their creative chord progressions, catchy rebellion, and perfect tailored clothing.

OntFront’s claim to fame lies in the tune of sidewalk tailoring, which improvises classic suit craftsmanship with the ad-lib finesse of the streets. So turn off my play list below, sit back, and have a sip of whiskey with designer Liza Koifman as you listen to the syncopation of Midnight Sessions.

Slide show 2009 s/s Midnight Sessions Collection Copyright by OntFront.
Model: Jean-Paul.
Photography: Jochem Sanders.

OntFront Goes Emperialistic with Nicholas II

What do Tsar Nicholas II and 26-year old designer Liza Koifman have in common? St. Petersburg and OntFront’s new 2009 f/w collection entitled Emperialistic.

Little Nicky was son of the stunning Princess of Denmark, Maria Fyodorovna, and a tall intimidating father, Alexander Alexandrovich Romanov. Although shorter than Alexander, Nicholas II grew into a regal figure with deep blue eyes and a thick brown beard with golden highlights.

One of the most educated European monarchs of his time, Nicholas II was raised somewhat isolated from his intellectual and artistic peers, which would later seal his fate. But he adored music, especially Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, and most of all Nicholas loved his country. Although he was disposed by the Bolsheviks in 1917, becoming Russia's last Tsarevich, Nicholas was not the nation's last aristocrat!

Some of Nicholas' legacies include his impeccable dress and sumptuous uniforms. In 1903, Nicholas II and his wife hosted a lavish dress ball for Russia's aristocracy. They commissioned the nation's most illustrious tailors, such as the directors of imperial theaters and the Hermitage, who designed national 17th-century costumes, sparking a revival in traditional Russian dress.

Now, Liza Koifman continues the legacy of Nicholas II by inviting today's rising "aristocracy of the streets" to OntFront's sophisticated androgynous dress ball of renewed Russian dress! Employing the most exclusive fabrics, Liza adorns these urban uniforms with the armorial bearings of the Russian imperial family to outfit you like an modern aristocrat!

Slide show a/w 2009 Emperialistic Collection Copyright by OntFront.
Photo top right Nicholas II Copyright Wikipedia public domain.

OntFront's Eruption: Liza Koifman

Liza Koifman was born 1982 in Petrapavlovsk—a city that sits high on a hill, surrounded by numerous volcanoes and located in the far eastern region of Russia’s Pacific coast.

A year after her birth, Liza's family relocated to Leningrad, modern-day Saint Petersburg, where she was raised until the age of 9. Eventually Liza had lost contact with her father, a Soviet Jew, who decided to make aliyah, migrating to Israel in escape of repression.

Soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Liza and her mother moved to the Netherlands, where she has lived since since 1991, studying Costume Design at the National Film Academy in Amsterdam. Although Liza began designing costumes for film and video productions after graduation, she could not contain the urge for individual creative expression, which was erupting within her.

Meanwhile in 2005, DJ and entrepreneur Tomas Overtoom was making local tremors with his own ground-shaking creativity, hosting a masked hip hop event called OntFront—Don’t Put up a Front!—which aimed at promoting fresh talent like artists, musicians, and fashion designers. Liza wasted no time in signing up!

Together, Tomas and Liza's passion for style triggered an earthquake: a new line of menswear that would express the stylishness and self-rule of their generation’s intelligent but slightly rebellious men.

Reflecting the demographic nature and multi-cultural allure of Amsterdam, Tomas and Liza have shaken the city with the finest men from all ethnic backgrounds who model their collections: Russians, Indonesians, Chinese, Africans, Italians, and more.

What inspires Liza's creations is strength of character; namely, real icons—men who impact their generation! She deviates from the modern trends of aesthetic arguments that search for beauty in unpleasant objects and result in misshaped designs.

Rather, Liza’s canvas is the male human body: “Men are interesting creatures,” she remarks. “Making clothes for them gives me an opportunity to study these creatures and find out their interests. Every day I try to crack the secret code. I think I'm getting there!”

Liza’s designs for men with the aim of empowering them to feel sharp and confident enough to stand out in the crowd. Liza insists that modern men are ready for innovation. “As a woman, I feel spoiled by having so many choices when I'm shopping. Men deserve the same treatment.”

When Liza and Tomas sent the two posted photos, he wrote, They have "never been published, so you are the first to see them."

What an honor for Men's Fashions by Francesco and our readers!

Dank u, Tomas! Kомплименты, Liza!

Photos 2009 a/w collection copyright OntFront.
Photography: Marnix Postma
Model: Yukee @ TRCP
Hair and Makeup: Chantal Garden @ Tommy'z Toko

(Top right Liza Koifman photo by Dennis.)

February 17, 2009

The Fragrant Hands of John Rocha

The Irish proverb, Molann an obair an fear, declares that a man's praise is measured by his work. So according to the Irish, John Rocha deserves a standing ovation for his accomplishments in nearly every field of design—and more.

Born in Hong Kong of Portuguese and Chinese descent, educated in London's Croydon School of Art, and rooted in the capital of Ireland, John Rocha has managed to incarnate himself in each design field that he undertakes.

In 1997, John introduced his first work in a medium outside fabrics when he launched the John Rocha at Waterford Crystal Collection. Simple cuts and unconventional practicality radiated his sense of mystery and geometric purity, immediately sparking worldwide acclamation.

Fashioned after his city of origin, John's 1999 architectural design of the Morrison Hotel engineered a luxurious haven where East meets West. Since then, John has continued to grace other cities throughout Europe with exclusive commercial and residential projects and interior design.

Inspired by an assortment of influences, in July of 2002 John launched a collection of nature inspired jewelry that marries the ruggedness of Irish cliffs and Celtic shapes with the gracefulness and sensual sweeps of Chinese brushstrokes.

In October of 2002, John published Texture, Form, Purity, Detail—an illustrated hard-cover book that reveals the philosophy of his designs, chronologically narrating his progression of working with one medium after another.

John launched his line of menswear in 2007 at Pitti Immagine Uomo in Italy. Wedding classic tailoring to modern styles, John's collection of natural fibres and rich textures struck a romantic cord of nostalgia in the hearts of the eager spectators.

Later that year, the doors of John Rocha's first flagship store opened at 15a Dover Street in London, where he showcases his designer collections from every field, including art, sculpture, jewelry, apparel, books, and more.

Years ago when I lived and worked in the "fragrant harbor" of Hong Kong, I had the opportunity to learn some Cantonese. There exists a saying 花香總是會留在送花人的手中, which states, "Flowers leave their fragrance on the hands that bestow them. Likewise, the hands of John Rocha emanate the fragrance of his manifold designs that he continues to bestow upon us.

Photos 2009 a/w collection Copyright by John Rocha.

John Rocha's Fragrant Harmony

Like his ever-expanding portfolio of designer collections, John Rocha is an exotic mixture of Chinese and Portuguese descent. Born in Hong Kong, John was raised in a "fragrant harbor" where East meets West on a daily basis. As traditional society mingles with a booming cosmopolitan center, so the city's sprawling skyline harmonizes with its natural setting.

John decided to study fashion in the 1970's and, thus, moved to London. As he was experimenting with Irish linens for his graduate collection, John visited Ireland, where he has resided with his wife Odette for the past 20 years. Besides working with fine fabrics, John's portfolio has expanded to embrace crystal, jewelry, architecture, lighting, and interior design.

Similar to his fragrant city of origin, John's creations are a crossroads of the graceful flowing strokes in Chinese calligraphy and the simple clean lines of Irish patterns. Brilliantly harmonizing contemporary styles with classic traditions, John strikes a dramatic balance between texture, form, and detail—regardless of the medium.

Twelve years after winning the prestigious title British Designer of the Year in 1994, the Queen of England bestowed upon John Commander of the British Empire for his manifold contributions to the fashion industry.

As you visit John's sprawling portfolio of creative works, allow yourself to savor the eclectic aromas of his harmony, gracefulness, and purity by clicking here.

Stay tuned for another article on John Rocha's exciting life and career in the world of design!

Photos 2009 a/w collection Copyright by John Rocha.

February 15, 2009

Scarlet Rogue: the Men behind the Label

Born in Liverpool, England—historic home of the Beatles—Jonathan Coleman spent most of his childhood years abroad in countries like Italy, Spain, and Holland. Similar to most young men in search of their place in the world, Jonathan pursued a career as an engineer in the Oil and Gas Industry.

After several trips to various countries and countless weeks at sea, Jonathan soon found himself in the middle of war-torn Sudan. Military escorts, a blistering sun, grueling work, and endless days—all ignited within Jonathan an unyielding desire to express his muted creativity.

As for Alexander Johnson, he spent most of his formative years in two major cities of the US Southeast; namely, Miami, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia. Not unlike other teens of his generation, Alex was raised on a diet of music icons from the 70's, 80's, and 90's and "outrageous" fashion styles.

In high school, the young teenager began exhibiting a keen artistic flair as he set about hand-painting denim pants and jean jackets. When fellow classmates started placing orders, Alex sensed an entrepreneurial spirit kindled within him!

Eventually Alex traded in his motorcycle and ripped jeans for a pressed suit and starched tie, embarking on a new career in finance. After 10 years of stateside employment as a stockbroker, Alex landed a job in Asia as a venture capitalist for gas and oil drilling. Similar to Jonathan, however, Alexander's muted desire for artistic self-expression continued to flicker.

Was it fate...providence...or just good ole' fashioned luck? Jon and Alex met through a mutual friend who was travelling throughout Asia. Recognizing each other's mutual passions for music and fashion, sparks of a common vision began to fly and Scarlet Rogue was born.

Photos Copyright by Scarlet Rogue.

Scarlet Rogue: the Label

Scarlet Rogue first debuted at the Magic Fashion Trade Show in Las Vegas last year. The collection of avant-garde menswear was described as "edgy yet sophisticated."

I like to characterize the Scarlet Rogue look according to what we call in Italy trasgressivo, a concept that has no direct translation in English. It is the style of the night—slightly seductive but not sleazy, aggressive yet not brazen, refined and very masculine at the same time.

Scarlet Rogue was conceived by two designers: Jonathan Coleman of the UK and Alexander Johnson of the US. Inspired by tattoo artistry and a fervent passion for music, Scarlet Rogue personifies modern urban culture at its best and employees the finest luxury fabrics and materials, placing exquisite details at center stage.

Blending classic vintage tailoring with contemporary artisanship for the casual-dress man, Jonathan and Alexander have given a new definition to denim wear: "Flattering democratic fits which produce straightforward no nonsense styling, with beautiful realistic washes to provide the finest everyday wardrobe staples."

Proceed on to the next article for the exciting lives of Alex and Jon!

Photos Copyright by Scarlet Rogue.

February 14, 2009

Canadian Designer Sparks Toronto

Since his first debut, Philip Sparks has transformed the runway into a stage for thematic performances. Like a season at the opera, Sparks has been unfolding each drama with mounting crescendo.

Think back to the backdrop of Sparks’ 2008 Spring collection, which featured the sleek man of the flying 40’s strolling by Dutch waterways on pale summer afternoons.

Personifying the vintage mug shots of the celebrated photographer Mark Michaelson, Sparks’ 2008 Fall collection hailed the untold stories of ordinary people throughout generations of yore.

Inspired by Joseph Sterling’s book, the Age of Adolescence, Sparks’ 2009 Spring collection dramatized the hormonally charged youth of the fabulous 50’s.

The cast of his 2009 Fall collection is performing a duet of traditional Canadian styles and literary images from Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf—a story about a Soviet young pioneer who lassoes a wolf that devours his duck and leads the captured wolf to the zoo in a procession of hunters.

At a mere 26 years of age, Sparks orchestrates the entire production!

Desirous of a narrow vintage look, Sparks first tried his hand at making his own clothes on his mother’s old sewing machine when he was 16. Soon, he found himself sewing for teachers and classmates alike, even launching a small line that sold in stores.

After high school, Sparks went on to study fashion design at Seneca College, graduating as valedictorian of his class. Before launching his own label, Sparks worked in the costume departments of the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet of Canada. His costume research played a significant role in mastering traditional techniques, as well as providing captivating themes for his collections.

Vintage photographs are his favorite inspiration, followed by old artifacts and heirlooms.

Turn off my play list below and, as the curtain rises, sit back and enjoy the Sparks of Toronto's Peter and the Wolf.

Photo 2009 f/w collection Copyright by Philip Sparks.

February 11, 2009

The Icy Hot World of Damir Doma

Most of us men have grown accustomed to the type of menswear that adheres to the confines of structure, focusing on specific colors and styles. But how many of us own a garment or attire, which tells a story that grants freedom and movement to the human soul?

Croatian-born Damir Doma was raised in a family of designers, in Germany where he studied fashion and design. After graduating in 2004 with magna cum laude for the best collection, Damir ventured to Antwerp to work for Raf Simons, who inspired the young man to release his inner sensitivity of the external world around him.

Just two years later, Damir created his own label and launched his first collection at the Paris Fashion Week in 2007. His collections are unique in that they intertwine the works of renowned artists, his interpretation of the natural world, and his own personal emotions. Damir does so by artistically overlaying fabric upon fabric, which not only covers the fragility of the masculine body but also reveals what lies beneath: the unrestrained nature of the free-flowing soul.

Close your eyes and imagine the icy serenity of an arctic glacial flow or the warm fluidity of the wind-blown dunes across the Sahara. Apparently opposites in the natural world, they are both calm, unexplored, and timeless—familiar images that are actually unknown strangers to us all.

Envision the solitude of a masterpiece silhouette affixed to a wall of cracked stucco in an aging gallery with a delicately flowing white cloth draped over it.

Dive into Damir’s world of art, nature, and emotions and explore your sensitivity to the world around you when you click here.

Photos s/s 2009 Collection, Copyright Damir Doma.

February 10, 2009

Japan—Much Closer than Mars!

In my last article, I spoke about the Japanese passion for music and fashion. No website better exemplifies this love other than that of the Japanese Fashion Week Organization, which sponsors the bi-annual Japanese Fashion Week in Tokyo, an event that will take place in just several weeks.

One of the major stars who will be featured at the show is Japan's Shinichiro Shimojo of Under Castle. Combining the skills of graphic designer and artist, Shimojo is also an accomplished writer. He's inventive and innovative—a rare kind of visionary!

Shimojo's claim to fame lies in his concept of "cross wear," which is the dualistic notion that inner wear (or underwear) can be worn as outerwear, as well as for business or at play. The "C" in cross wear also stands for comfortable--and yes--cosmic!

Inspired by NASA's space probe by the Phoenix Mars Lander, Shimojo envisions earthlings' life as it would be on a planet light years away as he utilizes skin-soft materials that fit tightly yet loosely stretch, allowing you to move your arms and legs about freely in outer space!

Maybe you cannot travel to Mars in your lifetime, or even to Japan's Fashion Week this year. But you can travel virtually to many sites with one simple click.

So why not join Shimojo in his quest for life in the cosmos!

Slide show Shinichiro Shimojo/Eiji Matsunaga s/s 2009 collection, copyright Japan Fashion Week Organization.

February 8, 2009

Kitsuné—the Foxy New Rave

So how can we describe it? Is it a movement...an underground culture...the latest rave in music...or the newest fashion label? Let's say, it is all the above!

Kitsuné is what some are calling the hottest record and fashion label in Paris, which hosts parties from London to Tokyo with the electro-rock sounds of Digitalism, Cazals, and Fisherspooner.

It all started when the Parisian-born owners, Gildas Loaec and Masaya Kuroki, took a trip to Japan where they were awestruck by the collective love of the Japanese for music and fashion. So in 2002, Gildas and Masaya decided to combine these two passions into one label—Kitsuné.

Inspired by the Japanese mythological fox, which is always changing its face, Gilas and Masay adopted the name kitsune, which means 'fox' in Japanese, knowing that they were pioneering an ever-evolving brand that would take on many faces.

As DJ's, the duo has scouted out fresh, new, upcoming pop artists of every genre from around the world and recorded several compilations of their music, merging the sounds of electronic and rock. As fashion designers, the duo accompanies their music revolution with trendsetting styles. For the complete s/s 2009 collection, click here.

So, why not sit back, turn off my play list below, and listen to a sample of Kitsuné beats?!

Photo Copyright Kitsuné.

San Marino: Still Paving the Way

Let's start with some trivia tidbits. What is the world's oldest sovereign state and constitutional republic? Which of the smallest countries in the world can boast the oldest constitution that is still in effect? The answer: a country with a long name and even a longer history!

Land-locked by Italy, the Republic of San Marino was founded in the 3rd century by a stone cutter named Marinus, who fled Dalmatia (modern-day Croatia) to escape religious persecution by the Roman emperor. Eventually the land was named in his honor.

In addition to San Marino's fame for democracy, historic amnesty, and breathtaking hilltop beauty, the tiny nation is also becoming known for one of the world's most fashionable lines in menswear: Messagerie.

Be sure to check out the stylish s/s 2009 collection: it's fresh, clean, textured, and well varied--a classic look with an ultra-modern twist!

Photo Copyright by Messagerie.

February 7, 2009

Responsible Blogging

After having written two articles this week on ethical fashion as it relates to environmental responsibility, my conscience wouldn't allow me to pass over the issue of blogging responsibility, which concerns copyrights and the Internet.

For anyone who is not a lawyer or didn't study law, the topic is complex. Although in my MBA program I took one course in business law, we only briefly dealt with the subject. So, far from being an expert on the matter, I merely seek to be responsible in my blogging.

The first principle I apply is "fair use," which states that the public may use portions of copyrighted materials for educational and non-commercial purposes of reviews, commentaries, critiques, and parodies, as long as they do not financially hurt the source. Obviously, judgements passed on these matters tend to be very subjective.

For this reason I write all my article reviews from scratch, rarely quoting any source verbatim. When I do quote a portion of a work, directly or indirectly, I cite the source and place a link to site. Always avoiding parody and criticism, I attempt to portray the facts objectively so that the readers may judge for themselves. When possible, I like to inform the subjects of my reviews by sending them a notification link to the article.

Use of photos is a stickier topic and even less clear cut than the rules of fair use. When I write an article on an emerging designer, new label, men's boutique, or fashion event, I normally try to obtain a relevant photo for review directly from the their website. When successful, I cite the source and place a link.

In the event I wish to obtain a photo from a source other than the subject of review--i.e., e-zines, electronic magazines or newspapers, newsletters, or other blogs--I begin by reading the terms of use and follow accordingly. When the terms of use are not clear, I write directly to the contact address, explaining my objectives and requesting clarification. Some grant permission, others require a fee; the replies are varied.

If you ever read my blog and come across an article in which you feel that I have infringed on your copyrights or those of others, please inform me. Although I hope this never happens, I will do my best to remedy the situation immediately.

The goal of my writing is non-commercial and educational: namely, to promote emerging designers, obscure labels, less publicized fashion events, and unknown men's boutiques. So read on... I hope you enjoy it!

Free photo from Stock.xchng.

February 6, 2009

Vending Machines & Fast Jeans

We've all done it! Insert the money, push the button, and out comes the soda. But have you ever purchased a pair of jeans like that?

This week Fashion Times featured an article on "fast jeans," a new concept in automated shopping presented at Pitti Uomo by Closed, which invented the first jeans vending machine!

So, no more long waits for a dressing room or at the cash register. Simply choose your size, insert your credit card, and out comes your spanking new pair of jeans. Men, you can choose from one of two cuts, which are guaranteed to fit even without trying them on.

Once installed in your local subway station or airport, the Magnificent Jeans Machine (tmcjm®) will be hard to miss. Standing 2 meters high and 1 1/2 wide, the jean vending machine will surely catch your attention with it's cool 1950-ish neon lights!

So the next time you irreparably tear your jeans in public, look for the Magnificent Jeans Machine! It just may save your date!

Photo from Fashion Times.

February 5, 2009

Green Fashion... Still Just a Color?

The words that describe sustainable design within the garment industry are starting to abound, each laying emphasis on a specific aspect. We read of "green fashion," "organic fashion," "eco-fashion," "sustainable fashion," "ethical fashion," etc. So, I ask myself, "In menswear, where are all these fashions?"

A simple google search will show that "organo-men's" is actually in the early stages of the game, offering an assortment of eco-T's and other isolated green garments. What we rarely find is an entire sustainable men's line. Moreover, when we do come across some sort of eco-menswear, we discover that organic materials and ethical processes have been employed only to varying degrees.

What I like to look for is a comprehensive code of conduct, to which all players in the game must adhere. Take, for example, Nudie Jeans, a cutting-edge Swedish producer of green men's denim. On Nudie's website, you can find a five-page code of conduct, which covers issues like workers' hours and safety concerns, employee rights, legal and environmental requirements, child labor, and more.

While green may still be just a color for much of men's fashion, we all can have a role in sustainability. First of all, the next time you grow tired of your outdated or worn out pair of jeans, don't throw them in the trash bin. They will just wind up in the local landfill. Donate them to charity, or bring them to a consignment shop. If there is a nearby recycling plant, happily dump them there.

Secondly, become a driving force for a sustainable future. Require companies that describe themselves as environmentally responsible to be also accountable by posting a detailed code of conduct. This will sort out faddish ads from truly sustainable declarations, as it lays a foundation for a vibrant eco-menswear industry.

Photo Copyright by Nudie Jeans.

February 3, 2009

Green Fashion... More Than Just a Color

When I walk into my favorite store and spot a nice pair of jeans, I basically begin considering the color, the style, the fit, the texture, the price, and any available discount of the garment. I rarely question much else. How about you?

Recent popularity of green technologies and practices has flooded us with new buzz words that we hear and read everyday: "green fashion," "eco-fashion," "organic fashion," "ethical fashion," and more. So what's going on? These are all categories within the fast-growing trend of sustainable design, which deals with the total life cycle of a product--from crops to catwalks.

Evidently, sustainable design is rearing its head not only in the energy sector but in the fashion industry, as well. More and more designers, manufacturers, and shoppers are becoming increasingly aware of the environmental, economic, and social impact of that 'simple' pair of jeans. They are asking questions concerning the harmful pesticides or insecticides used on the raw materials, the chemicals applied in the production, the work conditions in the factories, the salaries and hours of the workers, or the means of transportation.

Within the past several years, fashion shows and style magazines have even begun featuring more eco-collections. But I must ask, "How many green garments do we really have in our wardrobe?" One major problem is cost!

Especially during these economic times, many men are in search of a good bargain, which, in turn, allows us to buy even more clothes. So how do lower costs affect the industry? Longer worker hours. Lower salaries. Unsafe conditions. Unfair competition. These are just few examples. But there is a bright side too!

We may not all be wearing biodegradable clothes by 2010, yet the situation is changing. Green initiatives are sprouting all over the world, and in the following issue we will discuss how each of us can be involved. Meanwhile, the next time you walk into your favorite store and spot a cool pair of jeans, simply look at the label and start asking yourself a few more questions.

Free photos for websites - FreeDigitalPhotos.net

February 1, 2009

Turkish Anyone?

You've probably begun to figure out from my play list that I share a deep appreciation of everything Balkan: the people, the music, the cuisine, the history, and--yes--the rakia. I lived and worked in the region for many years, and I speak several languages fluently, such as Bulgarian.

It's no coincidence that these countries share so much in common with their southern neighbor, Turkey, which ruled the Balkans for up to four centuries during the Ottoman Empire. Now, many of these countries have become members or candidates of the European Union.

I met Metin Öztürk several years ago for the first time at his headquarters formerly called RCR Touch'n Feel and located in Merter, one of Istanbul's three major fashion districts.

When I walked into the showroom, I immediately felt a close affiinity with the feel of the collection. Although Made in Turkey can mean just about anything, Metin explained to me that derives much of his inspiration from Italian fashion and designers.

He designs his collection in such a way that you really do want to touch'n feel. As you can see by the photo, the look is refined yet very virile. Priced medium to high and of a very good quality, RCR was one of the collections that I featured in my showroom in Italy.

Turkish anyone?

Photo copyright by RCR Modus Vivendi.