March 31, 2009

Shinichiro Shimojo: Under Castle Strikes Back at Japan Fashion Week

After having written my first article on Under Castle, Japan: Much Closer than Mars, I received an email from designer Shinichiro Shimojo, stating:

"I have read your article about my 'Cross Wear' and was glad that you understood my concepts deeply. I enjoyed reading it very much, indeed! I will introduce another 'Cross Wear' for my 2009 a/w collection in Tokyo for the week of March 23rd."

Shimojo and I have been corresponding ever since! Shimojo is not only an extremely talented designer but he is also a leading pioneer in experimenting with innovative fabrics and materials. Here's what he says about his 2009 a/w collection, which he just presented at Japan Fashion Week:

What are the main characteristics of your new collection for Tokyo?
"I would really like to point out that high quality Japanese synthetic fibers are currently leading the world. For my designs, I am using a material called 'hot magic', which was invented by Gunze. It is light yet very strong, and it is considered ecological."

Fascinating! Tell me more about this "hot magic."
"The material actually heats itself up. It's super skin soft and much warmer than other materials—exactly what you need in cold weather."

What is the concept of your new designs?
"The concept of my new designs is about people living in space. I envision the sense of beauty and value that they would have. I named it 'Cross Wear', which is created to provide you comfort whether you wear it as an inner or an outer garment. The look is associated with space, but it covers any parts of your body gently and keeps its form without preventing you from moving. I would like you to feel outer space for yourself. the material is basically for an inner wear."

Please elaborate more on this concept of "Cross Wear."
"'Cross Wear' means a cross between inner and outer wear. I designed it to be worn as outer wear with the idea of using this pleasant texture for your skin."

Finally, what was your ambition for the presentation in Tokyo this time?
I would very much like this 'Cross Wear' to be made fully accessible to the public, and I believe that it provides an opportunity to unfold Japanese techniques and designs.

Well, the 8th edition of Japan Fashion Week has officially closed, but Under Castle is open for business.

Stay tuned as Under Castle strikes back through the cosmic ingenuity of Shinichiro Shimojo!

Photo and Slide Show Shinichiro Shimojo a/w 2009 collection, Copyright Under Castle.

Naira Khachatryan’s Symbiotic Knitwear

Most of us have heard the term Caucasian, but how many of us know anything about Caucasia, the region of the people after whom the term was coined? Located between Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, this vast area has hosted a kaleidoscope of cultures and ethnic groups that have both killed and communed for thousands of years.

One of the world’s oldest centers of civilization is Armenia, locally known as Hayastan and beautifully penned as Հայաստան. With a population of less than 3 million today, Armenia comprises only a fraction of its ancient boundaries, finding itself land-locked between Turkey, Iran, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.

Armenia has proudly gone down in history as the first nation to adopt Christianity as the official state religion in 301 AD. Over the centuries, the national church—the Armenian Apostolic Church—has developed a rich liturgical and literary tradition, now preserving the separation of church and state.

Over the same centuries, however, Armenia has faced numerous foreign incursions from Empires that include those of the Arabs, the Byzantines, the Seljuk Turks, the Mongols, the Ottomans, the Russians, and finally the Soviets.

Under several periods of domination, the Armenians fell victim to massacres and genocide, accounting for millions of deaths and a massive diaspora of nearly 8 million Armenians who live abroad, compared to the 3 million at home. Finally on August 23 of 1991, Armenia declared independence.

Thirty odd years ago, designer Naira Khachatryan was born into this cradle of ancient civilization. Eventually, Naira made her way to Moscow where she studied at the Academy of Fashion. After graduation, she won assorted awards in Russia and throughout Europe for her designs.

In 2001, Naira ventured to Prato, a renown apparel manufacturing center in Italy. There, she re-wrote the abc’s of knitwear. With one hand on the past and the other on the future, Naira expressively knitted together a symbiotic collection of antiquity and futurism.

Her collections will take you on a journey through Euro-Asiatic cultures and the resilient history of an unconquerable civilization that peered forward in hope from antiquity.

In step with the dynamic transformations of modern society, Naira's lines spell out the restless speed at which men and women live today.

Photos Copyright by Naira Khachatryan.

March 29, 2009

Hayam Hanukaev Sets Russian Fashion Week Free

After having worked 4 years in the Far East, I decided to venture into Eastern Europe in September of 1990 and, thus, boarded the Trans-Siberian Railway in Beijing. For the next 10 days, I found myself in a sleeper with 2 German tourists, peering through a steamed up window at the vast landscape of the Siberian steppe.

With each passing day, the thick forests of birch trees deepened their hues as winter set in. Every so many hours, the train would come to a screeching halt, at which time women from the local villages charged the train to sell their jars of pickled vegetables to the passengers who were hanging out the windows. Eventually we arrived at an important junction—Krasnoyarsk—the 3rd major city of Siberia.

Krasnoyarsk was founded as a border fort in 1628 by the Cossacks, who named it after the Turkic words for ‘Red Ore’. During the Russian Empire, the village was the destination of deported exiles, later becoming a major city of the Gulag system under Stalin. By the time I passed through, Krasnoyarsk had grown into an industrial city and prominent educational center.

Five years later, a young man by the name of Hayam Hanukaev entered the Krasnoyarsk Art School, going on to study at the Krasnoyarsk Technical College. In 2004, he too made his way to Moscow, where he worked as a costume designer for various film production companies. Last year, he founded the design studio hAYAMhANUKAEV.

The theme of his s/s 2009 collection, which he presented at the previous Russian Fashion Week, was "Freedom."

Photos 2009 s/s collection Copyright by hAYYAMhANUKAEV.

Life as a Male Model

The fashion and apparel industry abounds with individuals who share different roles—some more visible than others. Designers, manufacturers, fashion reps, retailers, PR agencies—all play their specific part. Strangely, there is one actor that we may even see daily on billboards, TV commercials, and assorted magazine ads, but in reality we know very little about: the male model.

So, today, I would like to introduce you to menswear model, Florian Pessenteiner.

Nice to meet you, Florian. Tell us, where are you from?
I was born in Austria (Salzburg) and grew up with my parents in a quite small village. I think there are still like only 300 people living there, and it's 15 minutes away from the next "bigger" city. Everything there is really beautiful, but on the other hand it can be kind of boring.

Tell me more about your life there…
I went to a language school and graduated after 8 years. After that, I decided to do a social year and worked with homeless people and drug addicts. I’m really interested in social work and loved to put all my power into my job.

Where do you live now?
At the moment I live in London, which I call my home! I moved here one year ago and I couldn’t imagine living somewhere else at the moment. I came here the first time when I started to do modeling, and I literally fell in love with the city. I don’t know how long I’ll be here, but I am just about to move into a new flat, which I think will be my home for a longer time.

How and when did you start modeling?
I started with modeling 1 ½ years ago on a trip to Switzerland with my mum. A booker of one of my agencies saw me there at a bus stop waiting for the bus and asked me if I was interested into modeling. Honestly, I would have never thought about doing it, but that’s how everything started.

What were the first jobs like?
In the beginning I travelled around, seeing some agencies in all loads of different cities and had test shoots to build up my book. Then in the course of time, I started to do editorials (especially when I moved to London). The first big jobs were for Dazed and Confused and Showstudio.

And now?
At the moment there are loads of different things coming up.... Apart from shoots, we are planning to go to Italy, France, and America in the next 4 months; so that will be exciting.

Many people think the life of a model is glamorous. How is it in reality for you?
Yes, people always think models live a proper life, with loads of money, parties, and glamour. But reality is a little bit different. The hard thing is that you never know how much money you will earn for the next months. Sometimes you have jobs and money that you literally loose all control over. Sometimes you have literally nothing for some weeks.

So what motivates you to persevere?
I like the fact that I get to know loads of different people and I can travel to loads of different cities and places. It’s always exciting travelling somewhere because you never know what to expect.

Do you see modeling as your entire future?
I will do modeling as long as I can do it, and as long people will book me (chuckle), but I am really interested in doing films. So I will see what the trip to the States will bring. I just enjoy standing in front of a camera.

Do you have any words for young men who may be contemplating becoming a male model?
The only thing I can say for young men who want to become a male model is that they should try always to stay who they are.

Why do you say that?
The industry sometimes tries to change the guys—and especially guys who just started. Don’t let yourself be treated like a doll, because you’re still a person with your own personality (smile).

Good advice! Is there any way a young man can prepare himself for this career?
I think it’s really hard to say if there is anything that helps guys to prepare for this career. If people get along with the fashion industry then they will have a good time. For people who don’t work in the industry, some bits and pieces are obviously hard to understand. But you just grow a lot and you grow with it. It’s an amazing industry that offers you a lot of opportunities that I personally would never want to miss in my entire life.

Thank you, Florian, for sharing your experiences with us and good luck to you!

March 28, 2009

It’s "Pure Joy" at Russian Fashion Week

Pure Joy Fashion is a brand-new brand of menswear that recently appeared on the scene of Russian cities, all due to the powerful unity of three individuals’ one-mindedness: designer Yevgeny Nikitin and business partners Masha Korobkevich and Nastastye Gashkhauz. Three creative minds expressed in three words:

Pure—to be sincere and honest with the world around you.

Joy—to rejoice in life and all its facets.

Fashion—to translate individuality through clothing.

The 2009 spring/summer collection of Pure Joy Fashion draws its inspiration from the religious image of Saint Sebastian, Roman praetorian and early church martyr (c. 288). The youth, strength, beauty, and spirituality of this man are all expressed in this collection, St. Sebastian Day.

Addressed to young energetic men who do not separate career and healthy self-affirmation from spiritual growth and emotional demeanor, Pure Joy Fashion is a new way to find yourself and express yourself in the chaos of the modern metropolis!

Slide show 2009 s/s collection Copyright by Pure Joy Fashion.
Photo top right St. Sebastian by Il Sodoma Copyright Wikipedia public domain.

March 27, 2009

Russian Fashion Week & Oleg Biryukov's Mosaic of Talent

Today Russian Fashion Week opened the doors at the Congress Center in Moscow, where numerous Russian and foreign designers will be presenting their 2009 a/w collections throughout the next week. One of the exhibiting menswear designers is Oleg Biryukov, who drew inspiration for his collection from the art and dress of the Byzantine Empire.

Mostly everyone knows something about ancient Rome, the center of the Roman Empire. But how often do you watch a movie or read a novel on Byzantium, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire? Eventually Byzantium came to be called Constantinople—the New Rome—and later, Istanbul!

What we term the Byzantine Empire merely refers to the Medieval Roman Empire that continued in the East as an economic power, trading heavily in textiles! What we must bear in mind, however, was that Byzantium was a Greek speaking empire of Greek culture. Although Byzantine dress was considered conservative, the Byzantines adored bright colors and elaborate patterns of embroidered imagery, worn primarily by the upper classes.

After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Moscow claimed succession to the legacy of the Eastern Roman Empire, becoming the Third Rome—hence the title of “Tsar,” which mutated from ‘Cesar’! Hinting to the painted glass and colored enamels in the Byzantine mosaics, Oleg Biryukov continues the legacy at Russian Fashion Week!

Piecing emerald and purple on the backdrop of blue and gold, Oleg enforces the strict norms and canons of Byzantine iconography, which depicts the physical world as a mere reflection of heavenly realities. Instead of hiding behind pretty words or embellished ideas, Oleg exemplifies the truth that modesty can beautify!

Photos Copyright by Oleg B!ryukov.

March 25, 2009

Mackage: From Doodles to Designs

Imagine sitting in elementary school at the age of twelve, doodling rough sketches on your desk, which later transform into applauded designs that bolster a family outwear business to one of the most prestigious brands in North America! Sound like a fairy tale? Well, maybe a genuine one...à la Mackage!

Eran Elfassy and Elisa Dahan may have stopped doodling one day, but they never stopped designing, as they graduated from high school to enter the fashion design program at La Salle College in Montreal. Now, this childhood doodling duo is designing for the outerwear label, Mackage.

Mackage is a family-run business based in Montreal, Quebec, which was founded in 1990 by Eran's older brothers Michel and Ilan Elfassy. Michel's daughter, Danielle, even inspired the name of the brand when she mispronounced the French word maquillage ('makeup') for Mackage!

Exhilarated by this romantic fairy tale à la Mackage, I could not help but entreat this almost mythical doodling duo for an interview!

Are Eran and Elisa the main designers of the outer menswear for Mackage?
Yes, Eran Elfassy and Elisa Dahan are both the creative minds and talent behind the collection.

What attracted you to fashion at such a young age?
Eran and Elisa both agreed that something was missing in the fashion world, outerwear that had a sexy tailored fit that would appeal to the contemporary market.

So I'm curious about the content of the doodles in elementary school?
Kids have wild imaginations...especially when they are able to draw so well!

Hmm...did Eran and Elisa have any idea that they would be designing together now?
Eran started designing solo, at first, as his family was already in the business. Elisa and Eran joined forces at around 19 yrs of age and together began to build what we know to be the Mackage Empire today.

Incredible! From where do you derive your inspirations?
Inspirations can come from anywhere. We like to blend in what we feel, what we've seen and where we've been...

Do you take a thematic approach to your collections each season?
We obviously follow the up-coming trends, but we like to twist that sometimes and use our own perspective of what the look for outerwear will be, should be.

What can you tell me about the fashion scene in Montreal?
Montreal is a contemporary city. It’s where we started it all! It’s where we found our first fans.

Is it different from other cities?
We can't say that it’s all that different, but we can say that it’s unique in its own way. Just like everywhere else in the world, Montreal has fashion followers and fashion setters. Everywhere you look, fashion is applied into everything: from cuisine, decor, furnishings, architecture...etc.! It’s where we call home.

Do you have any opinions about green fashion?
It's definitely something good toying with. It's great hearing about designers that are working with materials that are good for the environment.

For the readers in search of outerwear, what is the key to the perfect outer garment?
There can be many key elements to a perfect coat. We do our best in providing different cuts for each individual.

For example?
The main key elements that should be applied to the perfect coat are slimming silhouettes, which enhance the curves of the body, quality in fabrication and construction, comfort and warmth, and most importantly style. We feel that one needs to feel and look sexy and warm at the same time.


Eran and Elisa

Slideshow Copyright by Mackage.

March 24, 2009

Izzy Lane Sings on for Animal Sanctity

In my article London Fashion Week: Doubly Green, I featured four menswear designers that exhibited at estethica—the green initiative of London Fashion Week, which requires participants to adhere to the three guiding principles of organic, fair trade, and/or recycled.

After posting the article, I had the extraordinary privilege to interview Isobel Davies of Izzy Lane, a voice crying out in the wilderness for the sanctity of animals that can only baa or bleat. When I spoke by phone to this impassioned knitwear designer from North Yorkshire, I was deeply moved by her devotion, dedication, and distress with regards to animal welfare.

Isobel is a remarkably creative woman, who pursued her dreams of a touring singer and songwriter. Her creativity, however, did not lock her into a musical box but rather led her to embark on an imaginative journey that is still unfolding. In 1994, Isobel pioneered the first organic home delivery box wherein she began collecting and packing fruit and veggies, delivering them to local customers, who now total 2,000!

When Isobel burst onto the farming scene, she was horrified by the brutal realities of the dairy farm. Farmers were burning the animals’ wool, while 80% of the nation’s wool was being imported from overseas. Meanwhile, the sheep were being shipped off to be slaughtered in inhumane ways. "Apart from fur," she reasoned, "no one questioned the origin of wool and leather—a gaping hole in the fashion industry!"

Morally unable to purchase the wool from dead carcasses of sheep and lambs—a hideous image that haunts her to this day—Isobel unveiled her creativity once again and rescued her first 4 sheep in 2002! Since then, Isobel has received innumerable emergency calls, compelling her to rescue a total of 600 sheep, mostly all within the past 2 years!

Isobel pays approximately 30 pounds ($44/33€) for lambs and 60 pounds ($88/66€) for adults, while the prices climb continually. Other costs include feed, grooming, medical care, and shepherding. The Sheep Sanctuary is home two main varieties: the Shetland and the endangered Wesledydale sheep, whose numbers have decreased to 1,800 breeding ewes, of which Isobel owns 250!

When I asked Isobel about her inspiration for the cosy "1970’s goes to the country" theme in her recent menswear collection, again, I was enthralled by her response. While admitting to predominantly British influences, Isobel instructed me that the wool lends itself to the pants, sweaters, and tailored jackets. "It is the inherent character of the wool that designs itself into the chunky knits!"

Izzy Lane collections are all processed within 100 miles of the Sheep Sanctuary. The wool is woven at an ancient mill in Selkirk, using hundred-year-old Victorian machinery and, then, hand knit into the plush chunky garments. While Isobel is researching natural dyeing processes, she informed me that the Shetland wool needs no dye in that the beauty lies in the natural color.

Isobel admits that we do not live in an ideal world, but she will never compromise her label. Rather, she prefers to set a standard for animal welfare—a choice that often leads to a host of sacrifices, such as foregoing mass marketing and retailer chains. But raising the awareness and profile of animals remains her sole reward!

Isobel Davies—radical, pleasantly rebellious, imaginative, passionate, and untouched by conventional institutions—is a lonely voice that will one day become a mass choir! Izzy Lane, sing on!!!

Photos Copyright by Izzy Lane.
Photo top center, Izzy Lane.
Photo upper right, Wensleydale sheep.
Photo lower left, Shetland lambs.
Photo lower right, the Shepherd Ernest Ayre.

March 22, 2009

The Dominant Strength of Serbia's Dejan Despotović

Back in the early 90’s I lived and worked in a Balkan country for 4 consecutive years, after which I was promoted to direct activities throughout the entire region for another ten. During this period, I fell in love with the Balkans and its cultures, cuisines, genres of folk music, histories, and languages.

Home to Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, and Muslims, as well as to variations of Latin and Cyrillic alphabets, the Balkan peninsula is a kaleidoscope of ethno-linguistic diversity. So, what countries constitute the Balkans?

Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, and Yugoslavia, which has since become Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, (disputed) Kosovo, Slovenia, and Serbia. All have either joined or are in the process of acceding to the European Union.

One common thread that ties these nations together is the domination of the Ottoman Empire, which endured up to six centuries for some countries, diffusing Turkish culture, cuisine, rhythms, religion, and language throughout the region. In fact, the term Balkan is a Turkish word that means “a chain of wooded mountains.”

One of the most fascinating Balkan countries is actually one that has received quite a bum rap in recent years: Република Србија or the Republic of Serbia. Most Serbs are Orthodox Christians; they write with the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet ; and, when they see you, the say "Zdravo, kako ste?!"

Today I would like to introduce you to Dejan Despotović from Serbia—a 22-year-old designer who was born and grew up in Belgrade where he lives today.

As a student of Belgrade’s textile high school, Dejan was already designing for hair fairs and television shows, winning prizes like the Silver Doe Award at the Belgrade Fashion Fair. After graduation, he continued his studies of textiles and apparel design at the College of Design, Textiles, and Management in Belgrade.

Dejan launched his first individual collection at the age of 20 in both Berlin and his hometown, Belgrade. For the following two years, he was nominated best young designer by Pantene Beauty Awards, taking 1st prize for young designer at the Nokia Awards Fashion Selection and the Black & White competition at Belgrade Fashion Week.

Dejan is currently a stylist for the Serbian edition of Elle Magazine. He recently presented his first menswear collection, which was inspired by stylized religious symbolism, the Gothic period, and the music of Belgian composer, Wim Mertens.

The dominant theme in Dejan’s men’s line is “strength.” He explains that this menswear collection is for “strong men—men with a strong sense of self and strong individualism.”

Basing the collection on clean simple forms and strange details, Dejan writes, “On my jackets, for example, you can see golden flies. I also love scarves and knitwear—in upcoming collections, there will be more of them for sure. The silhouettes are slim."
Photo top right Skadarlija, Belgrade, by Zoran Životić Public Domain Wikipedia.

Photographer: Marko Sovilj
Model: Florian Pessenteiner @ Larapixie Talent Agency
Hair/make up: Dragan Vurdelja
Styling: Dejan Despotović @ Larapixie Talent Agency
Clothes: Dejan Despotović

March 21, 2009

Patrick Mohr's Quadrangle Renaissance

Close your eyes and tell me what images come to mind when I say, “Germany.” Beer fest, bratwurst and sauerkraut, the Autobahn, cuckoo clocks, castles, and maybe the Cologne Cathedral?! Well, how about fashion?! “Maybe lederhosen,” you say—those famous knickerbockers made of leather?! Stereotypes don’t die fast…

As we learned in the last article, Berlin alone is home to over 700 designers. The city also hosts the bi-annual Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin, as well as the infamous European menswear show, Bread and Butter! Moreover, young German tourists were the biggest buyers in my showroom in Naples, Italy, always searching for the newest trends.

Twenty-nine years ago, a young man by the name of Patrick Mohr was born in Mainz, Germany. The city is also birthplace to Johannes Gutenberg, who has been credited with inventing the mechanical printing process circa 1439, revolutionizing book-making in Europe and fueling the European Renaissance!

After a 4-year stint of modeling in Milan and Paris, Patrick studied fashion at the prestigious Esmod Fashion School in Berlin. Living up to the reputation of his Mainz predecessor, Patrick has been stamping his name on menswear with prize-winning collections since graduation in 2007.

Now based in Munich and Paris, Patrick has been pressing hard to stamp out his 2009 summer collection around the world, including Australia, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, and Spain.

Patrick succeeds in binding together ∆ quadrangle jeans, jerseys, and eye wear with a thread of affordable prices and eclectic themes of deconstructed shapes and asymmetrical patterns.

March 20, 2009

Unrath & Strano: a Celebration of Drama and Form

Klaus Unrath and Ivan Strano unleashed their 2009 summer collection, Unrath & Strano Celebrity, at the recent Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Berlin. Known as two brands in one label, for the first time the designer duo sprung a small collection of menswear onto the catwalk, celebrating Italian drama and German form.

German designer Klaus Unrath was born 1970 in Viernheim, going on to study fashion at the Meisterschule für Mode in Munich. Italian designer Ivan Strano was born 1974 in Switzerland where he grew up with a passion for costume design, going on to work in numerous opera and theatrical productions.

Unrath & Strano uncaged their label to the world when the drama of Strano converged with the form of Unrath at the Couture Department of Vivienne Westwood in London. Now, Unrath & Strano are based in Berlin amidst 700 other designers!

Photos Copyright by Unrath & Strano.

March 19, 2009

Veja's Green Gooooal!

Several weeks ago I posted an article entitled, London Fashion Week: Doubly Green, in which I presented several eco-brands that debuted at estethicaLondon Fashion Week's green initiative.

One of the companies featured was Veja, a Paris-based company that designs comfortable shoe wear inspired by 1970's Brazilian volleyball styles and produced by coops in the remote Amazon. Intrigued by Veja's three pillars of ethics, I requested an exclusive interview, to which the company responded immediately:

How was Veja conceived?
Veja was created as a challenge; the idea was to make sneakers and to respect both the environment and the work of people, from raw materials to the deliveries in stores.

I always enjoy a good challenge! So, who exactly was the driving force of this challenge?
Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion, the co-founders, went around the world to study sustainable development projects made by big companies and realized that, in order to change things truly, one had to create a project that respects nature and men at its heart.

That's drive! But how did fashion and apparel factor into the challenge?
They both were sneakers addicts and decided to create some in Brazil, where all the necessary raw materials can be found: organic cotton for the canvas (in the North East) and wild rubber for the soles (from the Amazonian forest).

Tell me a bit about the coops that I mentioned in my first article...
Veja works with a cooperative of small producers who grow organic cotton in the North East of Brazil.

How do these small producers grow the cotton?
The cotton is grown without manure and pesticides according to agro-ecology—a sustainable farming model that also takes into account the producers’ food independence and soil erosion, among other things.

And Veja's role?
Veja buys this cotton according to fair trade rules.

I also wrote about the soles of the sneakers. Please tell me more...
The soles of the sneakers are made from wild rubber. Rubber comes from the hevea trees that grow in the wild, in the Amazonian forest, and is collected by Seringueiros—people of the forest who live on rubber harvesting.

So how do these people and the forest benefit?
Using wild rubber and paying a fair price to the Seringueiros is a way to increase the value of the forest and to fight against deforestation.

Do you employ any chemicals in the manufacturing process?
The leather used is ecologically tanned, that is to say, tanned with vegetable extracts, such as acacia extracts.

How about the factory conditions?
The sneakers are assembled in a factory near Porto Alegre. The factory is regularly audited to make sure that the rights and dignity of the workers are respected.

Once the sneakers are processed, where do they go?
The sneakers are then shipped to France where Ateliers Sans Frontières, a social association, stocks and delivers them.

Just an aside...why doesn't Veja produce other garments?
The co-founders chose to make sneakers as they are an accurate example of inequalities between Northern and Southern countries. As a consequence, creating sneakers made from fair trade and ecological materials is symbolic.

You just scored a goal with me! And have you achieved your goals since accepting the green challenge?
There are always things to better; for example, the dyeing, we would like it to be more natural, but the colors are not satisfactory. We also think about recycling.

What is your long-term goal?
From Brazil to stores, Veja tries to build solidarity and an ecological chain.

Many companies describe themselves as green but lack a written and enforced code of ethics...
Our code of ethics has been at the heart of the project since its very beginning, using ecological materials, working according to fair trade rules, and assembling in respect of workers’ rights and dignity.

Photos Copyright by Veja.

March 18, 2009

Seattle Student Designer Competition: Yomary Muñoz

Nice to meet you, Yomary. So, where are you from?
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico.

Now that you live in Seattle, how does your Puerto Rico play a role in your life as a designer?
I come from a country that is rich in culture. The Puerto Rican race is a mix of races—African, Spanish and native Indians known as “Tainos"—and in the past decades we have been highly influenced by the American culture. They have become part of our race and culture as well. All of these influences, the knowledge, and education I have acquired in my life make me a designer that can understand the needs of most consumers.

Fascinating! So how did you get started?
I always felt passionate about the fashion world. I loved how people look, wearing different styles and accessories that make them look unique. When I was growing up, I started to learn what kind of colors and styles look better, depending on the color of the skin and body shape. This was when I became interested in the fashion world. I started to design styles for my sisters, cousins, friends, and for myself. I always try to create a unique style for each person, taking in consideration their personality and physical features in order to achieve that “wow factor” that makes them stand out from the crowd.

You said that you began designing while growing up...what ignited such an early spark?
I began to design when I was 12 years old. I always wanted to know if I had the same artistic ability that my father had. So I started to draw many things including human bodies. Then I started to combine my artistic side with my passion—fashion design. I started to play with different body shapes, then, tried different styles on them until I felt satisfied with the final product.

Do you derive inspiration from any specific source?
My inspirations come from different sources: people, life styles, nature, history, technology, etc. The world, life, and the way we live all inspire me.

How do you interpret these into clothing?
I take elements or ideas from the sources I mentioned above to create the themes. I pick one or a combination of those themes as my muse. Then styles and ideas start to flow spontaneously!!!

It definitely seems like you inherited the artistic ability of your father! Do you have a designer icon?
I don’t have a favorite designer, but I like the work of many fashion designers, such as Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, Donatella Versace, and Valentino.

Any favorite looks or trends in history that attract you?
My favorite look is one that has a touch of elegance and sensuality. The period in history that attracts me is the Regency Era. I like it for its dresses and the different trends worn during this period of time. The Regency era was, in my personal opinion, a time of elegance and beauty.

I like that combo of elegance and sensuality. What difference do you see in formal training vs impromptu designing?
I’ve always designed and creates outfits on my own and learning from my family. However recently I started taking classes in the International Academy of Design and Technology (IADT) in Seattle, WA. During these years of study, I have acquired knowledge and skills in pattern drafting, clothing construction, fashion sketching, fashion design, textiles, etc.

So how will you apply your technical background as a designer?
As a designer and engineer I plan to contribute to the apparel industry and to the technological advance in the fashion world. I consider myself as a big dreamer with a lot of creativity, skills and knowledge that will make me able to satisfy many of the fashion needs. With all my experience and education I want to make a difference in the fashion world.

I always like to ask designers about green fashion...
I think it is a niche in the fashion industry that many designers have been conscious about for the last few years. Green fashion, ethical fashion, or eco-fashion is a movement supported by environmentalism, and economics, among others. Personally I am glad that many designers and companies are making a big effort to create and produce products, taking into consideration their impact on our planet.

As someone who originates from a different culture, how do you view Seattle's fashion scene?
Seattle's fashion scene is influenced by many cultures. The values and ideas of the populations are diverse and make it difficult to categorize. Seattle fashion designers are creative and innovative, and this makes it one of the most socially conscientious fashion communities. Seattle is recognized for the green designer movement, and it was the first to host the first Green Fashion Week on the West Coast in 2007. Other eco-conscious fashion shows in Seattle are the Eco Lavish Fashion Show and the Fashion Ethic "Eco Chic" Show.

You are pretty knowledgeable of the green scene! Okay, how about some final words to your co-student designers at Manhattan's LIM College and other institutes around the world?
I would tell them my favorite saying, "the best friend of success is perseverance and education, and its enemy is ignorance and procrastination." Every person in this life has dreams and unique talents to reach their goals, so just find them and go for them.

March 17, 2009

Seattle Student Designer Competition: Lauren Hendrie

Tell me, Lauren, where are you from?
I am originally from Salem, Oregon, where I lived until I was 18.

How early on did your sense a spark for fashion and design?
I’ve always loved the creative process behind design. Design of any kind, whether it be drawing, painting, or apparel design. I first started painting when I was 9. About the same time, I started making felt clothing for my dolls. I have always been interested in taking a risk when it comes to my sense of fashion and several years ago I started translating that from the way I dressed myself into the way I design clothing.

Brava! I like risk-takers! So when did you actually come up with a full-fledged design?
I first started actually designing about a year and a half ago. I realized I had found a way to combine my passion for creating things with my more analytical side by coming up with a design and actually being able to turn that imagined idea into reality.

Is there something that drives your creativity?
My main inspirations for my past designs have stemmed strongly from the 1950's silhouette-meets-geometry class. I love the strong lines and interesting shapes that can be stolen from geometric shape and translated into a garment.

So who is your favorite designer?
My favorite designer at the moment is classic Dior circa the New Look of 1947.

And your favorite look?
I am loving the boyish essentials of the 1940's mixed with frills, gathers, and ultra feminine trims. But that is today; tomorrow it will likely be something else completely. My ‘favorite look’ is changing constantly.

I love about a certain period in the past...what attracts you?
I have always been most attracted to the 1950's, the regeneration of fashion following the war. The silhouette that enhances a woman’s natural beauty; it’s so simple, but so lovely.

You strike me as having some formal training...
I am currently enrolled in the Apparel Design Major at Seattle Pacific, as well as being a Merchandising Major.

What is your dream as a fashion designer?
Ideally I would love to be working for one of the great fashion houses. Who wouldn’t?

Many of my readers are interested in green fashion or ethical fashion...
I think it is terrific. It is keeping the world a cleaner, safer, fairer place for all people to live and work. I find it very refreshing when designers utilize eco-fashion in their design concepts.

Okay, a little provocation here. Can Seattle keep pace with other Mecca’s of fashion like New York?
Seattle has a fashion scene all its own. Each neighborhood you walk into will elicit a completely different vibe. I live in a pretty down to earth yet fashion savvy neighborhood. People like to be stylish and look terrific, but individual style definitely has to be distinctive and unique to truly educe a fashion-conscious Seattle style.

Any closing words for the students of LIM College in Manhattan who are reading?
Fashion reaches far beyond the grasps of the city that it is being designed in. The world is at our fingertips every moment of everyday. Grasp what inspires you most about fashion or your personal style and run with it.

Photo Lauren Henrie (center), model Carly Holtzinger (left), model Andrea VanLaar (right).

March 15, 2009

Seattle Student Designer Competition: Rebecca Lynn Sullivan

Where are you from, Rebecca?
I was born and grew up in Vancouver, WA, (not Canada, mind you).

And what drew you to fashion?
My mom taught me to sew when I was very young. I started out creating outfits for my Barbies, which led to pj bottoms for friends, and eventually to making most of my own wardrobe. So I guess you could say it started out as a hobby and ended up being my passion.

How did you discover your talent?
I literally began by creating items of clothing to go with my Barbie's outfits. However, my first real experience selling items that I designed and created was about 5 years ago when I was a sophomore at the University of Washington. I created a poncho/shawl for a friend of mine and then ended up selling them in 7 boutiques from Bellingham, WA to Portland, OR. It was a crazy whirl-wind experience, but I will never forget the feeling of people truly being interested in what I had created.

Very impressive! So, what inspires your creations?
I end up basing a lot of my designs on a particular color or fabric, so I would say that color and texture are huge inspirations for me. Also, I like entering random words in or flicker to see where it takes me and what will spark an idea.

Good tip. Do you have a favorite designer?
Right now I love the simplistic elegance of Ralph Lauren, and the geometric shapes and patterns of Tory Burch.

How about a favorite look?
I love separates and the endless ways you can layer clothing. I'm always amazed at what people have on under their North Face coats here in Seattle.

Is there a period in history that influences your designs?
18th century wealth is really interesting to me right now. Women who rode side-saddle and embroidered to pass the day, yet had the most beautiful, luxurious and detailed garments...just to sit around in. The 1970's were generally pretty amazing too.

What influenced your design in the student competition?
The green jacket from the fashion show was slightly inspired by 18th century fashion (i.e., covered buttons and a voluminous collar).

As a prerequisite to the competition, you must be in a fashion program...
I am currently attending Seattle Central Community College. Prior to this program my only schooling was self-taught and also from my mom.

Where do you think your talent will take you?
I am absolutely unsure at this point. I know I want to influence people. In what way or on what level, I don't really care.

Could you say a few words to those who work in the green apparel industry?
I think it's great people are putting the effort into green fashion. It's not something I care to devote time to, but it's awesome that it even exists.

Do you support ethical fashion?
I'm assuming that means leather and fur? I would never wear fur but a lot of my shoes have some leather on them. Again, I'm glad that there are people who care about it and are trying to make a difference. I, however, am indifferent.

How can such trends become more accessible to the general public?
Eco-sustainable clothing? It will never work if places like Forever 21 and Target exist. Cheap clothing that you can update your wardrobe with multiple times a season? It will always win.

How does the Seattle fashion scene compare to New York?
Seattle's fashion scene will never keep pace with places like New York. However, I do feel that there is an abundance of fashion and fashionable people here; they're just fashionable in an understated way. Subtlety can go a long way when every 8th person cares about fashion. Whereas in New York, everyone's trying to get noticed, so nobody stands out.

Students of fashion at LIM College in New York will be reading this article. Do you have any words for them?
If they're neck-deep in their Final Lines like I am, I would say, "Good Luck".

Seattle Student Designer Competition: Lennura Zhataganova

So, Lennura, where are you from?
I’m from Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan, the capital city of the Eastern Kazakhstan region, but I grew up in a village called Bolshenarim (trans. Big-River), about a five-hour drive from Ust-Kamenogorsk.

What attracted you to fashion?
I want to help people enhance their looks and feel good about themselves.

How did you discover your talent?
My passion for fashion began in early childhood, when I was cutting curtains, table cloths, my mom’s wedding dress to make clothes for my dollies. Anything I could cut and make into something else, something more beautiful, I would find and cut. Ask my mom about all that, she has a handful of stories...

What motivates you as a designer?
I don't really have an inspiration. I design as I go. I will start with a basic shape and begin adding elements that complement it. Then I will add some interesting detail. I prefer classic, modern, geometric shapes, clean cuts. I find clothing of a Bastle period very attractive and flattering, so I think my designs carry some elements of that era: fitted jackets and full on the backside of the skirt.

Have you received any formal training?
I am currently a student in an apparel design program at Seattle Central Community College in Seattle, WA. Prior to this, I had no formal training, other than working on various projects for friends and family throughout the years.

What aspirations do you have for your future?
I want to be able to start my own business one day. I’d like to help people to look their best and be able to express themselves through their garments.

As an emerging designer, where do you stand on issues like sustainability and apparel?
I am very supportive of this and I want to be a part of the green and ethical fashion movement. It's our responsibility to be good stewards of our planet, so we need to take good care of the earth by creating less trash and reusing and recycling what we can. I’d also like to do away with sweat shops and protect people who work so hard and are, unfortunately, paid so little.

I know very little about Seattle's fashion scene...
Seattle fashion is very diverse and people who live here like to express themselves through the clothing they wear; it's a good arena for fashion.

Do you have any words for the students of fashion in New York at LIM College who will be reading?
Seattle fashion has a different taste, a different feel; it’s definitely expressive and holds true to many green and ethical standards. It’s a west coast vibe, where comfort and reliability are key ingredients, but it tries to be true to what’s in style and what makes sense…practicality is the driving force amongst Seattle fashion.

Seattle Fashion Week - Student Designers Competition

So what do you know about Seattle? Ranked by some as the most literate state of the Union, Seattle can also boast the original "skid row," which has since become Yesler Way!

Birthplace of rock legend Jimi Hendrix and "grunge" music, Seattle totes itself as a coffee mecca—hence the appropriateness of Sleepless in Seattle!

Despite the poor rap about rainy days and cloudy skies, Seattle-ites actually purchase more sunglasses per capita than any other US city. Go Seattle!!!

Finally, this northwestern city has inherited a long history of booms and busts, rising out of rushes ranging from timber to gold! So what's on the rise in Seattle during these busted times? New found talent at Seattle Fashion Week.

As a precursor to the event, which will take place in April, on February 26 Seattle Fashion Week hosted its 1st annual Student Fashion Designer Competition, which was sponsored by Comcast, who selected 5 finalists: Lennura Zhataganova, Anna Black, Yomary Muñoz, Rebecca Lynn Sullivan, and Lauren Hendrie.

I have had the joy and privilege of conducting exclusive interviews with four of these talented young designers, which I will be bringing to you over the next few days.

So fashion students around the world, stay tuned to read about these designers' views on design, Seattle's fashion scene, eco-trends, and more!

Photo by Joshulove Copyright Wikipedia Public Domain.

March 8, 2009

Ute Ploier Challenges the Copernican Universe of Menswear

This year the European Union has awarded the European Capital of Culture to Linz, Austria, the city in which Johannes Kepler discovered the law of planetary motion and birthplace of award-winning designer, Ute Ploier.

Like the critical thinking Kepler, who overthrew the established notions of astronomy and physics in his assertion that planets move in ellipses rather than epicycles, Ute Ploier has been overturning traditional concepts of men's apparel since her first debut in 2003!

Orbiting outside the perfect circle of menswear, Ute Ploier moves in asymmetrical trends as she applies elongated circles and atypical blends of fabrics, patterns, and manufacturing techniques, challenging the stereotypical expectations of masculinity and men's apparel.

Slide Show 2009 a/w collection Copyright Ute Ploier.

March 7, 2009

What the Designers are Saying...

Like most readers of my articles, I share an intense passion for menswear and, in particular, for the myriad of individuals who bring innovative men's fashion to us everyday, from designer to retailer.

The means I choose to express this deep-felt gratitude is through my writings. For this reason, my primary reward is to receive feedback from the various subjects of my articles. Here are a few quotes of what some designers and their staff are saying:

Tomas Overtoom of OntFront
Thank you for your wonderful articles. Your eloquence reaches for the sky. Compliments how well you understand Liza, the brand, and the collections.

Shinchiro Shimojo of Under Castle
I have read your article about my "Cross Wear" and was glad that you understood my concepts deeply. I enjoyed reading it very much, indeed!

Chris Kelly of Theatre de la Mode
The article is fantastic. Thank you for such a great write up.

Article 23
Thank you for your article, we are very satisfied of this collaboration.

Enjoyed your article about Prophetik...

John Rocha
Thank you for sending this through. It reads very well and we will definitely forward it to John.

Michael Londrigan
Thank you for taking the time to write these articles. I truly appreciate it.

Andrea for Ute Ploier
Your article is fantastic! Thank you very much for letting us know! You are welcome to send more questions anytime.

Anco Sneep of Rubia Pigmenta Naturalia
Wonderful job you did! Thanks!

Abbiamo letto l'articolo sulla nostra linea da lei pubblicato e vorremmo sinceramente ringraziarla per le belle parole. Complimenti per la documentazione sulla storia di San Marino!

Organizer of Seattle Fashion Week
You probably get this alot, but those articles are amazing. You really captured the spirit of SFW and I truly appreciate it.

You may find additional responses at What the Designers Keep on Saying..., What the Designers have been Saying, and Some More of What the Designers Are Saying.

Rubia Pigmenta Naturalia

After posting my 2-part interview with sustainable designer and artist John Patrick, I received an email from his Dutch friend, Anco Sneep, director of Rubia Pigmenta Naturalia, which produces a natural red dye that dates back to over two millenia:

"A world without colour is barely conceivable for us. Nature provides for colour all around and anything we create, we create in colour. And–we’ve been doing so for thousands of years. Primeval human beings already used colours to outline drawings or illustrations, and all generations thereafter carried on doing so. These colours were made from natural resources. One of the most important materials was–and still is–madder.

The roots of the madder plant produce a genuine red colour. The ancient Egyptians had already discovered the incomparable madder tint: a belt dyed with madder root was found in the tomb of Tutankhamen. But the ancient Greeks and Romans also used this unique colour as a dye, which in the later Byzantium Empire was given the name Turkish Red. Famous artists like El Greco, Velasquez, and Vermeer used madder as a base for particular red tints in their paintings.

In the 18th century, madder–or by its scientific name Rubia Tinctorum –became a popular dye for textiles. Particularly in the southern Netherlands, in West Brabant and Zeeland, the plant was cultivated on a large scale. Madder became an important economic factor in this area.

After the German chemists Graebe and Liebermann discovered in 1868 how the red madder dye could be produced synthetically, cultivation of madder quickly declined and finally vanished.

Rubia® has developed a totally new process to extract the genuine madder dye very efficiently in an ecologically friendly manner. Elements of the system are specially selected madder under license.

The highest priority in the Rubia® research laboratories is continuous process control and optimization aligned with quality enhancement. In addition, the colour agent content of the different root batches is determined to permit fair compensation for the growers.

In the factory, the colour agent is extracted from the roots by means of a special Rubia® process. As market leader, Rubia Pigmenta Naturalia® comes from the only industrial installation worldwide to produce the authentic Turkish Red.

Rubia® red is the ideal dye for companies seeking to differentiate themselves through the use of authentic and brilliant colours, produced entirely on a natural basis. Rubia®–a new dimension in colour!

Highly praised Dutch designer Rianne de Witte has decided to work with natural dyes of Rubia Pigmenta Naturalia®!

Photos and Slide Show Copyright by Rubia Pigmenta Naturalia.