August 30, 2009

History of Menswear: Table of Contents

The UighursXinjiang, the Uighurs & Turkic Fashion
Guizhou MinoritiesGuizhou Minorities in the 80's
Han ChinaHan Fashion
Before Mao
From Ming to Qing
Yuan & the Mongols
Empires of the Mediterranean
Aragon & CataloniaCatalan Designer Georgina Vendrell
Byzantium Roman Blockbusters, Byzantium & Barbarians
CarthageCartharge, of Phoenicians and Punics
Greece & Magna GraeciaGrottoes, Grapes & Greeks
Normandy Naples, Normans & Nabbings
Nuraghic CivilizationNuraghic Men Rocked the Styles!
Book Review I: "The People of Bronze"
Book Review II: "The People of Bronze"
Book Review III: "The People of Bronze"
The Nuraghic “People of Bronze” Come Back to Life
Ottoman Empire

Turkish Men's Fashion: A Glance in History
B-Turk: Relics of the Ottomans on Tees

PhoeniciaPhoenicians: the People of Purple
Roman EmpireRoman Blockbusters, Byzantium & Barbarians
Saracens & Barbary PiratesSaracens, Corsairs & Barbary Pirates
Islands of the Mediterranean
Intro The Mediterranean Isles of Italy
Mallorca The New Skins of Gori De Palma
CreteDimitri Stavrou’s Stylish Ride from Cyprus to London
Ischia & the Bay of NaplesIschia: Roots on a Rim
Grottoes, Grapes & Greeks
Roman Blockbusters, Byzantium & Barbarians
Naples, Normans & Nabbings
From Feudalism to Family Feuds
Of Kings and KUKs
Bourbon Anyone?
Naples, Nations & New Notions
20th-Century Island Life in the Bay of Naples
Popular Island Dress & "L'ndrezzata"

Introduction to Sardinia & Traditional Sardinian Menswear
Timeline: Sardinia's History in a Nutshell
Bagella: Preserving Traditional Menswear in Sardinia

Oristano: Its Musuem & Festivals
Bauladu—Country Living in Sardinia
Paolo Midolo: the Pride of Orani

North Africa
NomadsThe Tuaregs
Sub-Saharan Africa
West AfricaThe Rich World of African Menswear
Digging Deeper into West Africa: Yoruba
Religious Movements
The HutteritesThe Hutterites

August 27, 2009

B-Turk: Relics of the Ottomans on Tees

Several weeks ago, I featured an article on three menswear brands of a Turkish manufacturer called the Orka Group. The labels included Damat, Tween, and ADV.

Since then, I have kept you in suspense about a fourth line that the Orka Group has recently launched. It’s called B-Turk, and I have waited, knowing that the concept would be very fitting to our discussion on the history of the Mediterranean isles. In the company’s own words, B-Turk defines itself as:

“a cosmopolitan culture that has survived through thousands of years, inheriting a multicultural, multi-religious, and multilingual structure…bringing the legends of authentic and ethnic Turkish values, symbols, and objects that have evolved throughout national history together.”

The designer is Reha Erdoğan, a graduate from the Istanbul Academy of Fine Arts, Graphics Department, where he received both BA and MA degrees.

B-Turk is radical Turkish design that embraces music, fashion, cuisine, and much more. The fashion line encompasses 50 designer t-shirts, which showcase cultural and historical symbols of the Ottoman Empire.

Sometimes known as the Turkish Empire, the Ottoman Empire lasted from 1302 to 1922 and, with Istanbul as its capital, spanned three continents: southeastern Europe (the Balkans), western Asia, and North Africa. In essence, it is the successor of the Eastern Roman Empire and Byzantium.

While the Ottoman Empire absorbed many cultures, cuisines, and styles of architecture, dress, and music, the Empire also enfused the peoples within its borders with the same influences, leaving a lasting impact that can be seen, heard, and felt today.

So, if you wanna B-Turk, then buy B-Turk!

Photo Copyright Orka Group.
Slideshow Copyright
Orka Group.

Saracens, Corsairs & Barbary Pirates

From the 7th-19th centuries, pirates sailed the Barbary coast of North Africa, which comprised the countries of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and today’s Lybia. They have come to be known as Saracens, Corsairs, and Barbary pirates.

Their mission was to engage in ghazah, or razzia in Italian, raiding European coastal cities and islands primarily to capture slaves, whom they sold in Algeria and Morocco. All coastal areas were prey, but Italy was the most ravaged of all, partly due to geographical proximity.

The first wave of pillaging and slave-trading occurred during the Mameluk period of Egypt (7th-15th centuries). At that time, pirates were slave soldiers, mostly nomadic Kipchak Turks that had converted to Islam. The second wave of incursions took place during the reign of the Ottoman Empire (present-day Turkey).

The most famous of all pirates were the Barbarossa brothers, who were of Turkish origin but inherited their nickname from the Italians, who called them “Red Beard.”

Most legendary of the four was Kheir ed-Din (1474-1518), who became admiral of the sultan’s Ottoman fleet, which, after assaulting the coasts of Sardinia in 1544, landed on the islands of Ischia and Procida in the Bay of Naples.

Another celebrated pirate was Turgut Reis Dragut (1485-1565), who also raided the Italian peninsula, conducting expeditions to Naples where he enslaved thousands in 1552.

Tidbit: the eye patch originates with the 18th-century Arab pirate, Rahmah ibn Jabir al-Jalahimah, who lost his eye in battle.

As for men’s attire, the Barbary period spans many centuries and geographical locations, so we can only summarize the looks and styles.

The dress during the first wave would have been identical to what the men wore in North Africa, slowly evolving into the Arab dress as seen in the photo to the middle right.

The pre-Islamic basis of clothing was a short, flowing, unbelted tunic and loose outer wrappings. The Romans noted that the North Africans draped animal skins over the left shoulder.

With the spread of Arab influence, men wore head coverings like hooded cloaks or a winding cloth around the head, as well as long robes, wrapping mantles, and sandals.

The garb during the second wave would have been heavily influenced by the attire of the Ottomans, as seen in the photo at bottom left, of course depending on the Corsair’s relationship with or status within the Ottoman Empire.

2010 Trends & Takeaways from the Period:
Various elements from this period have been appearing recently in the collections of several menswear designers, ranging from the drop-seat pants of the Ottomans to the turbans and flowing hoods of the Arabs. Some designers have even based their entire collections on the nomadic styles of North Africa, as well as those of the Barbary pirates.

Photo top left, Barbarossa by Shuppiluliuma, Public Domain at Wikipedia.
Photo middle right, Arab dress 4th-6th centuries, Public Domain at Wikimedia.
Photo bottom left, Osman I & Ghazi warriors, 13-14th centuries, Public Domain at Wikipedia.

Cartharge, of Phoenicians and Punics

At the height of power, Carthage dominated up to 300 Phoenician colonies on the coasts and islands of the Mediterranean.

But their first conquest was Sardinia, where they claimed Karalis, today’s Cagliari.

Carthage—the “shining city”situated near modern-day Tunisia—was founded around 814 BC by the Phoenicians who emigrated from Tyre, naming their new home Qart-ḥadašt, which means ‘new city’.

Since the Carthaginians were essentially Phoenicians, the Romans called them Punicspūnicus, which is merely the Latin name for “Phoenician.” Remember, the Greeks referred to the Phoenicians as phoinikois after the purple dye.

When Phoenicia was conquered by Persia (present-day Iran) in 539 BC, Carthage inherited the entire trade network from Tyre, emerging as the commercial center of the Western Mediterranean. However, as the new leader of the Phoenician colonies around the Mediterranean, Carthage was thrust into conflict, mostly in Sicily, with the Greeks and Romans who were vying for power.

Probably the most notable Carthaginian of all was Hannibal (248–183 BC), one of the greatest military commanders in history who led an army of mercenaries, compatriots, and elephants through Spain and over the Alps against the Romans.

After 668 years of existence, Carthage was brutally destroyed by Rome in the Third Punic War, in 146 BC.

Like Phoenicia, Carthage produced embroidered and dyed garments of linen, cotton, and silk, as well as ceramics and metalwork.

As for menswear, I have uncovered the attire of Punic solders (photo, type left, courtesy of Phoenician expert Salim George Khalaf). They sported long braids that were tied back with a golden ring.

Then, in the Archeological musuem of Cagliari, I made some very interesting discoveries!

First, as the photo to the middle right evidences, Carthaginian men wore a type of tunic with short sleeves that extended to the knees and was tied with a belt.

Secondly, the Punic man on the right side of the vase (bottom left photo) appears to be wearing a sort of long, flowing Roman-like outer garment that draps over the shouler and an ankle-length inner garment.

Photo Carthaginian Copyright
Photo middle right, statuettes of Punic men, Museo archedologico nazionale di Cagliari.
Photo bottom left, vase of Punic woman and man, Museo archedologico nazionale di Cagliari.

Phoenicians: the People of Purple

The New York Times has reported that 1 in 17 men living today on the coasts of North Africa and southern Europe have a direct, male-line Phoenician ancestor.

Phoenician expert Salim George Khalaf, with whom I have recently become acquainted, is one such descendant.

But who were they?

The Phoenicians were great seafarers—an ancient maritime power—and the direct forefathers of modern-day Lebanon.

Experts like Sanford Holst conclude that the Phoenicians emerged from the Canaanite peoples of the Levant, forming their society about 3200 BC in Byblos (present-day Jbeil, Lebanon).

For millennia, the Phoenicians sailed throughout the Mediterranean, not as invaders but as peaceful traders.

About 1100 BC, they began setting up colonies along the coasts and on islands like Sicily, Sardinia, Ischia, and Mallorca. Their most illustrious colony, however, was undoubtedly Carthage. But Sardinia was attractive to the Phoenicians for the extraction of metals and ores.

In the 8th century BC, the Phoenicians founded the Sardinian colonies of Nora, Karalis (Cagliari), Sulci, and Tharros. Situated on the Bay of Oristano, Tharros is now an open-air museum of ongoing excavation with one section submerged under the sea. The same applies to Nora.

While historians often state that the foundations of Western Society rest on the ancient pillars of Rome and Greece, many have sadly overlooked the sturdy pillar of the ancient Phoenicians.

Phoenician culture profoundly impacted the Mediterranean in the areas of shipbuilding, trade, religion, language, and the alphabet, which is the ancestor of most modern alphabets today!

Forerunners to a global economy, the intercultural spirit, and the concept of networking, the Phoenicians traded in metals, glass, wood, spices, and jewels. They even perfected the art of dog breeding. Their main industry, however, was textiles.

Sometimes referred to as the “purple people,” the Phoenicians extracted a purple dye from the shells of sea snails called Murex. So notable were the Phoenicians for this Tyrian purple powder that they obtained their name from the ancient Greek word for purple—phoinikois.

Typically, Phoenician men wore a type of skirt that extended from the waist to the knees, closely resembling the Egyptian shenti. At times, a full-body robe with folds or pleats was worn underneath.

The upper body was clothed in a close-fitting tunic with elbow-length sleeves. The tunic was joined with metal rings or clasps at the shoulders. Necklaces of beeds were fashionably hung from one ring to another and across the chest.

Gracefully draped in folds, mantles could be thrown over one shoulder, reaching as far as the knee. Borders of garments for the upper class were often embroidered.

Phoenician men sported large pendants, armlets, bracelets, and signet rings, as well as ornamental metalic collars similar to the Egyptians. They wore earrings and nose rings, as well. Preferring long curly hair and beards with no mustaches, the men sported cone-shaped caps.

2010 Trends & Takeaways from the Period:
For the past several seasons, various shades of purple have dominated the color palette of menswear collections. Apparently, the trend will continue throughout the year, and just think: we owe it all to the Phoenicians!

Photo top left, Phoenician dress, Public Domain.
Photo upper right, Phoenician writing, Museo archedologico nazionale di Cagliari.
Photo lower left, Phoenician dress, Museo archeologico "Villa Sulcis."
Photo bottom right, Phoenician bracelet, Museo archedologico nazionale di Cagliari.

Bagella: Preserving Traditional Menswear in Sardinia

In my previous article, I summarized the history of Sardinia, briefly describing the evolution of traditional Sardinian menswear, which emerged in the 17th and 18th centuries when special laws that had connected social class to certain garments were abolished.

These legal changes opened the doors to new fabrics from Catalonia (Spain) and other Mediterranean influences, which affected colors and styles. Alas, the so-called “Ethnic Suit” was born, which is still worn in Sardinia by politicians and artists today.

Fabrics usually consist of corduroy and moleskin. The color palette comprises dark brown, black, green, and grey. Jackets are single-breasted with 2 or 3 buttons, 4 appliqued pockets, and a half belt in the back.

Shirts are white and made of cotton or linen with a small collar, sometimes with pleating in the front. Formerly riding pants, trousers tend to narrow at the bottom so that they may be tucked into leather boots. Pockets feature embroidered borders.

In 1932, Nino Bagella opened a traditional Sardinian clothing store on the Vittorio Emanuele boulevard. The atelier is now one of the oldest shops in Sassari (Tàthari in Sardinian), the second largest city in northwest Sardinia, which is surrounded by olive trees, oaks, and maquis shrubs like sage.

Carrying on the tradition, Nino’s son, Rinaldo, continues to preserve the poised ruggedness of original Sardinian styles, which are crafted by local artisans.

Photos Copyright Bagella.
Slideshow Copyright

Timeline: Sardinia's History in a Nutshell

Here is a brief timeline of the history, of Sardinia:

1,800-238 BC Nuraghic civilization

1,000-500 BC Phoenician colonies

500-238 BC Carthaginian colonies

238 BC-456 AD Roman occupation

456-534 AD Vandal raids

534-710 AD Byzantine rule

710-1354 Sardinian self-rule

1354-1720 Catalan (Spanish) rule

1720 Sardinia passes to Piedmont's Savoy Kingdom

1814 The Kingdom of Sardinia united with the Kingdom of Liguria

1861 Victor Emmanuel II , the first King of Italy.

Map Copyleft at Wikipedia.

Introduction to Sardinia & Traditional Sardinian Menswear

Sardinia—the second largest island in the Mediterranean—has been inhabited since the 6th millennium BC, the first settlers most likely arriving from the Italian peninsula.

Over time, the inhabitants began staking out tribal territories, which they guarded with cone-shaped, stone towers called nuraghi. It is estimated that over 8,000 of the preexisting 30,000 nuraghi stand today.

The next wave of arrivals washed upon Sardinia’s shores in about 1000 BC with the Phoenicians—the forefathers of the Lebanese—who set up colonies throughout the island. By 509 BC, the Phoenicians had made considerable inroads into the island, prompting the local Sardinians to summon the armies of Carthage, who, after defeating the Phoenicians decided to stay.

The Carthaginians cohabited with the native islanders until 238 BC when they were defeated and ousted by the Romans in what is called the First Punic War. (Punic is merely the Latin name for Phoenician, since the Carthaginians were originally Phoenicians.) Although resisted by the Sardinians, Rome’s domination lasted 694 years, until 456 AD, when the island was literally vandalized—by the Vandals!

Their song “Nowhere to Run” would have been appropriate, but the Vandals had nothing to do with Martha and the Vandellas. The Vandals were an Eastern Germanic tribe that lived all throughout Europe. They conquered North Africa as a launching point to raid, or vandalize, the Mediterranean islands and coastlands.

But the vandalism did not last long and Sardinia was liberated in 534 AD by the Byzantines, who spread Christianity to the island. The tranquility of Byzantium rule, however, was also short lived by the incursions of the Barbary pirates, known also as Corsairs and Saracens, who assailed the island in 710 AD.

For several centuries, the Sardinians succeeded in defending themselves; but the island was soon thrown into turmoil in the 13th century upon the contentions of two maritime powers on the Italian peninsula— the Republic of Genoa and the Republic of Pisa, the latter of which succeeded to colonize Sardinia.

Remember—until 1861, Italy had never existed as a nation but rather the peninsula was always under the domination of indigenous and foreign powers.

Eventually, and with the help of the pope, Sardinia fell to the House of Aragon in 1354 and remained a Catalan possession (and later Spanish) until it was handed over to Piedmont’s House of Savoy, which in 1861 established the Kingdom of Italy, crowning Vittorio Emanuele II the first king of Italy.

“Why the history?” you ask. Like most societies, traditional Sardinian dress is a kaleidoscope of the successive cultures that dominated the island over the millenia, which is also expressed in the music, dance, arts and crafts, cuisine, and traditions of the people. (See timeline.)

So many times, we scratch our heads in amazement at how a designer came up with a certain design. Often, however, we can find the answer in history. See my editorial, Fashion in a Box? Time to Open the Lid.

Although there exists great variation throughout the island, Sardinian men (which are called Sardinians and not sardines!) traditionally wore a black kilt-like skirt that was gathered at the waste with a large leather belt, white loose-fitting pants that were tucked into leather boots, a dark-colored jacket, and a white shirt with puffy sleeves—all topped off with a floppy cone-shaped hat.

The look eventually evolved into a contemporary silhouette of rugged elegance, which has been preserved by the Bagella family, whom we will meet in the next article.

Photo top left Nuraghe by Fawcett5 Public Domain at Wikipedia.
Photo bottom right traditional Dress Copyright Bagella.

The Mediterranean Isles of Italy

Most people have heard of Sicily and Capri; and, yet, the Mediterranean waters that surround Italy are graced with a host of captivating islands—both large and small—that go less noticed, but each sharing a common history, culture, language, and cuisine.

One thread that unites the islands and many coastal areas of the Mediterranean is a long history of shared dominations. Moreover, with the changing of each invading conqueror, so changed the styles in menswear over the millennia.

For the next three weeks, we are going to explore the men, the history, and the fashion of several enchanting Mediterranean islands that are situated off the coast of Italy’s mainland! And I am going to take you there!

I like to return to Italy once or twice a year to visit family and friends when I am working abroad. And that is exactly what I have planned for September 2009.

First, I will be taking you to Sardinia, which I prefer to call Sardegna (pronounced Sardenya), where we will explore the natural treasures of the vast island and meet several menswear designers.

After a few shopping days in the bustling city of Naples, where some of my favorite stores and menswear brands are located, I will take you to the islands in the Bay of Naples; namely, Capri, Ischia, and Procida.

Although I do not depart for another week, I will be posting some articles each day on the background of Sardinia, our first stop. (See map.)

So, I want to wish you happy reading and a great virtual trip!

Buon viaggio and buon divertimento! We are going to have lots fun!

Photo top right St. Angelo, Ischia, Copyright Men’s Fashion by Francesco.
Photo bottom left, Capri, Copryright Men's Fashion by Francesco.

August 25, 2009

Philadelphia Fashion Week—a “First” Definitely Not to Be Missed!

Philadelphia—the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection—has definitely gone down in history as a city of the nation’s firsts!

The “now” metropolis is home to the country’s first park (1681), first brick house (1682), first printed almanac (1685), first paper mill (1690), first public school (1698), first fire engine (1719), first US flag (1777), first US Congress (1789), first Federal mint (1792), first zoo (1874)…and the list of firsts goes on and go!

While Philadelphia cannot lay claim to the first fashion week in the history of the nation, this year will mark the first full-blown fashion week in the birthplace of the US!

I am sure the nation’s first fashion designer, Betsy Ross, would be proud of the new revolution hitting the cobblestone streets of her colonial hometown!

Philadelphia Fashion Week will take place from October 8 to 10 at the 23rd Street Armory and will feature 15 runway shows, numerous concerts and dance performances, an open bar of artisan drinks, the best of Philly cuisine, and lots of shopping at your choice of 12 pop-up boutiques.

Philadelphia-based designers will include Commonwealth Proper, Delicious, Strangefruit, and SA VA.

Several guest designers have also been invited, including Triple 5 Soul, Wrath Arcane, Park & Ronen, 9 Days, Brooklyn Royalty, GAR-DE, and Love Brigade.

For more information, log onto the Philadelphia Fashion Week website. Tickets are on sale now!

This is an event not to be missed: let fashion freedom ring, Philadelphians!

Photos of Francesco, courtesy of Blue Catalog, Copyright Men’s Fashion by Francesco.

“Wood do Wow” & the Memories of a Young Girl by Karlota Laspalas

Earlier this summer I wrote an article on Pamplona, Spain, and the Festival of San Fermín, featuring a label that designs t-shirts for the festivities of the events.

Now, I would like to introduce you to a promising young designer, who is also from Pamplona. Her name is Karlota Laspalas, who moved to Barcelona to study Fashion Design at the Escuela Superior de Diseño y Moda Felicidad Duce.

Karlota is unique in that approaches design by transferring her life experiences and the emotions that they evoke—such as memories, fears, sorrows, and the like—in to one concept, which represents her internal and external being. Her recent collection exemplifies this approach.

Karlota’s father comes from a small Basque village called Ochagavía, which lies in the Salazar Valley of Navarre, Spain, where the Irati forest is located.

Having spent 12 years in the area, Karlota nurtures strong childhood memories of the forest. A documentary on the land art of British sculptor Andy Goldsworthy triggered Karlota’s memories of the trees’ crooked branches, the feel of bark, and the smell of autumn leaves.

Two years after the completion of her schooling, Karlota presented at Ego Cibeles Madrid Fashion Week her first collection, which she named “Wood do Wow” and pointed to wood as a symbol of simplicity, purity, and longevity.

Karlota drew inspiration from one more source: the folds and wrinkles in the wooden sculptures of Venetian wood artist, Loris Marazzi. As Loris carves ornamental garments of apparel out of rugged wood, so Karlota has fashioned a collection of rugged menswear that is inspired by the grooves, knots, and grains of wood.

For more information on Karlota, have a look at out her blog.

Photo top center Irati Forest Copyright Karlota Laspalas.
Photo middle right & slideshow 2009 a/w collection “Wood do Wow,” photographer Salva López, Copyright Karlota Laspalas.

August 24, 2009

The Transparent & Lustrous Collection of Kostas Murkudis

Born of Greek parents in Dresden, Germany, Kostas Murkudis studied at Berlin’s Lette-Verein School, which was founded in 1866 by the German lawyer Wilhelm Adolf Lette, who wanted to boost employment for women.

At first, Kostas expressed more interest in chemistry but, later, he discovered greater interest in fashion, going on to work as Helmut Lang’s assistant for about seven years.

Influenced by architecture and lighting, Kostas designs a sleek, minimalist silhouette for men. In an interview with Fashion Copious, Kostas stated of his 2009 a/w collection: “Fall is about glass and protection: the colors and shapes behind glass.”

Moreover, Kostas collaborated this season with the 210-year-old Johnstons’ company, which has been weaving Scottish wool in Elgin since 1801!

Photo top left Copyright Kostas Murkudis.
Slideshow 2009 a/w collection Copyright
Kostas Murkudis.

August 23, 2009

The New Skins of Gori De Palma

Part of the Balearic Islands archipelago, Mallorca is the largest island of Spain. Situated in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Catalonia, Mallorca’s capital is Palma, also known as Palma de Mallorca, which has a population of about ½ million inhabitants.

Mallorca shares a common history with many other Mediterranean islands, having hosted waves of Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Moors, and Barbary Corsairs, all of whom we shall examine within several weeks in light of their historical influences and traditional dress.

Each year on Mallorca, the Consul for Exports and Youth sponsors a competition called Art Jove, presenting awards for various artistic genres. In 2005, the prize for best collection was awarded to Catalan designer Gori De Palma.

Born in 1976 on Mallorca, Gori De Palma launched his eponymous label in 2004, one year after graduation from Institut Català de la Moda in Fashion Design and Pattern Cutting in 2003.

The 2009 a/w collection entitled “New Skins” is exemplary of the De Palma technique, drawing inspiration from the styles of Skinheads and New Wave music.

Photo 2009 a/w collection "New Skins" Copyright Gori De Palma.

August 22, 2009

Lenzing Color Trends: Sustainable Future

The Lenzing Group is an international fiber producing company with its headquarters in Lenzing, Austria. The following report is the Lenzing color trend analysis for autumn/winter 2010/11:

Sustainable Future
The crucial need of co-existing between nature and urban landscapes is reflected in the color pallets and the stories from where they come: urban concrete and formal darks meet nature’s mid-tones and bright shades.

Eco-fashion, lo-fi, laboratory-grown fabrics, food fashion, fusing product and garment, beetroot-dying, victimless leather, bone ivory, up-cycling and all the other experiments concentrating on environment issues, are so important; some ideas will eventually end up as valid solutions to problems we fight with, some are indispensable because of the discussion they raise.

Solutions are imperative to solve the paradox of the fashion industry obsessed by the nonstop change and the vital demand of sustainability.

The focus has moved from pure aspect to content, with everything this brings along in terms of questions.

Finishing and added functions are areas still to be explored and bringing in new, complex and fascinating elements. Craft techniques are reinterpreted and completed by using the newest technology.

Warmth, comfort, caring, reassuring, thoughtfulness are terminologies to have in mind when developing fabrics for the autumn and winter of 2010/11.

Photo, text, and slideshow published with permission.
Copyrights: Publisher Lenzing AG, Illustrations MMgroup.

The Shockheaded Peter Project by Christian Westphal

Heinrich Hoffmann (1809-1894) was a German physician and psychiatrist who wrote poetry and satirical comedy under nearly eight pen names.

His most memorable work was an illustrated collection of children’s verses entitled Der Struwwelpeter—that is, Shockheaded Peter, which can also translate as Slovenly Peter.

Danish designer Christian Westphal writes how he “looked at the old book from 1844,” which drew him into the world of “boogiemen, monsters, and angry adults.”

As he compared the images with ones similar to the Victorian world of theatrical illusion, Christian was inspired to create a spring/summer 2010 that would be depicted by “decadent and unusual elegance.”

The Shockheaded Peter Project Collection is designed to play on our fears of every creak in the night. Like the trap doors and secret entrances in the imaginative mind of a little child, the collection contains several levels of multi-dimensional surprises.

Androgynous in direction, crisp in color, poetic in construction, and geometric in cuts—the collection modernizes our concept of menswear with luxurious fabrics that give men a look, which is strong enough to conquer the biggest of any fear.

The collection will be presented by Christian at the Japan Fashion Week in Tokyo this October.

Photo top left s/s 2010 collection Copyright Christian Westphal.
Slideshow s/s 2010 collection Copyright Christian Westphal.

August 21, 2009

Catalan Designer Georgina Vendrell

Most people associate the word “Catalan” with a language that is spoken in several areas of Spain, including the Balearic Islands, Catalonia, Valencia, and Aragon, which is an accurate association.

But the term embodies so much more than language, embracing a culture, history, geographical area, and people. For this reason, the Catalan language is also spoken in Andorra, Alghero (Sardinia, Italy), and parts of southern France.

Catalonia, or Catalunya, enjoys a common history with many Mediterranean islands for two reasons: (1) they share the same line of settlers (i.e., the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, North Africans, etc.) and (2) Catalonia settled many of the islands.

Once a cohesive culture had been formed, the Catalan people united with Aragon and emerged a great maritime power. As an important player in the Kingdom of Aragon, together they ruled Sardinia, Sicily, Malta, and the southern half of Italy for centuries, exporting the Catalan culture, cuisine, language, and costume!

So influential was this kingdom that it rears its head in our pop culture with video games like Age of Empires 2: the Conquerors and Europa Universalis, which reenact legends in playable history! What a legacy! And all that, because of a marriage!

Heir to all this rich history, Catalan designer Georgina Vendrell was born1983 in Barcelona. After graduating from the Institut català de la moda, Georgina was chosen by an international jury to present her a/w 2009 collection at 080 Barcelona Fashion.

The collection is entitled “51” in reference to the number of total sun-less days during the bitter cold winters of Finland.

Drawing from a dark palette, Georgina reaches for a simple, sporty look that combines wintry functionality with innovative styles and hints to her nation's past.

Stay tuned for more on Georgina Vendrell and the styles of the Mediterranean! I have a surprise in store for you, which I will unveil next week!

Photo a/w 2009 collection Copyright Georgina Vendrell.
Slideshow a/w 2009 collection Copyright
Georgina Vendrell.

August 20, 2009

Avoiding Preconceptions with :AVOID

“AVOID: to make a conscious decision to stay away from unwanted people, things, and events.”

This is how the two designers, Inokawa and Kido, define their label, which they launched in 2005 with the goal of portraying “the true nature of clothing with no preconceptions of educational or professional backgrounds, or even the brand name itself.”

Since its inception, the label has produced collections according to thematic concepts like “Youth Glory Days” 1986-89, “New Youth Liberal Attitudes,” and “Squat Life,” each of which reject passivity and reflect an aggressive approach to men’s fashion and design.

For the 2009 a/w collection, however, Inokawa and Kido have decided not to allocate a specific theme. Instead, the collection entitled「NO TITLE. THE ONLY GOOD COLOR」emphasizes detail to new weave and unique coloring, reiterating the original concept that :AVOID is to be enjoyed with no preconceptions.

Designer Inokawa is originally from Niigata, Japan, where he remembers heavy snowfalls in the winter; Kido was born and raised in Tokyo.

I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to interview both designers with the assistance of PR assistant, Kimihiro Higuchi, of Adonust Showroom.

It is a pleasure to meet you both… So tell me, Inokawa, when did you begin designing?
I was 16 years old when I became interested in becoming a designer.

And what led you, Kido, into fashion design?
I began paying attention to fashion when I was 10 years old and, until I was around 18 years old, my primary interests were vintage items. I hoped that, someday, I could have my own vintage store. From there I attended a designers’ college, where through interaction with my classmates I became more interested in designer brands. Post graduation, I worked at a store while working on my own designs.

Inokawa, how does vintage play into your collections?
Our designs have always been influenced from my enthusiasm for vintage items and their construction methods, details, and components, as well as the way they aged over time and wear.

Kido, what is the driving factor behind your designs each season?
Generally speaking, we create men’s clothing, so I like to think up items that can be worn on a daily basis. This design concept can be seen continuously from season to season. As previously mentioned, our designs are heavily influenced by special construction methods and their details, as well as different color palettes, varieties of material, photography, different subcultures, and old record jackets. Our interpretations of all these things give birth to new designs. Recently we have used particular interest in different shades of gray and blue.

How about trends and other influences from pop culture?
We tend to not have any interest in trends. Until now we have been influenced by hardcore punk music and skateboarding, and we continue to find inspiration in these things.

I’m very interested in the men’s fashion scene in Japan…
Inokawa: I tend to think that many of the designs I see in Japan are recreations of old items using similar coloring and details. It is hard to find things with their own unique identities.

Kido: I believe it could be at a point that could be thought of as the beginning of the end. To me, fashion is an expression of individuality: to be different from your peers and to be able to feel good about oneself, as a result. However, the current scene lacks energy, as most people are consuming the same types of items, rooted in the desire to fit in. I feel that many are worried too much about not fitting in or being accepted.

So, in what way does :AVOID play a role in this situation?
If there were 100 people, what we do may not be understood or accepted by everybody, but I feel there is no meaning in designing if we are to make the same things as others. As we previously touched upon, fashion to us is an expression of individuality. We would like to make things that people can appreciate or be satisfied with, even if it only applies to a small number of people. We would also like to be able to pass this feeling of fashion consciousness down to the next generation.

How would you sum up this fashion consciousness in terms of your specific style or look?
All our designs come together through the use of uniquely fine colors distinct to our brand and, in the less visible sense, solid construction, along with the use of better materials and components. We hope to make things that can be perceived differently and be appreciated by peers in our industry.

Thank you Inokawa and Kido for your time!

Photo right Inokawa Copyright :AVOID.
Photo left Kido Copyright :AVOID.
Slideshow 2009 a/w collection「NO TITLE. THE ONLY GOOD COLOR」Copyright :AVOID.