February 28, 2010

John-Roland Barnes: the Sexy Model from Sweet Home Alabama

At the mention of Alabama, you may start humming the tune of Sweet Home Alabama; but if you are like me, normally the image of tall, sleek, handsome, and ripped male model does not come to mind! But maybe it is high time!

I do not know much about Alabama, but the State has produced a long list of celebrated individuals throughout history: Booker T. Washington, Nat King Cole, George Washington Carver, Helen Keller, Jessie Owens, Rosa Parks, Willie Mays, and many more!

Well, now a stunning young model, to whom Alabama is Sweet Home, has hit the runways of his nation’s capital.

So, I would like to introduce you to John-Roland Barnes, whom I met at the Menswear Collection Show of the recent DC Fashion Week.

Let’s begin talking about your family…
I come from a large, close knit family. While I only have a younger brother, (Brandon, age 15) I was raised in conjunction with about 20 cousins on both sides of my family. My dad, John Jr., has 5 sisters and 1 brother; and my mom, Felieicia, has 5 sisters, not to mention my grandparents’ siblings and children (chuckle). The funny part about all this is that, everyday, I saw at least one member of my family other than my parents and brother, because the area is rural and we all attended the same schools. My Cousins and I all had to be "little angels" in school because everyone knew our family and what was expected of us.

Wow! And where did all of this take place?
I was born and raised in Phenix City, Alabama, a small town located on the "squiggly" point of the Alabama-Georgia border, right outside of Columbus, Georgia. Phenix City is the type of place that you love to say you’re from but always want to move from. Life was typical for me in Phenix City. Everything I needed, my family could and would provide. I was the average child, energized, and fun to play with. I love my hometown!

What caused you to leave and go to DC?
I moved to Washington DC in November of 2009 to pursue my dreams of being a model. I chose DC instead of New York or Los Angeles because I wanted a location that was as busy as the big cities but not as expensive—kind of like a starter course (chuckle). I'm doing pretty darn good if I say so myself.

When did you start modeling?
I began to model while in high school—nothing major, just a few high school shows and things of that nature in my area.

What actually launched your career as a model?
I got my start from my father, actually. He told me of an opportunity to model with a casting agency; we ended up going on a wild goose chase that led nowhere. While attending the casting call, I was told that I had a “look” and that I would make a good model, so my dad approved and allowed me to pursue it. From the feedback I received, my build was great for the runway and print work, and I wasn't shy in front of a camera.

Were you confident at first?
It took me a while to grasp the fact that I was able to model. My parents have always supported in any goal; but at the same time, they’d tell me if something was worth doing. They, along with the rest of my family, gave me positive feedback, giving me the courage and a sense of pride in what I was doing. I had to be told that I was handsome and my family stepped right in!

Tell me about your first time modeling, how did you feel?
My first job as a model was at my high school. It was charity fashion show. I was so nervous (chuckle). Why? I don't know, because nobody came. But the show still went on. After graduating high school, I did a few shows in college, and finally dove head first into real modeling. So I can honestly say that DC Fashion week was my first “official” job.

Any current projects?
I recently completed a project with Darrell Cortez Menswear here in DC for his spring menswear collection and DC Fashion Week. Coming up are various projects, including a few photo shoots that I’'m producing myself. The next designer I’ll be working with is Andrew Nowell at this point. He was featured during DC Fashion Week. The nation’s capital is filled with designers: Emore’J Couture, Amy McNish, and Custom Looks Clothier. These are a few on my hot list that I plan to work with, if they’ll have me.

Many people think modeling is all glitter. Is it for you?
I'm glad you asked!!! The truth is, you've got to work. It can be glamorous, but to get to that point, you got to put in the work. Tyra Banks, Tyson Beckford, and all the others we see with the glamorous lifestyle had to work for it. So after you’ve earned it, the life of a model is just like the life of a coal miner—hard work.

What does the hard work stem from?
As a male model, we’ve got to work twice as hard to book shows. And that goes double for black male models. We already have to fit a mold of what designers find appealing for their lines; but what makes it even more difficult is the fact that there aren’t as many designers that focus primarily on the menswear in the industry.

Any other downsides apart from hard work?
The only aspects I don’t like about the life of a model are the constant need to exercise (chuckles). You’ve got to stay in shape…and the fact that there are a lot of weirdoes trying to exploit models—word of advice: not everyone with a camera is a legit photographer—I say that to women, especially.

So, what do you enjoy about it?
The things I like about the life of a model are the new places you can travel to, the experiences, and the friends you make along the way. When you surround yourself with positive people, you get positive rewards. That applies to all lives, not just a mode’s life.

Do you only see modeling in your future?
Modeling is something I see as a career, but I also want to continue my education. A degree in Law is in my future.

Who did you model for at the DC Fashion Week?
During DC Fashion Week, I walked for Durkl, Andrew Nowell, Ray Vincente, Stella Bonds, and Emore’J Couture.

What was your impression of the Menswear Collection Show?
The Menswear Show during DC Fashion Week was awesome. Just the fact that there was a show just to showcase menswear felt great. I’m glad that I was a part of it. Hopefully it continues to grow and other locations will host the menswear show—the National Mall perhaps (laughter).

Photos Copyright John-Roland Barnes.

February 26, 2010

Justin Breitschopf: an Aspiring Model at DC Fashion Week

In addition to meeting the designers, one of my favorite aspects in attending a fashion week is becoming acquainted with the models.

First, I am always interested in the choice of models by each designer and, secondly, I enjoy meeting the models since each one is a real person underneath all the glitz and glamor.

So, today, I would like present to you Justin, whom I met last week at the Menswear Collection Show at DC Fashion Week.

Where are you from, Justin?
I was born and raised in Bossier City, Louisiana.

Tell me a little about your early years…
I was actually a little overweight as a kid and became vegetarian and a health nut at a young age around 13 or 14 to get in shape. I worked with a dietitian to ensure I was making a lifestyle change I could live with. I’m actually a vegan now for both ethical and health reasons.

How did you wind up in DC?
I moved to Washington DC in 2004 after college. I originally came to the area to work in politics after working on a major political campaign in Louisiana. I worked for the government for a while and I now work for a consulting company. I consult to the military as a project manager.

When did you develop an interest in modeling?
Modeling has been a major goal of mine since high school.

What specifically convinced you that you have what it takes?
I realized I might be good at modeling as other people were always saying, “You look like someone I know.” Or I was told I should be a model or that I photograph well, and that I have chiseled facial features. I realized I might have a commodity I can market. I just ran with it after that.

Have you found it easy to “break in”?
I tried to work for a few agencies in DC and I was told a range of comments from needing to lose weight and workout more to my photographs are too artsy and busy. I used the constructive criticism and moved forward, but I did not let the negative aspects stop me from achieving my dreams. I am freelancing at present.

So, how did you get your start?
The photo shoot and runway show that really started everything was for an unpaid hair show. My hair and eyebrows were died black and a caramel streak was put in the middle of my hair! My hair was a little longer then, so they actually curled it. It took four hours in hair, make-up, and wardrobe to get the look together. I still use the pictures today as I basically look the same minus the crazy hair. All of the casting agents usually love these pictures better than anything else I have done.

Is modeling “all lights” as some may think?
Modeling has a few perks: being around beautiful people, exciting events, and top of the line designers. The downside is the long days during runway shows. You also have to be able to handle rejection well as your look is not always what matches the designer’s needs.

What aspects of modeling do you like best?
As a model you get to wear clothes that are on the cutting edge of fashion. I appreciate the designers who create thoughtful and well-crafted menswear.

Any real downsides?
Bring a book or your iPod because you will be standing around for long hours waiting.

How does male modeling compare to female?
There are more opportunities for female models and, oftentimes, male models are needed as accessories and are sent down the runway in just underwear.

Would you consider this your dream career?
I am going to give modeling my all and see where it takes me. I have been successful in my consulting job, as well, so I am currently working towards promotion for this June 2010.

Which designers did you represent at DC Fashion Week?
I worked with designers Ray Vincente and Stella Bonds.

And what was your general impression of the Show?
I am glad to see the DC fashion community is interested in menswear and that a whole evening was dedicated to a men's runway show. The designers represented a wide range of men's fashion from avant-garde to more standard daily wear. The variety of clothing choices indicates a trend that the men's market is growing.

What would you like to see in the future at DC Fashion Week?
I hope to see more adventurous, but functional clothes that will appeal to a wide audience of men.

Thank you, Justin, and the best of success to you!

Photos Copyright Justin Breitschopf.

Emore'J Couture: DC's John Galliano?!

Emore’J Couture sure knows how to have a good time and he really knows how to put on a show!

There may be a lot of attitude coming down the runways nowadays, but there’s no attitude whatsoever with this 23-year-old DC designer.

When I sat down to interview Emore’J Couture after the Menswear Collection Show at DC Fashion Week, I had a heart-to-heart talk with a man of deep passion and intense feeling.

Let’s continue to explore the depth of talent and creativity in this young DC designer as he speaks about his personal experiences in the nation’s capital and beyond.

How long have you been showing at the DC Fashion Week?
I have been showing at DC fashion week since I was 17 Years Old. I was actually Ean Williams first “Youngest Designer” of DC Fashion Week.

What is your opinion about DC Fashion Week?
I truly appreciate DC Fashion Week for the services that it provides to let me express myself with no restrictions. As a young student, I never had that so I had to create my own events. I’m truly happy that DC Fashion Week has played an influence in the way I conduct and go about business!

How would you describe the fashion scene in DC?
I would describe the fashion scene for men in DC as openly creative. Men have the option to try so many looks and styles of clothing that is amazing. I enjoy the risk that I see men starting to take.

It’s not common to hear DC described this way…
I think I am looking at it from an urban perspective, and that’s coming from the Black community, because at first it wasn’t like that. In the Black community, it was always hoodies, shirts, and big clothing—oversized clothing—men hiding their bodies.

What do you see happening?
Now in the Black communities, it has definitely changed because men are bolder. The clothing is fitting a little sleeker. They’re going more toward a European type of fit with the clothing, which is excellent. So you’re seeing men playing with colors. You’re seeing the men with their pants more fitted than before and experimenting with dress shoes rather than athletic apparel. So that’s the change that I’m coming from.

How does the DC Black community stand up against LA?
I feel that LA is extremely laid back and is not as fashion forward as DC. I currently reside in DC; however, I frequent LA often conducting business in Fashion Media. I feel that, compared to LA, DC is more cutting edge, very daring, which is a good thing. It’s great to see people trying new looks when it comes down to fashion and being themselves.

How does Emore’J Couture play a role in the DC scene?
I play a role in this scene, because I’m always on a whole other level when it comes to men’s fashion. I normalize what may seem daring, horrific, scandalous, and over the top.

How would you describe your experience as a Black designer?
I think it has been bittersweet. If you may see my work, it is very over the top: my work has a lot of expression and emotion. Sometimes living in the US, it can go over their heads because they don’t get it, they understand it. They don’t look into it deeper—they don’t research.

Do you feel that you would be more accepted elsewhere?
I’ve been told that a lot of people overseas would definitely appreciate my work because they’re more into researching the collection—looking deeper into it, looking at the symbolism that’s going on within my collection. I feel that, in America, they do love me and they appreciate my creativity. But at the same time, it kind of goes over their head because of the symbolism, the meaning, and the purposes.

What does the future hold for Emore’J Couture?
I am moving more into fashion entertainment, such as I have my own show on YouTube—Emore’J Couture TV. I do a lot of event hosting: I interview a lot of up-and-coming artists, designers, models, and producers; I cover a lot of events. So, I am moving more into fashion entertainment because I believe that is what I want to do. I love fashion design, but my heart is really in production as in creating events and creating a whole mood.

Any closing words for the readers around the world who may be aspiring designers?
It’s easy, just do it! I mean who cares, jump into it. Do it; if it’s wrong, do it again! If it’s not right, fix it up and just keep doing it and doing it and doing it. As you go on, if you are smart and wise, eventually it will get better. But there is no other advice than to do it!

For further reading, see my first exclusive interview with Emore’J Couture.

Photo top left, Copyright Shy Magazine.
Photos & slideshow Copyright
DC Fashion Week.

Emore'J Couture at Washington DC Fashion Week

Prior to the Menswear Collection Show at DC Fashion Week this Saturday, I had the wonderful privilege of interviewing one of the youngest designers in the Washington DC fashion scene.

Beyond the resourceful creativeness of this talented 23-year-old designer, however, there stands a humble young man who has been shaped by adversity.

Refusing to allow nothing hold him down, Emore’J Couture has risen to the top simply by following his passion and dreams.

So, I’m honored to introduce you to the man, Emore’J Couture—a source of inspiration for both you and me!

Can you tell me a bit about where you are from and how you grew up?
I was born & raised in Washington DC. Growing up in the urban city of Washington DC was tough, considering I’m naturally an artist and love visuals. DC at the time when I was growing up and attending middle school and high school was not big on fashion design or fashion support groups. Learning to design, produce events, and market myself was all self taught.

How did this adverse situation shape you?
The rough experiences I received in school, such as bulling, harassment for being creative, and ridicule helped me charge my creative energy in a positive way to become greater than my environment.

What kind of formal training in fashion design did you have?
None! I didn’t have any formal training. I do want to take that up one day, some actual sowing classes and maybe a fashion design degree…but up to now I have been going off on my own natural talent to create.

When did you really feel the urge to design?
I knew I wanted to do design when I was in high school. I enjoyed creating unique looks for myself and others. I was more focused on wearing shocking outfits than school itself.

So, now, do you design with the goal of shocking the audience?
That’s exactly what I am doing. I love to be a shocker to keep your eyes open and jaws dropping. That’s my whole purpose—to continue to showcase creative art, avant-garde fashion, high fashion.

What led you into designing?
Certain factors and influences that led me to design were freedom of expression, appreciation of my natural talent, and the art field itself.

Do any of these factors influence your designs?
Various attributes inspire my designs and premieres of a new collection. It can be a situation in my life, which could be good or bad; so I will create a collection off of my emotions and how I feel at that time. Certain political situations in society have influenced my collections; for example, my APPARATUS Collection. This collection represents the lack of emotion, love, and compassion that humans have developed for one another.

What other political situaions affect your designs?
I could definitely first say the gay marriage influenced my collection a lot, because of how it was banned or made illegal. Even some of the garments, I have two females tied together, bonded together—and to me that symbolizes love. That’s likely an example of a political statement that I was bringing through my collection.

Tell me more about how your personal emotions come into play…
When it comes to my personal style, I kind of go off of the emotions and how I feel that day. If the sun is out, I would rather give a very preppy J. Crew look, but if it is cloudy and just dull, then I make a cloudy emotional dark type of feel with my garments. When it comes to a collection, it kind of goes off of something happening in society, or how I feel about technology, or how technology is changing. That’s kind of how you see it in my new collection: it’s very dark; a lot of the flesh is covered up. It’s pretty much how I feel about society.

Does any one thing in particular guide your creativity?
I really don’t have any groundbreaking philosophy, except that my collections usually leave people thinking about things other than fashion, such as sexuality, spirituality, and diversity.

How would you sum up the Emore’J Couture look?
I would some up my particular look or style of design as unpredictable: you never know what Emore’J Couture will bring to the runway!

So, who is the Emore J Couture kind of man?
I would say it would have to be your bold type man, definitely a celebrity figure, to wear my garments. My work is just for art purposes, just to showcase artistically. Other than that, if there is a huge extravaganza coming up, then my pieces are definitely worn. But it’s definitely not ready to wear!
Continue to the second interview with Emore’J Couture.

Photo top Copyright Shy Magazine.
Photos middle left & right, Copyright Emore’J Couture.
Photo bottom left, Copyright Shy Magazine.

February 24, 2010

Andrew Nowell, Striking the Right Balance

Andrew Nowell is probably one of the nicest guys that you can know! He is one of those fellows that make you feel at home, relaxed—you just want to kick your shoes off, sit back, and talk about whatever is on your mind.

Don’t misunderstand me, though. Andrew Nowell may be down to earth, but he is also intense in his feelings, pensive in thought, and very reflective with every spoken word.

After viewing his collection last week at the Menswear Collection Show at DC Fashion Week, I grabbed Andrew for a second interview. (Standing left in photo.)

Your profile reads that your design philosophy is rooted in the New York cultures of hip hop, R&B, and rock… So, how do you translate music into menswear?
By simply looking at the icons of each music genre, such as David Bowie, Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, Kanye West, and even Michael Jackson and taking little elements. I then put my own spin on them, and this is what comes out on the runway. As you saw in my collection tonight, there were drop-crotch pants, which come from the hip hop influence of Kanye West…

Previously you stated that you design for men to feel sexy…. How do you define ‘sexy’?
Just being aware of your sensuality, your body, you ability to attract others—and with that, feeling confident. I think everyone wants to feel that way…and now it is changing for men. For the longest time, men were not allowed to feel sexy, because they equated it with being vulgar.

How do you bring sexiness into your designs?
What I do is try to focus on the cut of a man’s physique. Nowadays, men are going to the gym, not for health reasons but to look great on the beach or in a tank top: they want to feel sexy. So, that is who I am designing for.

Last week, you summed up your look as ‘modern’, ‘edgy’, ‘sexy’, and ‘restrained’… How do you combine ‘restraint’ with the other characteristics?
Well, there is a fine line between good design and costume, and what keeps it from going over to the costume is restraint—being able to pull back. Whereas some people go all out and do something that is totally eccentric; it looks great on stage, but not a lot of people can wear it. In my design process, I do take it to that point, but then I ask myself, “What can I do to make it a little more wearable, a little more believable, and not so far out into outer space?”

Tell me something about the collection tonight…
I just wanted to capture the essence of masculinity in all its different forms. For example, the fur coat with the leather pants is inspired by the illustrations of Tom of Finland; the fitted suits are a little bit of David Bowie, the sexy rocker. A lot of these influences played out on the runway this evening…even the military influence of the aviator.

What inspired the aviator look?
I was thinking a little of Amelia Earhart… I was looking at an old movie with the Red Barron, and I really got into the costumes, wondering what I could bring into my work, such as the goggles, the leggings, the boots... But there was a lot of mixing from different periods and influences, as well.

How do you define the Andrew Nowell kind of man?
The Andrew Nowell man is a confident man who feels good about himself and his body. He is knowledgeable of music, arts, and culture.

Is there a country that you have visited where the men’s fashion impressed you?
I would say Benidorm, Spain. The men wear what they want to wear, whatever color they like, because they are free-thinking people and not bogged down by what others think they should wear. I thought it was great to see that—such a freedom!

What do you do when you are not designing?
Go to the gym; eat gray boring food… (Chuckle)

I like lounge music; I love alternative rock… For example, Zero 7, Air, Nine Inch Nails, Stone Temple Pilots, Tool and Alice in Chains—I like to mix it up!

Favorite TV show?
My favorite TV show is Damages with Glenn Close—that’s the one I don’t miss.

Male icon…?
Harrison Ford… He is a man’s man without trying to be one. True masculinity—Indiana Jones, Patriot Games… Even when I was in college, I kind of dressed like him… (Laughter)

As you can see, Andrew is a man of quality and hard work, which are vividly reflected in his collections!

Andrew Nowell—the designer that knows how to strike the right balance every time!

Photos & slideshow Copyright DC Fashion Week.
Photo top left Andrew Nowell and Emore'J Couture, Copyright Shy Magazine.

The Multi-Cultural, Eclectic Ray of Ray Vincente

Ray Brown of the Ray Vincente label is one of those hidden treasures, which, when found, there is much rejoicing!

After meeting Ray last Saturday at the Menswear Collection Show at DC Fashion Week, I sat back in a hall of excited onlookers and watched his menswear collection on the catwalk.

True to his word, the line displayed an eclectic mix of ethnic blends and cultural flavors.

At the end of the gala, I was more than eager to sit down with Ray and become better acquainted with him; besides, I had so many questions after his first interview with me.

Last week, Ray, you said that you began designing because you wanted to express your own personality…

So how would you describe yourself?
Very eclectic! I have always picked pieces from very different genres and put them together to represent how I was feeling that day or what I was doing in my life at that time.

How did you become so ‘eclectic’?
Actually from my family… I have Ethiopian in my family. My mother’s maiden name is McQuaige, so we have Scottish—obviously African, and Native American as well. So there is a big mixture of many different cultures and we have always celebrated them all. It was never one culture; it was always a mixture of all the different cultures.

How did you carry that over to your designs?
I was raised being told about my background: my family made a family history tree. As I went into it, finding out what was going on, I saw the cultures, the clothing, the colors, the fabrics—everything! And I just embraced it, because I thought it was all part of me.

Who is the man that wears Ray Vincente?
The Ray Vincente man is very much an individualist. He’s a gentleman who knows how to be “gentle” with other people. He is also a masculine male, [but] not macho. He is comfortable in his own skin, not trying to be someone else, and he wants his clothing to represent who he is.

In what way can a man be an individualist with Ray Vincente?
With the clothing line, I never tell people to dress head to toe with Ray Vincente. I say, “Take pieces from the collection, mix it in with what you have, and make it your own.”

Last week, you told me that you want to establish a unique look… So how do you define ‘unique’?
Unique goes back to individualism. I think if everybody takes pieces and works with what they have—both their body and their closets—they will be nothing but unique, because everybody has their own personality. So use it to learn what your body is like, what your likes and dislikes are, and pick pieces that compliment that. And don’t be afraid to try things. Sometimes we are stuck in, “We can only wear this or only wear that.” If you don’t like it, just take it off! (Chuckle)

How do you think American men’s fashion compares to the many places that you have visited abroad?
I think American men are becoming curious about clothing, because we have been very straightforward for years. In the past when we saw influences from Europe or South Africa, we thought, “Hmm, we can’t wear that; it doesn’t work for us.” But, now, we are starting to see men open up and try things to find out what can work—other than jeans and a t-shirt. (Chuckle)

Where do you envision Ray Vincente going?
I actually want it to be an international company. I want it to be a company that can offer jobs to young people that are getting into the field. I want it to become a company that develops over time into a lifestyle brand. I want it to be something that is very socially conscious…and to represent my faith. I believe in God and His Word, so I want to make sure that the line always keeps that in mind and doesn’t go too far one way or the other.

Any words for the readers around the globe?
Welcome to Ray Vincente! I think many cultures from around the world will look at Ray Vincente and see a part of themselves in it, and I believe that will be a welcome in itself.

Thank you, Ray, and the best of success to you!

Photos top left Copyright Shy Magazine.
All other photos CopyrightRay Vincente.
Slideshow Copyright DC Fashion Week.

Durkl: Twenty-four Seven

Durkl, which reports to have been established in the year 2047 (twenty four seven), prides itself on the motto, “High Quality, Low Standards.”

Based in Washington DC, Durkl is present in 70 countries where the label is extending their brand ethos of “Make Fun, Be Alive.”

Although the designer was not present, Durkl put on a fine presentation the Menswear Collection Show of DC Fashion Week last Saturday.

Photo & slideshow Copyright DC Fashion Week.

Stella Bonds Knows Male Lines & Male Curves!

The first designer I met before the Menswear Collection Show at DC Fashion Week was Stella of Stella Bonds.

Now a resident of Alexandria, Virginia, just outside of Washington DC, Stella hails from Bogotà, Columbia.

Her 2010 spring/summer collection kicked off the evening, igniting the runway with a line of brightly colored swimwear, beach pants, and very funky vests.

When I questioned Stella about the focus of her collection, she responded that she was laying special emphasis on the “legs” of a male physique and, in turn, “slacks.”

For an exclusive interview with Stella Bonds, please read Stella Bonds at DC Fashion Week .

Photo Copyright Men's Fashion by Francesco.
Slideshow Copyright DC Fashion Week.

February 23, 2010

The Menswear Collection Show at DC Fashion Week

I arrived to Washington DC last Saturday very eager to attend the Menswear Collection Show of DC Fashion Week, which is organized by Ean Williams, creative director of Corjor International.

Having already interviewed several designers, I was extremely excited to meet them individually and view their runway collections later that evening.

After an exotic lunch at an Ethiopian restaurant in Adams Morgan—spicing it up a bit—I ventured back to the Doubletree Hotel and “hung around” the show area to greet the designers as they straggled in.

I first met the host, Ean Williams—an energetic, kind, lively young man, who is deeply committed to the promotion of aspiring designers.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, Ean had turned in a career with the Air Force, NASA, and Verizon for a life as a couturier in his nation’s capital.

In addition to designing for his own label, Ean is an advisory board member for the Black Designers Association, Inc.

After meeting Ean, I continue to “hang out” backstage, meeting most of the designers Andrew Nowell, Emore'J Couture, Ray Vincente, and Stella Bonds. Each fitted their models as they prepared for the big event.

The pre-show atmosphere was so relaxed, so laid back: all the designers greeted me with a big hug and a huge smile! I truly felt at home; so I want to extend a supersized “thank you” back to all of them!

Please join with me over the next few articles to meet the designers!

In the meanwhile, I invite you to a preview of the show, courtesy of Style Spot.

DC Fashion Week - Highlights: Men from DC StyleSpot on Vimeo.

Photo top left Ean Williams & Francesco, Copyright Shy Magazine.
Photo middle right, Emore'J Couture & Francesco, Copyright Shy Magazine.

February 22, 2010

Julia & Ben: “Leave the Money in the Office”

JULIAANDBEN continue the tradition of unique, refined garments, which they produce through dying, destroying, soft washings, and color spraying.

In their autumn/fall 2010 collection, Julia and Ben have developed a new texture by rusting fabrics for days and even weeks!

The procedures employed by Julia and Ben are all hard to control but give each garment an individual look.

The color palette is rust and black, highlighted with accents of grey-terracotta tie dye and a shiny grayish rainbow fabric.

“Julia says: ‘I have no dreams.’ But sometimes she is a hunter.

Ben thinks: ‘Real dreams are secrets.’And sometimes he escapes.

But in the end, both want to get rid of the antagonism between ideal and reality that is created through dreaming.

Better travelling to Mexico than eating peyote cactus in your kitchen, right?”

So, leave the money in the office!

Photos Copyright JULIAANDBEN.

“Walk in the Light” with ANNTIAN

ANNTIAN has just launched the 2010 autumn/winter collection entitled “Walk in the Light,” which, in the designers’ words:

“tells about walks that you have in the dark, at night; it’s about illuminated windows that give moments of insight while passing them, about a light cone of a pocket lamp, about beaming Spotlights wandering around, detecting, blinding, searching, finding, focusing.

Hidden Beauty, ordinary banal structures we come across everyday get spotted and highlighted, such as road/sidewalk surfaces you walk on, wood grain of a chair, PVC flooring, etc.

The collection, as a Journey, a Walk of Senses, connects to daily surroundings, to Spaces and places we’re living at, to objects and structures.

It’s the attempt to search and find the very ‘special’ that is inherent in so many things of our daily life, to search and find the outstanding—to give in the Magic.”

Anne Hilken and Christian Kurt (ANN plus TIAN) have been designing in Berlin since 2006, combining the techniques of hand painting and paper printing into eco-friendly menswear.

Photo & slideshow Copyright ANNTIAN.

First Things First with Billy Reid & Stetson

As the saying goes, “There is a first time for everything!”

As for you, this may be your first introduction to Billy Reid, the menswear label of rugged Southern sensibility, based in Florence, Alabama.

In turn, the Billy Reid Fall 2010 presents me with the first time to review such an extensive list of inspirations, which are abundantly interspersed with interesting fabrics—and all in one collection:

Classic American Clothing
40oz. Wool Melton Military Cloth
Heavy Needled Fell Seaming
29er's and Shiners
Horse Traders
Gutsy Hand Tailor Suits
Pentecostal Ministers
Lower East Side Folk
Dandy Lawyers
Swamp Loggers
Blazers and Chinos
Southern Prep
Sturdy Welted Hand-made Oxfords
Blanket Lined Outerwear
Boxcar Riders
Railroad Workers
Public Works Project
Crooked Politicians
Unwashed Chambray
Broken Down Twill
Stone Washed Non-fused Shirting
English Jacketing Tweeds
Oxford Grey Jean-Wool
Waterproof Field Boots
Waxed Quail Jacket
Ticking-Lined Fleece Letterman Cashmere Library Cardigan
Cordovan Lineman Jacket
Field-hand Jacket with Nutria
Waxed Cotton Brush Pant
Writer in Residence
Washed Oxford Button Downs
Classic American Clothing

This collection also marks a first for Billy Reid: the marriage of Billy Reid modernity with the sportswear of Stetson, a 200-year-old American hat brand.

John B. Stetson launched the “Hat of the West” with $100 in 1865, a time when hatters did not have a very good reputation; but Stetson changed all that, growing into one of the most reputable producers of hats.

There is a first time for everything!

Photos & Slideshow Copyright Billy Reid.

February 21, 2010

Simon Spurr: Bridging the Transatlantic Divide in Fall 2010

Simon Spurr once again bridges the Transatlantic divide by combining British bespoke tailoring with American hip into a sort of “relaxed sophistication.”

After much acclaim for previous collections, Simon Spurr recently debuted a new high-end tailored collection in New York.

When I asked Fashion PR director, Austin Smedstead, about what inspired Spurr’s collection, he responded with the following statement from Simon:

“My intention was to establish SIMON SPURR as a modern luxury menswear brand. I definitely drew upon my British roots and focused on precision tailoring loosely inspired by the 60/70’s Savile Row tailor, Tommy Nutter. I wanted to bring a British sensibility to American fashion week. I’m British, many of my reference points are British and that’s my look.”

Situated in Mayfair of central London, Savile Row is the “golden mile of tailoring” where the term bespoke tailoring is said to have originated. In contrast to ready-to-wear, bespoke tailoring refers to highly customized clothing, which is patterned and crafted for an individual.

Tommy Nutter (1943-1992) reinvented the Savile Row suit in the 1960’s, having opened his own shop on Savile Row in 1969. He modernized Savile Row with open windows and bold displays.

For more information on Simon Spurr, please refer to the following articles:

February 20, 2010

Odeur: "Tales of Undefined Gravity" in Autumn/Winter 2010

For the seventh season of Odeur, Swedish designers Petter Hollstöm and Gorjan Lauseger tell us tales that defy the gravity of traditional garment construction.

When gender is undefined and times are uncertain, the only narration by Odeur for autumn/winter 2010 will be Tales of Undefined Gravity.

Unisex in look and unpredictable in cuts, the collection gravitates toward meticulous details and mutable shapes that give a light air to the tailored blazers, loose knitted garments, and handcrafted boots.

The palette spans darker colors, while the rich fabrics are weighted only by subtle accents of metallic silver.

Photo & slideshow Copyright Odeur.

February 19, 2010

Stella Bonds at DC Fashion Week

Tomorrow is the big day for menswear at the DC Fashion Week in Washington DC. I am eager to meet Stella Bonds, who will be showing at the Menswear Collection Show in the evening.

Prior to the event, I was able to interview Stella, who skillfully unifies old world craftsmanship and elegance with new world style and sensibilities:

Where are you from originally?
I was born in Bogotà, Colombia, and when I was 6 months old my mother died; so I was raised by my grandmother and my aunts. Actually, the first aunt, “Tia Sofia,” who took care of me as a baby just passed away last week. A very sad moment for me…very sad.

Where are you currently residing?
I live in Alexandria, Virginia. I am a city person, but I like a little of quietness; so Alexandria offers that—plus, it is very close to DC.

Tell me something about your background…
My background is in graphic design and, since I was little, I was the kid doing the drawings for the sisters at my school—I studied with nuns…

How did you go from drawing to graphic designs?
I always liked to draw, but I never thought I would be making clothes until a stranger—now a good friend—approached me and asked me if I wanted to represent his Italian shoes men’s line, because he liked the way I dressed… I told him I did not know anything about shoes but I would try.

And where did that lead?
So I did, and I went to Las Vegas. While I was there I met the designer Ron Segal—shoe designer for many players in the NBA. He liked my look, as well, and he asked me if I would like to learn shoe designing and I said “yes.” He sponsored me to go to Spain and while I was there, I fell in love with the men’s shirts, so I learned about the basics of cutting a shirt. I came back to USA; I started to sew shirts; and one thing followed the other. I did finish my training as a shoe designer, as well.

What is your objective in designing for men in the US?
I think men in USA are too shy to show their bodies, so I want to make clothes that emphasis their bodies. We all talk about curves and we think immediately of women…well, let’s talk about lines and curves and that would be the men’s body, which is completely beautiful.

How do you achieve this specifically?
I also think that men need to be a little more aware of what they wear, so I offer simple but well-sewn pieces with details that make them look casual and sexy but not tacky. I do not like big t-shirts or shirts cut straight. It is a terrible look because it blocks any shape and, if the man is a little heavy, it looks even heavier.

What would you consider your main inspiration?
A men’s body is what inspires me. I think if a piece is very well put together, he can wear roses and look good. I like all the extremes.

Do you adhere to a particular approach?
Yes. I do make clothes that can be very simple as it is in this collection but with something edgy. I like color in men, so most of my pieces will have color. I love different prints.

Sum up for me the Stella Bond look.
Wearable couture.

How does the fashion scene strike you in DC?
Very quiet. A little boring for me; that is the reason why I will like to change that image, but I go slowly so people don’t get afraid.

For example?
By putting more color and by being persistent in designs that can be simple but having some adventure when you were it.

How do you compare DC to Spain?
My personal experience is that, in DC, it seems like we forgot clothes are a way to express and that fashion could be the reflection of you as a persona. Many of the men I relate with here would never go for a beauty treatment, for example, and then shopping for new thigh pants. In Barcelona, men are aware of themselves. They have manicures and pedicures, and they do not mind mentioning it. They want to wear the latest pants and are not afraid to change styles.

How long have you been showing at the DC Fashion Week?
Three times.

What has your experience been here?
This is by far the only event in DC that is well organized and it gives the opportunity to designers to show their collections. I wish it will be individual shows for each designer but that is a long shot.

Have a look at Stella’s runway collection: Stella Bonds Knows Male Lines & Male Curves!

Photos & slideshow Copyright Stella Bonds.

Andrew Nowell at DC Fashion Week

Tomorrow in the nation’s capital, the Menswear Collection Show kicks off at DC Fashion Week! I have already had the privilege of interviewing menswear designer, Andrew Nowell, who has been attending the event for the past 4 years.

I am very pleased to know you! Would you mind telling me a bit of where you are from?
I was born in New York City and raised in the Bronx, not far from the neighborhood where Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren grew up. I attended the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan where I took a strong interest in Fashion Illustration. In my senior year, I decided to apply to the Fashion Institute of Technology where I majored in Menswear Design. I would later find out that Calvin Klein attended both the High School of Art and Design and Fashion Institute. My mother is very religious and that, in some ways, shaped my design philosophy.

Do you still live in New York?
I live in Washington DC.

What brought you to DC?
I relocated here shortly after my discharge from the Navy.

When did you join the Navy, and how was that experience?
I joined the Navy after I graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. I served for close to 9 years on two aircraft carriers. I’ve traveled across the Mediterranean, visiting France, Spain, Israel, Turkey, Greece, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. I would have my sewing machine with me on the ship and always managed to churn out something to wear at each port of call.

When did you develop an interest in designing?
My last year in High School. At that time there wasn’t a lot of interest in menswear; it was very boring. I saw that as a challenge, being able to do something exciting in menswear with all its constraints.

Was there a particular event that sparked the desire?
My family was poor and I wasn’t able to afford the clothes that the cool kids at school wore. My Aunt surprised me with a sewing machine one day and I started making clothing for myself. I was fascinated with the idea of being able to bring a sketch/design into being, through fabric and a needle.

What inspires you as a designer?
I’m inspired by the hip-hop and rock cultures, Saville Row in London, the B-Boy on 125th street in Harlem and The illustrations of Tom of Finland.

Do you hold to any philosophy about menswear?
Yes, making a man feel as sexy as a woman would, without being vulgar.

How would you describe the Andrew Nowell look?
I would sum it up as modern, edgy, sexy, and restrained.

Tell me something about the fashion scene in DC from your point of view…
The fashion scene in Washington, D.C. is very conservative. It’s a town inhabited by lobbyists, lawyers, government workers and politician’s. So the dress for men here is very subdued and boring. I’m thankful for the Internet and my trips to New York for inspiration.

What role do you play in this scene?
I offer an alternative way of dressing for those who are tired of the Navy Blue Blazers and Khaki pants. With the arrival of the Obama’s, Washington DC is opening up to different ideas of dressing. Michelle Obama is now a fashion icon and many women in this area are beginning to follow her lead. I can only hope that it’ll influence the menswear sector in the city, as well.

How does your city compare to other cities?
There is no comparison. There isn’t much of a fashion scene here. Everything is anal and uptight, and it shows in the everyday dress of the people. New York City has a European sensibility; Miami is very colorful and ethnic; and San Francisco has an easy, laid-back hippie vibe. You can see the influence of the character of each city in the dress of its citizens.

How long have you been attending at the DC Fashion Week?
I’ve been showing at DC Fashion Week for the past four years.

What are your impressions thus far of the event?
I applaud Ean Williams for all his work in creating a Fashion week in Washington DC. It’s something that was sorely needed and his sparked something of a fashion movement here.

For further reading, go to Andrew Nowell, Striking the Right Balance .

Photos Copyright Andrew Nowell.

February 18, 2010

Yigal Azrouël at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week

Just last year, Yigal Azrouël was selected as one of GQ’s 6 finalists in the second annual “Best New Menswear Designers in America.”

A descendent of French-Moroccan origins, Yigal Azrouël was born the youngest of eight children in Israel where he was raised.

Yigal is a free-spirited designer who draws his inspiration from everything around him: art, nature, architecture, and culture.

Architectural silhouettes with undertones of reconstruction were clearly seen in Yigal’s 2010 autumn/winter collection, which he recently presented at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York.


Photo, video & slideshow Copyright Yigal Azrouël.

Ray Vincente at DC Fashion Week

In preparation for the Menswear Collection Show at DC Fashion Week this Saturday, I have had the privilege of interview Ray Brown of Ray Vincente.

Although Ray has been designing as a freelance designer for public and private individuals since 1983, he launched his Euro-urban menswear label, Ray Vincente Ecletic, in 2009.

An eclectic mix of Eastern, European, African, and American urban cultures, Ray Vincente Ecletic will soon be on the runways of DC!

It is a pleasure to meet you Ray! Tell me something about where you are from…
I was born and raised in the inner city of Trenton, NJ, the youngest of 5 siblings. Educated in the Trenton Public School system, brought up in the church and surrounded by talented parents and siblings in the areas of literature, art, and music—all had a part in shaping who I am today. I have a degree in Telecommunications and Fashion Merchandising. Currently I still am a resident of Trenton, NJ.

What is it like to live there now?
It is a great spot located between major centers of business and fashion, Philadelphia, DC, and NYC. Family is a major reason why I have remained as long as I have because family is very important to me.

When did you know you wanted to be a designer?
From what I’m told, I had the tendency to be a designer from a young age. I always wanted clothing to be ‘just so’ and had a habit of always doing something to my outfit that would make it different from the norm. As a matter of fact I’m told that the only time I ever had a temper tantrum was when I was not allowed to wear socks that matched my shirt!

Were there any specific factors that influenced your decision?
Wanting to express my own personality in the way I dress was a major influence. I always walked ‘a bit left of center’ and have always been an individualist. Other factors were the 3 women in my life: my two sisters and my mother. Each of them have a strong style of their own, but each is different; 1 eclectic and edgy, 1 European, and 1 Americana.

Where do you draw your inspiration?
I can be inspired by almost anything, people, nature, films, etc. I do have an affinity for eastern culture, due to the unique meanings behind how things are placed or ‘wrapped’ together into the ensemble. Also, I enjoy the grandeur of eastern royalty.

Do you hold to a particular philosophy that is clearly seen in your collections?
Style that is individual, comfortable, masculine, and wearable is always the goal of my collection.

How would you sum up the Ray Vincente look?
Eclectic! I am all about pulling individual pieces from various related or unrelated sources and incorporating them into a stylish ensemble that showcases the man who wears it in and understated, confident way.

Tell me about the fashion scene in your city?
Pretty general in nature. Not really a look and feel specific to the area.

How do you and your label play a role in that scene?
The role I want the label to play is to establish a look that is unique to this capital city of New Jersey.

How do you feel your city compares to other cities?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited Paris, Lucerne Switzerland, Rome, Venice, and Florence and have been to every major city within the US. They all have one thing in common: a look that is theirs! The city of Trenton does not have that yet, but my hope is that Ray Vincente will help it get one!

What is your impression of men’s fashion in DC?
Years ago, it seemed to be all about ‘strictly business’, but in recent years there has been a development of personal style, which is encouraging. True fashion compliments your everyday life and this where I believe Ray Vincente is such an asset to your wardrobe. It’s not about dressing ‘head to toe’ in Ray Vincente. That would make you a ‘clone’. It’s about incorporating pieces of Ray Vincente into your existing wardrobe and styling it to fit YOU.

How long have you been showing at the DC Fashion Week?
2010 will be my 3rd year

What is your impression of the DC Fashion Week?
I think Ean Williams and his organization are to be commended for their major strides within the fashion community. DC Fashion Week is more and more establishing itself as unique and influential in the fashion arena, and I hope it continues to build, not into a replica of NY Fashion Week but into it’s own unique event offering a different piece of the fashion puzzle.

For more reading on Ray, refer to The Multi-Cultural, Eclectic Ray of Ray Vincente.

Photos & slideshow Copyright Ray Vincente.