Thursday, August 28, 2008

Global Street - Manila

Images from (Mostly) Manila Style

If we’ve learned anything from the past half decade of the street fashion phenomenon, it’s that the best examples usually come from the most unlikely (and possibly unknown) cities. Manila, the capital of the Philippines, is one of those places. Its local street blog, (Mostly) Manila Style, is a great source for deconstructed, ripped, shredded, and draped menswear combining designer labels with d.i.y. torn up thrift store finds.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Runway - Reconsidering Armani - Emporio Armani and Giorgio Armani: Fall 2008

Giorgio Armani is hardly in the minds of anyone seeking something different, much less avant-garde. Although his name was once synonymous with innovation in menswear, it has now been commercialized into a multi-billion dollar global franchise including everything from teeny-bopper mall stores to hotels and coffee shops. Wildly consumed by the mainstream, it seems there would be nothing left to see by those looking for something distinctive. However, searching carefully at his runway shows we can find hints of that revolutionary eye still quietly at work as well as many lessons to learn of where menswear can tread.

For the sake of education, let’s pretend to ignore the 90s detailing, the color palatte that’s just a little bit off, the overly happy models, and the large corporation. Let’s carefully avert our eyes from what we assume to see. Let’s study individual pieces. We will see that Armani is not yet done reinventing what men should wear.

In the two images above we see a common piece that has been imprisoning men for over a century and a half: the suit and blazer. This piece is the archetype of professionalism and, unfortunately for most men, must be worn in order to be taken seriously and to progress towards their goals at some point in their life. It’s a symbol; yet, it is unflattering, disproportionate, and lacks any possibility to communicate individuality. Although Armani is a perpetrator in the continuation of the suit through his previous invention of the “power suit,” here he has served his time by reinventing the piece to meet the needs his previous models forgot. Both jackets represent better proportions, flatter the body, and express the individual. Both also re-imagine elements – be it a draped neckline or a method of fastening – to show a different personal viewpoint. Yet, both maintain a precise number of elements to maintain the symbol of a “suit” in order to not hinder the wearer during less-than-progressive social situations.

We’re going to pretend the fur arm-warmers on the above ensemble never happened. Look at the coat. Contrast between textures and geometry make this a particularly interesting piece. Note the subtly draped neck line juxtaposed with the rigid front panel. See the asymmetrical zipper and the pleasing proportions. Armani has created a new coat.

Fall 2008 menswear could aptly be summarized as “101 ways to wear a pashmina.” Armani is one of the few designers this season, however to actually rethink the shawl both in its construct and in how it’s worn. below, pulling both from his Emporio Armani and his Giorgio Armani lines, we see either the addition of a heavily striated texture (making it more rough and masculine) or the careful matching of the pattern and fabric weight with a sweater to downplay the scarf and thereby allowing the pair to blend as a single piece.

A wrap is a very simple and safe way for the average man to express something different in his wardrobe: it can be added on top of any other pieces he already owns and can be removed over the course of the day so that he may blend into various situations. No risks even for the stuffiest dresser.Ok, this is a tough one. Ignore the blue cow print…just try really hard. Look at how the collar is draped. Armani is hardly the first to place a draped collar and lapel on a leather coat, but he is one of the first to make such a thing readily available for men across the world. Should we give him credit for this?
If we place two older pieces together (in the above a parka and a trench coat) do we create something new?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

San Francisco Street

Image by Vanguard - San Francisco

What’s fantastic about Bradley is that he dresses to emphasize the leanness of his body. We see this from his fitted knits to his narrow short shorts and even to the lines of his sandals that exaggerate the length of his legs. Although, without a doubt, designer fashion in the last few years has been pushing a leaner and learner male figure similar to Bradley’s, much of what is worn today still seems to force men into one 'ideal' body type.

This is commonly a point of discussion and harsh critique of the women’s fashion industry, yet fashion and the male body image is rarely commented on.

As any salesperson quickly learns, the women’s clothing section provides a multitude of carefully designed options in order to compliment different body types and proportions. This is in stark contrast to men’s fashion which usually assumes that every man has the same body type or, at least, wants to look like they have the same body type as every other man. Oddly enough, the designated men’s shape tends to be rather boxy. Now, as the fitted and tailored clothing of the European man is entering the American man’s wardrobe, we can begin to see that most men are a bit leaner and even more shapely than previous decades hinted at. But just one glance around the men’s locker room (try not to appear creepy) will show you that men have variations in figures that range just as great as women. So why, while women are provided with a variety of shapes, lines, and proportions in their clothing to help them be comfortable with their individual body type, do we use just one suit to fit every male form?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Runway - Dries Van Noten: Fall 2008

Dries Van Noten, this season, provided us with a wide variety of pieces that are all easy to wear and darkly artistic while walking a line between severe and soft. Overall, the show was rich while fabrics appeared unusually light and flowing for menswear.

Layers and layers of light, rich fabrics hang gracefully from the man. This outfit creates a feeling of delicacy while layers add depth and dark colors keep it solemn. Pattern is introduced asymmetrically almost as a way to create the sense of another layer on the bottom half of the ensemble. What is fantastic about this season is that silk is being reintroduced into menswear through pieces extending beyond shirts. Here it creates a dark, yet airy statement as pants. As we saw in the Alexander McQueen post, multiple waistlines are introduced to create interesting yet flattering proportions.

The show has many pieces that allow you to appear serious, while introducing color, pattern, and soft fabrics. A billowy and intricate scarf is a simple way to do this. Note how the colors are used: they are saturated and complex; rather than lime green, use avocado; rather than royal blue, use midnight blue; and rather than white, use ivory. This careful use of color creates an embellished but serious look.

This piece, although needing to be better executed in detail and color, is a good inspiration point for a new menswear item. The bulkiness expresses masculinity while the use of a typical sweater as a reference point makes it easy to wear. Let’s hope to see this better thought out in future shows.

This is a breeze to recreate at multiple price points. Simple garments can be purchased, a size or two too big, to create a dramatic statement. Just make sure proportions are correct and that you’re not completely swimming in the piece. In the above example, it’s important to have the coat severely buttoned to the top to maintain a sense of purposefulness in the overly large sizing.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

San Francisco Street - Black in the Bay

Images by Vanguard - San Francisco

Black on black on black. Black can be a surprisingly difficult color to pull off, if not executed properly it can look cheap or overused. If used correctly, it looks rich, deep, and will set you apart from everyone else on the street. Morgan, above, shows us how to do this the right way. Everything is in proper fit. The blacks play against each other through subtle contrasts in texture. The materials are rich. What makes this outfit the most successful, however, is the range of interested created. This means that not only is the silhouette perfect from a distance, but as we move closer we find details hidden within the darkness: we see a subtle cummerbund, interesting stitching, and a variety of leathers.

A sleek silhouette is further enhanced by sleek hair. It’s hard to pull off a black ruffled shirt post-Ricky Martin, but here it works. The trick here is to integrate it into a dark ensemble (allowing the ruffles to create the range of interested described in the outfit above), buttoning it severely to the top, and finishing it with a nice detail.

Last winter we saw the introduction of high-sheen black nylon. It was cool, but it descended on us like a swarm of locusts. So, as fashion goes, this made it immediately un-cool. This jacket successfully reintroduces black sheen nylon by avoiding the extremely high-gloss of last season. This brings an important texture back into play.

A dark tank in a dark club on ever-chic pale skin means instant attention. The slender straps on the tank are essential. The little bit of skin at the ankle is great.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Farewell, Manhattan

Vanguard has left New York and is now officially based in San Francisco. We will still be covering street and runway fashion from around the globe but look forward to exploring the individuality and expression that can only be found on the streets of San Francisco.

This means amazing things for Vanguard.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Runway - Bottega Veneta: Fall 2008

Bottega Veneta is known for their exquisitely tailored suits made with gorgeous material and an iconic pointed shoulder – which they continued in their Fall show – but they started out this season a bit differently.

Baggy, oversized, generic, bland, and uniform-like … but in a good way.

The fit and minimalism are obvious, but I think the true key to making these outfits avant-garde is their color tone: bland, bland, dusty, dull, and bland.

…but in a good way.

Outfits like these are great because they say “I’m unique and fashionable, but there is a good chance I might actually be straight.” These ensembles are easy to wear, yet they create no doubt that you’re unique.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

NYC Street - Considering Masculinity at Starbucks

Images by Vanguard - New York

The main premise of this blog is to explore ways for men to assert their individual expression through fashion while still maintaining a “masculine” appearance. So far, however, we have not asked what is “masculinity” and if/why it’s important. Also, what happens if you don’t really care? I think the best way to begin exploring these questions is through the amazing style of my favorite Starbucks barista in New York (I’ve had to quit Starbucks since moving to localtarian San Francisco. It's for the best.).

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life is that if you’re confident in who you are and what you’re doing, nobody is going to give you any shit for it. The outfit put together above does not attempt to be masculine, instead, it makes fun of masculinity and allows the wearer to appear as though they are beyond caring about such things. Irony is used with typical icons of masculinity; we see cowboy boots and cut-off muscle tees. The combination of these icons, however, with shorts and a “Miss Slut” t-shirt creates a direct blow at the expectations of men’s fashion. A striking and individual attitude takes this image to an important level.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Beyond Fashion - Body Modification at BMEZine

Images from BMEZine ModBlog.

Looking for a more extreme way to represent yourself? Check out the BMEZine ModBlog. This place explores any body modification from nose rings to self-amputations. Just avoid clicking on the censored pics unless your stomach (and your manhood) is strong.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Runway - Alexander McQueen Fall 2008

This season was supposed to be inspired by McQueen’s journey to India; so, for now, we’ll take his word and ignore the unfortunate similarities to Missoni’s fall 2005 collection pictured to the right. The asymmetry in the above piece is very important (despite the sleeve being a tad too long for proper balance). McQueen attempted several pieces with similar elements (heavy fabrics draped with slightly belled sleeves over structured garments), but the use of symmetry created a rather dorky and unusually feminine 80s prom look.
Although this piece above does feature the symmetry previously warned about it is still successful. The method of draping grounds it as a man’s piece. Unlike other garments we’ve seen on the runway so far on Vanguard, this one is based on a typical piece (the cardigan) but then features draped adaptations that are created more from folding than from actually draping. The edge of the piece is also the emphasis of the drape, grounding it in masculinity and seriousness. Proportions are also important here. The length of the sweater shows an avant-garde attitude while the sash worn at the waist allows the overall look to remain serious. Although not recommended by Vanguard, the tilted cowboy hat will help make you look badass.
This is a very simple way to express yourself at the work place without getting too many nasty glances. Put on a typical business casual outfit; throw over it a draped open-neck sweater. The traditional men’s clothing underneath grounds the outfit in masculinity and professionalism while the simple drape will set you apart as “the creative guy.” I wish offices weren’t so boring for men.

Dear dread-headed hippie youngsters. We love you and all that you represent. But please update that overdone hemp poncho for something a bit more new-millennium, such as the above piece. The world would be so beautiful.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

NYC Street - Nightime at Union Square

Images by Vanguard - New York

Expression should not be dependent on high cost, this season’s runway, and designer labels. It also does not require wearing loud or impractical clothing. The above outfit is simple, can be attained at any price level, is easy to wear, and yet it is a strong statement about the person who is wearing it. Black skin-tight jeans. Black boots. White t-shirt. Black bag. Black aviators. It’s minimalist, it has attitude. Key pieces are the accessories and the haircut, which also are not cost or brand dependant. This man stands out in a crowd, but does not scream for attention. It’s outfits like these that are a good reminder that it doesn’t have to be difficult or costly to have perfect and expressive style.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

NYC Street - Lunching in Williamsburg

Images by Vanguard - New York

Deconstruction and subtraction is rarely seen in menswear, but it is a very simple way of taking typical forms and creating something unique. These shorts are a fantastic example. From the viewpoint of the fashion industry, these are a simple and quick garment to construct. Yet in the eyes of the public they are a stunning piece of expression and easy to wear. Nobody losses.

Even aside from the shorts, this guy is perfectly styled from the curls on his head, to the tattoos on his arms, down to the personalized high-tops on his feet. Meanwhile, white eyebrows and hair create a shocking beauty.