Friday, October 31, 2008

Runway - Y-3: Fall 2008

As the warning signs of winter start to descend upon San Francisco, that means it’s time to start looking hard at keeping warm (and keeping the rain off our shoulders). But in moments of economic terror, how can we translate affordable basics into something exceptional without it growing dull as the season drags on.

This winter’s Y-3 line took a lot directly from the Yohji Yamamoto runway, but scaled it down to be more wearable and functional. In particular, we saw a few ways to take a very basic jacket and easily make it exceptional yet attainable at any budget.

Essentially there is nothing extraordinary about the coats being worn throughout this post and they are simply taking advantage of the pashmina trend we’ve seen again and again. What we can learn, however, is the method of drape and the use of color and pattern. Through these we see unexpected stimulation created by using the same fabric or color in your scarf as in your jacket. In the plaid version, we see the same lesson we learned in the Yohji Yamamoto line: plaid emphasizes drape.

Lastly, sharp contrasts in colors (here we have white against black against neon) as well as unexpected juxtaposition of geometries (note how the draped piece merge into a square that then contrasts against a loose coat) as further, easy ways to avoid the drudgery of winter outerwear.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

San Francisco Street - A Little Grunge Goes a Long Way

Images by Vanguard - San Francisco

Playing with pant fit is a strong way for men to set themselves apart right now. Gone are the days when a simple slim fit would emphasize an individual perspective. Fuller pants, tapered pants, high waists, and exaggerated pleats are only a few of the many ways guys can do something more with their lower half. When going with larger pant silhouettes, however, make sure to maintain a slim silhouette on top to avoid looking frumpy.

Distressing is something that’s difficult to pull off as there is a lot of association with distressed garments and mainstream mall shoppers. The way that distressing is executed in the shirt above, however, is not only successful, but also adds a lot of interest. This is because of the direct contrast between distressed elements and structured elements; note how the fragile holes are placed beside a heavy and stiff collar. An important element here too, that would allow the outfit to contain additional gender-bending elements, is the cut of the shirt. The lines of the sleeve and suspenders provide a masculine edge by emphasizing the chest and shoulder.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Runway - Miharayasuhiro: Fall 2008

There is no doubt that the manipulation of pashminas was a major theme in this fall’s shows. In menswear, however, these scarves largely stayed detached from clothing – maintaining their accessory status – and were simply draped, tied an layered in unusual ways. Miharayasuhiro was the only men’s line who used the idea of manipulating the pashmina to create new pieces (this was done by several designers in women’s clothing, but the inspirational translation seems to have been lost over the gender line). The above is the designers most successful use of this theme. What appears to be a draped pashmina seamlessly morphs into the neck and collar of a shirt. We maintain typical shirt sleeves and proportions, but the diagonal draping across the front combined with a nicely balanced mass of draping around the neck creates a stately and dramatic assertion.

The draping of this jacket is exquisite. The jacket has a typical, structured base. The planes of this base, however, have been extended and enlarged to create a more exuberant form also based on the pashmina. The structure in the shoulders, the cuffs, and the collared shirt is essential to grounding the design in masculinity and allows everything else to be unexpected and fantastical.

This outfit, although just a basic pair of pants and a jacket, should be appreciated due to its careful attention to proportion and detailing. The skinny pants create a slight contrast to the jacket. The jacket ends just above the bottom of the crotch while the pants are slightly shortened. When the above ideas are combined, it’s give an overall bounce to the outfit, almost a sense of optimism. Seriousness, however, is undoubtedly the focus of the design. This is mainly seen through its black color and the severe buttoning of the jacket. A small detail important in emphasizing this severity is a particularly wide plane let open between the top rows of buttons going up to the neck. This is slightly larger than normally seen on coats, and makes all the difference. When finished off with a double-buttoned neck piece, which seems almost to choke the wearer, it forms a wonderful sense of gravity. In all respect, we are getting a bit far into details, but the details here happen to affect the overall perception of this outfit while allowing it to be read as at once serious and playful.

Apron-front shirts were used rather heavily by several designers for this fall (we’ll see more in upcoming posts). Here we see a similar idea in a leather jacket. Note also how the jacket slightly bells below the waist and at the cuffs and how the collar is draped and gathered. Not only does this create an interesting shape, but this treatment of the leather allows it to be read at once as a thick armor and also as sumptuous and fragile.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

San Francisco Street - Black & White

Images by Vanguard - San Francisco

Analyzing Shane's outfits always provide a fantastic lesson (and doing so could be a life's career in itself). Here he is wearing a hip-exposing, sheer lace unitard, a highly ruffled jacket, and gobbs of silver bangles. As typical with Shane's wardrobe, these pieces are all women's, yet he maintains the perfect degree of masculinity. Granted, much of his being able to pull of some of his clothes lies within his personality but it is also just as much how he wears each article. The sheerness of the top exposes the male form (we've talked about exposure a few times now) while, in sharp contrast, the high-rise hip alludes to traditionally female erogeny. To balance out this rather bold statement, the unitard is covered by black jeans and ankle boots that seem to have a men's 'rock and roll' perception. The jacket helps to ground the unitard by covering feminine-cut shoulders while the black color and long tendrels of the jacket actually disguises the ruffles and allows it to appear instead as an irregular scarf. The braclets unexpectly make the overall look more masculine by adding visual weight to exposed arms. A black and white color scheme allows a rather complicated outfit to be easily read and understood. Overall, as always, Shane shows us how men can wear an entire outfit of women's pieces without a hint of looking like a tranny. Splendid.

Fletch, of Litter MB, uses white to contrast and emphasis his otherwise hidden tattoos. Distressed styling is a frequent and easily used form of expression for men, but it is important to always maintain at least one element that allows passersby to know that you are not actually a hobo. Here, the color white is that element as it allows everyone to know that you can, indeed, afford to wash your clothes.

Eric is a fantastic mentor for any man looking to put something new into his dress without going as extreme or overboard as many of the images we feature (in case drapped ponchos, leggings, and lacey unitards aren't your style). Here, he has taken typical men's pieces (maintaining a level of social acceptability perhaps not allowed for by previously mentioned items) but every single piece is altered in order to create a look that is read as anything but ordinary. The blazer features unique - but subtle - fabric treatments and detailing. The scarf incorporates heavy fringe. The pants expose the ankle. Meanwhile the oxfords are treated to a metallic finish and brought to a point.

Terry T is always a huge inspiration for me as gender expectations play little to no part in the way he dresses, allowing him complete creative liberties. His attitude is only for the brave and is truely something to be admired. Seeming to be almost the reverse of Shane, Terry T wears mainly men's clothing but he uses his styling to feminize them. Emphasized ruffles, makeup, and jewlery are some of the elements that do so. Meanwhile other focal elements (facial hair, eyebrow shape, and footwear) leaves no one to question that this is a man who knows exactly what he is doing.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Global Street - Altamira NYC

The following images from Altamira NYC.

I have been regularly following the blog, Altamira NYC, for quite some time now. In the past couple of months, however, I have noticed a radical shift: Altamira has dramatically upgraded. Formerly it was - although very well done - just another New York street fashion blog (good style of course, but exactly how much Sartorialist-type fashion can we look at?). Recently its blogger, Craig, has shifted to featuring world-class street fashion that is truly worthy of any avant-guardian’s daily attention. Let’s pray he keeps up the amazing work.

I think the photos speak for themselves.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Runway - Obedient Sons: Fall 2008

When viewing the Obedient Sons show, it seemed like the designers were really producing nothing new, yet, it also seemed as though what they had created is fundamentally different from everything else this season. This is a dichotomy that many men may wish to achieve (standing out while really not putting yourself too far out there). So what are the exact elements used in this line that allow the ensembles to blend as nothing abnormal, yet still extraordinary?

First, it starts with the fit. In each ensemble shown, most of the elements feature a fairly typical fit while one or two pieces appear either over or undersized. The exaggerated elements (such as a coat or shorts) will set you apart, while having pieces that stick with the standard provide you with a basis in reality. This is distinctly different from more traditionally avant-garde lines, take for instance Yohji Yamamoto, which may exaggerate the fit of every piece in an ensemble.

Second, it’s about detailing. Overall, there is a slight minimalist view going on. Any details that are maintained within this minimalism are skewed just slightly. Note a distortion in the necklines, hat shapes, glove fits and pant cuffing. None of these changes are particularly breath taking or attention grabbing, yet appear different.

Third, color is an important element. Notice how there appears to be little contrast. Even though colors do vary within each outfit, differences in value are kept to a minimum or are downplayed through texture and shadows.

Lastly, material quality is important. The slight minimalism, described above, creates large and uninterrupted planes of fabric. This allows for a canvas to display unusual sheens and unexpectedly weighty materials that allow ordinary menswear pieces to be seen in a new light.

Although “standing out without really standing out” may seem a bit passive for many trailblazers of men’s fashion, it can be a beacon for many men wishing for a chance to express themselves while not necessarily alienating themselves from the lager population. Thus, even if lines like Obedient Sons may seem to do little for the history and progress of menswear, they do provide a needed and safe outlet for many guys.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

San Francisco Street - Today's 70s Inspiration

Photos by Vanguard - San Francisco

Remember how, in the 90s, we were obsessed with the 1970s. Somehow, men managed to pull all of the worst things from the era – polyester, loud prints, unflattering colors, and exaggerated detailing – and thoroughly integrate them into their wardrobe. Luckily, the last few years have allowed us to purge all of those bad ideas (never again will we wear a fabric that doesn’t breathe) so that we can look at that era with new eyes while searching for ideas that may have true relevancy and show real innovation in the men’s realm.

Tyson is a great example of how to take inspiration from the 70s without degrading yourself in cheap fabrics and prints. Here, he has grabbed and amazing cut and silhouette. We see a highly evolved (and might we add, slightly suggestive) bellbottom that, although subtle, sets him apart from every other man on the street. This outfit happens to also connect closely to our exploration of Marc Jacobs’ leggings in the post below; the cut of these bellbottoms provides another alternative to those who depend on the lean-bottomed silhouette. (View more photos of Tyson at Garbage Dress)

Whereas Tyson is finding new inspiration in shapes from the 70s, the outfit above retains the inspiration we have taken since the 1990s (prints, colors, details) but digs deeper in order to interpret these ideas in a new and much more tasteful way for today’s men. The colors he has chosen are subtle yet, in our current world of neutrals and monochromacy, are still just as bold as the neon pastels used in the 90s. His print is less space-disco and more historically patterned. His fabrics maintain the textural philosophies of the 70s (nubby juxtaposed against satin) but does so in natural and luxurious fabrics rather than those made by man to imitate the natural and luxurious. Finally, his details (seen in his bag and accessories) have the whimsy of 1970s, but with an intellect not found during the 90s.

Later on in Vanguard, we will be discussing historicism and its role in contemporary menswear as well as whether or not something truly avant-garde can borrow from the past. For now, however, let us consider this lesson: let’s learn from our past mistakes of taking from former time periods. Rather than pursuing and mass-producing cheap take-offs of motifs that will, in retrospect (no pun intended), make us look clownish and overdone, let’s view history with a more intellectual eye and take from it pieces that will enrich where we stand today. In a current period that seems to be drowning in ideas taken from the 1980s, the relevancy of this lesson can not be exaggerated.