28 September 2013

H. Herzfeld Tie Envelopes

I had never seen a tie envelope before H. Herzfeld.  The brand on the slick cardboard never matched the tie I bought.  Still, Herzfeld made an effort -- Even for the lowly tie -- The most affordable purchase in the store next to socks.  Why I kept these envelopes... I'll never know.  My sub-conscious must've reckoned...I'd  never see one again.

24 September 2013

Watch Man's Auction

$40,000 - $60,000 Estimate

$10,000 - $15,000 Estimate
$20,000 - $30,000 Estimate
$6,000 - $8,000 Estimate
$2,500 - $3,500 Estimate

Doyle in NYC has a jewelry auction coming up tomorrow. From a Palm Beach collector, it strikes me as very South Florida looking.  I remember working in the Castillo de San Marcos fee both.  As park rangers, no one liked working in the fee booth but it was required duty for a least an hour a day.

Entry fee was .50 cents - A true bargain in the National Park Service but one day I heard this guy complain, " Geez, I pay my taxes and the government's hitting me up for fifty cents?"  He stood in  sock-less alligator Gucci loafers with the red and green canvas under the bit.  Bleach blonde hair and over sized Porsche sunglasses on his head with a Corum signal flag watch on his wrist.

He and his wife get to the fee booth window where he throws a dollar at me.  I push it back to him, "That's alright, sir.  No charge."  He cocks his head, "No charge."  "That's right, sir.  I heard you complaining and so I figure you're having some tough times.  Not to worry -- I'll pick it up."  What unfolded is another story but I do believe it was documented in the Ranger Log.

Michael Bastian said in an interview that it was important nowadays to wear a nice watch since everyone dressed so poorly or how else could you judge a man. That seemed pretty shallow to me -- Until I remembered that day in the fee booth. 

19 September 2013

MY FW: Runway Music

It is a well known fact, mostly among my oldest and dearest friends,  that I'm a klutz. My mother has warned me that I burned through nine lives many years ago. Sgt. Murphy told me I could fuck up an anvil with a rotten banana. I also have the attention span of a wire fox terrier on a triple espresso. And I love to dance. Usually by myself. Listening to a you tube video on a iPhone while dancing and walking down stairs is probably not a good idea... for anybody -- much less a klutz with a short attention span who is over 50 years old.

I'll spare you the details -- Anyway, while the drugs are outstanding, I'm unable to sit for more than 20 minutes but am looking forward to working with my physical therapist Eileen -- who told me I could always remember her name thanks to that song in the '80s. Posts for the next couple weeks will be short bursts with a patina of prescribed pain medication.

Here's a burst of what I was listening to when I took the spill. It's impossible to find a CD from the Doris Days, a little Swedish trio from the '90s, but when I listen to Jumbo Jet on You Tube, I know it would make for incredible runway music. Bouncy & catchy as all get out and amazingly obscure... I'm betting only two people in Williamsburg ever heard of 'em. But you can...so unbuckle your double monks, make yourself a Rye Manhattan and just try not to dance by yourself on the stairs.

12 September 2013

MY FW: Fashion Media

"The people who did M magazine… had just a very high level of taste and a broad knowledge and understanding of the world… they never talked down, they never simplified for their readers, they really educated them on a very high level…I can't help but think that the magazines of today simply pander to the lowest common denominator of their readers. I just can't get it through my head that doing a dozen-paged fashion layout of distressed jeans and t-shirts… constitutes a high-level of taste." G. Bruce Boyer

"Advertising dollars play a big part in this industry. And therein lies the rub. Say there's a designer spending $75 million on advertising, and it's not the greatest collection; the [media] are going to turn around and say it's great because of the advertising dollars... If you don't have the advertising, you don't have a magazine, and magazines go in and out of business, left, right and center." Photographer Richard Spiegel

 "It used to be that you'd go the theater, you'd write a review.  Now people are being politically correct in fashion -- they go to the shows and sit there and get a sore bottom. They sort of swim around, and their criticisms are rather soft.  I think they're being politically correct because things have changed and everything is advertising driven." John Fairchild

11 September 2013

MY FW: Striiiipes

There's a spectacular restaurant in Paris within eye shot of the Eiffel Tower and while it's not much to look at, the food and wine are amazing. Only seven tables -- Only one seating a night. Vin Sur Vin or, "Twenty over Twenty," a French expression for, 'best of the best' is one of my favorite restaurants. But this isn't about a favorite  restaurant -- This is about a favorite web site, Striiiipes,  in which the owner, Arthur Lhermitte designs some of the most amazingly creative play things to wear.

My favorite, and sadly gone for now, but who knows, is this lobster shirt. Perfect for explaining my favorite expression from Spain, 'Que Langosta' for a woman's rear end (Where's the sweetest lobster meat? In the tail). It wasn't cheap but I'd rather wear it more than anything else nowadays. With a little shouting maybe Arthur will bring it back.

If you really like the lobster shirt -- There's always the lobster belt.

Not being a pocket square guy but unable to stop buying them -- Arthur's Air Mail pocket square connected me to my childhood and growing up with a military father and lots & lots of air mail envelopes. Mostly from Asia -- The paper was thin like a whisper and bordered in red, white and blue. I don't remember being excited by anything today as much as I was by seeing an air mail envelope with the old man's scratch on it.

Back in Paris, I remember having dinner at Vin Sur Vin and seeing an older couple in their 60s...he, with a huge head of grey hair over a DB navy blazer, rep tie and grey trousers -- She, silvered as well in a red knit St John the color of Georgia brick -- Neither, what you'd call in shape but happily exhibiting bread, butter and wine in their profiles...They are what I aspire to.

A pony tailed Englishman in a t shirt and his anemic blonde wife sat next to the older couple and when my hero ordered a second bottle of champagne, Pony Tail said laughingly, "You sure do drink a lot -- What are you celebrating?" I would've said, "My first blow job," but my hero did something I'll never forget. He turned and looked at Pony Tail... Held the look for at least five full seconds...and, without uttering a word, turned back to his companion. Pony Tail looked like a confused 12 year old. It was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen...

And so are these cashmere gun gloves. Jesus, when will someone hire me to write catalog copy...Probably not the most PC thing to don on the Upper East Side but, like my hero at Vin Sur Vin said, without saying a word, "Screw em." There are only five pair, and there's just one size but Mon Dieu, are they ballsy. There's not much to buy but there's a lot to love about Striiiipes. As the monster-huge retailers beat you over the head with the obvious -- It's always the small guy who whispers.

Arthur Lhermitte, You gotta love this guy.

"As for the Striiiipes website, I created and launched it in September 2012.
The idea is to showcase new products (fashion design, product design...) that trigger imagination.
We try to select a wide variety of products from different designers.

As for me, I was studying in a business school in France, and had the opportunity to work and study in other countries (Netherlands, USA, China...). A few years ago I decided to learn about fashion design, at the Studio Berçot in Paris.

Working in the fashion industry since then, I created Striiiipes.com along with other projects.
It started as a hobby but rapidly grew into a success. I am now working on new products (accessories, apparel...), and looking for new designer who would showcase some of their products on Striiiipes.com

As for the next steps, we'll try to have more retailers throughout the world (we had a special collaboration with Selfridges in London, and in other concept stores in Europe).

As for my favorite restaurant, when I was living in Shanghai I used to have dinner at some really small restaurants on the side walk of the streets. Really small, not really clean but very good traditional Chinese food. I am now in Paris, when I have some time, I like to go to Angélina tearoom rue de Rivoli, and have a Mont-Blanc for an hour or two.

I hope I answered your questions, let me know if you need anything else."

Arthur Lhermitte

08 September 2013

My Fashion Week: Old Bull Lee Shorts

John- First off: Nice web site. I grew up in Princeton, so in some way or another, I recognize just about everything on your page. But my motives are a little more shallow than a compliment (submission). Old Bull Lee - men's shorts (Fabric from France & Italy - made in America) it goes w/o saying - anything you need - not a problem. Best - Lee

Lee- I don't like much but I'm impressed.

James Fox [Ten Engines] said we write w/ a similar "no nonsense" voice. I had seen your site before, but after he recommended you (he didn't mention a second. Little like a communist dating service), I dug in and did some reading. You seem to have shunned social media as a promotional tool - I respect that (and I would be right there with you because I would rather be judged on what I put out there, rather than verbal hypnotism that bends people's minds into the most self serving shape, but as a brand that scares me because stubborn dinosaurs die alone). But it also made you elusive and harder to pin down. Here is what I saw; You tell it candidly, it is well thought out and most importantly, you've earned a lot of trust. That makes you larger than I had initially thought. Lee

Lee - No. 07 really connects with me. You took a pattern I'm familiar with, an 18th C Toile seen on drapes and upholstery fabric, and yet yours looks masculine.  I've always liked toiles, but thought they were too feminine for men to wear. You pulled  it off with a distressed look and so the "femme" effect is completely absent. 01 and 03 remind me of Provencal patterns like Souliado. Historic, tasteful-- Not something for the average Russian.  I'll put together a few questions for you if you don't mind. Simple stuff...just to get an idea if you're a decent guy or a closet case. John

John - Here are some words. It is rough and can be a bit epic at times, but can't start at the finish line... Lee

I was an architect for 15 years. It's a tough business, but the thing I liked about it was the honesty. There is no hiding, you are putting yourself out there for judgment. That takes solid courage & I respect that.  In 2009, when it didn't matter how good you were at anything, you were likely out of a job. I decided it was time to lay it on the line & get rid of the "what if's". Take a position,  make something tangible & throw my opinion up against societies yardstick.

In the beginning, I could have made you a house faster than a pair of shorts. I believe that to make something cheap and often is probably the path of least resistance, but I am about to stand for something and that's not what I wanted it to be. A lot of people would prefer you to believe that they are dragging the world around on a chain, this was not that. I sold my house for start up capital. I flew back and forth to Europe, knocking on doors that weren't getting opened & was sneaking off to sewing classes.

There was a lot of me that had no idea what I was doing. I determined my way through it & generally was not looking the least bit cool. But now, most of that is behind me & when I meet with one of my sewing contractors, I know exactly what they are talking about. I know that the back pocket is the hardest part to make because I've done it.  I've earned the right to have those conversations. To get to the promised land you've got to walk through the desert. Laying it all on the line, committing to a path that is only survival with principle. A journey that is so full of struggle and transformation that things aren't the same anymore. That's where the emotion of an object comes from: the poetry, the lasting meaning, the thing that gives it it's soul.
Now we've got the shorts part figured out. We've got a solid product. We source or create the best art for our fabrics and construction-wise, we don't cut any corners. Our solids are damn near permanent.

So far, ignorance has been our biggest asset (because we didn't default to how things were supposed to be, but it also was the cause of some very expensive mistakes). Now we are focused on building it into a business and that is much harder. That's where driving the 50,000 miles was the easy part and sitting at your desk and making the "good" decisions is the hard part. It's where the romantic - fly by the seat of your pants, bumps into the reality of some very smart, well financed companies. That leads to the 16 hour days, the singleness of purpose. I'm not advocating it because you can kiss anything resembling a 3 dimensional life goodbye & it might all end in madness.

The world has changed a lot recently, it's speeding up and sometimes it's sliding by even faster than it can figure itself out. In our hearts people are truthful, but on the fridges, where commerce exists, there is a lot of hype and misdirection: the volume has gotten turned up to the point that: disingenuous has gotten homogenized & honesty has been pulled away from it's own meaning (center) and become either redefined or unrecognizable. I'm not even sure we expect integrity anymore or at the very least we start out suspicious. As the world gets more crowded & confusing, subtlety will render you invisible. Marketers know this and  that is why drama is often substituted for quality. Sometimes there isn't even a real object at the center of it all. It's just something temporary that has been hyped into legitimacy - over scale it, make it loud, make it purple. Bottom line noise & misdirection have become very efficient selling tools.

I will push the envelope creatively as far as I can. We have been called "fashion forward", which might be a code for dangerous. But that presupposes there is a timeline & that it is being looked at from the outside-in. We don't play that game. The only thing that matters is good. If we have 10 new designs that are good enough to put out, we do that. If there are only 2, then we only do 2. And if you show up to buy out product by all means we'll sell it to  you, but there isn't going to be subterfuge. We want happy people. That's why we make a great product. Because as someone once said. The best thing about telling the truth is that you don't have to remember anything. I'm not a very good salesman. So, if we make a great product, I don't have to remember to look anyone in the eye.
L.W.J. (04/08/13)

Rehoboth Beach, 9.3.201, My favorite, Design No. 3 or what I call, Bain de Shorts

Lee Johnson, founder of Old Bull Lee, is about one of the nicest guys you could converse with email wise.  And that makes this post a particularly embarrassing one. Our e-conversation started last April and its taken me this long to write about his company.  It also took me until Labor Day weekend to take a holiday.

It's on holidays when a man stumbles into a haberdasher in a Summer resort town -- A little buzzed after lunch -- And finds a shirt, or, in this case, a pair of shorts, and with that little buzz going, throws caution to the wind and buys a pair of shorts that his girlfriend would love to own.   Something he'd never consider in the sober and somber Fall of leaf peeping in the mountains.

So this week, My Fashion Week, will cover the unsung.  Those passionate types who are under fashion's radar mostly 'cause they pour every dime into what they make and have nothing left over for the vampires in PR.  I hope you'll join me in toasting  them with a glass of what remains of Summer.