Wednesday 31 March 2010

Outlier: A Brand at work...

Outlier offer tailored performance clothing for cycling in the city.

Outlier is a Brooklyn based clothing company owned by Abe Burmeister and Tyler Clemens who offer tailored perfomance clothing for cycling in the city. Despite rarely cycling myself (London's roads are far too frightening for that) I have kept a close eye on the development of the label. I first heard about them over on Gentleman's Corner, where the ever reliable ear to the sartorial ground that is Jason Dike acquainted me with their range of future classics. Since the brand produced their first garment, trousers in 2008, Outlier have carved out an interesting niche in two saturated and blogging favourite markets, fashion and cycling. When they started out neither of the duo really knew how to make clothing. They just knew that they couldn't find the garments that that wanted and if no one else was going make them then we would have to do it ourselves. They began hunting down the best technical fabrics in the world and brought them to small factories in New York City where craftsmanship still reigns supreme. Through a constant process of experimentation and refinement they started producing a line of goods that they were proud of. Their company tag line of 'tailored performance,' refers to their primary inspiration and motivation as urban bike commuters. From the first pair of trousers, they’ve worked slowly but surely to expand a line of clothes they consider future classics and who can disagree. Incrementally adding to their catalogue rather than reinventing itself each season like traditional fashion companies. They design one item at a time, and every time they release a new run of an item they try to improve it. Sometimes they start with a problem that needs solving. Sometimes they start from studying form and motion and trying to make a better cut garment. The more I hear about this brand this brand I am inspired. Following my recent post on Postalco, Michael from Tramnesia dropped me an email to thank me for the mention and to nudge me in the direction of his latest series of videos which just so happen to be on Outlier...

The video posted above is a short trailer for a much longer feature that documents the development and production of a single garment, a shirt. As part of their Working series, the inquisitive folks at Tramnesia were drawn to Outlier’s story because it underscores so many of the challenges involved in running a small business, especially in New York City. As they produce locally, Tramnesia were particularly curious to see how their production process worked when so much of New York’s once mighty garment industry has been offshored and lost. Visiting the garment district today is a clear reminder of that past; it still remains a hive of small-business activity, albeit smaller and less visible. Their visits to Outlier over the course of six months to the garment district showed us a network of small businesses, a microcosm of the city at large with its layers of inter dependencies. As they will readily acknowledge, Outlier is a business born of and reliant on New York’s resources. Outlier proves how despite knowing little about clothing, good ideas and resourcefulness can go a long way in establishing a business. The full-length, ten part feature learns about Outlier by observing the company at work. The first two parts are available to watch online and a third one is imminent. So why not make yourself a cup of tea, head over to Tramnesia and watch a brand at work....

Tuesday 30 March 2010

Dr Martens: Fifty years old and still going strong

For five decades Dr Martens famous 1460 boot has been worn by the ordinary workers for whom it was designed but also by rebels and non-conformists of all stripes. It was adopted first by the skinheads, later by other sub-cultures and was often worn by musicians for its authentic, working-class appeal. The brand and music have been closely associated for fifty years so to celebrate their anniversary Dr Martens has enlisted ten contemporary bands and ten film directors to help celebrate the landmark. The result is a collection of music and videos that reflects the broad range of groups who have adopted and customised Dr Martens over the last 50 years. All of the videos will be available to view on the brand's site as of the 1st April 2010 but for now, I just want to concentrate on the product. As promised in yesterday's factory porn post I can now share information of the latest product releases. To celebrate their 50th Anniversary Dr Martens are launching a commemorative limited edition footwear collection and I was afforded a sneak preview during my trip to their Wollaston factory.

Celebrating fifty golden years of Dr Martens. The limited edition iconic eight eye 1460 boot and the classic three eye 1461 shoe.

The commemorative and limited collection consists of two styles, the iconic eight eye 1460 boot and the classic three eye 1461 shoe, both of which are presented in Black and Cherry Red colours – those synonymous with the brand. The leather used is a rich premium Polished Pebble that will feature exclusively on this range. Each style will be restricted to limited runs of 1,460 pairs per colour for the boots and 1,461 pairs per colour for the shoes globally. However, despite being extremely limited and handcrafted at their Wallaston factory in Northampton the price points are pretty darn accessible at at £110 for the 1460 and £100 for 1461.

1st April 2010 also sees the launch of the Worn 1460 collection.

Despite it being their birthday, Dr Martens are going to be extremely busy on the 1st April, as the date also sees the launch of their Worn 1460 collection. The iconic boot is treated with an eight step 'Worn' process to give its wearer a head start to the breaking in ritual. The boots retain the features of the original 8-eye style but have the appearance of being lived in and loved for years. The Worn 1460 boots are made in a faithful way to the specifications of Dr Martens originals but are subsequently rolled, creased, flexed, brushed, distressed, polished, sand-blasted and roughed up to create aged classics with an authentic feel. Personally, I love nothing more than breaking in a pair of new boots (that's the real fun part, right?) but for the lazy amongst you this treatment should be of interest and I can testify that the result is quite beautiful.

Now, I have been prattling on about the iconic styles for some time now but there is so much more to this brand than the classics we all know and love. I felt like a fat kid in a sweet shop as I discovered new styles and I'm excited to share them with you. For some of the models (see immediately above and below) I don't have too much information to share with you aside from the fact that I like them! The coloured sole products (above and below) are an evolution from a collection they did previously called Primary where they are all red, all blue. This range is called 'Modern Classics' and I love the bold colourways used. These will certainly get your feet noticed.

In recent years, Dr Martens have been making a proactive effort to expand their brand offering. Since taking over at the creative helm, Andrew Bunney and the lovely Tommy have really helped the brand move forward, with new make ups and styles and arguably most importantly through a number of high profile collaborations. Through collaboration with a number of well selected bands including the likes of Raf Simons, Jean Paul Gaultier, Uniform Experiment and numerous art based projects the brand offering has evolved in to new styles and collections. The below range seems a natural progression from the recent collaborative work with street wear legends Stussy.

The Prism collection has supple suede uppers with tonal stitch and welt colours. Based on Dr Martens' classic 3-eye shoe, Chukka and Monkey boot, this collection has a fresh feel to it. The range uses three materials, suede, leather (smooth, medium sheen) & leather (high-polish). The desert boot is Manton, the monkey boot is Philip.

As well as making obvious strides forward it is great to see the brand keeping its core values. The Vintage collection sums this point best. The collection is handcrafted in the original Wollaston factory, by cobblers using the original construction techniques that were developed in the 1960's.

Dr Martens Vintage 1461 shoe.

The product, made on the original '59' last, features narrower horizontal tread bars, criss-crossed coring bars, a darker sole, a storm welt bound together on the lateral side, small indentations left on the welt by the original stitching machine, no top collar binding and runs into the eye stay above the top eyelet. This is where it all began and it is refreshing to see it still going strong after all of these years. For AW10, Dr Martens adds a certain amount of bold colour and design to its 'Made in England' arm. These are Dr Martens but not as we know them. I hope this post demonstrates one of the key feelings I was left with after my tour of their Wollaston base. In short it is this... that despite turning fifty and the fact that it is deservedly proud of its past, this is a brand that is keen to move forward and I, for one, look forward to its future.

A few new 'Made in England' styles for AW10

Any given Sunday...

Issue nineteen of O, Diesel's Renzo Rosso graces the cover.

Is there anything better than waking up late on a Sunday morning to the aromas of a cooked breakfast and a cafetiere of quality coffee and the sights of a bright Spring morning and a crisp copy of your favourite weekend newspaper? This scenario can only be bettered by the fact that the aforementioned Sunday publication includes a copy of O, the Observer's Fashion Supplement by Tank dedicated to fashion four times a year...oh and replace Sunday with Tuesday! Ha! Issue nineteen of the well read supplement is dedicated to menswear and Spring/Summer '10. The astute amongst you will know that it came out two Sunday's ago but I'm playing catch up because I was out of the country and well, this magazine is just too good to miss. In this issue we learn that Renzo Rosso, founder of Diesel wants to build a luxury empire without the luxury bit, are reminded how one of the UK's most radical designers, Aitor Throup has ended up making the kit Englan will wear in this summer's world cup as well as listening in to a conversation with menswear designer and photographer Tamburlain Gorst. So, humour me...pour yourself a coffee, close your eyes and pretend that it is Sunday...

The stars of the season reveal their picks for the season.

In addition to offering their own essentials for the warmer months ahead including espadrilles by Paul Smith, a canvas suitcase from Pickett and aviator sunglasses from Fabris Lane, the O team ask a few of the stars of the season for their own personal picks. On such star is Marc Hare who offers his tips for hot legs this summer. Mr Hare's four picks include Mr Hare Capotes, Turnbell & Asser socks, James Long leather biker trousers and Opi nail varnish in jade. For the latter he concedes that after wearing elegant shoes every day, the aesthetic of his bare feet just wasn't cutting it so now you can tell he is Mr Hare even without the shoes. One thing is for certain, I'll be looking down at his feet next time I bump in to him.

Soft Tailoring and Bold Colour. Photography by Brendan & Brendan with Richard Pierce as Fashion Editor

The supplements contains one of the strongest editorials I have encountered so far this season. Soft Tailoring and Bold Colour does exactly what it says on the tin by dishing up the modern art of smart casual. The stills see in the magazine are actually screen grabs taken from a video which is available to view over on Because Magazine. During this video models Broed and Tristan suffered for their art by holding their poses while gallery visitors milled around in the background. For me, both the stills and video feel like a fresh spring fashion breeze.

Soft Tailoring and Bold Colour. Photography by Brendan & Brendan with Richard Pierce as Fashion Editor

One of the key fashion articles within these pages is penned by editor Peter Lyle who discusses how after a decade of seemingly mutual suspicion, high fashion and sportswear has finally got something interesting to talk about again and how he sees the new England kit as just the beginning of a rekindled relationship.

Sport and Fashion. The example of Aitor Throup

The way in which sport's influences on men's fashion surges and shrinks has always been fascinating to me and I'd love to look at the issue with a bit more historical insight one day (just add that to the list of blog topics I've been promising) but Aitor Throup certainly represents and interesting development. My thoughts on the designer are well discussed throughout this blog but it is always a pleasure to be reminded that one of the UK's most exciting design talents has ended up designing the kit that England will wear in this summer's World Cup.

The Son Also rises, Nick and John Hurt.

If my eyes were not dazzled enough by the featherlight tailoring and bold colour of the previous editorial they are then introduced with the sight of John and Nick Hurt wearing the very best of this season's heritage and workwear inspired pieces. The duo certainly dress and play the part well. The acting legend and his rising son bring a sense of real integrity and substance to the clothes.

The Son Also rises, Nick and John Hurt.

There is something dirty about lazily flicking through these pages intended for weekend eyes on a dull Tuesday but I like it. Why can't every day be Sunday and why can't every Sunday offer something as thoughtful and as varied as O?

Monday 29 March 2010

Dr Martens: The craft of an iconic shoe

On April 1, 1960 the first pair of Dr. Martens was produced by the Griggs factory in the village of Wollaston in central England. Eight eyelets, ox blood red with distinctive yellow stitching, the design was dubbed "1460" after the date of its creation. More than one hundred million pairs of Dr. Martens have been sold since that first pair was unveiled 50 years ago, although there are now some two hundred and fifty different models, from golden to fuscia, floral to custom patterned. To help celebrate reaching landmark Dr. Martens invited a few of us bloggers (including the lovely Disney Roller Girl, Dapper Kid, The Clothes Whisperer) up to their Wollaston factory to help cover the event. Over the next few days I will look at the brand's anniversary campaign and share my favourite models for AW10 but for the benefit of brightening up your Monday evening, I want to offer you a little shoe and factory porn...

Happy Birthday to you... Dr. Martens is fifty on 1st April.

In a sign of the times, the majority of Dr. Martens models have been made in Asia since 2002. However, around fifty pairs leave the factory in Wollaston every day, including the vintage 1460 model, made by ten or so workers on old machines. The Vintage collection is handcrafted in the by cobblers using the original construction techniques that were developed in the 1960's. Today, I was fortunate enough to watch the craftsmen at the Wollaston factory work, following each well honed and practiced process from start to finish. Brian, a lovely and knowledgeable chap who has been working at the factory for thirty seven years talked us through each stage. He professed that his favourite Dr. Martens model is the classic oxblood 1460 and confessed that he used to use black polish to stain the leather. I just wish that I had recorded everything he said so that I could create an awesome mix for you but I'm afraid that I'm not that organised or will just have to make do with my factory shots...

The first stage, moulding. The injection moulding of the sole sees the rubber pellets heated up to 170 degrees celsius as they fill the two part cavity. They are left for twenty four hours cool.

Then on to clicking...I took a peculiar amount of delight in marveling at this table of components.

Brian talked us through the different aspects of the hide and the fact that the skill of the craftsmen ensures that the best of the leather is used for the uppers (as a rule, the further back you go on the animal, the better the quality of skin) and that there is minimal wastage. I was surprised at how much of this was done by hand.

We were then introduced to Carol who helped transform the hide in to a more recognisable show form...

It was great to watch the craftsmen at work, most of which have been working at the factory for many years. I just had to take a sneaky shot of Carol's copy of Good Housekeeping.

Carol made it look all too easy as she stitched the front, back and tongue in a matter of seconds.

Three row stitching. This machine was pretty frightening and worked shockingly fast. They then moved on to the eyelet punching machine.

A more recognisable form. The basic upper form was created in approximately four minutes.

Now on to the lasts...

Throughout the show making process the leather loses moisture so here the uppers are placed in a steam machine to soften the leather.

The uppers are pressed and pinched on to the last...

The shoe is readied for the welted sole...Every single pair of Dr. Martens has exactly 49 stitches around the sole, regardless of shoe size

The soles are placed in position before the money shot of a machine took over...

This piece of kit took my breath away as the sole was fixed to the shoe. The iconic Air Soles are literally melted on to the welt.

The finished shoe. A recognisable icon, the vintage Cappers.

I was amazed at how quickly the hide was transformed in to the iconic model we see above. The product, made on the original '59' last, features narrower horizontal tread bars, criss-crossed coring bars, a darker sole, a storm welt bound together on the lateral side, small indentations left on the welt by the original stitching machine, no top collar binding and runs into the eye stay above the top eyelet. This is where it all began and it is great to be reminded of that.

Saturday 27 March 2010

Introducing Huxley

Introducing Huxley

Normally I would not be awake before nine on a Saturday morning but the bright sunshine streaming through my blinds forced me to open my tightly clenched eyes and inspired me to haul my arse out of bed. Before I venture out and explore the outside world,I thought it apt to celebrate the glorious Spring day by introducing you to a colourful knitwear brand, Huxley. Two unanswered but seemingly simple questions were the catalyst for the brand to come in to being; Where has all the vibrant coloured knitwear gone? And why are we all so quick to eschew British manufacturing? In order to address both these issues Huxley has set out to produce high quality, brightly coloured, British-made knitwear. We should be thankful for their inquisitive nature.

In light of the somewhat depressing sea of grey, navy and brown that seems to dominate so menswear floors, Huxley’s rainbow coloured jumpers are a welcome change. Back in February 2009 a sartorial and ruthless whirlwind (also known as EJ) blew through my wardrobe for a spot of early Spring (wardrobe) cleaning. One of the most shocking findings of that day was the lack of colour in my wardrobe. Since that day I have taken it upon myself to experiment more with colour. I think we are all guilty of being drawn to a certain colour palette on the rails whilst shopping but why not take a risk or two and have a little fun with the way we dress? Thanks to polychromatic high street stores like Uniqlo and American Apparel men are now embracing significantly more optimistic and bright hues. It is great to see a brand such as Huxley emerge which balances its colourful range with a belief that provenance is as equally key.

The range of colour, my current favourites are the Coral and Cobalt Blue.

The provenance of their factories has always been of the utmost importance to Huxley. Their one hundred per cent merino wool jumpers are produced in Scotland by a fantastic knitwear manufacturer, one that can trace its heritage in Scottish knitwear right back to 1874. For their equally colourful socks, they rely on a family owned firm that has been in the business of sock making since 1895 and is now run by the third and fourth generation descendants of the founder. Huxley currently sell two styles of jumper, a v-neck and a crew neck. They like to keep things simple and let the jumpers talk for themselves. As for the socks, they sell them in eight of the brightest and best colours in the world. The jumpers are made from one per cent merino wool making them ideal for year round wear but particularly on these Spring days. The socks are made from luxurious cotton and can be worn for any occasion to add colourful character to a man's stride. As the sun becomes a welcome fixture in the sky, this is the time to add a little pomp and colour to an outfit. This is the time to have a little fun each morning...

Huxley offer a sense of fun with their use of colour.

Friday 26 March 2010

Inspiration for the now

With so much focus and attention diverted to the future in fashion it is easy to forget which season it actually is. Now, my mind is a little over stimulated with all of the AW10 look books and Press Day visits so as it is Friday afternoon lets step away from gazing in to our style crystal balls and savour the moment, the emergence of now, of Spring. Yet another discovery from Hong Kong (sorry to keep mentioning the trip) illustrates this desire perfectly...

Lane Crawford's 'The Portfolio' provides much inspiration for the present.

As mentioned previously, shopping is an important facet of everyday life here and practically everyone indulges in a bit of consumerism on a daily basis. During my last trip back in November I enjoyed in a spot of window shopping and brand discovery at Joyce, this time round it was Lane Crawford. In addition to marveling at Kim Jones' pop up store (as described below) I was impressed by the array of design talent stocked for SS10 and even more so by the department stores in house magazine The Portfolio. The highlight of which was the Midsummer Odyssey editorial which demonstrated all of the key season trends in an utterly beautiful way. In fact, I'm hard pushed to think of a stronger spread in any of my favourite magazines!

Desert Storm. Acne shirt, Rag & Bone tee, Wings & Horn trousers, Burberry Prorsum bag and bracelet and Cole Haan shoes.

The Porfolio showcases the apparent scaling back on previous seasons as showcased in the SS10 shows. The structured tailoring excess of the last season were forgotten. SS10 was littered with understated looks consisting of wardrobe staples that can travel confidently from work days and weekends alike. Casual wear came in a vibrant variety of wardrobe essentials that included tribal print designs, paint splashed pieces, military inspired separates and feather light knitwear. Delicately rendered cardigans, soft summer trench coats, feather light knitwear and trousers that drape slightly at the hem exude a restrained sense of luxury.

I just wish this could be my Spring/Summer uniform. Yves Saint Lauren cardigan, Rag & Bone tee, 3. Phillip Lim trousers and Pierre Hardy sandals.

There was certainly an Eastern promise feel to a number of key collections. Tribal patterns, graphic motifs and patchwork designs formed a colourful explosion of prints on the runway. Drawing inspiration from the Orient and North Africa, designers such as Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent and Balenciaga ro name but a few, successfully delivered a rich and expressive range of textiles that are ideal for the months ahead.

Givenchy sandals. White Mountaineering jacket and Yves Saint Laurent trousers.

Richardo Tisci in particular created a collection full of ethnic impressions at Givenchy. The collection saw a refreshing mix of formal tailoring and punk attitude, an aggressive army of sportswear shapes and codes reinvented in tartan, middle-eastern prints and monochrome jerseys. As with a number of other shows, classics were modified for the utility requirements of the new season. A variety of military inspired jackets with zip detailing, garments with multiple pockets and practical accesories including backpacks and stylish holdalls.

Utility and sportswear. Ralph Lauren vest, Diet Butcher slim skin jacket, White montaineering trousers, Givenchy shoes and backpack.

One of my favourite aspects of the SS10 shows was the sense that sartorial elegance took on a different interpretation as meticulous and architectural tailoring gave way to a more relaxed silhouette. The overall attitude for the warmer months is one of effortlessness and nonchalance. Designers inclusing Yves Saint Laurent, Lanvin and Alexander McQueen all unveiled collections of subtly draped jackets and relaxed tailored pieces.

One of my favourite looks from the spread. Acne jacket, Alexander McQueen shirt, Armani Collezioni trousers and Raf Simons belt.

As the sun becomes a more constant feature in the sky above I think it is time we all reminded ourselves of the diversity of styles from this current season. Right from the understated soft tailoring and functional utililitarianism, to the vibrancy of ethnic influences and the modern artisans, it is time we dress for the now.

Thursday 25 March 2010

A closer look at J. Lindeberg's The True North

Taking a closer look at J. Lindeberg's AW10 collection, 'The True North'

After an extremely lazy day yesterday I decided to shake off my jet lag with a productive afternoon of press day visits. One of the real highlights of the day was J. Lindeberg's AW10 collection, 'The True North'. I first encountered the collection's mix of functionality and elegance over on Selectism last month but it was great to finally get my hands on it today. The collection is essentially inspired by the utility and function of workwear but has been reimagined for the modern world, utilising technical advancements and tailoring...

Reimagined work wear, a few key looks from AW10

Authentic garments have been shaped and further developed with technical fabric mixes and construction methods, yet everything remain true to their heritage. Ultimately more formal in their silhouette, utility outerwear is reworked to ensure that it is ready for the modern day urban challenges. Since its very first collection in 97, J. Lindeberg has successfully combined fashion with sportswear. The brands main collection is often inspired by the technical advancements of its progressive golf and ski ranges. The padded down herringbone down blazer (shown centre above) is, for me, one of the key pieces that illustrates this collections focus. It combines classic tailoring characteristics with modern functionality, an inspiring marriage for next winter.

The styling for the pieces were spot on for the season. Work wear inspired shirting is layered over one another whilst boiled and heavy knitwear are worn under blazers.

The collection showcases my own personal favourite hues for the colder months. The deep and intense colour palette ranges from icy blues to purple to the numerous shades of grey all of which are inspired by the Scandinavian horizon. These are contrasted against vibrant tones of the ever transforming colours of Autumnal leaves and you should all remember how much I'm inspired by these! The best way to illustrate the palette while showing you a few key looks is to offer up a few selections from the look book itself in addition to the shots I took myself...

A closer look at one of the key pieces of the collection...the rumble patch tweed down blazer
worn with a Ward B. D. Dashing Oxford and Eddie Vintage Cords.

Left; Draper flannel check blazer, Hammond vintage check shirt worn over a Ward B. D Dashing Oxford and Egdar authentic rinse selvedge denim. Right; Thom Austrian wool cardigan, Ward B. D Dashing Oxford shirt, sixtyfive solid wool tie and Egdar authentic rinse selvedge denim.

Left; Fielding compact melton jacket and Camber vintage wool stripe trousers. Right; Henry heavy felted knit cardigan, Ward Poplin shirt, sixtyfive solid wool tie and Camber vintage wool stripe trousers.

Left; Jetson boiled merino knit, Ward B. D fog poplin shirt and Camber vintage wool stripe trousers. Right; Marvin brand knit, ward heavy chambre shirt worn over ward B.D fog poplin shirt and Camber vintage wool stripe trousers.

Left; Brenson leathered copa jacket, ward poplin shirt, sixtyfive solid wool tie and Camber vintage wool stripe trousers. Right; Hammond vintage felt check shirt worn over a Ward B. D Oxford and Edgar authentic rinse selvedge denim.

The collection is undoubtedly a statement of real intent from the recently appointed Artistic Director, Pierangelo D' Agostin. "It's all about contrasts; in spirits, moods, colours and fabrics. The urban speed of life versus the serenity and tranquility of nature" remarks D' Agostin. In addition to being the former Head Designer at Jil Sander, D'Agostin has worked across various fashion disciplines, including Gieves & Hawkes on Savile Row to progressive Japanese retailer Isetan, resulting in experience that has certainly brought a renewed strength to J. Lindeberg.

In addition to marveling at this collection, the visit allowed me to flick through their second biannual. This Scandinavian brand is well-known for the quality of its garments and for its unique philosophy and it is great to see it evolve in this manner. In the same fashion as the first biannual which I was fortunate enough to receive last season, the J. Lindeberg team have called in the help of a few close friends and sent them off with a single mission - to capture the inner spirit of the brand and in particular their SS10 collection.

One of the inspiring spreads from the SS10 biannual.

The story it waves is one that expands way beyond the realms of the standard look book and runway views we are all accustomed to seeing. There are one hundred and eighty two pages of beautiful pictures and illustrations, alongside insightful interviews. I wish more brands pushed themselves to offer more than the usual press materials which circulate after a collection. It is more akin to an issue of Acne Paper or Fantastic Man rather than your usual look book fodder. After this initial peek I can't wait to get my hands on my own copy in the next couple of weeks. For now, I think it apt to summarise that J. Lindeberg is a brand that is continuing its endeavour in redefining modern classics with a Scandinavian point of view, all the while respecting old traditions and combining them with the technical advancements of today. It is a brand that I will certainly continue to keep an eye on...


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