Thursday, 30 April 2009

Barima in Digital

   For the sake of my rampant narcissism, two recent appearances on different corners of the interweb have "merited" this post. Yay me. First up, my friend, Shel, asked very nicely if I'd pose for her own blog, Fashion Jezebelle, and it was a request that certainly wouldn't join the masses that I've selectively refused from women over the years. Naturally, my photo is somewhere close to the bottom of the page

   Lastly, Winston saw fit to use a selection of photographs from last Saturday's Prohibited Night Out in a recent column for A generous friend, and a talented writer. And not quite how I was expecting to first contribute to Mensflair, but life happens. I cannot recommend the site highly enough

Art of the Pattern Clash

   Some might say that it's a very British mannerism to clash patterns in clothing. However, if I had grown up in West Africa after all, I would have done that anyway. But irrespectively, I just love doing it, no matter how classy or dodgy the results might be

   The short sleeved crew neck jumper is conspicuous on its own, all colours, stripes and sporty bands. There's even a number on the back, like a sports top. There's a slight synergy in what I'm wearing underneath. The long sleeve shirt keeps things relatively neutral with a white base, and relates subtly to the jumper with thin stripes in green and blue

   As for the neckwear, something about this outfit called for a cravat. While other colours probably could have done, the pale yellow base is neutral enough for the overall outfit, while blending in with the other plain and lighter colours of the outfit. About the only way this felt less than hazardous was excercising sobriety with my lower half, keeping the belt, trousers and shoes dark and sombre

   Remember that at least one or two (or four) calm pieces in a multi-patterned ensemble should prevent you from blinding onlookers when you're out and about. It works for me

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Customisation Deux: A la Mode

   Fiona took the lead on this latest "garment recalibration." Despite the florid, humourous twist it sometimes added to my ensembles, I'd pretty much resigned myself to having no further use for this ice cream man-friendly Interno8 shirt, although, seeing as it wasn't the only one of the three I own that I didn't choose myself, it, along with one other, would always face that fate

   But why let such a fetching red-and-white houndstooth pattern go to waste just because of an enormous collar and billowy fit issues? 'Twould fly in the face of my current "everything is usable" philosophy (if you ignore that a dozen of my pieces will be appearing online with an Ebay banner above their photos in about a week's time):


   Together, over a delicious meal one evening, we came up with a concept that hearkened back to the kind of summer shirts young, open fated men would have worn in some bygone time where summer outfitting didn't mean slogan t-shirts, crocs and mismatched shorts

   Of course, the irony is that the shirt is unwearable at temperatures above 30 degrees due to its weight, but the look will still hold up on less tepid days


   The collar has been rendered inside out in a more unique banded style, while the 3-button barrel cuffs have migrated halfway up the sleeves. We thought that such an idiosyncratic detail should not go to waste. The fit around the body has been altered slightly, but a follow-up is forthcoming if I keep wasting away, as everyone seems to think I am

   All in all, a definite improvement

The first entry in this series is available here

Monday, 27 April 2009

Setting the Style: Antonio Azzuolo

   It must be said, a lot of new designers don't just appear with the kind of pedigree, experience and class that Mr. Azzuolo's résumé boasts. A Ryerson University, Toronto graduate with a B.A.A. in Apparel Design (specialisation: Men's Tailoring), he achieved first place in the menswear category at the prestigious "Festival des Jeunes Stylistes de Hyères", having based himself and his work in Milan. Taking the opportunity presented by the award to move to Paris ensconced him in the offices of Kenzo and Hermès for over ten years, but perhaps his most gilded appointment was as design director for Ralph Lauren's Purple and Black Labels. Until he decided to strike out on his own. And naturally, that's where his work gets really interesting

   Beyond his achievements and accolades, Azzuolo carries an exposure to Italian bespoke tailoring that may as well be the result of DNA encoding, though that kind of argument carries greater weight considering both of his parents worked in fashion. But his background is not the only signifier of his potential for success, as his instinct for aesthetics has the rare blend of practicality and desirability that should be a bedrock in men's fashion. Azzuolo has a facility for cuts that are realistic and youthful without appearing as pastiche or cliché, and his responses to the various fashion trends of these hyperkinetic times gives a classical appearance to a majority of his pieces

   Which is just as well, because the lost aristocratic look is hardly a widespread phenomenon in today's world, but fans of slim trousers, bold primary colours, prints, dashing double breasted jackets, cropped tailoring and practical-yet-regal hooded coats are going to be keeping tabs on this line. Especially me. The a.a. collections are not sold in London, which leads one to wonder, "Isn't this exactly what Liberty is for?"

The line trades on menswear staples, building up the look of its customer through consistency and seasonal adaptability. Scarves add interest in looks all year round, while the accessories of gloves and buttonholes emphasise the completeness of a gentleman's look that can often be missed by today's sartorialists, who are perhaps too conscious of appearing overly layered or styled. Azzuolo's reference points have been bandied about in both interviews and articles, but it would be remiss of me not to point out the clean European refinement that pervades his work and makes the viewer instantly aware of his bespoke background. Add to this the old school rock'n'roll elements of tight fits, fingerless gloves and ostentatious use of opulent fabrics and accoutrements, and the line takes on a particularly energetic aspect

   Although he doesn't specifically reference the period, I can't help but think that the Bright Young Things, in a 21st century incarnation, would happily be clad in his designs. Other designers trading in updates of - and twists on - traditional menswear look to produce work that's more calculated in appearance, all shiny, flashy fabrics, barely controlled patterns and excessive or unnecessary detailing that verges on unviewable vulgarity. There isn't any of that here. This is a line that reflects the interests and personal history, rather than the lifestyle obsessions and glitz worship, of its creator. It's a line that just seems to make sense

   The work of his stylist, Sally Lyndley, is invaluable in promoting the attractions of the label. On the runway and in the photoshoots, her contributions emphasise the freedom of breaking suits down into adaptable pieces and, just as necessarily, balances the standard youthful appearance of the models with the bearing that Azzuolo's tailoring seems to instantly impart. On reviewing his debut show, The New York Times's The Moment made instant comparisons to Gossip Girl's moody manipulator, Chuck Bass, but this is more of a different animal to the teen idol, balancing layering and flair with more restrained palettes and an instinct for elegance than is seen whenever Ed Westwick is onscreen. But if there's any synergy between these two, it's an important one - a young man drawn to the idea of dressing up is always a boon, moreso if he has a creative taste that he can express through distinct, well kempt looks. And, tenuously or not, this link gives the line an additional shot of pop culture-friendly relevance

   This is far from the first post in blogworld on Azzuolo, and definitely not the last. Ordinarily, amongst a designer's product, there's normally one collection that inspires me with inquisitiveness and appreciation. Sometimes, two. Rare is the one that consistently keeps me watching, but if Azzuolo can parachute into my ones to watch with such efficiency, I'd be surprised if I didn't still care about him in 3 years time

Photos: a.a. and Men's Style

More information, photos, press and contacts at a.a.

Pop Culture Thumbs-Up - 27/04/09

   So, Esquire's Best Dressed Real Man in America competition (seriously). This little sartorial bloodbath has $10,000 dollars worth of Kenneth Cole up for grabs. Fills you with desire, no? Last time round, it was  almost won by a tiny dancer with an all-consuming penchant for early 20th century outfits despite being in his early 20s. Predictably, this profile is my favourite

   In great Japanese news, Kusanagi Tsuyoshi of clean-cut idol boyband and multimedia phenomenon, SMAP, caused a minor international stir last week by getting on down with his naked self in public, getting arrested and then disowned by every brand he's ever promoted in the process. There was a major stir in the fun parts of his fanbase at the idea of him being on display, though for such a camera-fanatical society, there's a curious paucity of pictorial evidence, which probably caused a major stir of fury in the minds of said fanbase. I remain impressed that at 34, he's still hugely popular with girls, whereas the fanbases of boybands over here steadfastly grow up with their singing eyecandy. But then, my favourite Japanese pop star, Cornelius, is 40 this year and still looks about 19

   Speaking of milestones, the Ninja Turtles are 25 this year, and you'd better believe that I'm going to expand on this presently

   Bling Bikini. I know, right?

   And for him, The World's Most Expensive Suit

   And finally, what carnage will ensue when Robert Rodriguez relaunches the Predator film franchise?

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Prohibition! Or, The Perfect Name For a Club Night in Booze Britain Is...

   I could wax lyrical about the atmosphere, the music, the number of attractive flappers, the teacups, the dancing and the play gambling, but I trust the photos truly speak for themselves. This is Prohibition:

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Clone a Couple! Or, My First Attempt at a Street Style Shot

For bonus fun, count the number of couples that appear in this photo

   It is just too cute when couples go that extra mile to coordinate their outfits, and in terms of thinking up ways to match, this is "A++ would do business again." And it's not the light/dark contrasting palette they've planned out, nor the style of shopping bags that doesn't so much whisper "His'n'Hers" as take out a classifieds ad, nor is it their obviously strong bond on the topics of saggy jeans and hybridised footwear. What really kills me is the choice of ankle-flashing roll-up hems that somehow seems to seal this obvious affirmation of mutual love and inspiration

   Too cute, yet somehow not too wrong. Style of love

Monday, 20 April 2009

The Sunshine Overground

Image alteration by Cary Grant on SF

   The major detraction regarding the warmer weather is weaving ensembles together if one insists on aiming for the classics. So, while I can, I'm going to enjoy as much layering - and pretty, young sunbathers - as possible. I'm not the greatest sunchild around, but it's good to get out when the weather's this bright and warm

Monday, 13 April 2009

Doctor Who and the Planet of the Dead

   Cue heavy linkage:

   I'm pretty certain a spin-off fiction Time Lady used a TARDIS disguised as a bus to get around. But then, the Easter special of Britain's Favourite Alien and his adventures was quite a self-referential affair, particularly if you're deeply immersed in the franchise. A one-off companion with thieving tendencies and infiltration skills - they would have done that in 1990 if not for the show's cancellation. Insectoid aliens - hugely common in sci fi, most recently seen in the series in 2007's 'Utopia'. A predatory, swarming species that devours anything and everything in its path, reducing its prey to practically nothing - the Vashta Nerada from 'Silence In The Library' and 'Forest (wait for it...) of the Dead', 2008. The companion-less Doctor on a damaged bus with human passengers, menaced by a mysterious, malevolent entity with panic and confusion in the air, as well as a black woman who turns out to be the other most important passenger aboard - the man himself compared it to the events of 'Midnight' (last year again). Is there any reason I'm mentioning all this besides flexing my keen eye for cannibalisation?

   Well, only because while traditionally, Doctor Who has channelled influences from other works, genres and stories, it tends to do something special with the result. It's somewhat rare for the show to eat itself, and the regurgitation didn't necessarily amount to much except window dressing. The most recent attempt was actually the aforementioned 'Library' story, but while that ultimately felt like incoming showrunner Stephen Moffat reaffirming and closing the book (doyousee?) on his prior themes, it's generally thought of in the fandom that anything he can do, outgoing showrunner Russel T Davies... can't. While 'Planet of the Dead' was ultimately entertaining, it was also painfully obvious most of the time, to the extent that the sacrificial lamb character was dead within the first 10 minutes and the friendly aliens should have been wearing red shirts. The central concept - Doctor Who does Pitch Black does Flight of the Phoenix (and that's not even mentioning the combo of wacky scientist, trainers-wearing pretty boy, flying automobile and a time machine) - would have been better executed back in the 2005 series when the Doctor was discussing the morality of execution over steaks, emphasising the importance of accepting mortality, showing total comfort over pansexuality and facing up to the consequences of genocide. With one exception, the series' Christmas specials have even featured some dark moments and a high death toll, whereas this was as safe as, well, the last Christmas special, with a similar "hero moment" of the Doctor high up in the sky, saving the day in an unusual mode of transport (because in the nu-Whoniverse, the least likely can become the saviour of the world, much like a certain shopgirl that Russel T pushes as The Most Important Character in the Series Besides the Doctor)

   I think I liked this better than other formulaic Russel-penned special tales like 'Voyage of the Damned' and 'The Christmas Invasion' because luckily, there was a certain sense of restraint - maybe co-writer Gareth Roberts has a calmer penhand than his caper-based stories would lead one to believe. The potentially grating supporting cast stayed on the bus, far in the background of the Dubai sand. Tennant was reasonably toned down and was allowed to bond with the passengers in a way that rang true, being compassionately reassuring rather than babbling platitudes at 900mph. No one spoke "profoundly" about how special - and/or dangerous - the Doctor is (something that the old series showed far more than it dared talk about - adds to the mystery), and the gun-happy soldiers of UNIT waited until their cue to start blowing crap up. I won't bother delving into the upper class action woman thievery antics of Michelle Ryan's Lady Christina, which has a long fictional precedent, or her overly clipped accent, but as a companion, I rather liked her. Aside from refusing to fawn all over the Doctor, even in the rote Forced Sexual Tension Scenes, she was so blasé and occasionally amoral that she felt like the companion the Tenth Doctor has needed almost all along (Catherine Tate aside). Someone who likes the adventure and participates in it as much as possible while remaining just curious enough to be the audience surrogate. The production team described her as a "typical" companion in the old series sense, which seemed to be a tacit way of admitting they wanted to depict a woman not drowning in her own angst for once. Thanks for that

   The ending was actually the best part, with some well directed, if clichéd, portents of doom for the Doctor (yes, we know he's regenerating next year, but if the character himself doesn't treat them as deaths since he's essentially the same guy each time, then others shouldn't either), and a thrilling escape for Lady Christina with a pleasant parting between her and the Doctor for good measure. And especially because Lee Evans's ultra geek scientist (hopefully the apex of Evans's obsession with the name 'Malcolm') was finally shoved offscreen once he met the Doctor. Time was, the Doctor interacted with social misfits who were actually entertaining. And in the name of restraint, the Time Lord finally managed to sell the concept of his loneliness without utilising Tennant's sadface to get the point across. And I have a good feeling that the rejection scene between the two leads won't be the last acting high point of the specials, not by a longshot

   Maybe I'll go fire up the iPlayer again

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Pop Culture Tick-Offs - 07/04/09

   Things that have not made me happy of late include the untimely death of Angel alumni Andy Hallett at 33 last week. It was a sad piece of news made even more surreal and sad because earlier in the day I viewed him during a rewatch of the final episode to feature series lynchpin Charisma Carpenter, in which she and David Boreanaz genuinely cried during their final scene together. But then the show was stuffed with the talents of professionals who loved and knew what they were doing, and it's an apt and special body of work that Mr Hallett has left behind him

   It's somewhat ridiculous, given the circumstances, to say that this next story left a bad taste in my mouth, but one of my favourite Japanese indie-pop stalwarts, Hideki Kaji, was beaten up in Sweden on a video shoot while dressed as a pineapple. Ridiculous, but rather uncool nonetheless. Here's a video of Mr Kaji dressed as a rotating head on a yellow background and note that this assault is driving up his video comments on YouTube

   And finally, I'm predictably unimpressed that House M.D. is now short one main cast member, if only because I'm sceptical that the show is going to do justice to the fallout. But the actor did a great job bouncing off the rest of the cast and I cannot wait for the next season (not that this season is done yet)


Monday, 6 April 2009

Outfit Digest - Gliding Down The Formality Scale

   Any object lessons? Cropped trousers are my latest work in progress, H&M make great jumpers, I'm developing a fandom of one for bow ties and the jacket and trousers outfit is, according to one critic, more of a "cravat outfit". Anyone believe I agreed? I'm thinking "scarf"

Song Obsession: Timothy Victor - 'Ass2Ass' (A Requiem For a Universal Dream)

   I make no claims on being a classy man, so when I state that I unironically watched most episodes of the third series of e4's Skins, a paean to the teenage angst that apparently runs through the souls of Bristolians aged 13 - 19 with the unrelentingness of a six foot long hose through one's lower intestine*, it's because it's the truth. I was curious, I really had little better to do, and if my love for symphonic orchestra performances at the Royal Festival Hall cannot coexist with my appetite for lowbrow televisual delights or chart music, then why live? And that brings me to 'Ass2Ass'

   There was pretty much one real highlight of the recently concluded series - two, if you count the performance of angsty-but-coping Kathryn Prescott aka "Gay Twin" Emily, who gets props for possessing better taste in music than her sister Megan. While I'm certain that the trials of tribulations of a teenage lesbian in love have been blessed with better portrayals (based on no research whatsoever), Emily benefited from having a hateful, controlling, shallow and possibly homophobic twin sister in Katie that resulted in her looking better by comparison, but Prescott was consistent in her characterisation and performance, distinguishing herself with strength of character to belie her vulnerabilities and fears and being one of the very few of the show's personalities to lack a core of narcissism. Her ability to give and receive kindness was distinct from most of the rest because Prescott made it believable that she was a girl worth cherishing. She probably had the happiest ending of all the main story threads - until next year

   Allow me to drift back to the point. 'Ass2Ass', from the 4th episode, is the centrepiece at a series of satirical shots of reality pop competition shows, with the blatant cod-soft porn antics of girl group Da Sexxbombz only one element. Boasting Popstars: The Rivals and Girls Aloud runner-up, failed solo singer (but for a euphoric collaboration with Richard X) and infamous home-wrecker Javine Hylton in an oh-so-meta appearance, the group was on the hunt for a new member and their schtick, as portrayed onscreen, owes far more to the Prince-directed frolics of Vanity 6 - lingerie, innuendo, sex songs - than the generally implied sexuality of the contemporary scene. Gratefully, rather than solely make obvious cracks about the superficiality and exploitation of such entertainment, supporting character and contestant Karen was relatively complicit, using her tale of a dead mother to further her voter base. Focusing on the media-friendly backstory element all such contestants seem to possess in our world gave the episode more of a unique slant and gave consideration to how all encompassing a desire to be famous can be used to dishonour a memory (even Karen's father had no qualms about this vulgar invocation of his dead wife)

   Anyway, 'Ass2Ass' is just another piece of the referential whole (incidentally, other Da Sexxbombz tracks include 'Rim Licking' and 'Juicing Down'). It's musically based on Britney's 'Piece of Me' (a song that's unapologetically about the tabloid antics of its world famous performer, gossip fixture and singer of the good clean fun of 'If You See(k) Amy'), right down to the vocoder, minimal synth bass and sampled ecstatic moans, and in performance, the bodypopping, crop haired "backing singer" is straight out of the video to Fedde Le Grand's 'Let Me Think About It'. And taking its title from a pivotal scene of a movie that got the juices of a million film students flowing does make an extra effort to layer the shout-outs. The song works because it has one thing going for it - it was clearly written with the mind of a schoolboy for the minds of actual schoolboys (and overgrown ones, in my case) - and this one thing leads to other things - catchiness, infectious glee, knowing winks and, in the episode, better dancing than Vanity 6 ever managed. And they even went to the effort of a full-length, ready for pirate radio production

   Get it here (yes, I went there)

* Also stolen from a television show - my favourite, in fact. If you know which one, I have an opening for a new BFF. And that's another rephrasing in the making