Showing posts with label fashion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fashion. Show all posts

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Mode Parade Patron Saint: Jason King



Author's note: This was originally written in 2012 for the Mode Parade Tumblr; since deactivated

   When it comes to personal style, few today are able to do it as well as the fictional

   Mode Parade Patron Saint Jason King blurred the aesthetic lines between himself and his actor, Peter Wyngarde, to the point that one of the few ways they could be told apart is that King preferred women

   Wyngarde is quite a charismatic fellow, by all accounts, so it is quite sad that the press, the public and his profession would not let his career-damaging homosexual indiscretion slide - precisely the sort of inflexible moralising that can make the world a less engaging place to live in. It’s the calibre of charisma that made him a star and sex symbol, and here makes him the picture of enviableness, inhaling from a Sobranie whilst wearing one of his many Peacock-era matching shirt/tie ensembles, practically baiting the Good Taste Brigade as so he does

   Very much of the moment, in so many ways. But moments are all we ever get, and some last far, far too briefly

Monday, 15 September 2014

Pinterest on (Mode) Parade



   I am now assembling a small collection of boards on design, architecture, photography and style right here:


   The collection of images on my Pinterest boards is presently rather modest, but I anticipate that it will grow in tandem with my developing understanding of it. I've already begun utilising it for my photography efforts, at the very least, and it is a curious way of determining what one finds attractive, even in the face of what seem to be the labile tastes of the rest of the planet. Which reminds me that of the smorgasbord on offer, the pins of most utility appear to be cookery recipes

   Happy image hunting

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

The Mode Parade eBay Clear-out Again




On offer this week: Junya Watanabe MAN/Comme des Garcons, Burberry Prorsum, a Sony NEX E-Mount camera lens and a few vintage Hermes ties. Link below

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The Vintage Post

   Today, I'd like to ruminate on "vintage." Currently recognised as a market unto itself, it not only encapsulates clothes, furniture and underthings, but wildly ranges in price, from the cheap yet aesthetic baubles one can dig up at flea markets to the priciest of overly pricey rarities hung on the wall of a "high-end" trove in West London, which is all the more ironic when the best top-range pieces can be found in less saturated or more interesting areas like York, Peterborough or California. You know, the places where the actual makers of taste went to retire and die, leaving their belongings to either be passed down to their scions or absorbed into the dust inhalation-hazard zone that is the thrifting system. The truly fiendish and ingenious, meanwhile, put them up for auction, allowing stories of bitter bidding rivalries with the likes of Hamish Bowles to circulate across the interweb for amusement's posterity

   From the tone of that introduction, I hope you're not expecting me to be kind, dear Paraders

   Originally, this post would have followed its predecessors with recommendations to source nice threads, but other sites are more than capable of providing such information, and I suffer from thrift envy of the Americans, which encourages me to withhold my databank until I'm competing on more level ground. So, what with the slant Mode Parade has towards classicism, old films and the odd Fabulous Dead Designer, I felt that I should write a few words on the use of old things and classic inspiration in the present world. For I have seen many examples of it in the flesh, as well as on the world wide spiderweb, and it is my considered opinion that a great many people, as the kids say, suck at it

 


What of approximations of old styles? The fellow on the left pays homage to the Palm Beach holidaymaker/Go-to-Hell aesthetics once practiced by the likes of W Clifford Klenk, but the necessary colour sense, nonchalance, details and good cut quite obviously elude this evolutionary successor. On the other hand, he may know his way around a good cocktail

His shirt is vintage. As is his toilet paper


   The problem I see is a twofold one. There is an awful and comprehensive amount of total rubbish on sale in most second hand spaces. This is not an idle whine; on the two occasions that I tried vintage shopping in Camden, I wasted an hour touching more polyester than I have ever before done in my life. The second issue is pretty obvious - good taste is very much in its dearth throes and the only thing that separates most latter day, would-be Easter Paraders from the Jersey Shore guidos is that the former actually Mean It

   But then, this is being written by a man who describes himself to other humans as "a museum piece" and hasn't updated his mobile phone in four years

   Despite some previous and scattered thoughts on the topic, I am not disdaining the folks who, as far as I know, indulge in full period dress as a pastime, such as the attendees of the Jazz Age Dance Parties in New York or whichever appealingly decadent and fetishistic shindig the iDandy Andrea Sperelli is attending every other evening (his Marc Guyot-esque regular wardrobe is still fairly contemporary in its way, thanks to good fit). I'm just disdaining everyone else who's at it

Why go to the effort of a cohesive outfit when one can seek refuge in excuses like "Having fun" and "Retro humour"?
Thank you, Sparked. I was trying to keep a spit-free desk
   Gathering my thoughts on this became a chore; consequently, it's no wonder that the prelude to this post was published months ago. But then I was interviewed by a student from the London College of Fashion for an exhibition last month, and suddenly, my vitriol had a release. Naturally, little of that survived the  recipient's subsequent horrified editing, but that's why I hung onto the original

   We began with the obvious:
Why do you wear vintage?
BON: Primarily, for reasons of aesthetic tastes, quality and, if I’m lucky, rarity – a way of “waking the dead,” I suppose. Where a great many people take refuge in a specious sort of nostalgia, a rejection of the era they live in and/or simply want to be different (to varying degrees of success), I try utilising older stuff to supplement what I think are the best looks I can devise. I like the notion of re-incorporating past styles in order to refresh and juxtapose them with the times we live in, rather than simply donning a pastiche to signpost my “wicked free-thinking” and “seditious" ways; some of my favourite pieces are cut subtly enough to hint at the era they’re from, such as my father’s old suits, rather than advertise it
   Why didn't I tell the truth - that there was a burning envy that stirred within me when I started seeing photographs of Peter Wyngarde in his nut-hugging suits during the Jason King days? That I merely wished to take things back to the days when one could dress like a devout homosexual (or appear to be dressed by one) and still get women?

Wyngarde and his bulge accept the Male Personality of the Year Award from 1969's winner Barry Gibb, London, 15th August 1970
   Like two people hitting their teeth together during a premature bout of kissing, we then segued awkwardly into the philosophical:
What does vintage mean to you?
BON: A catchy label that goes better with alcohol and fragrances. But then, “antique clothing” has more of a fusty and inelegant flavour to it, so I can’t win
When did you first start wearing vintage?
BON: I’ve been wearing various pieces that were my dad’s since I was a teenager, but as I don’t consider post-1990 clothing to be vintage, I’d say since my early 20s
What piece means the most to you?
BON: The stuff that is genuinely irreplaceable, naturally. In this case, my Tommy Nutter leather duster, along with my Deborah & Clare shirts and Mr. Fish kippers from the 1960s-‘70s
We continued with the prosaic:
How far does vintage style extend into your daily life?
BON: A lot of my stuff is old, it’s true, and consequently, there will be at least one outfit component that’s lasted a while, usually before my birth. On a daily basis, I actually tend towards more modern clean-cut looks and tend to save my Peacock-era and old school politician references for my off-duty mode
And finally, we concluded with the depressing:

What is your perspective on the London vintage scene?
BON: Frankly, most of the good stuff, especially where men are concerned, is either online, in another town or in America. And, of course, prices are another issue; the confluence of all these factors does little to recommend London as a hunting ground. Moreover, interest seems concentrated on the first four or so decades of the 20th century, which weren't the most interesting for young people who actually lived through them anyway, and the scene, which I’ve always found fun in places, but narrow in others, tends to present as a costume-fest. There’s too much calculation, not enough spontaneity and I sometimes detect a clique-like mentality of broad, cheap shots being taken at different dressers. On the other hand, a number of the ladies look very good
Fin


Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Notes on The Second Modecast


   Discussions of dandyism, dilettantism, drinks and death were just some of the features of last Sunday's Modecast as Danielle of Final Fashion and I dived once more into the digital dead pool:


Watch live streaming video from modecast at livestream.com


   Here be cliff notes:

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

"Lose Your Way and Find Yourself"



   There are some occasions that inform me that the Parade is appreciated by more than four humans at a time, every once in a while. Thus, I was most touched that talented artist Nina Meledandri, daughter of the late haberdasher and arbiter elegantiarum Roland, wrote in after stumbling across my prolix piece on him, "Homme Couture"

   I was so touched that I requested to reprint Nina's e-mail, to which she kindly consented. But then again, she provided 70% of that article's material. This is as much to thank her as it is to be thanked. And please remember to visit her interweb space, as linked above:
Hi Barima,
One of the most wonderful things about the internet is that sometimes you lose your way and find yourself
I just came across the post you made about my dad and it was really wonderful to find
I am glad that my reminiscences had an impact and of course it is a comfort that my father's legacy lives on
Thank you for posting that piece,
Nina

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Neo-Edwardiana, African Style/Negritude ala Senghor



A seasonal inspiration that I could not post to the Tumblr alone. Merry New Year, Paraders

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The Peculiar Parade of Mr. Fish (1969)





The Peacock King of Clifford Street, Michael Fish, is seen here presenting his then-latest collection in 1969 via a report from London Aktuell, narrated by Eddi Arent with original music. It's one engaging hell of a carnival; a veritable fiesta of pastels, kipper ties, myriad materials and caftans that proudly exemplifies Fish's particular feeling for fabrics


Dead days of dandyism don't come much livelier

Monday, 5 September 2011

Multicultural


   Some may recognise the drapey Neo-Edwardian on the far left from last year's post on Bunny Roger. The forward thinking Continental and the wide shouldered metro boulevardier  bring up the middle, whilst the far right demonstrates the sturdy aesthetic values of the people

   Myself, I am more of a mix-and-matcher, but if there's anything that can be taken from this, it is the variety of ideas for accessorising or the counter argument for minimalism that this little guide presents

   But for the love of God, please let's keep the dog out of this - the Frenchman might be capable of retaining a certain poise even as he thinks about how to clean the fur from his fibres, though that should only serve to remind mere mortals how far beyond them he operates

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Leather Lust Object No.12 - Isaac Sellam


Leather craftsman Isaac Sellam works out of a Paris-based studio - what he calls his "leather research laboratory" - having spent 15 years honing his abilities before debuting his creations under the Isaac Sellam Experience label in 2002. He focuses primarily on handmade, exquisitely pricey jackets and coats, as well as particularly relaxed knitwear that looks as if it may disintegrate one day. This 'animal 2' crocodile skin biker-style jacket, somewhat redolent of Loewe in the 1980s for some reason, is available at Farfetch.com; Londoners such as I can see his work at Brompton Road's emporium of directional menswear, The Library

Friday, 2 September 2011

The Vintage Prelude (Fashion for Women)



   I am in the midst of slapping together my general thoughts on the state of the vintage clothing, as seen through the eyes of an overdressed, bi-cultural West African in late 2011 London; as such, the article is guaranteed to be impractical to all that are interested in quality guides, reputable dealers and low grade polyester

   Fortunately for everyone else, there are enterprises such as Devoted 2 Vintage that care for the practical side of informed decisions. As such, when I received an e-mail this morning offering '5 Tips to Identify Real Vintage,' I saw no reason not to disseminate it in the column. It concerns women's vintage entirely, which is perfect for my purposes - my eventual article will have a decidedly XY slant:

5 Top Tips to Identifying Vintage Clothing

Have you ever bought a "vintage" dress or shirt only to find out later that it is actually a modern reproduction? Well you are not alone, we see modern clothing everywhere you go purporting  to be vintage either because the seller doesn't have the experience or are simply trying to cash.
We would like to share some of our experience with 5 Top Tips to help you avoid making this mistake and maybe find that hidden vintage gem. There are always exceptions but by following these simple checks you should be able to avoid many mistakes.

Indicator 1 - Look at the Zip! 
 Does the dress have a metal or vinyl zip? Vinyl zips were not widely used on dresses until mid-late 1960's so the presence of a metal zip could indicate a pre-1970's dress. The location of the zip is also a key indicator. Also the location of the zip is important. Up to the 1950s the zips were often placed at the side of the dress, moving to the back during the 1950s and 1960s.


Indicator 2 - Look at the labels.  
There are three types of labels to look for; the makers label, the size label and care label. There is an excellent vintage label resource on the Vintage Fashion Guild web page were you can look up most important vintage labels. If you can't find your label here look at the other labels. Before the 1960's the size labels typically indicated the hip size in inches, after this sizes such as 12, 14 etc. were more commonly used. These standard sizes have change over the years so a 14 in the 1960s is equivalent to a 1970's size 12 and modern size 10 so check the bust measurement. Care labels are also a good indicator; they were only introduced in the mid 1960's and only became widely used in the 1970s. The Pure New Wool symbol was only introduced in the 1970s. The absence of any labels would normally indicate that the dress was home made and very common before the 1970's


Indicator 3 - Look at the Garment Construction.  
Vintage dresses are more likely to be hand made with details like hook and eye fasteners and poppers to secure the garments. Also, internal bra straps were common in the 1950s. Underskirts were common in the 1950's; look for net and muslin underskirts, often with metal hoops sewn in the hem to give the skirts more volume.
 

Indicator 4 - Feel The fabric.  
This is a skill that will be developed by handing vintage clothes. Modern mass produced fabrics are rarely the same quality as vintage fabrics. So it is worth spending time in a reputable vintage shop feeling the fabrics, when you then compare this with a modern dress the differences are apparent. The type of fabric used is also a good way of dating dresses. Rayon and taffeta were widely used in the 1950's and in the 1960's polyester; nylon and Crimpolene were commonly used. Lycra was only introduced in the 1980's.


Indicator 5 - Look at the Style of the Dress.  
This alone is not an accurate indicator because there are many vintage styles have been reproduced over the years. The 1940's shoulder pads were widely used but were also popular in the 1980's. The two most popular styles in the 1950's were the shirtwaist dress, with buttons to the front, a nipped in waist and full pleated skirt and the wiggle dress with lovely fitted hourglass shape. The 1960's saw the introduction of the classic mini skirt and simple shift dress. The maxi dress became more popular in the late 1960's and into the 1970's. The more flamboyant 1970s demanded more fitted styles with plunging necklines and angel sleeves.


Using all these key indicators should lead you through the minefield of buying vintage and help to prevent you from making mistakes. As your collection grows so will your experience and confidence but as long as you buy items that you love then even the mistakes don't matter too much.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Autumn Astaire

There should always be praise for Fred Astaire's mastery of playfulness and propriety, for how else could he have played the 1960s young man's game of the similar/same coloured necktie-and-shirt so well?

Friday, 26 August 2011

FRAPBOIS 2011-2012 AW Collection "EL Quijote" feat. Plus-Tech Squeeze Box


   Ahead of the next brace of Fashion Weeks, an engaging presentation from Japanese streetwear label FRAPBOIS. Since I have been making noises here and there about wanting to explore a different personal aesthetic one day, some of this might prove inspirational in time, although I draw the line at drop crotch trousers

   This is also a good reason to finally post music from the Japanese duo Plus-Tech Squeeze Box, who have produced a considerable amount of my favourite records, remixes and one-offs over the past 10 years. Paradoxically accessible yet provocatively an acquired taste, they have only given the world two albums, yet pack fifty times that amount into every piece they make. All hail the sampler:




Thursday, 4 August 2011

White Suit Addendum


Here's one I missed from my favourites: fashion designer Christopher McDonnell, as featured in The Telegraph Magazine in 1973, via Flickr. It strikes me that the magazine seemed to attract more cream-of-the-crop fashion coverage and photography than did its closest competitors, judging by the references I've seen in recent tomes like the indispensable Day of the Peacock, published this year by the V&A

McDonnell's ensemble is extremely well considered, dynamically cut and well-fitting. His judiciousness is particularly borne out by the thinking man's approach to boldly printed neckties - leave much of it to the imagination - and he crowns this by balancing this bombast with the ready-made ostentation of the suit, achieving this through the complementary hue of the shirt

I'd replicate this outfit in a heartbeat. I'd certainly appreciate the model


Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Not Only For Southern Boys

   I want a white suit

  Yes, that's correct. I want to look like a plantation owner. Actually, I want to own a plantation. That's exactly why I want a white suit. My superiority complex must be indulged in the face of racial sensitivity, the stares of children and dry cleaning bills

   Speaking of children, for a great many of us growing up in Britain of the 1980s and early 1990s, this venerable institution below was our initiation into the intractable allure that a white suit holds. I write of course, of The Man From Del Monte, a tastemaker so prepotent that he could even subjugate Doctor Who 's definitive leading man into performing his narration:



   Of course, I'm quite willing to settle for off white or that light shade of beige that old people favour for upholstery

   Now, I've thought about styling one in a variety of forms. I've even considered ensembles in a Tony Montana or Miami Vice-like vein; utterly germane when matching the large quantities of Bolivian Marching Powder that line one's drawing room. And therein lies a decent line of approach - pastel shirting is an easy gateway to the fun of sporting white suiting - The King of Pop, for one, wrung an enduring image out of royal blue silk and barely-noticeable pinstripes. I do, however, recommend practically any colour other than darker purple - it's a touch too hard on the eyes, really:

Frankly, Mr. Jagger, this is not one of my favourites. But then, Mr. Watts has been consistently putting you to shame since the 1970s hit their middle period

   Nevertheless, Jagger has hit on another interesting aspect - bold shirts and white suits do not necessarily require neckwear; the tropical mode the look connotes makes for a particularly dégagé air; nothing speaks of summer's bright delights like a shirt that brings to mind the concentrated colouring of a particularly punchy cocktail. It's the dressing incarnation of optimism

   If one is particularly insensible or talented, a print shirt, worn in the Tynan fashion, is a step in a similar direction, and these are widely available, from H&M and Topman to Holliday & Brown, Gucci and Prada. The neckwear possibilities for these are a little looser than their pastel cousins - where the latter works best with plain or subtly patterned neckties and bow ties in both contrasting and similar shades, the former allows one to fool around with clashing prints or adventurous textures like raised ribbing and dupioni (both types may also support a neckscarf, where bravery permits). Worn at a function, it's an aesthetic that suggests one has brought all of the fun pills to the party. In the best potential interpretation of that hypothesis, of course

   So, how about a fellow who dons them habitually? Someone who did not earn the word "iconic" by making himself unavoidable via Jersey Shore, perhaps. A fellow who has been renowned for almost 40 years, who has designed garments of exquisite grace and idiosyncrasy, who challenges the Beastie Boys' Mike D for the sobriquet, "Man of Leather"

   Behold, The Last Emperor himself, Valentino Garavani:


   In contrast to rock'n'roll theatricality and dandyish offhandedness, Signor Garavani hews to the side of propriety and age-appropriate formality through simple, sedate accessorising to go with his uniquely Continental manner of quiet authority. Soporific to write about this may be, but for some, the mere act of donning a white suit is a statement in itself. Indeed, this approach makes the suit particularly safe for the city, whereas the playful version has a wider, wilder adaptability. Do not ever let it be said that I cannot cater for more conservative approaches

   Seemingly every neo-haberdashery, designer shop and department store proffer white suits each spring and summer, be it Banana Republic, Hackett, Zara or Ralph Lauren. The choice is very much the preserve of the buyer; my tastes are fairly easygoing and also dependent on fabrics,with one or two caveats - some enticing takes by Tom Ford in his Gucci days aside, I would preferably wear a double breasted version if it were silk. And in the discussion of linen vs. cotton, I'm with cotton - with less of a propensity to wrinkle heavily, it tends to suit three buttons and three pieces more neatly

   Did I mention that they go very well with Panama hats? In this case, I do recommend any hatband colour for one's straw, as long as it is not black

   Here are my three favourite white/light suit examples:

Barry Sainsbury, former director of the iconic Mr. Fish design boutique, in a summer ensemble complete with Fish's signature same fabric shirt and tie

James Salter, novelist and writer, posing for Jill Krementz. Imagine, if you will, that his shirt is either a leafy green, a rich tan or a pale orange and it still would tastefully complement his paradoxically stern yet relaxed demeanour

Speaking of the 1990s, being a Britisher, my first introduction to the American basketball legend Walt 'Clyde' Frazier came from a line in 1992's Beastie Boys song, 'Pass The Mic.' Here, he models a combination that, due to the red shirt and the high contrast, is potentially overpowering on much lighter complexions. The off white colouring is certainly a wiser choice over the purer shade; it prevents Mr. Frazier from resembling a European flag, for one thing


Those who would not chance a pair of correspondent shoes can still rely on stalwart footwear accoutrements in brown, black, tan and blue (thought those two may be best in suede) and oxblood. We cannot all be Clydes

   If a summer stand-out is required, backless chaps and string vests aside, I can think of few better aesthetic responses to the brilliance that this season brings. As long as one doesn't rub up against any surfaces

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Trigère’s Grace

 Via Vegas Laveau Vintage on Flickr
''Fashion is what people tell you to wear. Style is what comes from your own inner thing.''
  Thus spake Pauline Trigère (1908 - 2002), grande dame de la mode:



   Possessor of intrinsic fashion talent:



   And bouillabaisse connoisseur cum stove saleswoman:



(Of note for the the first video: Ms. Trigère was also known for having said, “When you’re feeling blue, wear red”)

   Of course, her meteoric rise from French birth to American success began with all the right ingredients: progeny of a tailor and a seamstress, a close escape from the Nazi regime (continued survival is the best sort of insurance for future success, I feel) thanks to her husband that she described with signature brevity (“Hitler — need I say more?”), leading to her New York incarnation as divorced single mother turned arbiter of feminine glamour. Also of note; she was, in 1961, first of the famous designers to utilise an African-American model to walk for her and also had a proclivity to take to the runway and discuss each of her designs as it was sent down. Rare is the catwalk that actually finds a micro-managing aesthete delivering real-time analyses. Perhaps such a technique could be employed to liven up Bloomberg

The preceding from Trigère's Autumn/Winter 1972 presentation, via WWD


Trigère's thrice deployed rhinestone bra, as first introduced in 1967

   Semi-regular readers may be aware that I've a fondness for the outspoken. And it's satiating to know that if there's one thing Pauline Trigère was not fond of, it was being reserved. Here are some highlights from the obituary:
On occasion a prima donna, a description she never challenged (she once told an assistant ''There is room for only one prima donna around here, and that's me''), she was often impatient. But her displays of temper were brief. She admitted that she was outspoken to a fault, but seemed to revel in that image. A woman meeting her at a social event once gushed, ''Oh, Miss Trigère, I have a dress of yours that I've worn for 25 years.'' The designer fixed her with an icy glance and said, ''Just what am I to do with that piece of information?''
Once, when she was approached by two retailers while dining in a restaurant after one of her shows, she asked them, ''Did you come to copy or to buy?''
   Of course, when one is an innovator (she lays claim to introducing the jumpsuit to the wardrobes of many a woman), I suppose that there is a degree of latitude with which to be offhand, forceful and yet measured with it. Take Trigère's personal mode. Its basal approach was rooted in professional, expensive-looking dresses and suits, whose severity or simplicity could be offset or upended by a forceful colour choice or a print shirt; habitually, she accessorised carefully and tastefully with jewellery, adding the intelligent touch of signature eyeframes. For the big finish, she utilised a factor that only a handful possess anyway: great poise

   I am no costume historian, but even I find much to appreciate about her work. Collectors from the four billion corners of the internet rhapsodise about her garments and the applications of her taste, and it must be said that the archive photography bears that out. Of particular interest is the lineage of tailoring that remained discernible in the pleats, drape and forms of her creations, bearing out her long-nurtured passion and her training:


   For all the success that Trigère's product enjoyed, I actually think it for the best if the house never revives. Some things need to be unearthed and admired for how intrinsically driven they were by a singular personality, particular one such as Pauline's, with her fondness for elegance, yoga and turtles - the sort of idiosyncrasies that make legends out of fashionable people. Besides, as one who got to do it her way for so long, I would hazard that where the clothes bearing her name are concerned, as it was in the beginning, it should always remain Pauline's path to tread


Friday, 22 July 2011

Psych Couture Deux

Nigel Waymouth, a leader of fashion, poses in front of his infamous shop   

   Granny Takes a Trip, founded by Nigel Waymouth, Sheila Cohen and John Pearse, remains one of the most indelibly memorable of the boutique clothing operations that characterised the mod and psychedelic eras, hewing more to the latter aesthetic, as if one cannot tell by its naughty name 

   The link above directs to The Look's more involving article on this trailblazing concern and its myriad shopfronts. The video is an excerpt from the BBC's excellent 2008 documentary series on this country's protean 20th- 21st century fashions, British Style Genius:


   The ever so taciturn Mr. John Pearse (not to be confused with the late folk guitarist), who trained at Hawes & Curtis when it was still a bastion of impeccable quality, still operates today in Soho's Meard Street, roughly opposite the former home of deceased (and occasionally diseased) London-based sybarite Sebastian Horsley, one of his numerous clients. In addition to conservative-but-clever outfitting, his past is oft evoked in the bright suiting, print-or-patchwork shirting and the odd hand-painted kipper tie in raw silk, whilst even his most sober stuff bears a characteristically colourful melton underneath the coat collar. GQ US's Style Guy, Glenn O'Brien, is just one of his faithful patrons

Glenn O'Brien sports his John Pearse blackwatch tartan raincoat over an old Anderson & Sheppard suit, a Charvet shirt and a Dries Van Noten necktie

Vintage Granny, via Child of the Moon 


John Pearse bespoke tapestry jacket inspired by a William Morris print ordered from Granny Takes a Trip and worn by Ossie Clark. Orange cashmere bespoke peacoat tailored by Richard Anderson. All via James Sherwood

Monday, 16 May 2011

Bravery



Outside of perusing Dominique Strauss-Kahn-related articles, Liz Armstrong's article on nude bodysuits, fresh from Jane Pratt's new concern, xoJane, is the most diverting thing I've read all day. If she can do it, then maybe all of you Paraders can, too

I wonder if they come in medium brown

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Homme Couture

   Some talents deserve better words than one can give them. So sometimes, it's best to go with the reminiscence

   At the risk of producing the sort of lazy entry that is decried by exemplars like ADG and Gaye, I cannot find any better words to proffer on today's subject, the late menswear designer and shopkeeper Roland Meledandri, than those written by his daughter Nina on the Film Noir Buff forum in 2006 (and elsewhere):


My father started in men's clothing at a store called Casual Aire (I believe it was spelled with an "e") where he met my uncle; Joseph Levine.  Together they started Men's Town and Country (which was in the 50's, I think on 3rd Ave; the shot of Marilyn Monroe over the subway grate with her skirt blowing up was in front of the store).  My father left there to start R. Meledandri Inc. at 74 East 56th St. (early '60's); a full service men's retail establishment with a custom tailoring department.  Most of his merchandise was made in Italy and my father (and mother) used to go to the factories where he would have input into the designs made specifically for him.  I would risk saying that in reaction to the prevailing "Brooks Brothers" sensibility he was responsible for bringing elegance and flair back into American men's fashion; he widened lapels, raised the armholes, nipped the waist and flared the skirt.  He brought both the influence of Italian tailoring and the British hacking jacket into his designs.  Cuffs, collars and ties also went wide, and he introduced a range of colors and textures that were previously unavailable to the American male.


Of course anyone with an artistic eye and a flair for clothes would be attracted to the "Meledandri" look and his clientele included fashion photographers, advertising directors, etc; the people who dictate what the world sees when it comes to style.  He was also an extremely charismatic person, when I was photographing his friends and clients, so many of them referred to him as "one of my closest friends".  As I said earlier, his store became a kind of salon, a hang out and one his name synonymous with elegance and success (as when the phrase "the men in their Meledandri suits" was used to describe a certain sector of hip NY in the book "Edie")


Over the years he also developed a wholesale division and had departments at both Barney's and Bloomingdales as well as other fine department stores across the country.  But he was primarily known for the exquisite design and quality of his custom tailoring department.  When he died from a massive and sudden heart attack in 1980 at 51 (quite unexpected as he was extremely fit, a runner and watching his heart) he was in the process of closing "R. Meledandri Inc." and had finally run the first sale in the history of the store.  He was a man of impeccable taste, an artist who expressed his vision through clothes.

   Meledandri was a marvel; a designer with an exacting eye for quality who is still remembered in certain circles for offering some of New York's finest tailoring. He was one of the last 20th Century Stylistics; a sobriquet that sounds hollow rather than sonorous in typical Barimanastic fashion, I suppose, until one tries to think very hard about how many subsequent menswear figures successfully hewed and crafted a diverse, piercing aesthetic vision to direct the way things might evolve or expand (Hedi Slimane, whose feeling for romantic, energetic rebellion, sense of baroque theatre and sensibility for emaciated, speed-fuelled, spoiled rent boys, is thus far the only sensible suggestion for this century's most interesting game-changer)

   Of course, menswear proceeds from the details and Meledandri was no different to his other interesting contemporaries, nor even the couturier talents to whom he may be seen, in some ways, as a counterpart (recall that the defining moments of latter-day womenswear creativity sprang from the oft calmly-dressed likes of Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior and Cristobal Balenciaga). His deft switches between his intricate confluence of great fit, expressive fabric patterns and painstaking details to a still expressive, yet more tempered mode that insinuated rather than announced itself made him friendly to those who wanted to play Quiet Assassin rather than Otherworldly Rock Star. Fitting, then, that when Roy Scheider portrayed Dustin Hoffman's Quietly Assassinated sibling in 1976's classic Marathon Man, it was Meledandri - once again sticking the knife in the grey flannel suited man he nevertheless appreciated - who ensured his corpse was good looking:

 That red sculpture in the background is named Double Ascension, by artist Herbert Bayer, and you'll find it at the Arco Plaza (now known as City National Plaza) at 555 S. Flower Street, in downtown L.A. That's in the plaza between the two towers, off the west side of Flower Street (between 5th & 6th streets) 

   Meledandri's name was brought up in my recent meeting with Edward Sexton as I intend to frame part of the resultant piece around the idea of a vanguard at the Peacock Revolution's heart. For if there was an American flavour to the clothing confections that period saw in, Sexton agreed that much of that came from Meledandri's own peculiar creativity. No matter the visceral reaction the fabric surely engenders, I'd be impressed if a cogent argument against the cutting and styling could seriously be mustered; in my dreams, the nicest single breasted suits present a lot like this:

 
Like the coat further below, this 3 piece is still in the possession of Nina. They were created for The Coty's, the men's fashion awards, in the 1970s

   Sexton is becoming known for a personal credo of "romancing" the suiting one wears - be not afraid to think out the details, balance the elements and display a palpable pride in wearing clothes of distinction and tailored grace. In other words, be one's true personal stylist, for it will always be appreciated, particularly by the wearer. Dressing to enjoy life is a free action; the stealth wealthy and the reactionary class get to bitch about it because they just don't know how to smile. Meledandri makes me smile; there's the requisite foolhardiness (up, middle finger!) in donning his most extreme stuff, but if one's in such pieces, one surely knows they're in a certain company; not only the communal kind that Nina describes below, but also the kind who lived in the same world as everyone else, though not wholly interested in seeing it in the same way:


salon: the store was often thought of that way, it was definitely a gathering place, especially on Saturday afternoons and it tended to attract people connected with the movie & advertising industries (which overlapped quite a bit anyway since many art directors and photographers of that time eventually went into film).  many of the people who hung out at the store would convene later at Elaine's.  at some point i will try to post the list i was working from for my book but since that was pre-digital, it will take some time.  off the top of my head, some of the people i photographed were (in no particular order): Dan Melnick, Billy Dee Williams, Mayor John Lindsay, Richard Benjamin, Richard Meier, George Lois, Noel Behn, Carmen Capalbo, George Segal, Joel Schumacher, David Susskind, Art Kane, Steve Horn, David Z. Goodman.


my memories: well, i certainly don't have an adult perspective, the time i spent in the store was mostly during high school but i did spend a lot of time there.  it was a very comfortable place for me which is a bit surprising since i was an extremely shy kid and it was such a social environment.  i think what attracted me to it was that my father was so in his element there, he really had an incredible sense of style and here he was surrounded by people who not only appreciated his clothes but relied on his eye.  in some ways his interaction with his clients was like a performance, not that it was contrived or in any way disingenuous  but in the sense that it drew you in, watching him oversee a fitting and then accessorize the suit seemed like magic to me
 


designer/tailor: it is true that my father was a designer not a tailor nor did he have any training in that craft. but he intuitively understood clothing and what made a successful garment.  he could look at a pattern and know what was wrong with it and he was a total perfectionist when it came to the finished product, something that i think was particularly important to his clientele.  his expression manifested itself not only in the style and fit of his clothes (the proportions) but also in his choice and combinations of colors and textures.


photos: when i get to packing that box, i will try photographing the prints, again none of this is digitalized and unfortunately nobody was wearing his clothes for the photos i took (i didn't start the project until a few years after he died).  also i will try to shoot some of the press clippings that i have
 A sampling of Meledandri's pocket squares
it is actually easier for me to answer questions or comment on things raised here, since my recollections are going to run the gambit of (somewhat) objective to highly subjective.


one (possibly) little known fact: my father loved shoes and could not refrain from buying them for the store even though he always lost money on them.  he would often say of a shoe that it was "so ugly it was beautiful".(Author's note: I have seen some of his shoes. And if ever I want to recreate my primary school uniform, i will definitely scour the earth for a pair)
   So here's to Roland Meledandri. And here's to ugly beauty; the kind one should not only admire, but also the kind one works to appreciate and  should eventually, actively revel in. Because as every good and bad aesthete knows, it's definitely the fun kind

   

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