There’s no denying the styling ability of the people at Lubiam. There’s also no denying their ability to crush you with texture. I mean crush you in a good way. By now you probably recognize that I am taking a measured approach in doling out my coverage from Pitti, because it’s not like these clothes are going to be in stores for another few months, so what’s the rush.
Watching people hand sew shoes almost always seems to mesmerize me. To say shoes are “handsewn” doesn’t often elicit much of a response from people, but when you actually see the process of making these shoes one stitch at a time, handsewn shoes earn a whole different level of appreciation. If you attended one of the last few Pop Up Fleas you may have met Oak Street Bootmakers founder George Vlagos, who was on hand fitting people for shoes and answering questions about his handsome collection of shoes. Over the past several years the brand has garnered a lot of attention online, but for many the Pop Up Flea was the first time actually seeing the Oak Street shoes in person.
With the making of this video, Oak Street goes where many have gone before (into the factory), to better explain what goes into making its shoes. It is really the first look behind the scenes of a company that has developed a pretty remarkable following. While this sort of approach is certainly nothing new (from either an ACL coverage or brand marketing perspective), it is still something I want to see. All brands that are making products in a traditional way, making shoes in a place that is cost prohibitive (read: onshore), should be telling this story. Frankly, it all wouldn’t really matter at all if Oak Street didn’t make such good looking boots. But they do, so just happily accept it as a win-win.
There’s no question the Aether pop up shop, which the L.A.-based outfitter has dubbed the AETHER STREAM, is one of the most awesome moveable retail deployments I’ve ever seen. In concept the formula is simple, take a 34′ Airstream PanAmerica (originally made in Jackson Center, Ohio — what what), hire Paris-based designer Thierry Gaugain to make it look like a bad ass hybrid den / workshop and then attach it to an especially made Armbruster WWII canvas army tent.
I caught the AETHER STREAM while it was in New York during December, but I never got a chance to talk about it here until this past week when I headed out to San Francisco for the third stop on its tour.
I met Mark McNairy in an office in the Garment Center in 2005. During our first encounter I distinctly remember thinking that he hated me. I also remembered thinking that I wasn’t so sure about him either. After a short while I realized that McNairy was not only one of the funniest people I had ever met, he is also one of the most talented. Over the past seven years of working with him I’ve come to appreciate the way in which Mark sees the world. I love the the crazy twist he puts on the classics and I’ve come to terms with the fact that Mark can create great designs so easily, a skill I don’t seem to possess.
Thinking back, I also remembered working with Mark at J.Press and trying so hard to get people to appreciate and love the clothes he made as much as I did. In those days the battles were hard fought and not always won, but there were bits and pieces of press and attention. I started ACL in December of 2007 and it only took me about a month to make my first mention of Mark. At that point he was working on several projects, all of which I was on-board with. Even at that point he had been around much longer than I had, and I would be full of shit if I didn’t admit that I learned a lot of what I know from Mark. We bonded over Ivy style, over made in the USA and all sorts of other random things. When I made my first trip to Japan Mark was the one who showed me the ropes. He was the friend who woke me up everyday with instant coffee and cigarettes. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to how much Mark has influenced ACL and my own personal style.
It is all of these things that makes me so proud of the recognition and attention that Mark is getting today with his nomination as one of GQ’s best new menswear designers in America. It’s true that McNairy isn’t exactly new (the guy is basically old enough to be my dad — sorry buddy), but he certainly is one of the best. To see the attention and praise Mark has received over the past few years has been equal parts incredible and inspiring. It is also entirely deserved.
The other nominees for GQ’s BNMDA are: Saturdays, BLK DNM, Ian Velardi, Ovadia & Sons and Todd Snyder — all good brands with talented folks at the helm. All of the nominated designers will be contributing to a special collection for the GAP, a new partner for GQ’s six year old contest.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say I am pulling most for Mark. It’s success that is long over due and definitely deserved.
One of my favorite things to do in Los Angeles is to visit the Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park. The stunning vista offers amazing views of both the Hollywood sign, and on the other side downtown L.A. It’s a spot I’ve spoken about previously on ACL, but it is also one that never gets old. I’m finding that the more time I spend in Southern California the more I want to be bi-coastal. Even on an overcast / smoggy day the scenes at sunset are stunning. If you have a chance to visit the observatory, definitely take the time to experience it.
If you spend any amount of time at Italian clothing trade shows (or reading blogs about the things seen at Italian clothing tradeshows) you start to get a complex about your ability to dress yourself — at least I do. When I go to Pitti I start to wonder about my comparative ability to layer, choose colors and to mix textures. It’s a humbling exorcise in general, but my perceived personal style deficiencies are provoked most inside the Brunello Cucinelli stand.
There can’t be many better ways to spend a Saturday than to drive out to the valley and visit with Jonathan Ward, founder of ICON. I’ve been threatening to come and visit for some time, but hadn’t stepped up to make the trip until last week. The shop and showroom aren’t open on Saturday, but Jonathan didn’t mind coming by and showing me around on his day off.