Category Archives: Fashion Theory

What’s in a Name?

Is YSL the same with the Y? Is Maison Martin Margiela the same without the Martin? How does a luxury fashion house stay current and new without sacrificing their age-old legacy? ID Magazine takes a dive into the dubious issue of rebranding the luxury name:

“Unless you’ve been living under a WiFi-less rock for the past six months, you’ve probably noticed a few changes at Margiela. At creative director John Galliano’s debut show in London—itself a change from the house’s usual Paris slot—the designer made waves when he removed models’ customary masks and came out for a bow following the finale walk. Amidst all these shocking switch-ups, it was easy to miss one other change: Galliano quietly dropped “Martin” from “Maison Martin Margiela,” ushering the avant-garde house into a new era.

An overwhelming majority of fashion’s top labels still bear the names of their founders, but what happens when times change: the designer leaves or the name just sounds off? Of course, Galliano isn’t the first to play the name game: everyone from Hedi Slimane to Ralph Lauren has tinkered with titles. In the wake of MMM’s streamlined new moniker, we did a little digging into the histories of nine other brand names.

SLP

Saint Laurent Paris
Hedi Slimane is no saint, but when the designer decided to drop “Yves” from YSL following his appointment as the storied house’s creative director back in 2012, he became fashion’s biggest sinner (Colette even started selling an “Ain’t Laurent Without Yves” T-shirt before the house requested a cease and desist, then promptly cancelled the boutique’s order of their spring/summer 14 collection.) Amidst cries of blasphemy, Slimane explained the name change was actually inspired by one of Yves’ own: in 1966, the designer launched the ready-to-wear line as “Saint Laurent Rive Gauche.” Slimane’s rebranding also pulled from this era visually, opting for a sharp Helvetica inspired by the original logo’s sleek typeface.

MbMJ
Marc Jacobs is never short on a sense of humour, especially when it comes to names: the designer’s “Jacobs by Marc Jacobs for Marc by Marc Jacobs in Collaboration with Marc Jacobs for Marc by Marc Jacobs” tote (seriously) puts a much needed satirical spin on the endless splintering of diffusion lines. In the spring of 2001, Jacobs debuted his secondary line, Marc by Marc Jacobs, one of the most successful diffusions of its kind. Following Katie Hillier and Luella Bartley’s creative takeover in early 2014, Jacobs opted for a streamlined new look, re-dubbing his youthful label simply “MbMJ.”

prada

Prada
Although the ready-to-wear empire has remained all in the family since its founding in 1913, the house originally opened its doors as a leather goods firm named “Fratelli Prada,” or “Prada Brothers.” Although it’s unsure when the name was changed, it probably happened around the time that Mario Prada’s daughter Luisa took the house’s helm (despite the fact that Mario did not believe women should have a role in business.) After taking over for her mother, Miuccia again played the name game in 93 when she launched Prada’s sister brand Miu Miu, its title taken from her own childhood nickname.

Ralph Lauren
Ralph Lauren is undoubtedly one of the most iconic names in fashion, a paragon of Americana since the label’s debut in 67. So it’s the ultimate irony that Lauren’s actual last name was something different entirely: Lifshitz. Having made the switch when he was just 16-years-old, the designer once told Oprah: “My given name has the word ‘shit’ in it.” “When I was a kid, the other kids would make a lot of fun of me. It was a tough name. That’s why I decided to change it.” The rest is seersucker history.

Yohji Yamamoto
Before the Japanese designer debuted his eponymous collection in Paris in 1981, Yohji Yamamoto had already produced under the line “Y’s” as early as 1977. These early designs were launched in Tokyo, before the designer—alongside Rei Kawakubo and Issey Miyake—took the fashion world by storm with their anti-fashion avant-gardism.

burberry

Burberry
Founded in 1856 when Thomas Burberry opened his own shop in Hampshire, “Burberry” actually was the store’s original name. Because so many customers around the world kept referring to it as “Burberrys of London,” the company switched to “Burberrys.” When the brand’s Knight Logo was later developed in 1901, the Latin word “Prorsum,” meaning “forward,” was added to the trademark, and has since become the name of the house’s high-fashion division headed up today by Christopher Bailey.

Acne Studios
Originating in Stockholm back in 96, Acne Studios was initially conceived as a branch of the creative collective ACNE, an acronym for “Ambition to Create Novel Expressions.” The original collective focused on film, production, advertising, and graphic design, but in 2006, the coalition branched out into separate entities, including Acne Film, Acne Advertising, and of course, Acne Studios. Despite the confused reception of such an outlandish name at its outset, the industry’s embrace proves that the product speaks for itself. Jonny Johansson’s modest denim project has since become a global fashion powerhouse, presenting menswear and womenswear at Paris Fashion Week.

Balenciaga
Although Balenciaga has kept founder Cristobal Balenciaga’s name intact all throughout its 100 year history, former creative director Nicolas Ghesquiere was one of the first designers to insist on adding his name to the brand. However the days “Balenciaga by Nicolas Ghesquiere” are certainly no more, as the designer still finds himself squaring off against the house. Current creative director Alexander Wang doesn’t insist upon the same personalisation, so for now it’s back to good ol’ Balenciaga.

tiffany

Tiffany & Co
Although the American luxury jeweller did undergo a name change from its original 1837 moniker “Tiffany, Young and Ellis” to “Tiffany & Company” when Charles Tiffany established the firm’s emphasis on jewellery in 1853, that’s not what landed the iconic blue box on our list. Because Tiffany is one of the first American luxury brand names, it sparked a wave of status-seeking parents (including Donald Trump) actually naming their babies Tiffany in the 80s. This yuppie staple demonstrates just how powerfully luxury brand names can infiltrate mainstream culture.

Credits Text Emily Manning
Photography Marshall Astor of Prada, Marfa by Elmgreen and Dragset”Original post: http://bit.ly/1zD5L8i

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Another One Bites the Dust – Alexander Wang

It seems another great designer has sold out to fast fashion; it has been announced that Alexander Wang will be doing a collaboration with Swedish company H&M.

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Alexander Wang has become a popular face among the fashion industry elite and as such he should be using his popularity to take a stand for positivity in the fashion industry, like Diane Von Fustrenburg and Andrew Rosen. Who better than famous designers to bring important fashion issues into the spotlight and really challenge the business negligence that goes on behind the scenes of so many large fashion corporations like H&M. Fashion designers have a lot of power in the fashion industry and as we learned from Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Alexander Wang took a giant step backward when he teamed up with H&M.

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Textile Traditions – The Hmong Tribe and Kantha Quilts

Native, traditional, Eastern, or often times called, “fixed” dress, that of the indigenous peoples of East-Asian territories, may seem to be the antithesis of the current Western standard of the sartorial etiquette which relies on constant fashion change and the unwavering push for newness. However, these precious, contextually and sentimentally loaded, incredibly detailed traditional textiles are finding their way into the hands of Western designers and customers. Either sold as the authentic pieces of culture they are, straight from the indigenous hands who made them, or upcycled/recycled into fashionable accessories, traditional textiles from the Akha Hill tribes of East Asia are popping up in the homes and closets of savvy, socially conscious consumers around the world, particularly in the UK and US.

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Photo from Laos and Ethnic Minority Cultures: Promoting Heritage

For some of these tribes, like the Hmong who live in the hills of Laos, Thailand and China, the dissemination of these handmade textiles (which they have every part in making from growing the hemp for making the fiber to sewing the end product into garments) is one of the few tangible ways of preserving and sharing their cultural heritage. As Western influence and inexpensive materials make their way to the remote areas of this purely oral-tradition tribe (meaning they have no written language), the skillful art of the traditional Hmong embroidery technique becomes threatened.

For others, such as the Bengali women of India, opportunities to create handmade kantha quilts in their home to sell abroad provides them with financial freedoms otherwise denied women residing in such areas. With a salary they can afford to put their children through school, combatting the sex-trafficking epidemic that is so prevalent in this area, affording independence and stability for at-risk women.

kantha quilts

Kantha Quilts

No matter how they reached the Western markets, the story behind these intricate pieces of textile art, and that of those who made and wore them, need to be preserved. H. Leedom Lefferts Jr., a Lao cultural expert, says in his article promoting the importance of the conservation of Lao material culture, that “Textiles weave indigenous cultures together; they thus provide strands of meaning and action which can be picked up by observers to understand cultures and assist them in coping with the pressures of modern life.” Designers are taking note of the customer craving authenticity and history in their adornments, and what better way to satisfy that need than highly intricate, handmade traditional and ceremonial textiles from age-old tribe techniques.

Sometimes classified as “vintage” fabric, these recycled textiles can be found in mainstream stores such as in the furniture upholstery of Anthropologie, West Elm, and Sundance Catalog. They are also often upcycled into fashionable accessories such as bags, shoes, and garments as in the case of Elliot Mann and Sophia Costas, and the Etsy sites Dazzling Lana and Fairlyworn, to name a few.

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Everyone’s a Fashion Writer

Fashion and style blogs are a dime a dozen and everyone’s a critic. When “fashion writers” try to describe, contextualize, and critique collections, sometimes their sartorial lexicon falls short and clothing jargon gets, literaly, lost in translation.

Here are just a few terms whose meanings have become muddled as of late, often taking on a more macro-meaning than originally intended.

Appliqué: An additive process of attaching design components in layers onto the surface of an object, such as quilts or garments.

Brocade: Commonly used to describe many types of patterned fabrics, however, the term actually denotes a specific type of textile weave. A brocade is a fabric in which woven design is created with supplementary pattern wefts that are discontinuous (the pattern wefts do not pass across the whole width of the woven cloth).

Brocade

Brocade

Chambray:  A smooth, light fabric of cotton, linen, etc, of a plain weave with a colored warp (usually blue) and white weft, appearing like denim. Usually used in warm weather attire because of it’s light weight.

Gaberdine: A woven, warp-faced steep or regular twill fabric with a prominent diagonal rib on the face and smooth surface on the back. Garbardine always has many more warp than weft yarns. Usually made of wool and used to make suits, overcoats, trousers, uniforms, windbreakers, and other garments.

Gabardine

Gauze: Popularly known as any sheer, lightweight fabric, however true gauze is a weave structure in which individual warp yarns across over adjacent warp yarns and then cross back into their original positions, held in place by weft yarns. The areas of crossed warps result in small, visible openings in the cloth, and these openings form the design areas.

Ikat: A resist-dyeing technique in which yarns are tie-dyed before they are woven into cloth. The term derives from Indonesian mengikat, meaning, “to tie”.

Ikat

Ikat

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Learning from the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

“The Triangle Shirtwaist incident is remembered for its shocking brutality: On March 25, 1911, a ferocious fire broke out at a factory on the ninth floor of a building in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Some of the exits and stairwells had been locked to prevent workers from taking breaks or stealing, leaving many unable to get out. As a result, 146 workers, mostly young immigrant women, died within 20 minutes. They were burned alive, asphyxiated by smoke or died trying to escape out of the windows and balcony.” -Huffington Post

triangle shirtwaist factory

The anniversary of this tradegy reminds us how important it is to protect the fair labor of factory workers. Even though we are not even close to where we should be when it comes to fair labor practices (especially 103 years post Triangle Shirtwaist Fire incident), there are a few commendable organizations who fight to promote fair labor in the fashion industry:

The Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) is an independent labor rights monitoring organization, conducting investigations of working conditions in factories around the globe. Our purpose is to combat sweatshops and protect the rights of workers who make apparel and other products.

The WRC conducts independent, in-depth investigations; issues public reports on factories producing for major brands; and aids workers at these factories in their efforts to end labor abuses and defend their workplace rights. The WRC is proud to have the support of over 175 college and university affiliates and our primary focus is the labor practices of factories that make university-related apparel.

With the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)* to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.

OSHA is part of the United States Department of Labor. The administrator for OSHA is the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. OSHA’s administrator answers to the Secretary of Labor, who is a member of the cabinet of the President of the United States.

Labour Behind the Label supports garment workers’ efforts worldwide to improve their working conditions, through awareness raising, information provision and encouraging international solidarity between workers and consumers.

Members include trade unions and their local branches, consumer organisations, campaign groups, and charities.

These organisations work together, through Labour Behind the Label, to achieve four aims:

1. Raise public awareness and mobilise consumers.
2. Pressure companies to take responsibility for workers’ rights in the entirety of their supply chains.
3. Support workers in their struggles for decent working conditions, including speaker tours and urgent appeals.
4. Lobby governments and policy makers to bring about change.

Eco Fashion World’s GUIDE is your essential resource to sustainable designer brands and online eco fashion stores. Click on any search button above to help you find what you’re looking for. Being a green shopper and a sustainable fashionista has never been so easy.

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Remembering L’Wren

L’Wren Scott, acclaimed costume designer and celebrity stylist has taken her own life, her body was found by her assistant the morning of March 17th. It has emerged that the A-list socialite was massively in debt, “Accounts for her business LS Fashion LTD show it had a deficit of $5,899,548 (4,237,164 Euros) and the designer owed creditors $7.641 million (euros 5,488,125)” (The Mirror).

 L'Wren3

The discourse surrounding L’Wren’s death has revolved around her connections with the celebrity elite (I.e. being Mick Jagger’s long-time girlfriend and being best friends with Nicole Kidman, Ellen Barkin, Daphne Guinness, and Rachel Feinstein), but Ms. Scott had many accomplishments besides being an A-list socialist.

DaphneGuinness

L’Wren began her career in the fashion world as a model in the 1980s for Thierry Mugler. At a height of 6 feet 3 inches, Scott became known as the model with “The Longest Legs in Britain.”

L'Wren4

Her modeling career was short-lived, as she moved to the business-side of the fashion industry with a knack for styling and an address book full of celebrity high society members like Madonna, Julia Roberts, and Angelina Jolie. In 2000, L’Wren was actually named the “official” stylist of the Oscars.

L'Wren and Karl

Expanding into costume design was the next logical step for the highly connected fashionista. Her costume design repertoire includes Ocean’s Thirteen, Eyes Wide Shut and Martin Scorsese’s documentary about The Rolling Stones. In 2006, L’Wren launched her own collection and became a favorite among the London Fashion Week scene, always showing at the end of the week in an intimate setting with a small but ultra-posh audience and the finest of catering (that always matched the collection).

L'Wren Scott

 

It is sad to see such a talent succumb to the pressures that go along with being a high-profile fashion designer (which brings to mind the late Alexander McQueen, R.I.P.). Just goes to show that the glitz and glamour of the fashion scene is sometimes just smoke and mirrors and when the illusion dissipates, the harsh realities of maintaining a successful fashion business is sometimes too much for creative minds to cope with.

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Who Wears the Pants?

Dockers          Dockers

In order to understand the world and the endless amount of information we take in every second, the human brain has developed the use of ‘schemata’ or categories which are used as frameworks so that information can be easily and quickly filed away to help us interact appropriately in different situations. Everyone has their own set of schemata influenced by background, upbringing, experiences and relationships. Yet, there is no doubt that everyone uses them. They have to, as some scholars say, or else there would be information overloads and no interaction would be able to take place. Some schemata are shared by the general populous, such as gender schemata. The female schema contains characteristics such as nurturing, facilitating, polite, dependent, and unaggressive. The male schema says men are dominant, aggressive, stoic, successful, independent, and the breadwinners. There are also other schemata that go along with race/ethnicity, class, religion, occupation, national identity, and sexuality.

These universally accepted schemata can be easily discovered by simply looking at the media and advertisement portrayals in how the represent their markets. It seems that Dockers has very different schemata traits when it comes to gay and straight men which we can see in their most recent advertising campaign. This campaign began a in early December of 2009 which called for men to go back to their roots, to act more manly, and to ‘Wear the Pants’.

Most of the ad’s have the same general format; a man standing in front of a plain background, the top half of him is a saying and he is wearing Dockers pants. What is interesting is the difference in the word choice given the context the ad will be seen. Can you guess which one of the above ads I found in Out magazine, the national gay fashion and lifestyle magazine for the US? Without getting into the phrases used, you could probably tell just by the style and fit of the pants. The ones on the left are an orange/pink and the fit is much tighter than the khaki’s on the right which are looser, wrinklier, and a dull tan. Even the stance of the two are remarkably different. We have one who is almost posing sexually, looking to the side, or behind him as if looking for someone to make a connection with, versus the other man who seems to have no interest in what is going on around him, rather he is looking out with his hands on his hips as if he just accomplished a trying task or is contemplating the meaning of life. Getting down to the more obvious of differences, we see what the Dockers advertising campaign sees as the difference in priorities between gay men and straight men through the phrases they chose to make up the body (in both sense of the word) of their ad. ‘Behold the Second Dawn of Man’ goes along with the main theme of the Dockers new ad campaign which, in summary, claims that our society has become genderless, and is therefore crumbling.  It calls for men to drop their non-fat lattes, put on their pants, be men and help little old ladies cross the street, discipline misbehaving children, and of course, buy Docker’s pants. It is easy to see the sexism in this campaign, but further drudging of the advertisements brings to light more prejudice ideals. First of all, the ad I found in Out is much harder to track down in other outlets. In fact, it doesn’t even appear in a Google search. Does Dockers not want to be identified with the gay community,? if so, why advertise in a gay magazine?

The phrase used for the advertisement placed in a gay context states, ‘Attract the touches of friends, boyfriends, and even the occasional stranger’. So, straight men wear their pants to maintain order in society, gay men wear pants to be promiscuous and attract attention from occasional strangers. Though it seems trite to take such a critical view of these two seemingly unimportant advertising images, it does bring light to how mainstream corporations view different subcultures and instill representations and reinforce stereotypes. As the introduction to Erving Goffman’s book Gender Advertisements says, “Advertisements depict for us not necessarily how we actually behave as men and women but how we think men and women behave. This depiction serves the social purpose of convincing us that this is how men and women are, or want to be, or should be not only in relation to themselves but in relation to each other” (Gornick, 1979).

It is important to understand the implications and affects these representations have on our culture. From creating unfair homogenous stereotypes of a group to instilling an unattainable body and lifestyle ideal people try to live up to.

*Re-post from last year in honor of #ThrowBackThursday

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Missing the Target – 3 Recent Fashion Industry Fails

From a graphic design nightmare to a potential trademark lawsuit, the fashion industry has seen some major epic fails over the past couple weeks. I.F. comments on three major mishaps the fashion industry would rather we didn’t talk about.

1. Target’s Photoshop Mishap

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At least, one would hope it was a mishap. It’s painful to think that a graphic designer would blatantly remove a section of the model’s crotch (perhaps in a seriously failed attempt at taking the “thigh-gap” to another level – as some people outraged in response to the image). The image went viral and Target removed it from the site, but not without a serious backlash from the internet community.

Learn to proof, Target.

2. Recipe for Disaster: Fast Fashion Meets Fast Food

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Jeremy Scott, recently appointed creative director of Moschino, presented his debut collection at Milan Fashion week; “an ode to the 1980s, 1990s and American brand iconography, referencing Cheetos, Hershey’s, Froot Loops, SpongeBob SquarePants, Run-DMC and, notably, McDonald’s.” The day after the show, a ten-piece capsule collection appropriately named, “Fast Fashion – Next Day After The Runway,” became available for purchase in Moschino boutiques and online at moschino.com.

Seven of the ten pieces in the collection featured a heart-shaped motif that looks exactly like a pigeon-toed version of the McDonald’s Golden Arches, mustard and ketchup colors and all. It has been discovered that Moschino did not approach McDonald’s for permission to use the Golden Arches logo, and it is inconclusive as to whether McDonald’s has grounds for legal action as the law related to trademark “dilution” is tenuous. (For a more detailed explanation of the legal side to this matter visit this great article by The Business of Fashion)

However, the most interesting discourse surrounding this issue deals with the interplay of fast fashion with fast food; “McDonald’s could argue that Moschino uses the heart-shaped motif in fashion designs to draw an unflattering comparison between fast food and fast fashion. Naming the capsule collection ‘Fast Fashion — Next Day After The Runway’ and retailing it on the day following the show both skewers the high street chains creating fast fashion and beats them at their own game, but at the expense of McDonald’s Golden Arches. In 2001, McDonald’s was the primary target in Eric Schlosser’s bestseller Fast Food Nation. In 2012, fast fashion came under similar scrutiny in Elizabeth L. Cline’s book Overdressed. Katha Pollitt of The Nation praised the book, saying ‘Overdressed does for t-shirts and leggings what Fast Food Nation did for burgers and fries.'” (Anjli Patel of BOF)

3. More Flaws in Bangladesh Factories

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It’s been almost a full year since the epic Rana Plaza Factory collapse in Bangladesh, resulting in over 1,000 deaths – and it appears history is destined to repeat itself. In a recent inspection, Bangladesh factories were found to have “cracked support beams, substandard building materials and exposed electrical cables chewed by rats.” The group leading the inspections is comprised of mostly European Fashion Brands who got together after the Rana Plaza tragedy shed light on the disastrous working conditions of many Bangladesh garment workers (of which there are over 4 million) who work in the factories who produce their products. It seems a bit distressing that it has taken this long to START the inspections stage… never mind the fact that there is no evidence that the inspection has any clout (a bad rating from this group does not mean other brands will not still use their services). It is yet to be explained how the group is actually helping the workers, there seems to be no suggestion that they plan to provide solutions to even simple problems they could themselves implement (like providing lunch for workers), never mind solve architectural issues.

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The Better Cotton Initiative

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The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) aims to make global production of cotton more sustainable not only for the environment, but for the future and for the people who produce it, from farmers to textile mills to retailers. Working with a “diverse range” of members along the entire cotton supply chain, BCI collaborates with and provides solutions for better cotton production practices, promoting improvements for the environment, farming communities and the economies of cotton-producing areas.

“Cotton is one of the world’s most important natural fibres. It’s used by nearly everyone on Earth every day, and supports 300 million people’s livelihoods. It’s a renewable natural resource, but only if we manage it responsibly. In 2005, a group of visionary organisations came together to figure out what could be done to safeguard the future of cotton. ‘There has to be a better way’, they said. It turns out there is. It’s called Better Cotton.” (www.bettercotton.org)

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Fashion companies associated with this initiative include Adidas, Gap Inc., H&M, Inditex (Zara), Levi Strauss & Co., Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, and VF Corp. (Parent company of 7 for all mankind, Nautica, Jansport, The North Face, Wrangler, Timberland, Vans). The Better Cotton website explains why so many big names have become members of BCI,

“One of the reasons that leading retailers and brands support the Better Cotton Initiative is that they realise that if famers do not earn enough money growing cotton, they will switch to some other crop, and this could eventually lead to increased costs for the brands or other supply scarcity issues. It is very much in the brands’ own best interest that farmers benefit from any margin improvement their efforts result in.”  (www.bettercotton.org)

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What is particularly commending about this not-for-profit organization is it’s inclusive attitude towards varying farming methods. It does not push an organic-agenda on farmers, rather, BCI collaborates with farmers to create a more sustainable system for whatever production methodology is being used.

Working together for positive change – I.F. commends the brands who are members of this admirable initiative (momentarily setting aside some of these companies not-so-commendable business practices in other areas).

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*All photos from the Better Cotton website: http://www.bettercotton.org

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A Salute to Sword & Plough – A Visionary Made in USA Brand Bridging Humanitarianism with Fashion

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Sword & Plough is a visionary and philanthropic brand that up-cycles military materials that would otherwise be thrown away, into fashionable, sophisticated, unisex bags and totes; all the while employing U.S. veterans as they assimilate back into civilian life and after.

The brand is run by sisters Emily and Betsy Nunez, who were born into a military family. Understanding the plight of military members relating to their fellow civilian comrades, the sisters felt they needed to do, or create, something that would remind civilians, in a positive and beautiful way, about the challenges all servicemen and women face, and that everyone can do their part to help.

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As they discuss on their site, “Most individuals use a bag of some form throughout their day. By recycling and repurposing military gear with a fashionable touch, and working with veterans, we create sturdy and sophisticated products, whose sale will empower veteran employment, reduce waste and strengthen civil-military understanding. In this way, our bags are rugged, refined and relevant.”

The beautiful combination of olive and forest green hues, gorgeous leather detailing and heavy gold hardware creates a fashionable, unassuming statement piece that is highly functional and highly androgynous. For a bag that clearly has the quality (MADE IN USA!) and fashionability to last, the price seems none too steep (~$250).

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