Saturday, February 27, 2010

Rain got you down?

By Aqua Catlin

I've waited so lonnng for the right time and now, Fancy Rain Boots, this is your moment. The rain gets me down but these boots are making me smile. I don't know why I've waited so long to wear them so much, I was really looking forward to it...

...and I hope you can see why. They are fun, shiny and pretty. And I noted today as I wore them around, they are cosy, roomy and offer their own arch support. Plus even though they're just beyond fancy, Dahling, they were affordable. Pretty sure I'm going on too long about this but forgive me, I was raised without the need for galoshes a.k.a gum boots so its fun for me. Is that cute buckle detail typical? I think not.

Another great reason to exploit them, white legs. Loyal readers will be aware of the ongoing tanning dramas that I just have to laugh at and a few of which are listed here. At the fabulous Gold's Gym, I've been tanning in their futuristic sci-fi stand-up beds (just like a lie-down bed only less relaxing and perhaps you could press your ipod and say "Beam me up Scotty," and arrive on the deck in your underwear or less, so use with care and sunscreen).

Its actually so powerful I burned myself a couple times till I found the right balance with the always trusty Kiehl's 12spf sunscreen. For some reason the top of my body gets nice and cinnamonie. The bottom half turns scarlet or not much change with the spf. I learned to supplement with L'Oreal Sublime Bronze tanning lotion. Still there are those who don't beleive how much effort I put into coloring myself because I'm still so white. But I LOVE this product. Its got a lovely consistent sparkle for instant luminosity and instant bronze. The days following application produce a quite believeable and glowing tone as well. I've found that Nuetrogena can look a bit orange and the L'Oreal is more natural though it would be great if they improved the fragrance and perhaps, for me, I need to aim for a more dramatic change? Ah well, those sparkles have me.

Remember I've mentioned my personal place and fave Shorty's Barber Shop hair products? They've finally released their long awaited new formulas. They were kind enough to provide me with a sample of "Shamp" and "Condish" for my silky flaxen locks. The product line is free of sulfates, parabens, sodium chloride(ick), and paba. And my hair has had a better over-all look and feel to it since I started using it and shines more too. The Kiehl's Super Thick Volumizer Root Lift is also such a great after-blow-dry volumizer. It lasts all day long if I puff it with my fingers occassionally. Not saying my hair has exactly gone country, just that I enjoy any lift and bounce I can get. And I have to keep it dry. Once the rain gets to it, its over. But that's why my fabu leopard print brolly with red trim is another trusty raincessory that helps me smile through the grey.

Just on the subject of color, heaps of women wear dark maroon and black nail polish in winter. : / I don't know. Its a bit predictable and a bit gloomy. I feel that color is very psychological and that the best color to wear to beat back winter-blues, is red. (Watch if its a cool or warm red against your skin; for the most flattering finish you want to go with warm if your skin is warm etc.) The best red is by Essie. Essie brand also lasts the longest on your nails, hurrah! Bing-O Cherry is my favorite red ever and flatters every hand. And now that you know all my secrets, good luck finding it. (If you want it, let me know.)

Ok. Winter doldroms. My last post discussed the trends of prints, colors, and by contrast, Prada's use of black and white. The brand being the only one using LACK of color for their collection. I mentioned I predict that the market would follow, with black and white would be the next big trend. Its gone a step further. While recently browsing the web collecting viral bugs and worms galore, I was shocked by the latest Banana Republic campaign "Live in Chino.Seven Days A Week." Aside from the concept - this dull palette taking over your closet, can you also believe that is what their campaign is called.? I'd say more but I'm asleep.

Its very weird because their father-company, Ralph Lauren, sent a Spring couture collection booklet showing the most stunningly elegant powder blue and navy pieces. Each with a tailored fabric more sheer and soft than the last and many with dazzling blue jewelled details placed just so in the folds. Far from boring. It was my favorite read for a while, a book to escape into, as they say. (And while the looks slowed my breath, the pricing page, tucked away in the back, stopped my heart and made me laugh and cry.)

I know Banana Rep is safe but they've never been boring to me before. Till now, when they tell us to wear chino to work, then a date. Really? Uhm, no. Guys can wear it pretty well I guess, if they're looking for something that safe and and not able to pick up something interesting from Theory or Ralph in the same classic stylin's. Chino. Snooze. And while I can't find the couture images online that I mentioned from RL, look how exquisite this campaign and collection is. Its fun and lovely. Why do chino when your daddy does this?? Not very egalitarian of RL. But I think, if I had to choose just one brand to wear while in America, RL would be the one. Not that I'd want to choose and DK is also a great American designer but... I feel this is more youthful yet still classic. My own version of safe.

I have to run along but a quick plug, we have work in the Cinequest Film Festival and the Sedona Film Festival right now, congratulations Wry Eye Productions and YBG Productions, I love you..

Right, boots are staying home for saturday night but that fancy umbrella will find its way to hanging off my wrist and I love scarves. Still I need ideas on how to stay cheery in the rain with your favorite colors, boots, mittens etc., So let us know. Especially you experience cold-weather folk. We hate the rain (sorry all you farmers) but we love looking good and smiling through it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Survival Straps: interview with kurt walchle (part 1)

by frédérik sisa

I came across Survival Straps through, of all things, a Facebook ad. What the heck, I thought: it looked rather nifty so I clicked. And so it is. Very nifty. Survival Straps consists of bracelets, belts, watch straps and more woven out of paracord - parachute cord that is lightweight, durable, and of immense use to both military personnel and civilians) - and usable in emergencies. While I intend to talk more about the Survival Straps themselves in an upcoming post - I just love the blend of fashion and a good cause - for today I’m sharing Part 1 of my interview with Kurt Walchle, president of Tough Gear Inc.

What inspired you to make bracelets and the like out of paracord?

I have always made stuff out of paracord. I got sick of my old watch strap, and thought I could make something cooler on my own. After wearing the first one for a while, I began to get a lot of compliments. I thought, if they like the straps, and I like the straps, surely other people will like them as well. We then started to sell them and then added the bracelets and other products. We really opened up when we came out with all of the color combinations. Our customers have really responded well.

The Wounded Warrior Project is a great cause for everyone, regardless of where their politics happen to fall in the spectrum, to rally around. How did the project come to your attention, and how have your customers responded to your call to help injured soldiers?

The WWP is based here in Jacksonville where we are from. My family has donated personally to them throughout the past several years. I really believe in their mission and saw an opportunity to try and do some good. We have done a lot of advertising and raised some $ for them. Our Warriors coming home need a lot of help. All of us as americans need to step in and help these guys who have sacrificed so much for us. I am able to go on with my normal life here at home while our troops are fighting and dying overseas for us. When they come home, they need our help. The bottom line is that they are there for us, we need to be there for them. We have big plans to do a lot more in the near future when it comes to helping our Warriors.

Our customers have responded great. I think most Americans want to help out but don't really know what they can do. Through our care packages, we are trying to give everyone a way to support the men and women in uniform.

Any favourite stories of customers using their Survival Straps to get out of tricky situations?

We get all kinds of great stories. We are currently giving our site a facelift and will be highlighting the stories much more coming up in the next couple of weeks.

This story is from one of our great customers, Mike Harper. He has ordered a few pieces of gear from us over the past couple of years. I have only corresponded with Mike via email, but you can tell that he is one of those salt of the earth guys. He is currently training for a 100 mile bike race around Lake Tahoe. He is doing this because one of his best friend’s 2 year old son has been diagnosed with leukemia. He is doing this race to raise money for his friend's son's disease. Like I said, he seems like an incredible guy. Well, his story is the tops so far on how a piece of SurvivalStrap gear has been used. Here is his email to me:


I have owed you an email for some time, I actually used my survival strap for pulling someone out of a river that was drowning on a float trip. I think you should hear the whole story.

A buddy and I were canoeing down a fork of the White River in southern MO. It's a popular float trip for college kids and families. It was just gonna be a guys weekend...low key.

It was just after lunch and we were coming to a part in the river that was pretty fast moving, and there was a pretty big tree that had fallen into the center of the river. While the river wasn't super deep at this point, it was fast moving and the current around the tree was challenging to get our canoe around. What made it even crazier is that this was right after a bend in the river, so you really didn't see it until you were right on top of it.

So my friend and I made it around the tree, but it wasn't easy. I don't know why, but something made us stop by the shore and take a break. Folks were getting around it OK, but there was a woman on an innertube that didn't seem to be moving out of the way.and she got stuck under one of the bigger tree branches, submerged in the river and couldn't get untangled...

Honestly, I have no idea what happened next, other than I remember breaking the buckle on my Survival Strap, handing one end to by buddy and told him to hang on, jumped into the river and got her untangled from the branches that were holding her under the water. My buddy then helped pull me in with the paracord that came from the Survival Strap.

So there's the whole story... I will ALWAYS wear one of your products whenever I am doing anything in the outdoors again...

God Bless, Mike Harper"

I was blown away when Mike sent me this story. This is the first true account of how one of our SurvivalStraps was actually used in a survival situation. This really solidified that our gear can work for its intended purpose. He got a free replacement Survival Bracelet. We hope he never has to use this one!

Part II of this interview will post next week...stay tuned! (And don't forget: you can have new posts delivered straight into your inbox by signing up for an eMail subscription. Considering we only post about twice a week, you can be sure you won't be flooded with reading beyond the time it takes to enjoy a hot cuppa.)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Vibram FiveFingers: like gloves for feet

by frédérik sisa

Strictly speaking, Vibram FiveFingers are probably not what come to mind when it comes to footwear that is “fashionable.” (Unless, that is, you can take the view that even sportswear has its fashionable side – cue all that fancy yoga wear.) In fact, fashion isn’t so much the point. Rather, it’s about an anti-shoe, barefoot philosophy that sees shoes as corrupting the natural biomechanics of the foot. Like a glove for the foot, FiveFingers provide protection without hampering the foot’s natural mobility. Runners who have adjusted their running techniques for barefoot running swear by them. Of course, given how quirky these things look, it’s not surprising that they’ve achieve a similarly quirky trendy status. Aqua, of course, will now be running out of the room trying to decide whether to vomit or merely gouge her eyes out with knitting needles, but speaking as someone who finds toe socks so much more fun and comfortable than regular sausage casings, I can see the appeal of FiveFingers both functionally and aesthetically. So when I learned Adventure 16 received new stock, I went to try them out.

I have to say that my intentions really weren’t about any sort of fashion – FiveFingers, with one exception, are definitely sportswear – although I did hope they would have a bit of sartorial flexibility. My mission was to evaluate them against my hiking shoes because I could definitely see the advantage of having better toe grip and range of motion in walking or climbing rocky, steep trail sections.

Although they have different FiveFingers with varying amounts of coverage and straps, I tried on the KSOs because I though they were the best option for hiking:

They were really hard to get on. (My wife was surprised as I normally don’t have issues with toe socks.) But from the rubber sole that goes from sole to toe pads, the FiveFingers have a certain stiffness that makes it harder to get toes into place than with socks. Still, once they’re on, they’re on – just as intended. They literally do fit like gloves.

I walked around, tried them out on the sample stone inclines, tested their mobility. They felt strange, but comfortable (more or less). Yet after months of eyeing them, I chose to pass on them. Reason the first had to do with the fact that I think they’re much better suited for runners than hikers. It’s not that they would be bad for hiking in terms of actual walking. But for those areas that have poison ivy and ticks, the exposed skin above the ankle can be a problem. In order to be nicely sealed in, you need shoes, socks, and the proper pants. It would be possible to wear socks with a slightly larger-sized KSO, I suppose, but I think it would hamper the barefoot feeling as well as the possibility of wearing the KSO without socks in less rugged terrains.

Reason the second had to with the fact that I while I could envision wearing these in places other than the trails, those places seemed a bit limited. Besides, I really prefer to actually be barefoot, or wear nice, airy sandals, and I have some shoes I like to wear during those times when sandals won’t work.

Altogether, and given the fact that I bought a pair of hiking shoes not too long ago and they’ve worked out very well for me, I simply couldn’t justify shelling out money for these bad boys. The fashion factor isn’t quite high enough on its own without the function factor. Maybe I’ll reconsider when it comes time to replace my trusty pair of hiking shoes.

One thing, though. Vibram does have the FiveFingers MOC, which is geared towards indoor use. I would have liked to try this one on, since they would make for a very nice indoor shoe. However, Adventure 16 didn’t have them and the uppers are made of kangaroo leather – I struggle with having animal products in my apparel.

That sound you hear is, of course, Aqua heaving a sign of relief. As for me, well, you can’t win them all...maybe someday I’ll consider the classic if a practical reason presents itself:

For now, my venture into the strange land of FiveFingers is a bust. But I'd love to hear from you runners out there. Have you tried FiveFingers? What do you think?

Note: Images borrowed from the Vibram FiveFingers website for illustrative purposes.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

simple, elegant, durable, design: just a few reasons to appreciate J. Jill

by frédérik sisa
(outfit: cotton-blend motorcycle jacket, pima cotton elbow-sleeve, chino boyfriend pants, easy bucket hat and Superga classic sneakers)

I’ve heard J. Jill’s designs described as a bit conservative - even the word “matronly” (!) has been bandied about (unfairly) here and there. But as far as I’m concerned “conservative” design is where the company’s strength and distinction lie: classic lines, clean tailoring, fluid grace, a simplicity that is elegant, unfussy, even Zen-like. Unlike the aggressively trendy cuts of other design retailers, J. Jill’s collection achieves the kind of style that seems to always be in style. Perhaps one has to point out that their target clientele does consist of women 35 and older, as stated on their “about us” page. Yet that doesn’t really mean that there’s nothing for younger fashionistas. In fact, I take it to mean that the designs are more mature, durable and real-word savvy than clothes aimed for fickle whippersnappers whose wardrobes tend to shift faster than their attention span. Certain trendy elements do make their way into the collections - cropped pants, ballet flats, and the like – but as influences demonstrating contemporary awareness rather than gimmicks.

Interesting is this season’s colours – plums, greys, blues, tans. They remind me, in a good way, of a rainy day in New England. (Bright colours are on the horizon, I’m sure, based on their past collections.) The muted palette plays nicely into a relaxed chic collection, and the surprise is that even skeptics, on closer look, may come to appreciate the thought that’s gone into the designs.

But ah, if only there was a J. Jack. (You knew I’d start whining again about this, right?) For some reason, I haven’t quite found a men’s brand that demonstrates the same conceptual design quality that J. Jill has. Maybe it’s because suits, complete with neck nooses, never look relaxed (or comfortable) to me. Or maybe because men’s fashion always strike me as falling into one of two extremes: boring staples in khaki or tan or painfully trendy. Cubavera might be the one exception off the top my head – more or less.

(outfit: Wearever vest, U-neck tank, full-leg cropped pants with pleated scarf and easy ballet flats)

When I seriously considered designing my own collection and starting a fashion company (epic fail; don’t ask), J. Jill’s design sensibilities were a key inspiration. Even today, I love the way collections are put together with a sense of unity. It doesn’t feel like a hodge-podge of stuff that is a collection in numbers only; it feels rather like a unified, bonafide collection of clothes rooted in the same design principles. That unity gets it’s ultimately manifestation in the Wearever collection, which is based on a mix-and-match approach of clothes that are stylistically compatible, wrinkle-free and easily washed (the fabrics consist of rayon and Lycra spandex), and available in light and dense weights to meet seasonal and layering needs. Of course, that modularity is present to some extent in the rest of J. Jill’s collection. So in addition to a robust design rooted in the best traditions of fashion, the collection is also based on versatility in terms of the clothes themselves as well as shoes and accessories. It’s holistic fashion, if you will, from one of my favourite brands.

Note: images are from and are only used for illustrative purposes.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

there's more to fashion than fashion

by frédérik sisa

My column this week at The Front Page Online is all about the uproar surrounding figure skater Johnny Weir’s now-rescinded plans to wear fox fur at the Olympics, With all the talk of rules both obeyed and broken around here, it seems like a good place to leap from in thinking about fashion as something more than just fashion.

There is, of course, the issue of luxury versus necessity; we don’t need to wear fur, so why abuse and kill an animal for it when we have synthetic alternatives? But, Johnny Weir notwithstanding, that’s a bit easy. What about footwear? Plastics can be tough on tootsies; chafing, unyielding, merciless. Throw in the chemistry of manufacturing shoes, and synthetic footwear can be a problem for the environment. Leather, however, is often flexible, breathable, and (more or less) able to stretch to accommodate the foot’s form. Yet it requires killing animals in large enough quantities to meet the demand. The choice, even for vegans, can be a challenge when considering the bigger environmental picture. Thankfully, there are more opportunities for us to buy shoes made of hemp and kindred materials, thus bypassing to some extent the leather vs. synthetics dilemma. And, as a movement becoming increasingly entrenched among innovative independents, eco-conscious footwear and clothes are becoming the baseline instead of the margins. Also notable is the increased popularity of vintage raids and DIY.

This next one is fairly obvious, but worth mentioning nonetheless. Take the fashion industry’s obsession with the toothpicks and the photoshopped, throw it into the media blender and voila, you get a self-esteem shake chock-full of insecurity. And insecurity undermines style as a means of confident self-expression, not to forget the devastating disorders that also occur. To what extent does supporting certain brands, design houses, retails stores, and boutiques – never mind the fashion magazines – reinforce an overall mindset of fitting people to the clothes instead of fitting clothes to the people?

A related issue involves putting the words “class” and “warfare” together in an unlikely combination for a fashion blog. Yet, clearly, different economic classes have access to different fashion styles and craftsmanship. One aspect of this is quality: a $30 pair of shoes is very rarely as durable and precisely constructed as a $200 pair of shoes. We can ask, however, at what point price and quality lose all correlation. Is a $1,000 pair of shoes distinctly better than a $300 pair?

Another aspect is the paradox of a society that judges based on appearances, fashion operates along the same lines as the adage that it takes money to make money. If you look poor, you will be treated as if you are poor. If you look rich, you will be lavished with attention befitting royalty. It’s a question of opportunities not just missed, but denied.

It would be easy to go on, but I think the point is made: there’s more to fashion than fashion. While the rules of style can be made and unmade with equal ease, there’s some serious consideration that needs to happen if fashion is to be a positive human endeavour instead of yet another expression of consumerism. That is another reason to be galled by Johnny Weir and his fur fetish, because his refusal to acknowledge the often complex corollary issues of fashion showcases the worse, most callous and indifferent side of the fashion industry.

What do you think? Beyond your view of whether a piece of clothing or an accessory looks good, what issues matter to you when you decide what to buy?