Thursday, February 24, 2011

smells like paint

Hello, readers. Frédérik here. I'm sorry to say I don't have a new post for you this week. However, you'll notice that I've done a little redecorating. Hope you like it.

See you next week!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

bells don't ring but jeans flare up

by frédérik sisa

Following on a post from waaaaay back in June 2010...I remember a pair of flared jeans I had back in the days when my experiments in fashion were tentative, confused, and not particularly convincing. (Hey, you gotta start somewhere, right?) It took quite a bit of effort to find them, and they were essentially one of the last pairs of men’s flare jeans Levi’s had available at the time. That was about 13-14 years ago. And what happened to these near-mythical jeans? I eventually donated them to charity because, with their typical denim indigo, they didn’t fit into my painstakingly evolved black-with-some-sanguinary-colours wardrobe. How silly. I quite liked how they had, well, flair without going overboard into bell-bottom territory.

Now that I’m seeing flared jeans flare up again, with plenty of brands offering up the style as an option to the usual straight, skinny, or boot cut, I thought about that old pair of jeans and wondered if there would be a suitable replacement.

I haven’t found one.

Ladies, of course, have plenty of options to choose from.

Here’s Levi’s "interesting" custom vintage flare for $118. Retro, if you will. The fabric inset at the knee, according to them says “you've worn it, you've repaired it, and you love it still.” Is that like wearing a jacket with patches at the elbows?

At $172, Sandra’s Sailor Pant by True Religion isn’t exactly a budget bargain. Then again, it is a beautiful pair of pants. Just look at the waist detail and the drape of the legs.

See more True Religion flares here.

At $59.99 on sale, this is a stylish flare with a nice wash by Fossil.

So ladies are well covered in the flare department, and I’m quite pleased to see flares make a comeback. They make for a lovely silhouette.

But what about guys? It seems to me that when brands only offer certain styles to women (especially styles that were once just as common for men), we create a kind of cultural reinforcement of gender bias. That is, we only see women wearing flares and it becomes ingrained in our unconscious. When a man then wears flared jeans, it seems strange because we’re not used to seeing it. For a more radical example, consider skirts on women and kilts on men. Considering that men’s fashion used to be much bolder and more diversified than it is today, it seems quite unfair, not to mention barkin’ mad, that women can wear anything and everything attributed to both women and men, while men are relegated to the same old boring profiles. Certainly flared jeans can work just as well for guys as for women.

And yet, despite all that, Topman’s still offers flared jeans for guys, like these. (Last summer, they even had full-on bells.)

Alas, although their offerings are reasonably priced between $16 on sale and $70, they have next to no stock left. And no black, although I’m waiting to hear back on what their future offerings will be.

Of course, there is the issue as to whether flared jeans are just trending or might actually become a regularly accessible element of fashion’s post-modern wardrobe. What do you think? Share your flares in the comments below…

Note: images borrowed from their respective brand websites for illustration purposes only.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

espadrilles and vigatanes, the messengers of summer

by frédérik sisa

We’re all familiar with espadrilles, those happy jute-and-rope messengers of summer, especially since North American brands like TOMS have made them popular again in one form or another. Derived from the Catalan word “espardenya,” the word espadrille is rooted in the Catalan name for a tough Mediterranean grass used in rope-making. But have you heard of vigatanes? Chances are you’ve seen them, even if you haven’t heard them called by name. I corresponded with Cécile Vila of Créations Catalane, creators of beautiful authentic espadrilles, to learn a little more. (Note: the interview was done in French. I've provided a translation with the original French in italics.)

Nous sommes tous familiers avec les espadrilles, ces joyeux messagers de l’été en jute et corde, particulièrement lorsque popularisé par des marques Nord Américaines comme TOMS. Venant du mot Catalan esparenya, le mot espadrille est enraciné dans le nom Catalan pour une herbe forte Méditérannéenne utilisé dans la fabrication de corde. Mais avez-vous entendu parler de vigatanes? Vous les reconnaissez sans doute même si le nom vous échappe. J’ai fais correspondence avec Cécile Vila de la société Créations Catalane, créateurs de belles espadrilles authentiques, pour en apprendre plus.

Can you explain the significance of espadrilles and vigatanes to Catalan culture? Pouvez-vous expliquez la signification des espadrilles et vigatanes à la culture catalane?
The vigatane is the traditional Catalan espadrille. It originated from Vic on the Barlecona coast in Spain and arrived by smugglers who crossed the franco-spanish border around 1860. It’s the iconic product of Catalan, worn by dancers of the Sardane. They’re light and comfortable, and that’s why dancers of the Sardane (a typical Catalan dance) adopted it.

La vigatane est l'espadrille catalane traditionnelle. elle est originaire de vic en espagne à cote de barcelone. elle est arrivée par les contrebandiers qui traversaient la frontière franco espagnole vers 1860.c'est le produit emblèmatique de la catalogne, porté par les danseurs de sardane. Elle est légère et confortable, c'est pour cela que les danseurs de sardane (danse typiquement catalane) l'ont adoptée.

What inspired you to start your company? Qu'est ce qui vous a inspiré à commencer votre société?

Céline and I are natives of St Laurent de Cerdans (the 1950s espadrille capital) and childhood friends. When we learned that the last artisan sandal maker from the village was retiring, we decided to start a company to preserve the traditional know-how. We are very attached to our traditions and want to make it better known by modernizing it.

Nous sommes, Céline et moi même, originiare de st laurent de cerdans (capitale de l'espadrille dans les années 1950) et amie d'enfance. quand nous avons appris que le dernier artisan sandalier du village prenait sa retraite, nous avons décidé de monter notre entreprise pour garder ce savoir faire traditionnel.nous sommes trés attachées à nos traditions et voulons la faire connaitre en la modernisant.

What is your traditional method of making espadrilles and vigatanes? Quelle est votre méthode traditionnelle de fabrication d'espadrilles et de vigatanes?

At the beginning of the 20th century, manufacturing was essentially by hand. Afterwards, the manufacturing became gradually more industrialized thank to machines like [petits points] that can sew the entirety of the vigatane or espadrille. We use the methods of our grandparents as well as their machines, some of which are more than 100 years old.

Avant, au debut du 20eme siecle, la fabrication se faisait essentiellement à la main.ensuite la fabrication s'est peu a peu industrialisée, grace à certaines machines comme la machine petits points qui sert a coudre l'ensemble de la vigatane ou espadrille (voir explications sur le cousu main ou cousu machine).nous utilisons les méthode de nos grands parents ainsi que leurs machines puisque certaines ont plus de 100 ans.
It’s worth noting the difference between handmade and machine-made beyond manufacturing methods. Handmade shoes place the foot directly in contact with the rope, are more supple, and have a thicker sole, while the machine-made shoes wrap the rope in cotton fabric, are lighter, and have a thinner sole. According to Ms. Vila, both are comfortable and durable but many people seem to prefer the machine-made shoes. However, there are those who prefer the handmade, which represents the traditional espadrille know-how. For more on the artisanal method of making espadrilles, click here (it’s in French; let me know in the comments if you’d like me to provide a translation.)

C’est bien valable de noter la difference entre les cousus-main et les cousus-machine à part des methods de fabrication. Avec les cousus-main, les pieds sont en contacte directe avec la corde, sont plus souples, et possèdes une semelle plus épaisse. Les cousus-machine, par contre, envelope la corde avec une toile de cotton, sont plus légères, et ont des semelles moins épaisses. Selon Mme. Vila, les deus sont comfortable et durable mais le monde semble préférer les cousus-machine. Il y a cependant ceux qui préfèrent le cousu-main, qui represent le savoir-fair espadrille traditionnel. Pour en connaître plus de la méthode artisanale, cliquez içi.

I understand that vigatanes have a folkloric character, but what do you think their fashion character is, for men as well as women? Je comprends que les vigatanes possèdes un charactère folklorique, mais selon vous quel est leur charactère de mode, pour les hommes ainsi que pour les femmes?

Our challenge is precisely to develop the vigatane as a fashion item rather than a folkloric one. Our shoes are very light, comfortable, and well suited to the summer season. The lace decorates the legs of the women who wear them. We also sell vigatanes to men who want to distinguish themselves from classic espadrilles. We play with materials and fashionable colours, and the fact that we offer products that are 100% French.

Notre challenge est justement de dévelloper la vigatane comme un article de mode plutot que comme un article de folklore.nos chaussures sont trés légères, confortables, et se pretent donc bien à la saison estivale. le lacet affine la jambe de la dame qui la porte. nous vendons aussi des vigatanes aux hommes qui veulent se démarquer des classiques espadrilles.nous jouons sur les tissus, les couleurs tendances et le fait que ce soit un produit 100% français.

I have to admit that before coming across Catalan artisans like Créations Catalane and their catalog of colourful shoes (including personalized espadrilles), I hadn’t thought too much about espadrilles. (TOMS, quite frankly, don’t quite appeal to me despite the great cause.) But those vigatanes are quite irresistible to me, and they’re definitely something different for men. And guys? They’re smuggler-approved, so that has to count for something.

Unfortunately, getting espadrilles or vigatanes from Créations Catalane only works if you’re in Europe, in which case you can visit them or order online. If you’re in New York, you can find their products at the Catalan boutique Les Toiles du Soleil.

Many thanks to Ms. Vila for her time and for use of the photographs. It was a pleasure to be introduced her company and the wonderful world of espadrilles and vigatanes. Now, aren't you ready for summer?

J’admet que je n’ai pas trop pensé aux espadrilles avant de découvrir des artisans Catalans comme Créations Catalane et leur catalogue de chaussures colorées (avec options personalisées). (La marque TOMS, franchement, ne m’attire pas malgré la bonne cause.) Mais les vigatanes me semblent irresistible et sont certainment quelque chose de différent pour les hommes. Et les mecs, ça doit valoir quand elles ont recues l’approbation de contre-bandiers!

Malheureusement, obtenir des espadrilles ou des vigatanes de Créations Catalane n’est pratique seulement si vous êtes en Europe. Dans ce cas, vous pouvez visiter la société ou bien placer une commande à travers leur site internet. Si vous êtes à New York, vous trouveriez bien leurs produits chez la boutique Catalane Les Toiles du Soleil.

Je remercie Mme. Vila pour son temps et pour les photos. Ce fut un plaisir d’être introduit à sa société et me monde magnifique des espadrilles et vigatanes. Alors, êtes vous prêts pour l'été?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

goin' with the Nadiflow - yoga and active wear

by frédérik sisa

It's been roughly four years since I last did yoga, and on getting back into the groove I was faced with that most crucial question: what the heck am I going to wear?

Okay, so it's not really THE critical question. Nevertheless, I didn't feel like my usual practical-yet-dorky choice of clothes was working for me. Too fussy, and I felt like the yoga practioner's equivalent of a sock-and-sandal wearer. So off I set into the big, big world to find something more suitable, specifically, something simple to wear, practical for doing yoga in, and with a style that's not liable to gouge sensitive eyes. Of course, it won't surprise you to learn that I had a pair of cropped yoga pants in mind; cropped is, after all, my preffered kind of pants given their balance of coverage and open-air comfort. For doing yoga, however, there is yet another practical aspect to consider: it's easy to see the position of the feet and legs to make sure the pose is correct.

I first started by looking at Prana's offerings, but as usual I found them disappointing. Their selection of men's clothes isn't bad, but the available colours are usually weird (espresso? really?) and I just find that the men's side of things to be somewhat of an afterthought. Then I found Verve Climbing, who have a good mix of clothes for both men and women and are - bonus! - handmade in the US. And, naturally, exactly what I was looking for, even if they do call them, without snickering, knickers.

Verve's Hanuman Knicker; neither tight-fitting or loose, these pants are designed for yoga poses

Turns out that Verve doesn't have online shopping at the moment, and a call to Verve HQ went unreturned (boo!). Since I had a question about sizing, I looked for other retailers. None of those I found offered any savings over Verve's price, so I ended up wandering over to Nadiflow where I read this in the About Us section:
...when we [Lisa and Daniel] decided to take those first few classes, Daniel didn’t know what to wear. He searched at local stores with little success. Some Yoga studios offered men’s yoga apparel, but with very limited choices. He searched online for options and didn’t find many.

NadiFlow was inspired by this lack of available men’s yoga wear. The standard gym trunks just didn’t cut it. You know what we’re talking about – the bunching, the binding, the restrictiveness, the urge to reach down and adjust…try that when you are in downward dog! As we looked for men’s products, we came upon some unique items to offer for women as well. We at NadiFlow offer active wear in the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle, whether you practice yoga or other activities.
So I thought to myself, "Self, old boy, these people get it. I'll order from them."

Nadiflow offer's clothes for men and women - shorts, pants, cropped pants, hoodies, shirts - and lovely fair trade mat bags made from recycled saris, like this one.

Now, I realize that this week's post isn't of the strictly "fashion" variety, except for the notion that practical activewear can also be stylish. But Lisa (and Daniel) have been really swell in answering questions, as well as keeping track of my package so I get the knickers in time for my next yoga class, that I'd thought I'd feature them. Also, Nadiflow is a relative newcomer to the scene, and I love discovering newcomers. I can't speak about the knickers themselves yet since I haven't worn them to class yet, but with a great attitude and an inclusive, eco-concious selection of products, Nadiflow as a retailer clearly fits in with what The Fashionoclast is all about. Naturally, that deserves a mention.

So there you have it. Nadiflow.

Note: Images borrowed from Nadiflow's website for illustration purposes only.