Saturday, November 24, 2012

the fashion of lovers is for death

by frédérik

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope you had a wonderful holiday!

I confess I've been feeling rather irritable towards the state of fashion design these days, a sentiment that got me into trouble thanks to an inartfully phrased comment...In any case, suffice it to say that I'm stuck with the feeling that the fashion industry in general is stagnating, despite the successes of individuals designer/artisans here and there. It's as if the discipline of fashion design is missing something, and that imagination and craftsmanship, however undeniable in some cases, are boxed into familiar cultural and conceptual categories. Where, I wonder, is the progressive design, the revolutionary design, the design that aims outside the ivory tower of high fashion and high prices? Where is the design that goes beyond mere exercises in aesthetics?

So I've been stuck inside a room with no windows and no doors. My chilling challenge: to find a way out! Without metaphorically hanging from the rafters, of course. Then an idea started forming once my penchant for melodramatic excess settled down. For some time, I've been thinking about when my interest in fashion was kindled: with the discovery of goth,and my first deliberate stylistic choice to phase out colours to achieve an all-black wardrobe. I don't tend to let  myself become ensnared, encapsulated, or otherwise embalmed by labels - and I'm not going to start trotting any now - but insofar as I have a home for my gothic sensibilities, it is with the unique and remarkably durable goth (sub)culture for which I still feel an affinity towards. And so, as my wardrobe has been subject to my idiosyncrasies, I've been considering re-calibrating my personal style, which was wandered over the years...and as I revisit some familiar, but neglected friends - Shrine, Lip Service - I may have found the antidote to the funk I've been in. Oh yes, there's still a revolutionary spirit to be found, fashion design that makes a statement, assumes a point of view - fashion design that actually means something.

Before featuring those old friends in future posts, however, I have to credit a new discovery for sparking my enthusiasm back to life: Los Angeles-based Heavy Red, whose gorgeous, sophisticated designs break my heart. Unmistakably gothic, with a hint of sex and cabaret, a certain literary erudition, an imaginative distillation of death and romance. I could run out of adjectives. But consider this: there's something "easy" in fashion designers choosing to be everything to everyone - or, at least, tuning their career for mainstream fashion. I greatly admire designers like Heavy Red, not only because I relate but because they've chosen the more difficult task of embodying a particular alternative culture, a task that entails both preserving an essential character while imagining new ways of expressing that character. For example, I can't think of anyone else off the top of my head who designs gothic swimsuits. Yes, Heavy Red is that good. And reasonably priced, too.

But enough with the yakkety-schmakkety. How about we take a look at some clothes? I had to pick a few somewhat at random, because they're all so enticing. So feast your eyes on...

The costume, easily rivaling anything American McGee or Tim Burton could conceive, includes a blue Alice dress, brocade corset, cream jacket, and strait jacket straps.

Silver and pretty.

A bold fitted dress with side zipper, adjustable straps, and an elastic along the top back to allow for differences in bust size.

A striking heavy-weight (30% faux wool 3%span 34% acrylic) vegan-friendly coat lined with deep red satin, detachable faux-fur collar and arm-warmers, and the versatility to adjust to form and layers of clothes beneath.

Beautiful corset with 12 steel boned panels,  4 interior layers, an inside waist ribbon, a 5 prong busk front closure, a 26 grommet closure in the back, and a 5" vanity panel in back. 

A versatile four-panel skirt that can be worn tied up or in an A-line style, designed to be worn with a variety of tops.

Heavy stretch nylon/lycra pants with a soft cotton interior. The panels on thighs and shins are made of stretch faux leather.

Stunning fitted gown with black satin garter panels, hand sewn strips of black and red cloth at the hem, and adjustable straps.

There you have it: a small but delectable sampling from Heavy Red's drop dead gorgeous collection. And in case you're wondering, they do offer men's clothes too. I'm told the designer is working on some items for the next collection; I'll be sure to report back when they're released. In the meantime, though, do visit Heavy Red's website and admire their entire collection...

Disclaimer: Images borrowed from with the kind permission of Heavy Red.

Friday, November 16, 2012

the great dilemma

by frédérik

Last week’s post on denim sandal boots inspired me to look for sandal boots designed with men in mind. Predictably, I didn’t find any, except for this sharp-looking pair:

Image borrowed from under fair use for illustrative purposes only.
I tracked it to the website, were I learned that these are manufactured in Zhejiang China, is branded under the name “Faye’s”, is made of canvas and genuine leather with a rubber outsole. It also retails for $31.58 a pair, with discounts for wholesale orders.

And what, you may ask, It’s an eCommerce website –  part of the Chinese-based Alibaba Group – that allows shoppers to browse and purchase from an array of Chinese-made products.

If I came across this pair of shoes at my local Macy’s or some boutique, I would probably buy them – except for the fact that labour conditions in China makes me wary of purchasing Chinese-made products. So, really, I mostly like wouldn’t buy them although I’d feel that mighty inner tug between my inner consumer and my inner ethicist.

But here’s a bit of dimension to the scenario: I’m not opposed to buying from China or any other country. I just prefer to buy local where possible; it's better for the environment, supports local craftspeople and artisans,  and stimulates the local economy. However, for some items that aren't available where I live, it makes sense to buy them from where they are available. Those espadrilles I recently bought, for example, were hand-made in Spain by artesans. By that logic, shouldn't I allow myself the indulgence of buying the above boot sandals since that's not something I'll find here (as far as I know)?

Similarly, I've decided to embark on a great shirt quest since, as the weather (finally) cools down here in LA, I'm in need of long sleeve shirts. Since the usual dress shirts are too plain and familiar, I'm aiming to find something a bit different. One idea I had was to have custom shirts made so I could choose the colours and all-important details such as cuffs, collars, and center plackets. And it seems that there are plenty of tailors, a few even in the US, that will offer a variety of fabrics and style options...all tailored to my measurement.

There's a catch, of course, and it's a rather strange one. A lot of the sites I came across were rather anonymous. No company profile other than the usual self-serving praise. No obvious mailing address or phone number. At best, I could figure out that these were companies backed by Asian manufacturing, although a pricier few did seem to have US production.

The dilemma, of course, starts off with economics: if I'm in need of multiple shirts, shouldn't I go with the cheaper company and get multiple shirts for the price of a single shirt from one of the other companies? But this is where the real dilemma kicks in: if I don't know who is actually producing my shirts, how can I gauge the real cost of what I'm buying?

That's the problem: not knowing exactly where the shoes or shirts are being made, and how. How are we supposed to make informed decisions about what we buy when we don't about our products' provenance and manufacture?

I'd love to hear what you think about all of this. Your comments and suggestions would be most appreciated.

Friday, November 9, 2012

it's a sandal! it's a boot! it's...pants?

by frédérik

Presented under the headline of “Fashion That Makes Us Sad” by Yahoo! fashion blog The Thread, DaniKShoes’ idiosyncratic jean sandal boots earned the distinction of “unimaginably odd footwear” by blogger Julie Pereira – and much ridicule by yahoo commentators who live up to the stereotype of yahoo commentators.  You can read the rather condescending article here.

But I’m going to come to designer Danielle’s defense – with alliteration! And a proper portion of pontification!

First, however, here’s a look at a few items from Danielle’s Etsy shop:

Images borrowed from the DaniKShoes Etsy shop under fair use.

Each pair of rubber-soled sandal boots are handmade from vintage jeans and assorted fabrics, with ornaments ranging from colourful buttons to chains. Prices range from $125-145, and the shoes are one-of-kind.

Some have called these ugly. Some have suggested that whomsoever would wear these deserve to be ridiculed. In short, the response has been the very opposite of what defines the “Fashionoclast” spirit. Which isn’t to say you have to like, covet, or otherwise indulge in the kind of genuflection reserved for particularly inspiring designs.

For my part, while I might take issue with the construction of individual pairs of sandal-boots in Danielle’s shop, there’s much I appreciate about the concept:

  • This is an undeniably novel way to reuse old fabrics instead of condemning them to landfills. Eco-friendliness: always a big green plus in my book.
  • Humour is as legitimate a design element as any other. Why shouldn’t fashion designers infuse a bit of good-natured absurdity into their work? People seem to forget the distinction between laughing AT something and laughing WITH something. 
  • Everything adds up to create an unconventional variation on the “conventional” sandal-boot like this one from

Image borrowed under fair use from

After all, if they can put cowboy boot sandals out there, why not a pants motif? (Technically, these are cheats: leg warmer-like boot tops paired with flip-flops.)

Image borrowed under fair use from Cactus Creek Daily

So yes, I like them. They're different. While I don't think these jean sandal boots are for everyone, I think they're far more interesting than the garish, cheap-looking Crocs and shapeless Uggs that a few yahoo commentators brought up in comparison.

My only reservation from a design standpoint is one I tend to have of any sandal-boots; a too-generous circumference at the ankle disrupts our perception of body proportions. Result: the appearance of stick-legs in too-big shoes, or fattened ankles. (Sandals 2 and 4 above illustrate my point, compared to 1 and 3 which to look better on account of working with the body instead of against it.)

As for how to wear the jean sandal boots, I think pragmatism suggests the obvious: not with full-length pants, but with capris (maybe), shorts, or skirts. You don’t need pants tucked under the hem of your pants, right?

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

another pot-pourri of fashion

by frédérik sisa

Between work and feeling somewhat adrift in my various endeavors, including this blog, this week's offering consists of a pot-pourri of fashiony stuff. And I apologize for the delay, but I was out of town and without Internet access.

Troentorp Fall/Winter

We begin with a look at Troentorp Clog's Fall/Winter collection, which include some really sweet designs featuring, in most cases, alderwood soles, cowhide leather uppers, and all the posture-correcting goodness you'd expect from clogs. Prices are around 85 Euros, except for the boot which is 160 Euros.

For instance:

The Edith boot-

 The Mary Jane -

The Penny -

And my favourite, The Pixie:

Note: All clog images borrowed from under fair use. They will be removed at the copyright owner's request.

Scary Beautiful...Shoes

You may have seen this sometime ago. I believe Yahoo briefly featured an article about it amidst the nonsense that is the electoral campaign. But if you didn't, here it is. Most people who watch seem to miss the point of artist Leanie van der Vyver and Dutch shoe designer René van den Berg's collaboration, which is to illustrate, via exaggeration, the ordeals we will subject ourselves to in order to achieve ever-shifting standards of beauty. Naturally, this applies to women more than men, which makes for a very loaded artistic commentary on the nature of fashion.

What do you think?


Finally, I've been getting eMails about this crowdsourced style inspiration thingy, which seems conceptually similar to Pinterest. It's called StyleSaint. Before I spend any time on it, how about you have a look and tell me if you dig it?