Thursday, June 13, 2019

At Men's Fashion Week in London, Less Angst, More Celebration - The New York Times

At Men's Fashion Week in London, Less Angst, More Celebration - The New York Times

At Men's Fashion Week in London, Less Angst, More Celebration - The New York Times

Posted: 10 Jun 2019 02:06 PM PDT

LONDON — Britain may be a divided nation, with no resolution to Brexit in sight, but the country's multi-billion-dollar fashion industry cannot afford to grind to a halt. A handful of designers worked out their political angst on the catwalk at London Fashion Week Men's this season.

For most, however, it was business as usual, and the results were three days of collections that offered some real bright spots during a time filled with shades of gray. Here's why.

Alexander McQueen is one of the best-known British names in fashion, yet the brand rarely shows in London. This season, however, the creative director Sarah Burton chose to present her spring 2020 collection at home. More specifically: inside the very English surroundings of Charterhouse, a 14th-century building complex in Clerkenwell near the McQueen headquarters.

Many of the 31 looks echoed the fall 2019 women's wear looks shown at Paris Fashion Week in March. The aim? To create a strong dialogue between the men's and women's wear. See traditional tailoring with an inventive twist, and heritage fabrics largely sourced from the mills of Northern England.

There were double-layered pinstriped jackets, belted and studded leather overcoats, and woolen pleated half-skirts layered over ankle-skimming pants, a throwback to a favorite 1990s McQueen signature. Shots of fuchsia and blood red cut through the dark, and hand-painted roses bloomed on sleeves, legs and shirting.

Alexander McQueen, spring 2020.CreditEthan James Green/Alexander McQueen

Men's wear is a fast-growing category for McQueen, accounting for roughly 30 percent of the business, according to the company. Kering, its parent group, believes it can be an even bigger part of the brand. This slick collection gave substance to that strategy.

Charles Jeffrey has become a poster boy for the London scene, nominated for the LVMH prize and lauded for his dramatic gender-blending collections that marry a couturier's touch with underground cool.

Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, spring 2020.CreditGuillaume Roujas/Nowfashion

But with the spotlight has come scrutiny, and calls for greater commercial as well as creative consideration. Among the glass-towered book stacks of the British Library on Saturday, the young Scot (whose Loverboy show in January had been inspired by a first edition of "The Story of Peter Pan") sought to show he had begun to grow up.

He did it in three acts, each introduced with a poetry reading and on a catwalk shorn of the usual theatrics, that revealed his most disciplined designs to date: black seersucker tailoring with a military bent, splashed with color; punk tartans; and capes finished in wild, ethereal prints.

The clothes were wearable, with a clear design signature and defiant message, though they lacked some of the flamboyant glory that first defined Mr. Jeffrey's work.

Also getting down to business was Edward Crutchley, Kim Jones's right-hand man. This season he explored "nostalgia without being nostalgic," particularly for bourgeois Britain in the 1980s and '90s.

Edward Crutchley, spring 2020.CreditFirstview

Draped powder pink and blue power suits with high-waisted pants and a rounded shoulder led the way, followed by bow and parrot prints in shades like black currant, raspberry and aubergine. Also, plenty of Hawaiian shirts slashed to the navel, snake-hipped merino tailoring and opulent jacquard Laura Ashley-style florals.

Nicholas Daley often infuses music into his presentations. His parents ran a reggae club in the 1980s, and Mr. Daley's half-Jamaican, half-Scottish heritage has long served as the DNA of his namesake label, which colorfully explores subcultures.

"Astroblack" took place inside the St. Mary-at-Hill church, hidden down a city back street with a large organ and burning incense sticks. First, musicians from the jazz band Sons of Kemet played themselves down the runway wearing pinstripe pants, string tops and sleeveless vests in oranges and ochres with knitted beanie hats.

Then came models in oversize checked shorts and coats printed with Irish linen mills, tie-dyed shirts from Kyoto and denim Baker Boy hats produced by the British milliner Christys. To close, the musicians performed a jubilant jam session that had models and guests jumping up and down.

Hussein Chalayan also turned up the volume, exploring how ethnic dance has been subsumed by Western occupation. Models clutched small vintage boomboxes as they walked down a pedestrianized Mayfair street. A breezy silhouette mimicked a body in movement, so a belted pinstripe suit was paired with billowing pants, and there was an abundance of boxy summer stripes and oversize cotton shirts, some complete with dance instructions and many finished with snaps, buckles and even hiking poles to prepare for moving onward.

Chalayan, spring 2020.CreditAndrew Testa for The New York Times
A look from the Martine Rose spring 2020 show.CreditRob Ball/BFC, via Getty Images

And then there was Martine Rose, who has made a signature out of using the base materials of everyday street life (chav sportswear, office drab) to underpin her collections. This season expanded that population to include the '80s club kid, skinhead, new romantic and after-office raver.

The point, Ms. Rose said, was that living when discord in Britain has reached new highs, "We need to learn to coexist."

Samuel Ross, the latest recipient of the Fashion Award's British Emerging Men's Wear Designer prize, examined what he called "the scaffolds of society."

In the rain-soaked depths of southeast London, his A-Cold-Wall collection brought a new and refined finish to luxury street wear separates. Anoraks, macs and jackets in chalky grays and earthy browns were paneled and pocketed with graphic precision, sometimes layered with harnesses to keep the wearer upright.

A-Cold-Wall, spring 2020.CreditAndrew Testa for The New York Times

Mr. Ross is already one of the most hyped names on the London fashion scene, and after the show he went on to win the BFC/GQ Designer Menswear Fund, awarded on Monday night.

Over the river, Craig Green was also considering construction: more specifically, what maketh the man. This genial, unassuming London-born designer consistently marries imaginative artistry with commercial nous with his utilitarian work wear, largely rooted around ideas of timeless, nomadic men.

Craig Green, spring 2020.CreditAndrew Testa for The New York Times

"I was thinking about scrutinizing your own reflection and self-study in mirrors," Mr. Green said backstage. A series of boxy paneled leather looks opened the show, followed by luxe quilted suits, wafer-thin second-skin cutout looks inspired by Mexican lanterns, and finally signature uniform staples with photo prints reminiscent of a male anatomical sketch.

"It was a more positive show than normal," Mr. Green said. "Almost celebratory in fact."

Greenfield library hosting Krosslink group - Monadnock Ledger Transcript

Posted: 11 Jun 2019 10:34 AM PDT

For nearly a year, Alex Tkaczevski has been trying to get more students to take piano lessons.

After getting married and moving to Greenfield from Buffalo last summer, the longtime music instructor had to start over. In New York, he ran a music store and that made finding students rather easy.

He took over a studio space in Manchester, but also wants to create relationships with families and students in the small town he now calls home. He put his name and business, Weaver Sky Music, in the Greenfield Spirit, and while it didn't lead to the uptick in students he was hoping for, it did translate into a phone call from Sarah Sim.

Sim is the president of the Stephenson Memorial Library's Krosslink group and she's always on the lookout for more small business owners and entrepreneurs to join the group that meets one Saturday a month. It was actually Sim's trip to the library last summer that led to the group's formation. She was new to the area and in the process of launching an interior design business, so Sim was curious about what was available for business owners in town.

"I asked if there were any get-togethers for business owners in town, networking opportunities," Sim said.

Turns out, Stephenson director Beverly Pietlicki had recently gone to a N.H. Library Association conference in Concord where there was a presentation about the Krosslink program and she thought it would be a good fit in Greenfield.

Krosslink is a volunteer-driven community program, in collaboration with public libraries that began in Westborough, Massachusetts, created to help develop, nurture, and foster entrepreneurship by connecting aspiring entrepreneurs to local business leaders, mentors and civic leaders who can help them achieve their goals. And it turns out that the Greenfield is the only library in the state offering the program.

"We have people in the area who have bought in and really want to support it," Pietlicki said.

The group typically meets on the second Saturday of each month, and many times offer guest speakers with plenty of opportunities for local people to ask questions, talk about their ideas and get pointers in a variety of business related topics.

"The idea is to just get to know each other," Sim said. "It's not just networking, but it's also about resources."

Sim partners with Pietlicki and Tom Bergin of Merrimack Valley SCORE, located in Manchester, to run the group. SCORE is a group of former New Hampshire business owners and executives who are available for free, confidential, face-to-face counseling whose mission is to foster vibrant small business communities through mentoring and education.

"We are all people who have been in business, for ourselves or for someone else, and have skills," Bergin said. "They wanted a SCORE member to be part of it so it would be more accessible to the business community the library is trying to help."

Tkaczevski and Ken Quinn, Jr. were the two who attended the group's May meeting. Tkaczevski was seeking out networking opportunities and ideas to expand his lessons, while taking the opportunity just to get to know people in town.

"I haven't had much of a chance to network locally," Tkaczevski said. "And this group I thought would give me a chance to meet local people who do things."

Quinn, who has a scrap metal business on the side, saw a posting about the group on Facebook and wasn't really sure what it was, so he decided to check it out. Both men had 10 minutes to talk about what they do and what they're looking to achieve. The trio of Sim, Pietlicki and Bergin offered advice and asked what specific things they'd like to learn about from future speakers. The idea of having someone to come in and talk about social media audience targeting was brought up.

"Part of Krosslink is, 'I wonder if I can do this?'" Pietlicki said.

A lot of times it becomes a brainstorming session, where ideas are discussed and worked through in a group setting. They have discussed finances, time management, advertising, social media, writing proposals, developing business plans among other topics.

Progress has been slow as far as getting a consistent group to show up each month, but the plan now is to get the word out and have more people from surrounding communities join.

"These things take time to develop," Pietlicki said.

For June only, the group will meet on the fourth Saturday of the month, June 22 at the Stephenson Memorial Library in Greenfield from 10:30 a.m. to noon in the downstairs conference room. For more, search Krosslink on Facebook.

Pay Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain - The New York Times

Posted: 11 Jun 2019 08:20 AM PDT

Scott Sternberg would prefer you not call him "quirky," as has happened many times before. It's "a word people like to use for me a lot," Mr. Sternberg said, "which I don't love."

So we will not repeat the offense, further than to note that, while Mr. Sternberg may not be quirky, there he was, in all his Peter Panish youthfulness, with his penchant for stripy shirts and Polaroid film, seated in a geodesic dome of his own design as vintage monitors played the funny little videos he creates, ruminating about utopia.

If Mr. Sternberg has a quirk — let's say for a minute that he does — it is for ginning up not just clothes (which he does) or videos (which he does) or even geodesic domes (which he has, for his label's first-ever pop-up, in the SoHo branch of the furniture seller Design Within Reach), but also an entire world in which all of these things come together, with its own rhythms, cadence, colors and meticulously designed aesthetic.

Mr. Sternberg, 44, is what is usually called a fashion designer, insofar as he is in the business of making and selling clothes. If you know his name, it is most likely that you remember his former label Band of Outsiders, which, from 2004 to 2015, had a profound impact on the way stylish American men dressed, squeezing them into slim shirts and skinny ties and Sperry Top-Siders: prep-school style in quotation marks, self-aware and self-effacing.

Mr. Sternberg thinks of himself less as a designer or a creative director than as a world builder. He and Band of Outsiders parted company, and his new brand, Entireworld (aha!), is less exclusive and less niche; a collection, essentially, of basics. It is clothing considered from the bottom up — one if its founding garments was a pair of underpants.

Now with a few more staples to round it out, Mr. Sternberg hopes for nothing less than to dress the entire world. A year into its life, the question is: Can he?

Looks from Mr. Sternberg's new Entireworld collection.CreditEntireworld

The Entireworld world, a fantasyland in Disney colors (Disney World is an acknowledged influence), is a cheerful, welcoming one. Mr. Sternberg's Band of Outsider tailored jackets could once run $1,800 or more; Entireworld's T-shirts are $32.

The same sensibility — Mr. Sternberg's cinematic adorable — animates both. Many of the same friends who posed pro bono for guerrilla Polaroid ad campaigns are now in Instagram videos, singing, mugging or prat-falling: Jason Schwartzman, Kirsten Dunst, Andrew Garfield, Spike Jonze.

Over a series of interviews beginning in April 2018, at its inception, and continuing through Entireworld's first year, Mr. Sternberg explained his vision of this world and how it was built on the ashes of its predecessor. In so doing, he offered a view into the tectonic shifts in the fashion industry, the instability of the high-fashion, runway model he left behind and the traditional gatekeepers who perpetuate it.

Mr. Sternberg had been featured in every fashion magazine, won the industry's top awards, hosted Anna Wintour and Kanye West at his fashion shows. Still, he said at a public conversation at Design Within Reach with Deborah Needleman (the former T Magazine editor), "the fashion system can feel like jail."

Looks from the Band Of Outsiders/Boy collection for fall 2010, shown in New York.CreditAmy Sussman/Getty Images

Band of Outsiders did $15 million in wholesale business at its height, but Mr. Sternberg, overstretched and under-resourced, who sought and received investment, couldn't keep up with the immense pressure to grow. He found out that his last hope for additional funding passed on the morning he opened the first Band of Outsiders shop in the United States, in SoHo. (The first-ever store had opened in Tokyo.)

He received a loan from CLCC, a Belgian fashion fund, for $2 million, but soon clashed with his new backers. Ultimately, Mr. Sternberg's company defaulted on the loan and Mr. Sternberg himself walked away from the Band. CLCC assumed ownership, and Band of Outsiders continues without him, with a new design team in place. Mr. Sternberg called their first collection "a disaster."

The challenges of designing and producing collection after collection of men's and women's wear are significant, and Band of Outsiders eventually grew to encompass several lines. The collections were well received but also vulnerable to the whims of trend and timeliness, and the vagaries of inconsistent production.

Even Band's signature slim cuts were in part a self-fulfilling prophecy: After an initial run of shirts were (correctly) snug, other orders arrived from the factories in similar style. "Everything just came in a little bit small," Mr. Sternberg said. "I'm not kidding."

Band's cuts — like those of Thom Browne, whose shrunken suits were a more conceptual foil to Mr. Sternberg's easier Americana — helped convince curious young men to embrace a snugger silhouette. But that fit made democratizing and expanding the brand nearly impossible. In any case, high-fashion esotericism had never been Mr. Sternberg's intention.

"That's just not me," he said. "That's not how I see my legacy."

If fashion is by definition exclusive, Entireworld is inclusive; fashion segments the world into groups of like-minded (and like-dressed) cohorts, but everyone wears underwear. In a video announcing the creation of Entireworld last year, Mr. Sternberg faced the camera and, as his face dissolved into a montage of stylish men and women (Mick Jagger, Sade, The Dude), acknowledged his past failings and vowed to take a different tack.

"I started thinking about what it would be like to create something more democratic this time, without compromising anything about the design or quality," he said. "About the stuff we live in every day."

But now, instead of staging fashion shows and courting the fashion press, instead of depending on the patronage of department stores and boutiques, Mr. Sternberg's Entireworld is sold primarily from its own website.

Mr. Sternberg runs the entire business out of a bland commercial office building in the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles, from where he conjures a utopia only he can see. He is the man behind the curtain. Entireworld, and the thousand tiny windows onto it offered on Instagram posts and its cheeky, sunny website, is Oz.

Of course, the thing about Oz is that the man behind the curtain is pulling the levers, working to convince you to buy a $32 T-shirt from him, rather than a $10 three-pack from Hanes. He will tell you that his feels better, fits better and wears better; he will not be wrong.

But a basic is a basic, and to many, the difference is hard to parse. Mr. Sternberg is under pressure to make Entireworld so appealing that even its basics have ineffable magic that coaxes credits cards out of wallets.

Mr. Sternberg has to capture that market with less of the support he once enjoyed. "Have we captured the attention of traditional media outlets the way I expected to, the way I did at Band? Eh," he said, giving a grunt of not-really. He has skipped the fashion shows and presentations he once staged. As a result, Entireworld has made a smaller splash.

But those who love it — those who may be rising to replace the old gatekeepers — have vouched for it. "Basically have not taken this sweatshirt off since I got it last week," Leandra Medine, better known as the Man Repeller, posted to her Instagram not long after the label's debut.

At Design Within Reach, Mr. Sternberg had his first real-world test, hanging racks of Entireworld clothes among Alexander Girard dolls and Man Ray chess sets and Hans Wegner chairs. Pegged to New York's NYCxDesign programming, the Entireworld shop stayed open for 11 days, and customers came away with hot-pink sweatsuits and cotton sweaters.

"It was definitely something we had never done," said Kim Phillips, the head of public relations and events for Design Within Reach. "It was sticking my neck out there for sure."

Mr. Sternberg called the experiment gratifying. "An idea like this, I really believe more than ever has a place, especially when I see the sales and repeat sales," he said. "I think the real challenge is — I know the real challenge is — that the amount of capital it'll take to get where we need to getis formidable."

To start Entireworld, Mr. Sternberg raised $1.5 million from a group of private investors, and he has sought further investment to grow and scale it. Within its first year, he said, the company has sold more than three quarters of its initial inventory and reached more than $1 million in sales without paying for any advertising.

Numbers like these, while impressive, mean Entireworld is dwarfed by many of its competitors, limited by finite capital but not in an ideal position to attract more. "There's a real disconnect," Mr. Sternberg said, between his values and the goals of the investors he is hoping to attract.

"Investors want a return, and they want a return in a certain amount of time," he said. "I understand all these things, clearly, but they still don't change my view that sticking to my guns in terms of what this is and what it should be shouldn't bow too much to the pressure of what investors think it should be right now."

And while the signs have been good — Ms. Phillips said that she and Mr. Sternberg were talking about the pop-up traveling to other Design Within Reach locations, and sales continue to climb online — the economic reality of keeping a fashion business afloat is a chilly reality intruding into utopia. The world isn't Entireworld, yet. But Mr. Sternberg said there had been no question of not trying his hand in the rag trade again.

"Unfortunately not," he said with a laugh. "I am an entrepreneur by birth. I am at my most ebullient, excited, energetic when there's a big challenge and a huge bucket that needs these ideas to fill it out. It's painful. It's not easy. There's just this unexplainable, probably illogical urge to do this stuff."

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