Could Camilla Staerk finally be finding her stride?

The thing about truly masterful designers (or artists in general) is that they continue to put out new things, play with new concepts and ideas, and yet you can tell almost immediately that it's their work.  There is a certain signature je ne sais quoi in what they produce that you recognize as uniquely theirs.  One might say this is how you tell an artist has come into his/her own and reached full artistic maturity.

I wasn't sure I could say the same of Camilla Staerk's early collections (she first landed on the fashion map almost 10 years ago).  They seemed a bit haphazard and scattered, meandering a bit, like a novice writer's narrative.  There were moments of sheer brilliance and offbeat moments that made you scratch your head a bit and wonder what she was thinking.

The last few collections though, seem a bit more focused, more purposeful and certain.  It's interesting I picked up on the writerly aspect of her work, as Interview Magazine described her work early last year as "dark, severe, literary, and modern." 

I don't know if I completely agree, because a lot of her pieces are also feminine, gentle, and fabled.  Hailing from Denmark, Staerk says she's deeply influenced by the mythology and stories of her home country, from the tragedy of Hamlet to the stark modern lines of Danish furniture-making.  At any rate she's someone I find interesting and will be following in the coming season.

For Men: When it rains... doesn't mean go for the most functional, waterproof eyesore that you can get from some hipster outdoor brand.

While I know there's a need for the utilitarian buried somewhere in that Y chromosome we men all carry, there's a time and place where North Face/Patagonia gear is appropriate (e.g. literally in Patagonia).

But in every day life, there's little need for such extreme protection from the elements. Very few of us will EVER need a jacket with an electronic avalanche rescue system, but having the option in a jacket will make most men pause (and, in some cases, shiver in technological delight) and think "yea... I think I need that just in case..."

So I don't think that money is the issue, because most men will drop a few hundred dollars on these jackets without blinking. But the sad thing is, the thought never occurs to consider a more stylish option (like a peacoat, or a designed raincoat). So let me make the case that for the same price as a tricked-out piece of performance outerwear, you can equip yourself with a jacket/coat that is both functional and stylish.

I'm incredibly biased here because I love jackets (the way a woman loves bags/shoes, I love me some jackets).  I love them because they are the most architectural and innovative article of clothing that is in a man's closet. Dress shirts, pants, t-shirts and sweaters are relatively constant, but jackets can be long/short/light/heavy/patterned/solid/simple/complex and everything in between.  Plus, a well-fitting jacket helps to give a guy a better shape (for those of us that do not have a Men's Health cover model's discipline/metabolism or Conan-the-Barbarian genes).

Here are my current favorites (NOT including the ski jacket - just threw that in there for comparison):
  • light grey topcoat from Zara
  • vintage dark teal peacoat from no name store in Tokyo
  • faded black cotton twill peacoat from Energie
  • stone grey military jacket from Reiss
  • black water-repellant biker jacket from Charles Jourdan (found this store in last trip to Hong Kong but can't find website)
  • black trenchcoat - the happy conclusion to a previous post on trench coats here
Since it's still winter and winter clearances abound, why not give it a try?  Now is a great time to be in the market for jackets since the retail year end is generally Jan 31st and stores are clearing out for the spring stuff, so keep an eye out for great discounts in the next week.  My personal recommendation is to head for outlets of big name department stores - like Nordstrom Rack, Off 5th, and Neiman Marcus Last Call.  Here you can score deals on authentic name brand pieces for 40-75% off.

And if you're in the Bay Area and don't want to go out alone in search for your jackets - let your friends here at Wearability know and we'll gladly help you find one just for you! =)

The arduous journey of finding the ideal black jacket ends (quite happily) with: Nicholas K.

I am not sure why, but finding the right black jacket is incredibly difficult.  Months of scouring, neck-breaking work, really. And diligently sifting though a WHOLE LOTTA UGLY is not easy, I'm telling you!  Even ModCloth, with their 500+ styles of jackets, coats and assorted outerwear, failed me.

I made it a bit more difficult for myself, I admit, because I had something very specific in mind:
  • Short, hitting just at the top of the hips.  I have to be able to move around in it, you know what I mean? I have had it with long coats, seriously.  They totally get in the way of everything and feel much too formal for anything I ever do.  I have one long black wool coat (I call it my "opera coat") way back from my East Coast days and I can count on my fingers how many times I've worn it.
  • Bomber or motorcycle style.  I decided that the ubiquitous peacoat styles are not for me.  Warm they are, but it's hard for me to wear one without being tempted to wear tennis shoes with it, and thus look frumpy.  Not to mention they have to be impeccably tailored, and most mass-market merchants just aren't that good.
  • Mid-weight. I already have this giant puffer jacket with a huge, dramatic collar from BCBG for the coldest days (and the aforementioned "opera coat."  I actually go to the opera more often than one would expect from a cheapskate like me.  But that, of course, is because one of my good friends used to work at the LA Opera and throw me free tickets so I could act as a "seat filler."  Of course I would show up, in true LA fashion, in my jeans.).  And yet living in the Bay Area means a simple cardigan or cotton jacket simply won't do.  Basically, I need something to replace this natty Patagonia fleece (which I got for free, from work) I've been wearing all the time.  I mean, it's a good jacket, but only if I'm going hiking or doing something equally active.
  • NOT leather.  Prefer wool, cotton, whatever - as long as it's relatively easy to maintain.  Is it too much to ask for a bomber jacket that is NOT made out of leather, or leather substitute?  For real!
  • Some interesting detail.  This is probably the hardest criteria of all.  When it comes to jackets, there is a deplorable wealth of mediocrity out there.  Everything looks the same, that is, b-o-r-i-n-g.  So I kept my eyes open for some interesting thing - a cool collar, an interesting cut, an asymmetrical zipper, artfully arranged buttons.  When it comes to stuff you're going to wear every day, I say go big or go home.
Enter Nicholas K, who I think has made the most perfect collection of outerwear in existence, in his Fall 2009 line.  

His dresses and tops I wasn't such a fan of, but every piece of his outerwear collection is utter perfection, from the shape and silhouette to the slouchy, casual but still luxurious materials.  They are the incarnation of everything I've ever dreamed of in a coat, or a jacket, or a sweater cardigan.  It's like Nicholas K has a direct psychic connection to every whim of my brain.
Check out the rest of the line here. There's a LOT of pieces, each one of them unique and delightful in their beautiful little details, masterful cuts and natural styling.  It's the kind of clothing I could totally live in, if I were rolling around in money.  Because no, they are not cheap.  I first encountered the Kepler jacket, on a chance Gilt Fuse sale where they were going for $115 (down from $300 retail), but one second of hesitation cost me the purchase and they were sold out like that * snap *.  It was everything I was looking for: fabric, short, cool foldover collar, asymmetrical zip, ribbed hem and cuffs.  It was, in a word, perfect.

But of course, having found the perfect jacket, I had to be patient and bide my time.  I found the jacket at exactly one store, a quirky boutique called Petulia's Folly in Philly.  At the time it was on sale, but still too expensive ($229).  So I sat on it for a few weeks and sure enough, tonight I found they slashed the price down to $150.  I knew the time had come and I had to pounce.

And so, this little girl is one lovely black jacket richer.

My Personal Fall Trend: Waistcoats for Women

I can't say I understand the nuances of seasonal trends--all I've gathered so far is that over-the-knee boots and red lipstick are supposed to be tres "in" this fall. So I have no idea where menswear-inspired pieces fall in the spectrum of "trendy - dowdy," but something tells me it's the sort of thing that never goes out of style.  And so friends, I give you: waistcoats for women.

Now, I am not talking mere vests, that foul Americanization of the word.  Though people might assume that vests and waistcoats are interchangeable, I beg to differ.  While a vest, to me, is any old thing with no sleeves worn over something else, waistcoats involve some must-haves:
  1. Tailoring: Lapels, darts, seams, interfacing. This means that a waistcoat must never be made of any shapeless sweater-like knit material!
  2. Buttons or some other closure of some kind. Again, it is not something you can just pull over your head like any common vest.  It requires patience!  Class! Preferably of the double-breasted sort!
  3. Some interesting detail: Okay, this is just my personal opinion, but it's one thing to wear something that looks like it belongs as part of a three-piece suit.  It's another thing to wear a stand-alone waistcoat that makes a statement all on its own!
Vests/waistcoats were the kind of accessory that never crossed my mind as a legitimate investment, when I was growing up.  If you had given me a vest in high school I would hardly have known what to do with it.  It just seemed so extraneous, so unnecessary!  But now they're growing on me for that very reason.  So what if they don't keep you warm, or hold something up, or cover up something that needs to be covered?  It sort of hit me the other day when I was at my friend's wedding and saw a (very cute) female server with a a simple, well-tailored black waistcoat over her white uniform, and thought, "I should totally rock that look!"

I think we're on to something here.

List of items above: 1. Heimstone Gilet for acrimony. 2-3. Boy by Band of Outsiders. 4. Candy and Caviar for 5. Citizens of Elysium on 6. 17th-century woman's waistcoat. 7. Erik Hart for 8. 17th-century floral embroidered waistcoat.  9-10. Forever 21. 11. Generra at  12. Heimstone Gilet, in black.  13. MBH Saddlery show halter waistcoat. 14.  Paper Denim Cloth.  15. Play the Odds. 16. Yellow quilted Provencal waistcoat. 17. Roberto Rodriguez at  18-19. Silence and Noise for 20. Vintage textile waistcoat. 21. Alice + Olivia.

Meet: ArtLab

Otherwise known as Patricia, a designer/artist of incredible pedigree, who operates out of the NYC area.  I've been following ArtLab's work on etsy for a very long time now, and have always found her designs fascinating, haunting, like a creature from a Tim Burton film, except perhaps less stylized and more faded.

I first mentioned one of ArtLab's pieces, "Disjointed Series No. 6," in an old Wearability Challenge post for Jen McCabe.
Honestly, I think conceptually many of her items skate the edge of wearability, as most of them are probably just a tad too unnerving to go out and about without feeling a little self-conscious about it.  But in a way the pieces are intensely wearable, made of luxurious, comfortable fabrics that move easily with the body, and assembled in rather modest, if totally unconventional, ways.  And few can find fault with the neutral color palette that makes all her clothing look as if it had sprung up from the earth.

I especially love ArtLab's way of naming her pieces.  So poetic and dream-like:
  • Andromache's Deconstruction
  • Athena's Head Covering
  • I heard you call my name, in a dream
  • Blues before sunrise
  • Revolutionary Girl
  • Obliquely crossing

March Madness in the Fall

I was flipping through the September 09 issue of Details and came across this picture (above) for Fall '09 for Dolce and Gabanna men's line and I let out an audible gasp (a good one).  

There's just something incredibly haunting and stylish and captivating in the aesthetic created by the clothing + the picture composition/lighting + the vampire-esque make up that really caught my attention.  

The details and the tailoring on these jackets are pretty breathtaking.  Although they're not the most practical pieces - they are something to behold.  My favorite is the blue on blue jacket on the far left... with the one sitting down just to the right with the red piping details coming in a very close second.

I may be inspired enough to create a marching band inspired jacket with something in my closet that I don't wear as much now... but that is probably a larger project than I can tackle with my meager sewing skills.  More to come if I actually muster up the gumption to give it a go...

More age-old perfection from Vintage Textiles

I posted about this almost a year ago. Again I was wandering around the interwebs, and again found myself captured by this site that sells historical vintage clothing from the early 1800s onward. And I still bemoan the fact that they just don't make clothes this fine anymore, or if they do, it comes at an abominable cost.

Looking at the attention to detail and painstaking execution of the most extraordinary embellishments, it becomes clear that this exquisite sort of dressmaking is a lost art...I am reminded of pyramids, of hanging gardens, of great walls and stories my mother told me about old kungfu masters who would withhold one or two secrets from their proteges, as a kind of insurance, should that protege ever decide to try to kill his master.  Eventually, so many secrets were buried that the whole body of knowledge was diluted forever.

At least I can marvel at these relics of the past and just imagine the hands that made them and the impossibly elegant women who wore them.  

All images taken from the Vintage Textile website, where you can purchase pieces for a pretty penny ($1200 and up).  Well worth it if you have that kind of money.

Meet: The Leather Jacket Girl

There are few things we love more than supporting local independent artists.  So a couple weekends ago, Sushmita and Stephanie made a hop skip and a jump over to Indie Mart, sort of an outdoor DIY-festival-slash-hipster-convention.  We were a bit disappointed by the small size of the gathering, but made up for it by hanging out for a good half hour with Monique of Gypsies and Lords.

Monique designs unique leather jackets made from hard-to-find materials treated in various difficult-to-replicate ways.  That didn't stop me from asking all kinds of questions about where she sources the leather (exotic locales like South America) and where she gets the jackets manufactured (in China, from the same guy who does leatherwork for some of the top fashion houses in Paris and Milan).  I was smitten by two of her designs in particular, one hand-painted blazer with rabbit-fur lapels (PETA be damned!) and one more down-to-earth number with an asymmetrical zipper.  The fit was amazing; the designs one of a kind, or limited edition.  The only thing that stopped me was wanting a jacket in a lighter color.

Check out more of her stuff on her website.  She has her niece model everything because "she has a-t-t-i-t-u-d-e." Except the last picture, which is Monique herself wearing the rabbit-fur blazer.

For Men: In the Trenches

What an honor to be the first male contributor! I'd better make this one memorable then.

So in light of such a momentous occassion, I will put up for consideration perhaps the manliest of all wardrobe items: the trench coat.

Originally designed for the British army during World War 1, the trenchcoat has not only a historical significance but it's become a wardrobe staple to survive the daily battle of what to wear for both men and women.

I'll confess, I don't need a trenchcoat. But I've REALLY wanted one since I graduated college. They have a certain cinematic drama to them and yet they are terrifically practical - a perfect combination if you ask me.

They come in many different styles these days (ah mass market production how I love thee) so the decision process is a bit daunting... but I'm up for the task. And before making any retail purchase, I like to think about what exactly I want so I don't make any hasty decisions.

So the first and easiest decision point for me is length. Off the bat, being 5'6" makes it imperative that I don't go for the full length trench unless I want to look like I'm borrowing my much taller, older brother's jacket to play grown-up. Cross that one off the list. Then There's the cropped option that sits just around hip level - but a trench by definition should have some length in my book. So that leaves me with getting something between the mid thigh to knee. Check.

Now off to color. Ok this one's pretty hard. It's for sure going to be in a fairly basic color, but let's face it, everything in men's collections is in basic colors. There's the classic beige-ish color range, a more cement-y grey, black, olive, and navy on the racks these days. I think I may go for darker colors because light colors dirty easily and I'm a stain magnet. Check.

And lastly on my list of considerations - fabric. Considering the California Bay Area climate isn't that extreme - I'm in no need for a heavy Gabardine (which Thomas Burberry INVENTED. How does one invent a fabric? I know not, but I found that nugget interesting) or much lining for that matter- so something in the poplin/cotton family that's water-repellant enough for a light rain will suffice. Check.

So with those criteria, it's off to scour the interconnected tubes of the world wide web to see what retail offerings that may hit the search criteria and here's what I've been able to find (Pictures of the contenders are below.)

My favorite so far has to be this black Burberry trench... but plunking down the dolla-dolla-bills-y'all for this one jacket isn't exactly my style. I did try it on though while I was passing through the Duty Free shop and very nearly entered into a great deal of debt - the jacket felt that great. sigh.

I'll be hunting around for copycats, but I will say that this Thomas Burberry fellow knew what he's doing.

So - should I resist the urge to splurge?  Or shall I put in the investment?  Ugh.  Decisions.