Tokyo Style: Nothing Lost in Translation

There's something to be said about Tokyo style.

Part of it is pure, unadulterated fun. Part of it is sheer crazy. But what is really refreshing about Tokyo style is the chutzpah with which the everyday Tokyo-ite struts his/her stuff. I spent some time in Tokyo in January and in between periods of stuffing my face with some of the most delicious food in the world, I was constantly baffled, impressed, and astonished while people-watching.

The typical Tokyo resident pays attention to every small detail of his/her personal appearance, but since I'm writing on behalf of men, my focus is going to be on men (fear not ladies - I also got great snapshots of some very bold Japanese women).

Perhaps the most astonishing were the men's hairstyles. The amount of product needed to accomplish any one of the looks (see group picture), and the time it must take to pull it off (not to mention, the gall to tell a hairdresser, "I want to look like an anime character but still have movement in my hair!").  Oh, and then the balls to walk out of the house looking like that!?  Hat tip to you Japanese men... well done!

The flair with which men also accessorized was quite possibly the most shocking.  Here I go on about a manbag/murse that looks pretty much like a briefcase, but in Japan men carry bags that would make most American women look like old ladies (no offense, ladies... these men are just that over the top).

But my favoritest thing to watch for in Japan was footwearSneakers specifically. Did you know that Adidas, Nike, and Asics (aka Onitsuka Tiger) make specific shoes just for the Japanese market?  No joke. Not only that - not every store has the same inventory. You can go to a store that carries stuff in Shinjuku and take the train over to Harujuku and that store has a style that the other stores don't have yet.  Crazy. And most amazing, Ferrari and Porsche design limited edition sneakers. Who knew?  

The Japanese did, that's for sure.  It's no wonder that so many designers find inspiration here. I did my best to try to catch a few moments a la the Sartorialist but my Japanese is not good enough to ask for people's names, and by the time I noticed someone with great style, they'd already be about 20 feet away from me.  So enjoy these hip-shot candids... I tried my best!

I'll definitely go back someday because a mere 2.5 days in that city simply is not enough.  But if you find yourself there, I can hook you up with some shopping recommendations - just leave a comment or shoot us an email!

A philosophical question for fashionistas: At what point does gingham become buffalo plaid?

It was news to me when I discovered I'd been misusing the word 'plaid' (the actual cloth) when I really meant to say 'tartan' (the pattern).  In the same way, when you really think about it, most people use the terms 'gingham,' 'buffalo plaid' and even 'checks' interchangeably. They all sort of refer to this square-ish, plaid-ish pattern consisting of just two colors.  The only distinction I could make was that people seem to use 'gingham' when the pattern of squares is small, as with Dorothy's famous blue gingham dress, and buffalo plaid when the pattern is large, as in a flannel lumberjack's shirt.

Dictionaries and wikipedia are not much help; they say gingham is a type of cloth that's usually woven in a checked pattern, and buffalo plaid is simply defined as "a broad checkered plaid pattern usually of two colors."  Which is to say, they are practically the same thing.  And yet they're not!
But let's get down to the interesting stuff, which is the fact that this pattern, especially in black-and-white, has been popping up everywhere.  

I was only moved to blog about it when I saw the beautiful way designer Christopher Kane applied the pattern in his Spring 2010 collection. The cuts, the silhouettes, the drape of the fabric, they are all gorgeously and daringly executed.  But what really makes Kane's collection interesting to me is that he cut the fabric on a bias, so the pattern falls diagonally instead of up-and-down.  I've never seen buffalo plaid (or gingham, as most people are referring to Kane's dresses) so graceful, so ethereal.  It's an interesting juxtaposition of luxuriously delicate fabric and really down-to-earth practicality.  

Of course, I don't expect to afford the real thing so I went off in search of some suitable plaid/gingham dresses that could substitute.  Here's what I found, though I have to say only a couple of them even come close to Christopher Kane's frocks (Scottish designer Zoe Watt's Brass Label being one of them- discovered on Also included some fun accessories featuring the buffalo plaid pattern, from a blanket to slippers to an adorable dog vest.
Clothing: 1. Brass Label collection 2. 3. Forever 21 4. ModCloth 5. Small Earth Vintage 6. Oasis 7. Philip Lim 8. Tambukiki on eBay 9. Urban Outfitters 10. Marks & Spencer 11. kensiegirl 12. American Eagle 13. Forever 21 14. Gap 15. Paul Smith 16. Hot Topic hoodie 17. PixieMarket coat 18. Plastic Island sweater cardigan
Accessories: 1. Old Navy umbrella2. Urban Outfitters throw blanket. 3-4. Aeropostale bikini top and bottom 5. Anthropologie bra 6. Etsy dog vest 7. Forever 21 hi-tops  8. Forever 21 slippers

Hot or Not? LACMA textiles reinvented.

I heard about this on NPR a while back and am finally posting about it.  The story piqued my interest because 1) it's about vintage/historical textiles and fabrics and 2) it's about LACMA, seriously one of the best contemporary art museums in America, and certainly one of my favoritest.

So the idea is this: earlier this year, LACMA auctioned off a large portion of its rare and historical textile collection.  It just so happened that most of the pieces were in relatively poor condition and otherwise unwanted.

Along comes this artist, Robert Fontenot, who buys up 50 of the pieces, ranging from Uzbekystani and Honduran woven fabrics to Korean wedding dresses.  He proceeds to find new uses for the unwanted items by deconstructing and then re-imagining them into different incarnations, and documenting the process on his blog, RecyleLACMA.

This is just the sort of thing that would normally delight me, tickle my fancy, capture my imagination, what have you.  I think the idea has a lot of potential.  But I looked through some of the stuff he's made and can't help but feel a sense of... I don't know, disappointment bordering on discomfort.  I mean, I love modern art as much as the next guy and can appreciate any statements Fontenot is trying to make.
Many of these pieces, though, just feel like they're missing the mark.  Maybe it's because I think of sewing as a craft that must serve a higher purpose, and I have the heart and soul of a true fabric junkie.  I believe in fabric, in its substance and spirit and dignity and practicality.  Most of all, what draws me emotionally to fabrics is their possibility.  

This might explain how I cannot resist buying a beautiful fabric when I see it, only to have it lie quietly folded in a box under my bed, to be taken out on occasion to be fondled and cooed over. Cutting into a lovely fabric is one of the hardest things for me to do, even if it's destined for a great purpose.

So what upsets me about some of these pieces by Fontenot, I think, is how unromantic and mundane they are.  It feels insulting to the spirit of the fabric, which may have been lovingly worked over by some ancient grandmother or artisan, to turn it into a dog bed, or a hackey-sack.  I suppose that's one of the points the artist is making, but it still upsets me.

Some of the pieces are more delightful, like the whimsical lion costume pictured up top or the sailboat below, which makes it easier to swallow (I included some of the ones I like below).  But overall I wonder if overall it isn't a bit of a waste.

UPDATE: I was asked by the artist to take the photo gallery down.  If you're so inclined, feel free to check out the rest of the projects here.

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.


I'm an accessory person. It's so much easier to try something new by adding an accessory than by toying with the delicate balance of one's wardrobe. Since it's springtime I've been developing a bit of an obsession with flowers--in my hair, on my lapel, in my hat...wherever I can put them! Sadly, real flowers die much too quickly, but kanzashi last forever.

Kanzashi is a type of traditional Japanese craft which involves folding fabrics into "petals" with which to construct artificial flower arrangements. Etsy seller SecretLolita has some beautiful and elaborate kanzashi arrangements, so perfect for an outdoor gathering or special occasion. Hanami Gallery has a slightly different chrysanthemum style of kanzashi, but just as gorgeous.