Back in the day, Esquire magazine stalwartly carried the torch of classic black tie. One of my favorite writers of that era, John Berendt, grew up in Syracuse, New York, not far from one of the first appearances of the tuxedo. Almost immediately after graduating from Harvard, he became an associate editor of Esquire from 1961 to 1969 and continued to contribute from 1982 to 1994, when his book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was published. Many of his columns begrudgingly acknowledge trends while scornfully piss on what he calls “atrocities.” A particularly funny one is when he took umbrage with some of the spirited choices his contemporaries passed off as acceptable black tie. After observing that the first two public exhibitions of Henry Poole’s dinner jacket in America caused quite a stir, he wrote:
“I mention these two episodes…to make the point that, historically, there has never been much tolerance for individual touches when it comes to formal attire. And properly so–if not for the sake of tradition, than because for some reason the classic model is almost always debased rather than improved by innovation….But in a perverse sort of way we can be grateful to them because of what they reveal about the wearer’s level of taste.”Classics: The Tuxedo, from Esquire, January 1983
For about 100 years, the classic black tie model has remained more or less the same, and is fairly straightforward: the suit itself can be black or midnight blue wool. As for the jacket, the most formal is single breasted peak lapel, and happens to be the most flattering one. Your shirt, which is always white, should be the quintessential marcella bib with two or three studs. A wing collar would have been the first choice a century ago, but nowadays a soft turndown collar has become the norm. Pleated shirts are fine, but I find they go better with peak lapels in a double breasted jacket or shawl collars in either configuration. A notch collar is acceptable, but has the tendency to look more waiter than waited on. Your bow tie, which should never be pre-tied and always in front of your shirt collar, can be in either black silk satin or grosgrain. Ideally the same material should be repeated in the lapel facings, buttons, and a single stripe down the trouser’s outside seam. Your waist should be covered by a double breasted jacket, a formal black waistcoat, or a cummerbund that matches your tie. Shoes are black oxfords or opera pumps in patent leather, although either in properly shined calf leather is a fine alternative. Hosiery is black silk.
Once you have a tuxedo in any of the above, you can start to go crazy – a little – for less ceremonious affairs. An easy way to do this is by simply swapping the top. An off-white jacket is a fine choice for daytime or if you happen to find yourself on a boat. On informal occasions, such as a party in someone’s home, a velvet smoking jacket in deep jewel tones is a louche option, or plaid if you’re feeling particularly festive. In these cases, lapels should never be notched, and facings can be in black silk or in the same color and material as the jacket, depending on how shiny you wish to be. If you feel especially casual, you can swap your courtly footwear for slippers in silk or velvet in black.
There are other options, of course, but listed above are already a dozen or so that will take you everywhere from the opera to the stag party. With the proviso that you have them all already and are exceptionally popular with a calendar bursting with fancy engagements, just don’t. Unless you’re Andy57.
Andy Poupart is a self-professed romantic that loves black tie more than anyone I know. His job, like most of us, doesn’t pit him against secret agents or nefarious megalomaniacs, but if it did, he’d be ready for the part. His black tie closet includes:
- Straight-ahead, classic, by-the-book, black, peak lapel, grosgrain facings, single-breasted dinner jacket, with matching trousers, cummerbund, and U-front waistcoat
- Midnight blue, shawl lapel, midnight blue satin silk facings, single breasted jacket, with matching trousers, cummerbund, and U-front waistcoat
- Ivory, self-faced, double-breasted shawl lapel jacket
- Deep bottle green velvet, black grosgrain facings and cuffs, shawl lapel, single breasted jacket
- Thai silk, red, self-faced, peak lapel, single breasted jacket
To accompany these, he has socks in black and midnight blue silk, two shirts each in white and ivory, all with soft turndown collars and marcella fronts, several sets of studs and links, a butterfly and diamond point bowtie in black grosgrain, another in black mogodor, a fourth in midnight blue satin silk, and black patent leather oxfords. If that sounds like overkill, be assured Andy has worn every piece in his armory many times over, and has his eyes set on a few more. “I keep thinking about a burgundy double-breasted jacket in a fantastic wool/silk velvet,” he grins.
Although all of his outfits are excellent, Andy reckons his favorite is the ivory dinner jacket. “I designed it after Humphrey Bogart’s in Casablanca. When I wear it, I’m a 1940s gun-runner, one step ahead of the bad guys, with places to go and things to do that you can’t be any part of, but we’ll always have Paris. Oh, and a martini in one hand.”
“I know that all sounds silly, but I don’t care,” he states. “It’s how I can express the side my personality that I want to portray. I think that when we get dressed, in any sort of clothes, we are telling a story about ourselves, how we wish to appear to the world. When I wear black tie, I feel I’m presenting the best me.”
I have to catch up to Andy – I’ve got a few black tie rigs myself, but alas, no velvet yet.
You can wait until the invitation requests it, or you can do like Andy and where it wherever you want. To be honest, even a black trash bag is better than not trying at all, but as long as you’re trying, you might as well do it right. To that end, try your best to follow John Berendt’s sage words:
“My advice is to stick with the classic unless you happen to have a tailor with the prescience of a Henry Poole. And the odds are you do not.”
For what is probably the biggest, most awesomest collection of classic black tie, check out Voxsartoria’s blog. But you knew that.
“The way it supports, you’ve never felt anything like it.”
Frank and I were chatting during l’ora dell’ aperitivo in Florence at the StyleForum Maker Space. It was the final evening before the final day, when vendors leave the Pitti booths after the sun sets and talk shop with those they’ve met throughout the day over a cup of something viscous. Frank’s company, Giin, is perhaps better known for their lapel hole object d’arte flowers, but his side gig – men’s underwear and undershirts – intrigued me, since I’ve never given either one more than a passing thought.
“Sell it to me,” I challenged, to which he said the opening line. “You see how I’m cupping this glass of chardonnay? That’s the kind of support I’m talking about. It’s there, but natural.” I was a little incredulous – natural wouldn’t describe anything I’ve tried that’s made for down there. Frank must have read my face because he immediately responded with another angle: “You can wash and wear them the next day.”
Now that was something that struck a chord with me. The practical usefulness of something that could withstand a sweaty, pick-and-shovel day in the field and be ready for tomorrow might prove applicable for vacation as well. “All right,” I nodded. “I’ll take a pair and put them to the test at work. Then I’ll take them on my next vacation in Turkey. We’ll see how they perform.”
He chuckled. “I’ve already tested them in Singapore. If they can handle those summers, Turkey will be a cakewalk.”
Frank ended up sending me a week’s worth, “just in case,” he writes, which I tell my wife in the event that she refuses to touch a person who hasn’t changed their underwear after a day. The fabric is fantastically soft, made from a mix of high twist cotton, polyester, and Lycra that Frank says took extensive trial and error to perfect. I put them on in preparation for running power in the crawl space in the Tenderloin’s Salerno Hotel lobby – a sweatbox if there ever was one – and the first thing I notice is the second-skin snugness. Boxers, these ain’t, but after a few minutes, they stretched to the point where I didn’t notice any snugness, and – perhaps disconcertingly – I didn’t notice them at all, meaning I had to remind myself that I’m actually wearing underwear. Part of the reason is the fabric, some magical hybrid of high-twist cotton, polyester, and lycra that is featherweight and silky smooth that was developed in-house. Also, there is a not a single stitch anywhere; instead, the seams are bonded with a thermoplastic film called Bemis that Frank swears by. “Throw them in the dryer if you want,” he challenged. “The fabric will wear out before the adhesive does.” The result is a low-profile non-abrasive pair of chonies that you forget about almost as soon as you put them on.
Up in the stuffy 100-year-old crawlspace, I twisted, contorted, and twisted my day pulling MC home runs over ductwork, underwater pipes, and carefully stepping on black iron supports, and not once did the underwear bind, ride up, or fall down. At home, I finished the daylight with a perspire pool of a Shawn T workout, hopped in the shower and per Frank’s instructions, washed with soap and water, hung to dry overnight, and put on a new pair.
The next day I did the exact same thing – work and workout – except instead of grabbing a new pair, I reached for yesterday’s and did the sniff test. To my amazement, they smelled not just clean, but laundered. No trace of yesterday’s funk at all. Nonetheless, since my olfactory senses have been dulled from years of construction inhalation, I handed them to my bloodhound-nosed wife for confirmation. She took a pair of tongs, held them six inches from her face, and took a deep breath. Her eyes widened.
“Impressive. If anything…” she pursed her lips. “I smell a hint of EO body wash.” And with her blessing, they were green-lit for Turkey.
Bringing underwear on vacation is always a gamble: what if you’re nowhere near a place to do your laundry? You’re better off throwing them in a nuclear waste disposal and buying a new pair than risk repacking them and spreading the odor to the rest of your luggage. But if Giin underwear is truly wash-and-wear…
In short, the underwear wasn’t compatible with the whirlwind ten-day Turkey tour. We did have a shower every night, but since we departed for a different city every morning, there wasn’t enough time for the underwear to completely dry in the hotel before repacking them. However, we bookended our trip with several days before and after in Istanbul, and had three straight days on a boat; in these instances, the every-other-day rotation worked fine. Not surprisingly, the fabric handled the Turkish heat with aplomb, never once feeling clammy or uncomfortable. Additionally, they come in mid-grey and nude, giving them ninja levels of invisibility underneath white pants or shorts. Because even if your aloha shirt is shamelessly crass, at least your unmentionables are modest.
I don’t know of any other real-life stress test to put Giin underwear under, but I’ll bet that they can take whatever can be thrown at them. More than that, they are easily the most there-yet-not-there pair I own, equally comfortable and imperceptible. Just wash, allow to dry for 24 hours, and you’re good to go.
And if you’re wondering about support, just think of Frank holding a glass of chardonnay.
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I always get excited about fall clothes. Perhaps it’s the fact that the additional layers allow one to express oneself in subtle whispers that rival the boldest aloha shirt, but perhaps I’m romanticizing it just a bit. It helps that the coldest it ever gets in San Francisco is a laughable 40℉ (about 5℃), so I can enjoy the clothes without having to suffer too much discomfort. Yes, that’s an admission of guilt.
This season, designers seem to have pillaged from various styles of modern fashion. Of course, this is nothing new, but it seems especially apparent this time around. Therefore, each designer will have a throwback song or album that I feel encapsulates it. A little reductive, yes; but think of it as your shopping soundtrack to get you in the mood and help you decide what look best fits your style. Ready? Here we go.
Song: The Innocence Mission – That Was Another Country
Ah, 1995. I had just moved to upstate New York, and getting ready to experience my first deciduous autumn as a Southern California boy. As soon as the first chill happened, I was surrounded by new sights, and not just of the trees: khakis, cords, chunky sweaters, scarves, and big jackets. Suddenly the stifling temperatures of summer eased to allow the real fun to start, when you can play in a rugby shirt without dying of heat exhaustion, and as your sweat cooled in the dusky late afternoon air, you’d start the barbecue with crispy fallen leaves while sipping on a Red Hook; after dinner, you’d borrow someone’s roll neck (everybody had at least one) to watch the sun set over the fiery hills of the Adirondacks, and the Innocence Mission would play in the background, and everyone would be smiling.
Drake’s pulls from such happy, loose-fitting, carefree mid-90s nostalgia but makes it modern by keeping the pants moderately trim and jacket lapel gorge above the pectorals. Nothing is offensive, everything looks comfortable, and you’d feel completely fine if everyone in the world dressed more or less the same way (“Oh, you have a cable sweater in periwinkle? Mine is in moss. Let’s swap!”).
In less capable hands, such a decision can get old quick (sorry, J Crew), but the creative genius of Drake’s is taking classic themes and curating a selection that incorporates contemporary tweaks, unimpeachable fabrics, and flattering patterns that prevents it from sliding into stale insignificance. Their tweed raglan and corduroy belted overcoat are particular standouts, but basically, anything is a sure pick. Seriously, they could do this for the next 100 years, and it would still look great.
Collection: Brooks Brothers
Song: The Dandy Warhols – Every Day Should Be A Holiday
When Brooks Brothers revealed its Fall 2018 show at Pitti last winter, everyone was a little bemused. Why was one of the longest-running outfitters of US presidents headlining opening night at one of the peacocky-est shows of the year for its 200th anniversary? No one really had a clear answer, except for the fact that now an Italian is running the show (Claudio del Vecchio is the current President and CEO), and instead of recalling the best of its storied history, many of the looks were uneven, with never-off-the-runway oddities like tucking in suit jackets into pants. Yes, you read that right. You can see a brief video overview of the show here.
Despite that, the best looks were actually distinct and non-chalant, like louche double-breasted suits worn open, three-button jackets worn with the collar up, and Chelsea boots. Much of the capsule drew from 60s British and American rock and roll archetypes, which made onlookers wonder if they were actually watching a Brooks Brothers or Burberry show. Who influenced who? Does it matter, as long as it’s done well?
Similarly, on The Dandy Warhols album Come Down, never has an American band sounded so British so well, especially on the seventh track, Every Day Should Be a Holiday. It’s got groovy reverb, a sweet guitar hook, a touch of electro, and just the right amount of oohs and aahs that make it one of the best Britpop songs, even though it hails from Portland. Go figure.
Song: Cranberries sing the Carpenters who sing Richard Chamberlain who sing Burt Bacharach – Close to You
Corneliani is one of those brands that doesn’t get the love it deserves. The company has been around for decades, and besides producing for its own label, it has made clothing for Karl Lagerfeld, Krizia, and Trussardi, among others. Despite this, one thing you can count on for Corneliani is their unobjectionable, consonant stylishness. When they were making for Ralph Lauren from 1998 to 2016 there were no less than five Polo models at any given time (more than a dozen, if you count two- and three-button models, tuxedos, and double breasteds) but you always knew it was a Corneliani. If you liked how they fit, you could be fairly confident that you’d like their other stuff. This season shares the same DNA, and whereas nothing is revolutionary, they’re up-to-date pieces that anyone can wear and look great. My favorites are the belted raglan overcoat (taken from their archives) and their no-brainer combinations of gray, navy, and camel, in colors that complement practically everyone. Really, you can’t go wrong with anything they’ve made over the past 10 years.
I kind of think of Burt Bacharach as the Corneliani of the music world, and I mean that in the best way possible. In addition to writing songs for himself, he’s written for countless others: Perry Como, Dionne Warwick, Tom Jones, Rod Stewart, Elvis Costello, etc – not to mention all the songs he’s written for the screen. The thing about a Burt Bacharach song is no matter who sings it, or how, you know it’s a Burt Bacharach song, and even though it may not be particularly groundbreaking, it always – always – sounds great. For crying out loud, even the Library of Congress says there’s a thing called a “Bacharach sound”. Nowhere is this more apparent than when, in 1994, the Cranberries cover the Carpenters’ “Close To You” of 1970, which was itself a cover of the same song sung by Richard Chamberlain in 1963, which was written by Bacharach. Honestly, I can’t decide which one I like the best, and if someone were to redo it again today, I’d probably like that one too.
Classic Menswear / Streetwear
Collection: Giorgio Armani
Song: Giorgio Moroder – Chase
I swear, one of these days, we’ll all be dressing in Armani, and wondering why we didn’t make the jump earlier. This season includes a few suits, mostly in an 8-to-6 (!) double-breasted configuration, which looks a little adolescent as a suit but positively virile as a velvet blazer. Most of his collection for Fall/Winter 2018 is filled with what the designer does best: soft drapey goodness, taking patterns that we already know, deconstructing them, and recreating them in fantastic fabrics that you’d want to lounge all day in.
Nothing in the runway would be confused for conservative business dress, but if your work environment allows it, you’d be hard pressed to find cooler threads. This collection, like many of his, has a retro-futuristic tenor, not unlike listening to Chase from Giorgio Moroder. The synthesizer he became so closely associated with is admittedly dated, yet sounds like it hails from a future of warp speed and molecular transport, like something we’d wear if the robot apocalypse happened and we all lived in climate-controlled spaceships, wore cashmere velvet suits, animal fur, and band collar shirts, which would be perfectly fine to me.
Stores around the world, but their online shop has quite a bit of selection as well.
Collection: Margaret Howell
Song: Siouxsie & the Banshees – Slowdive
For someone who has been designing for almost half a century, Margaret Howell still manages to remain current. Her secret? “You never tire of good designs,” according to a GQ interview Indeed, a quick perusal of her collections – over a hundred of them – and you’d think they’re indistinguishable. Upon closer inspection, however, you’ll notice subtle changes over the years, like an unhurried widening or narrowing of a trouser leg or a slight increase or decrease in trouser rise. In other words: different, but same.
Siouxsie Sioux has more or less been doing the same thing, for almost the same amount of time. The music is always dramatic and moody, her voice alluring and passionate. Even though her sound hasn’t changed in decades, every song is very uniquely her. This is not to say that she’s stuck in a rut, but rather reflects someone who is confident in their style. Just listen to Slowdive from Siouxsie & the Banshees. Made all the way back in 1983, it inspired one of the best bands of all time (yes, that Slowdive) and perhaps predictably, was later covered by LCD Soundsystem. Try and tell me those thumping beats and purring vocals come from a demure, equivocating artist.
Margaret Howell style hasn’t changed much either, and yet the little changes she does do are what continuously make her collections so compelling. In a world where bold statement pieces get all the love, keeping the same roster of old standbys seems like a sure path to irrelevance, but the Howell deftly modifies them just enough to keep them fresh. Unlike clothes that scream individuality with conspicuous, exaggerated designs, Howell’s clothes are for those who prefer subtly unique takes on classic clothes. Think of it as streetwear for those that like menswear.
Song: The Stone Roses – Fool’s Gold
45R (formerly RPM) never ceases to trigger the “buy now” muscle in my index finger when browsing, and fortunately, the ridiculous prices of most of the pieces keep me from clicking myself into debt. For those of you unfamiliar with Japanese fashion, it can often be described as maximalist fashion – way over the top. While for some reason it looks great on their models, it is admittedly not for everybody, nor everywhere, but when you’re in the mood, brands like Kapital delivers. For the rest of us, there’s 45R.
It’s not that it’s any less interesting, per se; much, if not all, of their collection is completely exclusive to them, including the fabric. The talent of the company lies in taking something that you’d never wear and making it wearable. It helps that most of the items are in easy-to-wear shades of indigo, brown, and gray. Take the stripe hoodie below as an example. For crying out loud, that’s a rug fabric, and yet somehow it looks like something I can incorporate into my wardrobe without a second thought. But the prices, oh the prices – this one will set you back a seizure-inducing $624. My recommendation: save up and get one piece and pair it with all your other boring clothes.
You can purchase directly from their site, but if you’re lucky enough to live near the few stores they have in US, definitely drop by, as most of their items need to be seen and handled in person to fully appreciate them.
Scrolling through the lookbook, you can pick up a funky undercurrent; the clothes seem to boogie when worn. Even if it’s not your bag, the comfortable ease and eye-catching motifs from cultures around the world resonate with anyone with even half a pulse, which reminds me of the 1989 baggy Madchester anthem from the Stone Roses, Fool’s Gold. Starting from the first cymbal taps, this is one of those addictive, slow-burning jams that you never tire of, even after the end of its nine-plus minutes. Boasting arguably the grooviest bass line and drum beat ever produced, its alternatively funky and psychedelic wah-wah guitar effects and hushed vocals boast more than enough feel-good vibes to make the most wooden wallflower jump on the dancefloor and commence the head bobbin’.
Depending on what one does for work, most of us live day-in, day-out in the same clothes, and frankly, it can get a little boring. Even if one adds items for social occasions, sport, and loungewear, unless one is looking to draw attention to oneself, you’re generally limited to what is practical and acceptable for whatever society you live in. But traveling, especially to another country and culture, opens up opportunities to do as the Romans do in an environment and setting free from dress codes or OSHA requirements. Why not take advantage of it?
If old Esquire articles are any indication, resort wear was practically born on vacation, simultaneously in the Riviera, the Far East, Africa, the Caribbean, and Brazil – everywhere that Americans and Brits would go on holiday. Once away from home, travelers were free to incorporate local dress in a manner that would otherwise be considered outlandish and were encouraged to do so liberally; bold prints and vivid colors might be garish in the boardroom, but they fit in perfectly well amongst the tropical flora and fauna. Rough-textured and wrinkled fabrics might not inspire confidence when meeting clients downtown, but in 100 degree weather and 100% humidity you’d be mad to consider anything else. Sandals, espadrilles, and loafers were the preferred footwear, because who wants to be troubled with laces on vacation?
In such an environment, a suit almost seemed silly, but for occasions that did require it, suiting options were white, tan, peach, yellow; anything but dark worsted. Since most of one’s vacation time would be spent in less formal settings, the majority of the suggested outfits offered were much more casual, and some were fairly avant garde, especially given the time: a Mexican poncho in terry cloth, a diaphanous shirt in silk mesh, a pith helmet, and matching beach-jacket-and-shorts combo in madras. Loose fits, open weaves, and indigenous motifs were choice favorites.
How well-heeled socialites of the time would become willing – if only on holiday – to trade bow ties for bush shirts is a mystery. Or did they secretly love sarongs all along? Who knows, but many items that were introduced as “resort wear” eventually made their way from the elite to the masses. The jippi-jappa hat, for example, was a straw hat typically worn by plantation laborers in Jamaica and adopted by vacationers in Nassau. The happi coat was a westernized version of the Japanese hanten shirt, described as a “short sleeved, sawed off kimono”; originally worn by summertime workers in the field, its loose, belted fit and open sleeves offered breezy comfort with just the right amount of international panache when lazing about under the umbrella.
Some of these looks were reinterpreted in the 90s, but in contrast with the heavy and dry cloths of the past, new weaves lightened up the fabrics and gave them a drapey, luxe feel. roomy trousers, easy-fitting band collar shirts, and softly constructed and unlined jackets in various shades of white or muted hues of earthy colors are perfect for leisure pursuits among the sandstone and faded whitewash of the Mediterranean. Say what you will about “fit”, but there’s nothing that’ll kill your chill quicker than constricting clothes.
In fact, many designers have been resurrecting this louche look for the last few years in their collections. My favorites for summer resort-hopping are the ones that capture a hint of that vacation vibe without going overboard.
If you’re just dipping your toes into vacation wear, stick with the basics – shirts, trousers, and shoes – and choose casual fabrics in light or summery colors. Look for telltale signs of do-nothingness: rayon camp shirts with collars meant to be worn open, drawstring linen easy pants that accommodate overindulgence, and slip-on espadrilles.
You don’t have to go all-out baggy everything; an easy way to incorporate loose fits is by playing with proportions: roomy trousers with a more fitted top, or a slightly oversized shirt with classic-fitting shorts.
Much inspiration can be taken from Antonio Ciongoli’s tenure when he was the creative lead of Eidos. During my last few vacations near the sand and sea of Sicily, I found myself constantly reaching for his gauzy, wide-legged trousers and loosely belted jackets in breezy, textured fabrics.
I love Charlie’s wardrobe choices (@sebastianmcfox on StyleForum and Instagram) from when he was in Italy this summer. For dressier occasions under the Tuscan sun he wore a nubby linen green jacket, white polo shirt, tan Panama hat, khaki cotton trousers and brown loafers. For a wedding he wore a tobacco linen suit, tasteful light blue shirt, black grenadine tie, and white pocket square. His more casual outfits consisted of just one print, usually a camp collar shirt or striped tee, and safari jackets in linen and cotton, easy pants, and white sneakers. Everything looks comfortable, relaxed, and stylish. In other words: perfect vacation wear.
For someone who enjoys clothes, you can’t do much better than a vacation as an excuse to expand your wardrobe. Or at the very least, attempt to. Not only will you look cool, you’ll wear cool as well, and besides, it’s great fun. Embrace the batik.
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He took off his coat and waistcoat, put on a large blue dressing-gown, and then wandered about the room collecting pillows from his bed, and cushions from the sofa and armchairs. With these, he constructed a sort of Eastern divan, upon which he perched himself cross-legged, with an ounce of shag tobacco and a box of matches laid out in front of him.
While Doyle only described the robe in color and Paget’s sketches of it were relatively featureless, it was American actor William Gillette who really brought it to life. Over the course of the over 1,300 times he portrayed Holmes on stage in both the U.S. and England, Gillette could be seen in a lavishly elegant robe of heavy silk brocade with a quilted shawl collar. If Gillette’s dressing gown is your bag, Baturina Homewear in Hamburg, Germany makes these in sumptuous quilted velvet, silk, or a combination of the two. Prices aren’t cheap, but they look well-made, are fully customizable, and if reviews on Etsy are any indication, they fit the bill.
In 2013, Antonio co-founded Eidos and was its creative director for five years. One of my favorite pieces he made was a long, loose, shawl-collared cardigan with a medallion motif. Only 10 were ever made. In the Eidos thread, Antonio explains:
“The knit jacquard pattern is based on traditional Rajasthani indigo textiles that are block printed by hand in the Ajrak style. We spun together four different colors of cotton yarn (navy with black and cream with ecru) to give the pattern a subtle depth of texture. You really need to see it up close to appreciate how beautiful it is. The garment is knit full but light and layers easily over a tee shirt or pajamas around the house.”
He wasn’t kidding – the fabric has an understated richness and is easily one of the softest pieces of clothing I own. I love cardigans for general comfort, but Antonio’s pattern gives the garment a bit of sophisticated élan. Similar to the fancy brocade of William Gillette’s dressing gown which distinguishes it from a simple bathrobe, the jacquard pattern elevates an ordinary cardigan to something special. You go ahead and drop cash on expensive PJs, but for my money, it might as well be something I actually wouldn’t mind being seen in.
After I posted a picture on Instagram of the Ajrak cardigan with linen pants, Antonio commented, “you need some Agy pants.” According to what he posted in the Eidos thread at the time of their release, “…it’s my personal favorite silhouette from the season. While on a two-week inspiration and development trip I took to Rajasthan, India…Agyesh was wearing traditional Patiala pajama pants basically every day and…I loved how they looked. I was determined to make them work for the collection, so when I got back to Italy, I sat down with our knitwear supplier to reimagine them as lounge pants…the end result is the most comfortable sweats you’ve ever worn in your life.”
Then again, she died alone, so there’s that.
The morning before the collapse, an engineer deemed the building unsafe and recommended its evacuation. A government official hurried to the site, had a meeting with the engineer, and changed the verdict, declaring the building safe. The bank in the building sent its workers home, but garment worker management told them to come back to work the next day or risk losing their jobs. They did, and some of them never returned home to their families. The engineer tried to escape the country but was caught and arrested at the border.
Shortly after this, Fashion Revolution began. For one week in April, they urge consumers who buy clothes – basically everybody – to participate in their #whomademyclothes campaign, building awareness of the many hands that produce the garments we wear. At the same time, brands, producers, and stores are encouraged to be transparent and honor those workers. Part of the point is to encourage ethical production through changing consumer practices.
San Francisco has a long history in the garment industry (think Levi’s), and there are events April 22-29 throughout the city. In an effort to promote American-designed and American-made clothes, and in the spirit of a movement that demands transparency in this oversaturated and poorly regulated industry, I wanted to chat with local designer Evan Kinori, so I made an appointment to stop by his studio in Hayes Valley.
Of the many things that stand out about this garment is the fabrication – after years of abuse, the jacket shows no signs of ever falling apart. Evan explains: “The entire jacket was sewn on a single needle Juki DDL 555 lockstitch industrial machine, with the buttonholes being sewn with a Reece keyhole machine. Lockstitch construction is just unbreakable. When you pair it with tight stitch counts, that garment will surely last long enough for your grandchildren to fight over it.” When the buttons started to crack or the button stitching began to unravel, Evan added buttonholes to the other side and kick press buttons, which will never break or come loose, on both sides, for free.
The belief that clothes are meant to last and can be repaired, instead of tossed and replaced, is one that the Fashion Revolution is trying to instill in the mind of modern customers. The fact that Evan himself took care of my jacket, free of charge, is an almost radical concept if we think of the current state of the fashion industry, where we hardly ever get to interact with the designers or the makers of the pieces we wear.
Currently, Evan’s stock can be found in a handful of shops in New York, LA, Antwerp, Belgium, Japan, and South Korea. In San Francisco, you can find his stuff at Reliquary or make an appointment to visit his studio. It’s nice to see Evan’s growth from that booth six years ago, but he’s in no rush.