EDITORS LET TER If there is anything that I won’t forget from my undergrad education, it is the lucid Spanish proverb, “poor people can’t afford cheap things.” This European ethos of quality seems so novel in today’s blog-eat-blog world, but when I stand on that one corner in SoHo and see two H&Ms facing each other, it blasts in my head. I’ve always wanted to work with others to change the fashion industry to some degree, however, being green is not a glamourous thing to sell. Although it’s not a habit, I do swoon and gasp whenever I walk through a department store and see the brightly-packaged makeup, buttery leather handbags, and swingy dresses. That sort of appeal doesn’t always translate to organic fibers or thrift shopping, you know? Although sustainability isn’t a new concept for the industry, a fresh take has surfaced along with the rise of some influential millennials. The happy-to-be-scrappy generation has put a spotlight on ethics, transparency, and the value of quality. How this has affected the industry is still touchand-go as more shifts need to be made, but there’s definitely a move down the right path. After some candid talks with the influencers in this issue, a couple things became clear. First, there is a slow fashion movement already happening in our subconscious. We may have different approaches—by creating seasonless products, upcycling, or preserving authenticity—but it’s there. Also, there is a new vocabulary evolving. Collage dressing, batch systems, and second market are some of the terms being used to describe the new guard of sustainability. More than one road leads to conservative consumption. Whether you’re reusing, upcycling, or buying the best of the best as a consumer, you’re making the right move in our book, because somewhere in there you are preventing more waste from being made. As for the talent involved with this issue: they are an incredible group. I couldn’t have done any of this without them. I’m absolutely thrilled to share our photos, words, and conversations with you. I hope you enjoy it and would love to hear what you think. xx Jamie Ortega February, 2014
Jonah Leslie, 2013.
4 words + photo
YOU LOOK, AND YOU LOOK AGAIN 6 editorial
REALIT Y BITES 16 editorial
Taste is the place 20
MOLLY KEOGH of OSEI-DURO 30 interview
ELLIOT ARONOW of #JACQUES-ELLIOT T 34 interview
ALEX LEE and WILL THOMPSON of XXBC
COver Photograph by Shanita Sims 3
Ruvan Wijesooriya, 2006
YOU LOOK AND YOU LOOK AGAIN Words | Rachel Hodin 4
This year I had the fortune of spending New Years Eve with packs of hungry cougars. I was at a hotel resort in Anguilla, knee-deep in be-sequined women bearing garish heels and Chanel bags. Though admirable for their strength (gluteal and calf, more precisely), devotion to kale and commitment to cold-pressed juice, they exude a level of perfection I cannot (and frankly don’t want to) compete with. They wore the latest and shiniest runway pieces, have a staunch devotion to Bergdorfs and are smitten with Barneys, and yet they embody an ideal that well-seasoned fashion figures loathe. As it turns out, the sum of the parts—as perfect as each part may be—makes for a pretty mundane whole. The term “planned obsolescence” was initially used to describe General Motors’ marketing technique in the 1920s. Popularized by Brooke Stevens, the term refers to when a brand makes slight variations to their product with the intention to convince consumers that continual upgrades are essential, and thereby ultimately gaining more revenue. And we can see the trace of planned obsolescence in practically every other industry today. Light bulbs, for instance. It’s possible to manufacture them in such a way that they never burn out, but light bulb manufacturers choose instead to manufacture them so they do burn out, thereby forcing consumers to purchase more. Consider Apple, too—a company that intentionally delays product upgrades and bug fixes to secure a system in which a “new,” more desirable product with better features is released every 6 months or so. It’s unsurprising, then, that planned obsolescence has bled into the fashion industry as well. Take a look at the various seasons, manufactured by the fashion industry and designers, and you’ll often notice that the distinguishing features among them are barely perceptible. Is there even a difference between Carven’s Spring/Summer collection and their Resort collection? And yet they continue to categorize the clothes into various seasons and distinct entities, ultimately urging consumers to purchase more. As I watched the cougars traipse around the bar on New Years Eve I noticed something of a kindred spirit between them and these contrived seasons. Paying an exorbitant amount for an
item of clothing just because it’s a brand name, sparkly, and apt for New Years Eve is anything but how someone like Phoebe Philo or Katie Hillier shops. For women like Philo and Hillier—painstakingly devoted to fashion—it’s not the latest $600 Givenchy printed tee that keeps them inspired, but rather what’s between the cracks, often veering on the unconventional or the overlooked. Raf Simons said, “if something’s too clear, it’s very often not inspiring to me anymore.” Rather than pursuing perfection—whether it takes shape as a botoxed cougar with impeccable skin and spotless nail beds or a $10,000 over-thetop Cavalli gown—fashion’s most loyal and authentic players focus on imperfections. Rather than incessantly buying excess fabric and producing new and more expensive products, they’ll focus on recycling and re-appropriating. It’s about that which isn’t there, glaring in your face like an obtrusive neon sign. One could even argue it’s a tad postmodern—a shift towards the indefinable. Regarding his 2013 Gagosian show, Raf Simons said, “I’m usually very attracted to things that I can’t define.” His approach is less about producing a distinct look and more about establishing an energy. To be aware of fashion’s evolving trends is to know that there’s been a massive logo revival as fashion delves back to its roots. We’ve seen the resurgence of Supreme (they share the top floor of NYC’s Dover Street Market with Prada) and their infatuation with logos, the everpresent Stussy logo, the resurrection of Versace’s characteristic medallion logo, and so many more. As I see it, an industry bloated with excess has naturally returned to the basics. Not long ago, while riding the tube in East London, I noticed a well-dressed girl carrying a shopping bag with a poncho covering it. It appears that a return to the logo has spurred on a newfound appreciation for basics—and the foremost basic of fashion is arguably the shopping bag. What was once considered a repository for purchased items or trash is now cherished and protected. It brings to mind a Cindy Sherman-esque purpose—that is, a reaction against mass-media culture’s attempt to suppress individuality by maintaining stereotypes of impossible standards. Rather than falling prey to fashion’s contrived and overpriced side, we are now
taking objects that were once regarded as the dregs of fashion, reviving them, and making them our own. We see this in Ruvan Wijesooriya’s work, specifically his photograph of a woman carrying a shopping bag as if it were a purse. We see it in Yuken Teruya’s exhibition “Notice – Forest,” shown at the Saatchi Gallery, in which trees and shapes were cut out of disposable shopping bags. Uniting all of these artists is a predilection for taking objects once regarded as rubbish and breathing new life into them. And whether or not it’s a result of our draining economy, it’s certainly about time. Achieving aesthetic perfection is astoundingly easier than you might expect it to be. As a state that lacks complexity, perfection and the pursuit of it is actually rather monotonous—a fact that’s ever more obvious in light of the boundless pursuit of imperfection, a state limited only by how far you’re willing to take it. Making a convincing case for the single earring movement, Eva Wiseman writes in The Gentlewoman, “Perfection can be disturbing. It leaves nothing to hang our eyes on. No hooks. No handles.” She likens the Dior and Delfina Delettrez single earrings to Michael Jackson’s white glove and Janet Jackson’s solitary earring—“you look, and you look again” is how she describes it. However it’s not just the rebellious and aberrant nature of the single earring that makes it so desirable, but its accessibility too. Like shopping bags, the single earring can be dug out of your closet too. And like the reclaimed shopping bag in Wijesooriya’s photo, the single earring is an opportunity to give your old jewelry a second wind. “You can reclaim your abandoned half sets from a bedside drawer or slip an earring off on your way out,” Wiseman writes, “Ideal for those of us whose jewelry boxes are less boxes and more cracked plants and pots propped against computer screens or messes of chains in old clutch bags, this imperfect beauty…” There’s a line in Robert Browning’s poem “Cleon” that resonates here: “Is this apparent… / That admiration grows as knowledge grows? / That imperfection means perfection hid…?” And it’s true—fashion’s most powerful moments are often its greatest imperfections too. 5
reality bites Words | Jamie Ortega
Maybe it’s because I was a chubby, awkward teen, but whenever I see fashion cycles repeat themselves, I can’t help but think that it happens because people want to wear what the cool kids wore growing up. It’s a form of regression, but it also feels wildly empowering when it’s pulled off well. There have been some extraordinary Aaliyah lookalikes in music lately. Some cute Selenas, too. Last year, the New Museum dove into the cultural obsession of everything 90s with its exhibition “NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star.” Walking into the space was like digging up a time capsule that had been buried in the backyard 20 years ago. The cultural ephemera of the decade eased visitors in before looking back at the social and economic environment of that time. What stuck with me most from the show was a photo series by Art Club 2000. In 1992, gallerist Colin DeLand partnered with The Cooper Union to develop a class-format workshop that culminated in a summer exhibition. The result of this partnership was the formation of Art Club 2000. These seven students had noticed some strange subway advertisements of creative types selling clothes for a clothing brand. Indubitably, this brand was The Gap who had recently opened 20 new shops in New York City. Treating the Gap ads as a non-serious subject, the group bought matching outfits from the store and took photos of themselves around town and at home. The result was a series of images that didn’t look too far from the original ads. But in this instance, the artists were self-commodified. The series didn’t cost them more than train fare, film and development, since all clothes were returned for a full refund. The series that follows is an homage, but also observes that this 90s commodity culture has come full circle. Gapsplotion was a unique phenomenon in 1992 (see Reality Bites), but now it’s the norm. Shoppers buy pieces that they are completely disconnected from solely due to the perceived value of the product. “So what if the t-shirt says CHICAGO FOREVER and I’ve never been there? It was only $5!” It’s no longer strange to be wearing what oodles of other noobs are roaming around in. Similar to Art Club 2000, these shoots cost us no more than a few cold mornings and several Dunkin Donuts Box O’ Joes.
Sonja | top & skirt by Rachel Comey Jenny | sweater from Awoke Vintage, skirt stylistâ€™s own Shannan | dress by Samantha Pleet Monique | top & skirt stylistâ€™s own 8
Photographer | Shanita Sims Stylist | Jamie Ortega Stylist Assistant | Taylor Tindall Makeup | Emily Glee Hair | Dior Sovoa Models | Monique Frazier, Jenny Wang, Shannan Smith, Sonja Mauro 9
Joey | shirt Lightning Bolt, shorts Mark McNairy, jacket model’s own Elliot | shirt by Mark McNairy, pants by Jack Henry, cardigan stylist’s own Brandon | shirt by Mark McNairy, cardigan & jeans stylist’s own 10
Photographer | Adam Katz Sinding Stylist | Jamie Ortega Stylist Assistant | Taylor Tindall Models | Elliot Hinds, Brandon Dunham, Joey Jimeno 11
Alexandra | fringe top Friends Vintage, vest modelâ€™s own, shorts stylistâ€™s own Jen | top & dress Rachel Comey Natalia | jacket, bustier, & skirt Friends Vintage Tiffany | top Rachel Comey, jeans Friends Vintage 12
Photographer | Nekole Kemelle Stylist | Jamie Ortega Makeup | Claudia Lake Models | Natalia Henri, Alexandra Stephens, Tiffany Clark, Jen Kessler 13
Rocky | jackets and hat Community 54, jeans Acne Loric | jacket Conflict of Interest, jacket underneath Acne, jeans Raf Simons, hat Adidas, t-shirt stylistâ€™s own Simon | jacket and hoodie Community 54, t-shirt Trapstar, pants and hat Staple Pigeon Zayd | jacket vintage Polo Sport from Community 54, t-shirt Alejandro Lafontant, jeans Acne 14
Photographer | Koa Pennock Stylist | Marika Ames Stylist Assistant | Taylor Tindall Models | Loric Sih, Zayd Atkinson, Rocky Li, Simon Chung
taste is the place Words | Jamie Ortega
headband, Epona Valley, top, stylistâ€™s own
environment doesn’t seem to have a ceiling for growth, but you can’t blame these stores for being on every corner. The loyal shoppers continue to nurse this business model every time they walk into a store and buy something. Whenever you walk into a store, it’s like walking up to a ballot box. The swipe of your card is your vote. Unfortunately, it takes events like Rana Plaza (the 2013 Bangladesh building collapse that killed over 1,000 garment workers) to get us to snap out of it and think about the real costs of a demanding industry. If we want to prevent more events like that from happening, we need to shift the way that the business works and how we shop. By slowing down production and reflecting more on need, we can start moving towards a more sustainable fashion cycle. And maybe a less complicated love life, too.
top, stylist’s own
About six years ago, my top wingman was a little down about his love life. “I can’t tell who is interesting anymore. Girls just look at blogs and learn how to dress,” he moped. Just a couple years after H&M granted access to fashion and street style exploded, dating was ruined. Well, more complicated. The reason why it got tricky is that the luxury of judging a book by its cover was totally taken away. Shopping at fast fashion retailers doesn’t make you a phony, but we should take an honest look in the mirror. The light-speed retail
When Bryanboy was born in 2003, it was clear that fashion found its place on the web. Industry people were reluctant to pay attention, because there was only print media up until that point. Eventually, bloggers like him changed the way people dressed. Fashion was introduced in a historical sense (i.e. Style Bubble) and also as a form of self-expression (i.e. Style Bubble) in a new medium that was really personal. It didn’t matter if you lived in New York City or Beaver Creek, the web taught you how to dress well and maybe joked around with you in the comments section. The competition and innovation that trickled down from this has made the business quite fascinating. It is just like being in the movie She’s All That—any rookie can become a babe with a little coaching. By no means am I saying that more goodlooking people is bad thing, I’m from San Francisco—I’ve seen things. It’s just unfortunate that the infrastructure developed on such an unsustainable path. From production to sourcing, the product is made to satisfy a moment that is happening within the moment that it is happening. It’s like a clothing zeitgeist, but there’s no feeling. Even high fashion is challenged to be just as relevant as fast fashion. Whether it’s A$AP Rocky modeling in a campaign, an exclusive capsule collection with Target, or 270k followers on Twitter (you go, @OscarPRGirl!), luxury retail has ditched its olderbut-wiser client for the younger prospect.
hoop earrings, Sorelle, bracelet, Julie Thevenot, shirt & vest, stylist’s own
Then there’s Hedi Slimane, that clever little devil at Saint Laurent. When he angered loads of journalists with his $68,000 baby doll dress, he made me swoon. 17
choker, Hannah Jewett , hat, top & shorts stylistâ€™s own
Photographer | Shanita Sims Stylist | Jamie Ortega Makeup | Annette Heart Model | Natalia Solovieva
He was just doing Hedi with the absolute finest resources the world could offer. With a love of clothing and culture, he’s taking the ADHD spirit of today and giving it a rock and roll education. You can see his reverence for 60s and 70s rock in his classic staples and silhouettes. They allude to and recreate an earlier era of construction. Something that shouldn’t be forgotten about luxury houses is that the markup isn’t just for craftsmanship. The price tag accounts for the advertising, sales incentives, special events, celebrity gratis, and the many salaries involved. If there’s some brand recognition as well, that’s just icing on the cake. Despite the risk of abandoning the ways of the old world, Hedi indulges in sending out a very unorthodox message. Musician models and an office in Los Angeles are not traditional for an established French house, FYI. Hopefully, others will take a cue from Slimane’s new school of ethos and risk-taking and skimp on a few foie gras receptions to try new things. Finally, there’s the whole limited resources thing. Our planet is running out of clean water and arable land for agriculture. Our food supply is dwindling, and what we produce now is chockfull of GMOs to
make things grow quicker. There has been a response to the industrialization of food industry, but not as much in the fashion industry where the risk is ecological and financial. Where is the slow fashion movement? Sure, it’s out there in the forms of transparency, organic fibers, and smaller collections, but when will the rest of the trade support en masse? When will the CFDA make sustainable practices part of its initiatives? This business not only depletes our natural resources (1,800 gallons of water for a pair jeans, really?), but it also drains consumers’ bank accounts. Excessive clothing production is just as harmful as the GMOs; it’s not healthy for the long run. The fashion industry employs more people worldwide than any other business. Any variation in its ecosystem affects the entire chain of cotton farmers, factory workers, transportation specialists, financial analysts, advertising creatives, press agents, retailers, sales professionals, down to the designers themselves. Shifts need to be made, but not cuts. For instance, brands should move from creating ten variations of a spring cardigan, to perfecting the best two. The same goes for media. Start giving me less of
25 Under $25 to Revamp Your Wardrobe, and more of 5 Ways to Care for Shoes. The voice of fashion journalism doesn’t blink an eye when suggesting impractical luxury items, although the glossies are fully aware of the annual income that most readers maintain. They speak to the elite and bet that there will be enough aspirational characters as well. And so far, they’ve been very lucky at the craps tables. Ultimately, all I’ve got to say is that we can do this. Small shifts lead to big changes. There are three major points that we need to hit: production, consumption, and projection. Brands and retailers first need to refine presentations to the best of the best; we don’t have the resources to spare on things that only live through the weekend. Consumers need to remember that each purchase is like a vote and only perpetuates what is being made. Finally, glossy magazines and online resources need to shine more light on what makes a great garment versus a trend. A stronger voice for thrifting, swapping, and upcycling needs to emerge. But that’s exactly why we’re here, to make that voice louder—and maybe make our wardrobe a little more honest, too.
Brian Procell Words | Jamie Ortega Photos | Sarah de Burgh
Shortly after 9/11, a young artist from the hood moved to downtown New York City. This kid was Brian Procell, he was around to see both the art and fashion worlds collide and grow into what they are today. Like a linguist trying to preserve a dying language, Brian is carefully protecting the history of downtown New York and its place in pop culture by collecting the clothes and trends that have made this scene unique. Brand consultant, business owner, and trend forecaster are all hats that Brian wears on a daily basis. It’s safe to say that with clients like Supreme, Opening Ceremony, VFILES, Marc Jacobs, and CR Fashion Book, the man can be trusted. He just gets it.
Tell me a bit about your background I was born in Hoboken, but I was raised in Elizabeth, New Jersey. I have a halfbrother who was older than me by about 10 years and lived in New York City. He didn’t live with us because my father thought he was a really bad influence. In the early 90s, he moved with his mother to South Central Los Angeles. He was a teenager there and at some point became an OG Blood member. Eventually, he had to get away from that life and came back to live with us in New Jersey. I had been paying attention to what was big in the Greater New York area and then my brother taught me about gangbangers, tagbangers and these sick subcultures in LA. Discovering all of this was fascinating to me.
My pops was always working on construction sites as an independent contractor. He would always come home in Carhartt and all these crazy overalls. He took me to the uniform shops whenever he re-upped his working gear. Sometimes my brother would come along and buy stacks of Dickies khakis. I clearly remember him ironing and starching the shit out of them for hours. It was all about the cuff and the crease for him. He made me understand the West Coast lifestyle, which made it easier for me to understand Gangsta rap. I had an understanding of both contemporary West Coast and East Coast culture. It stuck with me even though he eventually just faded out of my life during my adolescence. That short time around him was enough to leave a large impression on me and it still influences what I do today. The part of town I grew up in had a blurred borderline with Newark the Brick City. It wasn’t really the best part of town to grow up in but it had its perks for me. In the 90s, the area became a shopping destination for Jersey suburbanites because of its high concentration of urban street style clothing shops. Outsiders would usually go shopping downtown on the weekend. During the week, these types of shops catered to their ideal demographic: the local drug dealers. These were the kind of guys that would spend tons of cash just to one up each other on the block with the newest street fashion. Being around all that was always super interesting. Clothing and keeping up with trends started becoming an obsession to me because what you wore was always a big deal. People were constantly judged and categorized by their outfits. There was no way around it. It was just part of the culture. It was very challenging being brought up in this environment as a poor kid, especially one that didn’t steal or hustle drugs. I became a patient and savvy customer that was really, really good at sourcing clearance sales. I was an expert window shopper because I was broke. I monitored what sold out right away, and what pieces lingered until they went on sale. That was my shit, it gave me my style. I was great at putting together outfits 21
the street, like X-Large, Supreme, and Final Home. Keith Haring’s original Pop Shop was still active directly across from the school. I fell in love with downtown and no one understood this back home. In the early 2000’s, while everyone I knew went to college, I moved to the city and found a cheap living space on Orchard Street. That’s where it all started. Right away, I dived into some local gigs in the art world because I’d work for peanuts. All in hopes of becoming someone’s protege. I ended up becoming a studio assistant for various artists including Mickalene Thomas. with cheap deadstock, always trying to make the most with what I had access to. When I was growing up, style was about street and musical influences: that’s how I began to view everything. In the late 80s to early 90s, it was about sportswear and teams with bright, saturated colors. At some point I noticed a shift. The popularity of Onyx and Wu Tang Clan created a demand for military fatigues and workwear. It was a simple as that for me. In the summer, everyone wore silkscreened graphic t-shirts usually representing something music-related, logos, brands associated with certain acts, etc. Today we see things trending on Instagram and Twitter., but back then, shit was literally announced on everyone’s chest. What I’m trying to say is that understanding street style wasn’t rocket science. You just had to fit in by basically rocking what everyone else was rocking. Time went on and I began to harbor resentment for contemporary hip-hop culture and the city I grew up around because I felt like I was forced to look a certain way. In hindsight, I’m grateful that it made me an expert shopper at an early age and advanced my awareness of style. I eventually rebelled against all that. I developed a minimal wardrobe, started skating, and listening to punk. I would walk miles to the neighboring town in order to pick up parts for my board. My town didn’t have a skate shop, because it had no skaters. Since I was a bit of an introvert growing up, I didn’t mind making the long treks on my own. I didn’t mind skating on my 22
own or being the only one that listened to alternative music. I loved feeling independent and doing my own thing. Eventually I got bored of what my immediate surroundings had to offer. The city was less than 20 minutes away by train, so as soon as I was old enough, I started cutting class to go into NYC in search of new adventure and inspiration. I bought all my music there. I fell in love with all of the small mom-and-pop record stores downtown. Neighborhoods like St. Marks Place had so many used and cheap CD stores with the most obscure and hard to find shit. Shopping had become my thing, again. I became obsessed with album art and that got me back into creating my own art. My thing for drawing developed into a real passion for painting and I began to romanticize about becoming a successful, famous artist. I would enter several competitions for painting. Winning these competitions allowed me to travel outside of my urban bubble.Those trips helped expand my mind even more. With all of these influences, how did they lead to fashion? This interest in art brought me to New York for more than shopping. I would also go to Chelsea, but at the time most of the galleries were still in SoHo. That’s where I would go to the openings and ingest all of the art. In high school, I enrolled I this program that allowed me to go to Pratt, when the school was still in the Puck Building on Lafayette Street. It was 1999, so after school I would go to the stores down
Through the art world, I met a lot of people that worked in fashion. A lot of my friends that went to art school, landed jobs as graphic designers for a lot of fashion houses. Since everyone knew me, I had a lot of organic relationships grow out my experiences. Whether it was the graphic designers at Supreme or Marc Jacobs, we all hung out together in our early 20s downtown. We’d hang in the L.E.S., the cultural ground zero. There were absolutely no boutique hotels yet, just dope shops and small bars like Max Fish where creatives would chill. Many of today’s big dogs all came from that small circle. There was an independent record store on the block called Sound and Fury, I would chill there for hours at a time. I lived across from this store called Seven, they stocked lines like Imitation Of Christ, Raf Simons, and As Four. You would see people like Sofia Coppola and Vincent Gallo hanging on the block. Since Alife was on my block, I was able to watch its identity evolve and I think that absolutely had one of my heaviest influences. Their store was an amazing clash of art and sportswear. They would put on exhibitions for artists like KAWS, Shepard Fairey, and Craig Costello. Levi’s and Agnes B. often sponsored these events. The opening nights were usually block parties with the who’s who of downtown. Ar these events, I would always be asked about what I was wearing. People would borrow, or buy things off my back for design references. This organically turned me into a consultant. Saying
all of this now sounds a little scene-y. But I lived it; those are my credentials. When did you start your own thing? In the mid-2000s, I landed a job with Toy Tokyo. They carried designer toys that many people referred to as Urban Vinyl. They had just opened up a gallery that was separate from the store and wanted to differentiate themselves from a new competitor, Kid Robot. That’s when I signed on as gallery director. One of the first shows we put on was for the legendary New York artist Futura 2000. I remember Mark Parker, the CEO of Nike, calling in to buy work on the opening night. Since the gallery was so successful they asked me, What do we do next? I instinctly knew that it should be a boutique in Brooklyn. It was called High Five, and it was my first time curating retail on my own. It was very different from Toy Tokyo in the sense that it only carried top shelf inventory. We also carried clothing brands like Maharishi and Bounty Hunter since they had been selling artist toys with us at Toy Tokyo. It was my first experience as a clothing buyer. I brought in selections from A Bathing Ape, even before the BAPE store opened in SoHo. In 2005, this was still a new concept, especially in
Brooklyn. The store did really well, got a lot of buzz, and then I was approached by a larger company. They knew that I had a good reputation and asked me to make their sublabel cool. I worked with them on a concept store that would showcase their streetwear but also show that there was a relationship with vintage sportswear by having them in the same space. There was no retailer that was doing that at the time. I reintroduced Starter, Tommy Hilfiger, and some interesting selections from older J. Crew. No one was thinking about selling second-hand J. Crew, but I saw the shift that was happening. People were moving from extremes colors and sport and shifting to heritage Americana. It was wildly successful. At the shop, we really had the market cornered in that first year, and I noticed a lot of purchases being made on the corporate cards of certain fashion houses. Vintage sales remained strong, but the company decided to open satellite stores outside of New York without the concept. I saw that business die down and decided to get out. I took what little money I had and got a nice apartment, stockpiled as much vintage as I could, and invited all of the designer clients we had from shop into my new makeshift showroom. I learned how to study my
clients’ mood boards and then started coming to them with relevant product that they could use as inspiration. That was my first experience in getting something off the ground that was truly my own. Somewhere along the way of establishing myself professionally, I stopped painting. It just wasn’t moving along fast enough to keep trying to sell myself as an artist. Don’t you feel a level of creativity as well with retail? The same self-expression was there— it was an outlet. But, I just recently got a new office and part of it is going to be just for painting and drawing. For the past year, the store has been my little gallery, but I need to end the painting hiatus for myself. You’ve taken a lot of risks based on what your gut was telling you. How did you develop your intuition when it came to running your own business? It goes back to my time at Toy Tokyo. The guy who ran it was a former stockbroker and maintained a seat on the Chicago Board of Trade. He was all about selling to turn a profit by identifying what items had a high demand in the moment. I came to work for him during a time of competition with Kid Robot. We saw people going crazy for these limited edition artist toys, lining up for every
release. It was on par with what was going on in the sneaker world. I tried to observe why people wanted those things so badly. Today, you see the same thing happening at Supreme, you see the same thing happening at Opening Ceremony with those Kenzo hats.
all day, I’ll be at home shopping eBay and Craigslist. You name it, I fuck with it. Being in New York has been great for this because it’s a big crossroads. I wouldn’t have had the same opportunity in Rhode Island or anywhere else. I travel a lot outof-state, to the cities and the suburbs.
A decade ago, I took a risk. I invested in large quantities of dead stock sportswear, but my gut told me that people were ready. The same need people were having for new retail products could be applied to vintage gear as long as I could create the right environment for it. As my biz has grown, I've revisited and adapted this idea over and over.
It’s taken me two decades to see what sells, why it’s relevant, and how that influences my personal style.
How do you feel when a client of yours completely replicates a piece you’ve sourced? It’s awesome; it’s the ultimate reward. Especially with the brands that I work with, because you know that they’re out there and that people want that. It’s also something has hurt me a little bit. When you're the man-behind-the-man-behindthe-man, it's hard to break out and make a name for yourself outside of the industry. The teenage thrift store snob in me gets a little bratty when thinking about a special find being made for the mass market, but the grown up sees how special it is to share that with others. It’s also awesome to let people know what the reference is. Some of the greatest moments that I have in the shop are when people come in with the mass market and I can pull the actual reference piece from the rack, and then their minds are blown. Some people don’t realize that’s how it works. Every house, every label has the same process. No one is reinventing the wheel. What is your buying philosophy? Do you have any rules for yourself? However I can get it, I get it. If I was able to place orders in a catalog, that would make my life a lot easier. Or, if I could go to Costco and load up my cart, I would love it. I have to just do it however I can. Whether it’s a charity shop, online, cold calling, cleaning out an old basement—I do it all. Even when I’m physically exhausted from shopping 24
You’ve been in the game professionally for almost a decade now. You’ve seen the cycles carry us to today where there are people equally willing to spend $325 on a Givenchy tee as they would on a vintage Nike tri-blend. This is a result of an explosion in celebrity, technology, and social media, but still remains limited to fashion folk. How do you see this reverence for the old finding a mass market appeal? When I place something on a high-profile celebrity, I always think about that. I think about how it’s going to become published and have some sort of effect. For example, the most iconic Polo jacket that Raekwon wore in the video “Can It All Be So Simple.” It’s referred to as the Snow Beach Jacket. Whenever you find it, it goes for like $5,000. That is, if you ever get the chance to find it. I’m always paying attention to the opportunities and whenever I get a chance to influence, I think about what the benefit would be later. I’ll never put something out there for the benefit of the business; I’ll always make sure that it’s relevant. Haha, but I would be stupid not think about that! Does it ever upset you when a noob buys a really special piece that goes right over his head? Absolutely, because that noob is getting all of the accolades. It’s unfortunate how that works. It’s like Rogue from X-Men taking someone’s power and leaving him for dead. It’s fucked up. How do you think that Procell is contributing to the future of fashion consumption? I thought about this during my last buying trip in Japan. There you can still really come up on great finds in a
flea market. There they have the best flea markets in the world because the majority of vendors are normal people selling second hand goods from the last 20 years. In Japan during the 90s, everyone was just buying quality shit. It was before fast fashion had the presence that we know now. They didn’t care to have cheap variations, they just wanted the best of the best. When you buy the best of the best, there is automatically a second market. Today we have this light speed disposable fashion. They’re just creating mounds and mounds of rags and garbage—it’s insane. I thrift everywhere and I see it. My shop is an option to buy something that you won't see someone else wearing, to buy clothing that has proven its place in history the first time around. I didn't open the shop to change the way people view vintage or older brands but I know what I'm selling is bound to make people question the lifecycle of what they're buying now. Do you think there is going to be a sea change to start that? Absolutely, if enough people in the media highlight that, more people can find out. Mass media is what changes the mass perception of what is cool. In my neighborhood, when I was a kid, you wouldn’t be caught dead walking into a Salvation Army. Your mom might as well have been a whore—it was that bad. Thrifting is now cool because it’s been looked at in a new light. Media has a huge influence, and my business can testify to that. Change is totally possible. To further your education, follow Brian on Instagram @procell or visit him at 5 Delancey Street.
Onyx “Bacdafuqup” 1993
MOLLY KEOGH of Osei Duro Words | Jamie Ortega Photos | Colin Leaman
In 2009, Molly Keogh and Maryanne Mathias took a risk. Having two separate lives as a stylist in Los Angeles and as a designer in Montreal respectively, they were both ready for a change. When catching up at a high school reunion after 10 years apart, the two went all-in. OseiDuro started as an experiment, but quickly turned into much more. While the brand maintains a discreet identity with the use of beautiful colors and flip flopped prints, it always strives on a daily basis to be a transparent business. Molly and Maryanne love the process of supporting the industry with local Ghanaians in Accra as much as they love dreaming up the next collection. This love and passion jumps right off of the clothes, and certainly transforms the wearer into the coolest girl in the room. We had the chance to chat with Molly about what it means to maintain a healthy business and ponder a bit about the future. What does Osei-Duro mean? Osei Duro is a common name in Ghana. The Osei part is a prefix and it means honorable or strong, something worthy of respect. Duro 26
means medicine or magic, which in West Africa is interchangeable as the idea of medicine. Together it means ‘honorable magic.’ How does it relate to the company? It was never really intended to, so we looked through some online Ghanian classifieds. We then just chose the name because we liked the sound and look of it. It wasn’t until a year later that we found out what it meant. It was a happy accident, because it’s suitable. Our intention is to be doing something honorable that is a catalyst for change to a certain point. I think that it’s coincidentally applicable. Why did you start Osei-Duro and what do you want to use it as tool to accomplish? We really started as an experiment. I had been working in the styling world in LA for a number of years. Maryanne had her own clothing line in Montreal and then she kind of went on hiatus. She went traveling and discovered the textiles of a bunch of different countries. She started making clothes in those countries and got excited about the idea of indigenous textiles
being translated for a Western market. She approached me to go to one of the places she had visited: Ghana. She had a friend there who we could stay with, so she said, “Let’s go and do an experiment.” We went to play with the fabrics and meet people, and kinda just saw what came out of it. There was no defined intention. I think that we are always refining the idea of what it is, but initially we knew that we knew that we wanted to have a really transparent process and we wanted to feel proud of every step of how it was done. We first started working with a couple co-ops, and we quickly learned that you can’t run a healthy business without first developing it. So we stepped backed to see how it could realistically function. There’s been enough greenwashing that everyone wants it. For example, I met with a textile salesman the other day and half of his samples had ‘eco’ on them. I asked, “Oh, what does this mean?” and he was like, “You know, eco-eco! It’s like really in style. It means green.” We feel really wary of that label and try to avoid it because it’s too vague and over-used. We’d rather say that we are a business and
we’re trying to grow a healthy industry: this is what we think that means. For us, what we want to do first and foremost is produce exciting clothing. Ghana is in a really interesting place economically; it’s really growing right now. There’s a lot at stake there and we are really interested in being a part of the movement to create a really healthy, sustainable, creative garment industry where people can get good jobs for export and their own consumption within the country. This is also happening in the U.S. and there are similar issues like, “Oh yeah, we need to train people.” In Ghana, there are a lot of people that are happy to do those jobs, but here there is the challenge of making those jobs attractive. There are plenty of people willing to do those jobs in Ghana, but they need real standardized skill training. A lot of our focus is getting all of that figured out and build together with other designers. Is standardized training something that Osei-Duro offers or is it something that the industry in Ghana is offering right now? The industry in Ghana is really tiny
and isn’t doing that. About 10 years ago, the government had a special initiative to build the garment industry and they gave out interest-free loans to small factories to grow. They hired a bunch of Chinese pattern makers and production managers and floor operators to come in and train people. There are lots of Ghanaian garment industry workers that have been trained and they’ve bought more machines, moved into bigger spaces— there’s this growth that’s happening and we’re certainly involved with it. We work directly with one small factory. We collaborate on which machines need to be bought, what training is needed. We’re her only client who wants to do this refined production, so we work with her on what training needs to happen for that. I definitely have a fantasy about starting a fashion school there. It’s a whole other project, and right now we don’t have the resources to do that, but there are so many possibilities there. The individuals that we work with directly keep open a conversation about what improvements we can make. Sometimes that’s a loan to expand their workspace, sometimes that’s a laptop, or funding for training.
We don’t have a formal program, but we try to work with everybody. You mentioned that Maryanne had travelled around quite a bit experimenting with textiles around the world. What was it about Ghana that made you decide to start your business there? Really, it was a fluke. Maryanne said when she approached me,”We could go to Egypt, India, Morocco” and these were all places that have a strong traditional textile industry that are still produced and seamstresses everywhere. But Ghana just made sense in a lot of logistical ways: they speak English, the exchange with the dollar is really good. Primarily, it was her friend that we lived with for the first year and half we were there. We were both really excited about the fabric and the patterns. Even beyond the wax print, what you might automatically think of, is the way people wear it. The fearless dressing in the mixing of prints and wearing things in weird combinations. I think that Ghanaians have a highly refined cultural capacity for self-expression in their fashion. It’s really fun to see and be around. Even 27
the way that the garment industry itself functions is interesting. First you need to go to market to find the proper fabric and then go to tailor and tell him what you want him to design. Basically, everyone is walking around in clothes that they made, that specifically and literally say something. It’s way more symbolic than our hoodies and jeans. When did you first fall in love with fashion? I was hand sewing doll clothes when I was 4. My mother was a tailor. My grandmother was a tailor. It was definitely something that was in my blood. I’m more in love with sewing, textiles, and shapes. The fashion with a capital F—I have less of a love with, but that’s not entirely true. I still think it’s fascinating sociologically. I just came to it from a really tactile place. My mom subscribed to W, and for us it was like a newspaper. There was no Cosmopolitan or Vogue—the shopping magazines. It was more about design than the commercialism of it. What is your personal philosophy when it comes to buying clothing? I buy almost everything used, and that’s mostly because I enjoy shopping that way. Also, it’s just a lot more 28
affordable and I feel better about it. I’ve been a thrift store junkie since I was a teenager. Occasionally, I will spend money on some nice shoes, but I really just love digging. Why did you start your own thing? It was quite a change from styling in LA. It was good timing for both of us. I was looking for a change from styling; I didn’t want to keep doing it full-time. I also knew that I wanted to start a business, but didn’t want to do it on my own. When Maryanne approached me, it was an easy thing to say yes to. I didn’t even know where we were going. I had to look at a map to find where Ghana was exactly, but that was part of the appeal. It was a complete departure from what I had been doing. For us, it just felt like the right time to make a big, bold move. How does it connect with your personal ethics? I realize that I am a hyper-empath. I really just want to see everything from someone else’s perspective. This company is the ultimate exercise in that. Working in a place that is so culturally different and trying to run a business, develop relationships with all types of people. I think
on a personal level, it’s a neverending exercise in human relations. Another part of what’s exciting about it is that because it’s our own business, we get to define what is OK, what compromises we’re willing to make and which ones we aren’t. Do you think there are limits to what you are doing? It has expanded in a lot of different directions. In Accra, we know a designer that is making really highend shoes and another designer that is reworking vintage in a really nice way. There are people who are making things that are really unique and exciting, and then there are a lot of people that are making the same African wear thing. In the entire community, there is this shared fear that the world continues to see African design as just a niche, fringe thing. For example, if a retailer already has one African brand, it is not going to be interested in picking up another because it only needs one token African designer—basically. I think the direction that is more interesting is development in Ghana and the U.S. As far as our fabric sourcing goes, we buy absolutely as much as we can in Ghana, and the rest from
the U.S. or China, but much of it does originate in China no matter where it’s bought. I would also like to develop product in other directions like baby clothes and home textiles. I think that there’s a lot of room for growth in those worlds. Right now, it feels like there is room for tons and tons more. What growth opportunities do you see in the United States? There has been a lot written lately about the need for domestic production. These last few little factories are in the process of training people. It’s not just in the garment industry, but also the car industry and beyond. They are all starting training centers so that people can do production domestically. I think that is really exciting. In Los Angeles, there already is a lot of production here, but there is room for unionization. There’s also room for the selling and production of textiles. Almost everything that we’re using is coming from India and China, and all of the cotton is from the Middle East. There is so much room to examine that and refine all of those systems. What do you think the future of fashion looks like on both the local and global scale?
I don’t know. I always want to go back to school and study this, so I can specifically answer this question. I think that right now in LA, there is a real strong push for the handmade. I think that the objects are beautiful, but I have a lot of hesitancy because it doesn’t seem like a solution for the larger scale. It’s great if you can afford a $400 hand-knit sweater and then you go on and wear that for the next 15-30 years. There is a desire to do things on the small scale, with transparency. But it feels like a fantasy since it is not something that is realistic for 99% of people who live in LA. What is the fantasy part? How expensive it is. It is incredibly expensive to buy these hand-dyed blankets. Unless the person who makes that blanket is paid really poorly, it’s going to be an expensive blanket. The entire question of industrialization is on the table with that one… Anything else you want us to know about Osei-Duro? For us, it’s a two-part thing. Being part of an industry where everyone is here because they are excited about what they are doing aesthetically. They enjoy the color, the texture, the proportion.
There is this whole conversation on the aesthetic, but at the same time it has to be thoughtful. We are interested in making interesting, beautiful clothing in a thoughtful way and make them for someone who is thinking about what they are wearing beyond just a trend level. To see more and find out where you can try on the clothes, visit oseiduro.com
elliot aronow of jacques elliott Words | Jamie Ortega Photos | Koa Pennock
Elliot Aronow has started a lot of things in his day. Whether it be a mosh pit, a zine, or a site, he’s done it and in multiples. He earned his chops as an editor for Fader Magazine before launching the taste-making music site RCRD LBL (just to shut Lars Ulrich up). Then he went on to launch the TV show and zine, Our Show, where he interviewed and got weird with some of music’s finest. Last year, Elliot launched his latest incarnation: #jacques-Elliott. It’s the collision of Malcolm McLaren and Ralph Lauren, a punk rock gentleman's attitude and worldview. To make it easy on the fellas, he recently released his third collection of #jacques-Elliott ties. But that’s beginning of the story. On the first chilly afternoon of the year, we caught up with Elliot in his home in Williamsburg.
Tell me a bit about your career and how it inspired you to start #jacques-Elliott. I sort of always looked at music through the lens of style. I never really went through an indie rock phase, because I was like, “Oh, it’s a bunch of guys wearing bad shorts singing about a bunch of bullshit.” I never connected with the music because the visuals were very displeasing to me. During my stint in music for most of my twenties, my eye was always moving towards style, presentation, and visual communications. To me, it doesn’t seem like that big of a jump, but I guess it does seem kind of weird to be doing one thing for a while and then all of a sudden, you’re doing something else. What can I say? I come from punk and hardcore. Clothing had so much to do with identity. The minutia of how a youth crew kid dresses versus someone who listens to The Locust, or someone who is into Blank 77, or Unwound… I guess my mind just always looked at
music through those little gradations. That’s kind of how I got my start. For most kids, Nirvana is what kicked it off, but for me it was always Beastie Boys. My poor mother would take me to these malls in New Jersey looking for these Pumas. White suede pumas with the green stripe; they were vintage. I didn’t know that, my mom didn’t know that. But I had her driving me to all of these stores trying to find these shoes. Even in the punk scene, as soon as I hit college, I threw away all of my hoodies and started wearing black button-up shirts and dressing like I was in Joy Division. This was my look for a solid six years, give or take. Different gradations of grey and black, white belt of course, blue-black dyed hair. I was looking like a total disaster. I think that not knowing what the look is and doing your own version of it is much cooler than actually getting the look down. That’s what that whole
period taught me. When you don’t have money and you don’t know how things fit and you don’t really understand what looks good, you just buy what kinda looks good. I think that those are always the moments that I enjoyed the most. When did you realized that you were already in the fashion world and not just the music world? I’ve been into clothes since I was five years old. I’m from Staten Island, across the river in New Jersey there was a five-and-dime for clothes, with discounted kids clothes. My mom would take me once or twice during the school year and the best thing she ever bought for me was a pleather bomber jacket with patches on it. I had a crush on my hairdresser, this chick Vicky who cut hair at the Staten Island mall. If you can imagine what some chick that cuts hair at the Staten Island mall in 1986 looks like, that was basically the girl of my dreams. I came in rocking this jacket and was like, “Man, Vicky is not ready for this.” When I was nine, I remember that mom always was cool about me picking my own clothes. I gotta give my parents a lot of credit, they always let me dress myself, for better or worse. I was always allowed to combine things. I had all of these dinosaur shirts and I had all the chicks at summer camp, you know what I mean? I had learned that through clothing you could get a certain amount of respect or attention or power, and I was always just way more clothing
obsessed than any 12-year-old had the right to be. I was small, wasn’t into sports, and was a weirdo, it was natural for me to assert myself and show off who I was. When you grow up with a certain background where I come from, it’s not easy to be an outsider dude. So you had to represent something? Yeah man, Guns N’ Roses, dinosaur t-shirts, loud ass hand-me-down skate clothes. I remember I had one friend who had an older brother who was a skater and I got two things that were sick and one thing that was kinda sketchy. I got a Vision shirt, a Powell shirt, and that brand Jimmy Z’s, which was kinda sketchy, like poser-ish, but still kinda cool. Vuarnet was kinda big, which most people don’t know about. It was a rich kid, French ski brand from the 80s, really loud graphics. Because I was small, I got a ton of hand-me-downs from friends. My wardrobe was always built on the back of people’s older brothers and cousins. Now that you’ve outgrown your New Order phase, how would you describe your personal buying philosophy? Collage. Always, always, always collaging expensive stuff with stuff that I bought for four dollars. I think that it looks corny to wear new things headto-toe. I don’t come from money, but if I did I would still say that my clothing philosophy is to stay rooted in old, nice things that have some life to them, rather than to dress nouveau riche. It looks corny if it looks like your mom went out and bought everything that you’re wearing
in like a day. It’s always old and new. What I tell everyone is to spend what you can on a blue jacket and a pair of nice shoes, and really only assholes like me will notice the rest. But if you’re wearing a nice jacket and a nice pair of brown shoes, you get a discreet positive attention. I think that’s my philosophy, to attract positive attention. Not everyone needs to be a splendid peacock like myself. Do you ever restrict yourself with price points, or call certain stores off-limits? Nope. I would never spend $1,200 on a pair of shoes, but I have no restrictions ever. I think the part that makes it fun is giving yourself the freedom to wear what your eye gravitates towards. Personally, I fluctuate between a clean, ivy league, nice-person-to-talk-to look and a very flashy wannabe big shot. I don’t spend money on discreet luxury pieces. If I’m going to spend $800 on something, I want to be seen in it. I think that dressing like the person that you want to be is the first step into becoming that person. You’re no stranger to starting up new things. What made you start #jacquesElliott? Ties seemed to be a great place to get into the business because you don’t need to worry about fit, it’s all about fabrics that are exciting and a certain uniformity. You don’t need to worry about the sizing and all that stuff. I think that ties are also a good way to sum up my philosophy. They’re the only thing
that that you don’t have to wear, but only if you want to be a little more puttogether. It’s that little bit, that extra 10% effort that will separate you from the people you want to be separated from. I’m a Jewish dude. I like schmattas. It’s natural for me to go and buy fabric and get things made. Easy is not the right word, but it seemed like something that didn’t really take a lot of effort to figure out. It’s also a really easy entry into the brand and the idea of what you’re about. It’s obviously more of a lifestyle than just a tie. Maybe a philosophy, I don’t know! I’m trying to do my own version of all the stuff that I love. There’s a desire to make it democratic, and that’s why I like that even if it’s a $100 tie, which admittedly is a good amount to spend, a kid can afford it. The same way that I used to save up to buy a Fred Perry polo shirt. Seventy bucks is a ton of money when you’re 18, but once you have it, it stays with you and it’s a staple piece. I definitely want someone at 22 to wear one of my ties. Also, they’re not designed at this point to be mass market kind of pieces. I like that you have to dig and know someone to find them. I think that’s cooler. It reminds me of trying to find records. The short answer is that it’s a ton of fun and you don’t have to try them on and you look like a nice person to talk to. All those things are pretty groovy to me. What does the future of #jacques-Elliott look like? It’s about getting the ties out there and having people enjoy them. More of the philosophies will be revealed over time. Right now, I’m just trying to have a bangup little tie business and let people enjoy it that way. If they like the products, maybe they’ll stick around for the other ideas. I’m just really enjoying the little lane that we’ve carved out for ourselves. In the future, do you think the market will made up of more brands like #jacques-Elliott? What’s most interesting about everything that’s happening in mens style is that the veil has been lifted. It’s ok for men
to be able to dress themselves and become actively interested in their own style for the first time in maybe 30 or 40 years. Honestly, after having been told that you’re a sissy or not a dude because you’ve been into clothes your whole life, you are stoked that the world has finally caught up with where you’ve been since forever. There’s a lot of stuff out there that is uninspired and not that interesting. What I tell most people that ask me for style advice is just figure out what your measurements are and then you have a good sense of what works for you. That also opens you up to eBay and finding things for one-third of what they cost in the store. If you know a couple easy things about fit, then you know how it all works. I think that we have an obligation to go and re-use things that have been already made. It’s not cool to encourage more people to buy more clothes and use more fabric to have more people working in factories. Obviously, there are things that need to happen, but I think that sourcing vintage pieces and finding new ways to combine old and new is always
going to be where it’s at. It gives things a heartbeat. A lot of fashion has always lived by that idea of making people feel insecure so that they buy new stuff every year. That sort of thing is going away. If you really care that much about style, you’re kind of a loser. You need get a life. It’s a really fun thing and for some of us, it’s a really intense hobby. My job is to help demystify how to get dressed if you’re a dude. You can buy these pants, these jackets, these shoes and created a modular wardrobe around that stuff. Fashion is fun, but I don’t think my work addresses that. I’m here for the dudes in the suburbs that are trying to go on a date and wear something cool to office. Real dudes. Anything else you want to put out there? Put what you do above what you wear, 100%. But! In a visual culture such as ours, it would behoove you to be in control of your image. That’s it. And have a good vibe. To join in the chant and learn more about the #jacques-Elliott movement click over to jacques-Elliott.com
Alex Lee and Will thompson of xxbc Words | Jamie Ortega Photos | James Parker
In what sounds like the beginning of a rom-com, the train glances of fate brought together Alex Lee and Will Thompson to start XXBC. Having started the brand at Boston College when Alex was twenty, the name also takes on a duel meaning as they are ushering in a new era in ready-to-wear. Whether itâ€™s how they are styling the line, going against the fashion cycle, or even designing across gender lines, Alex and Will are slowly building a
new fashion cult. After quickly selling out their first collection at Opening Ceremony New York, the two are rebooting and moving on past vintage inspirations. Here we chat candidly with the guys leading the pack. Tell me how you met and how you decided to start XXBC together. Alex: We met on the T train in Boston. I was going across town, and
Will was on his way to the airport to visit his sister in Chicago. I had noticed him because he had great style. I had a street style blog at the time, and so he definitely caught my eye. I guess I caught his eye, too. He had asked me about my backpack, and then I shot him for my blog. Since it turned out we both went to Boston College and were on break, we made plans to hang out during 35
going to do that at all. It’s time for something else. We’re sick of that. Also as much as we like prints—we wear prints ourselves and it’s kind of become our thing, I think that we’re pretty good at it—we want to switch it up. Will: One thing that we can say, as far as the color palette goes it’s going to be a lot lighter than mostly everything else will be in the store [during the Fall 2014 season]. In the sea of greys, navys, and brown, ours will look more like a Spring collection. Alex: We made Collection I thinking that people could wear it fall, winter, spring, and even summer—but they might be kinda hot in the summer, haha! That’s the same idea with Collection II. Another thing, is when it was in stores at Opening Ceremony, it stood out on the racks because it was all of that grey jersey. We liked how that read, so we are going to use it as part of our signature and bring it back in Collection II, just in a different way. How would you define XXBC’s brand identity? Dressing a certain way, fearless styling—obviously, you don’t want to be the “vintage dudes.” Alex: This is our thing, so we can do whatever we want, so we’re gonna do whatever we want. Will: Alex has a love, and still has a love for vintage fabrics and clothes. Being around him, my own love has grown as well. But, it’s just more about having an idea and constructing it in the best way possible.
the next semester. When we hung out, I showed him the sweatshirt project I was working on. Since we were talking about it and working on it together so much, it was just natural that we decided to do it together. The pieces that just sold out at Opening Ceremony New York are technically part of your second, but it was introduced as Collection I. Could you tell us a bit about what pre-dated this and what’s to come? Alex: Honestly, we considered this 36
collection as our first. It’s technically the second thing that we ever did, but it was really was the first legitimate, official, well-done collection. The first pieces were just us working with what we had and trying to make something out nothing. As far as what is to come, we are a seasonless brand. That’s why we called it Collection I, not Fall/Winter 2013. For the first year and half, we have been working with vintage fabrics. More or less, that’s what people have expected from us. For Collection II, we’re not
Alex: It’s more about styles that are seasonless, rather than trendy. That’s also how people are shopping now. They are shopping for pieces that they can wear a lot because they are learning how to style themselves in a different way. It sounds like you’re keen on that idea, making those special pieces and also teaching them new ways of styling along the way. Will: I think that it’s also important to have pieces of clothing that say something. If you’re wearing something that is XXBC, you’re going to catch someone’s eye. We’re trying to make cloth-
ing that could be a conversation piece. Right now, you can see that we tried it with sweats, and now we are working on how to do it in a different way. People are expecting more prints, but we are trying to throw them off a bit. I love that. You’re doing carryover in a new way by continuing with a fabrication that you’ve become familiar with and also taking your personal style and sharing it. There’s no doubt that both of you are known for dressing in a very eye-catching manner that encourages people to try out new things and getting out of their comfort zone a little bit. These pieces really reflect that. Alex: That was definitely part of the concept, too. Not everybody is going to mix prints and colors like we do, but they can still do it in a very subtle way. That’s what Collection I was, a subtle way of wearing a bunch of prints. Will: Also, there are brands that you can tell, “Oh yeah, that’s Suno, that’s KTZ,” but I think for us it’s the way we mix and match fabrics that identifies us. We’re in the age of the logo and having everything on your chest really big. But I think it’s cool that there is nothing identifying our clothes but the tag inside. Back to the styling end of things, do you guys have your own personal buying philosophy when it comes to shopping for yourself? Will: Alex got me on the eBay tip. He does that whole thing very, very well. I don’t always have the patience for that, but I will go to some vintage stores and thrift stores. I have noticed that my wardrobe is becoming a lot more oversized, but that’s not part of a set philosophy. It’s just whatever catches my eye. I like taking things and finding a new way to make it work. Alex: These days, about 90% of the time I buy clothes, I buy off of eBay. It’s a place where you can find really great stuff and also it’s a price thing. You can find stuff for really cheap! I don’t think I’ve ever spent more $200 on clothing. Ever.
Will: I can’t say the same. We’re different in that sense. I will get something that costs a bit more because of the history of the brand. Like Patrik Ervell, he puts all of these little details in the clothing and that makes me fall in love with the brand more. I’m not the typical Patrik Ervell customer, but I love finding things that I can wear in a different way. His clothing really lasts, and thats another thing that goes into play. I always ask, “How long will I have this?” Clothes that have longevity, that’s always number one.
You guys are dressing a new sort of guy. How do you see the brand growing while testing out these new waters? Alex: One thing that we want to take advantage of, is appealing to more than one market. Not only are we seasonless, but when we describe our brand we are adamant about not just calling it streetwear or menswear. I honestly think that it can be streetwear, menswear, and sportswear—all of those. One way that we attract different kinds of people 37
is through the brand’s personality. Whether it’s social media or whatever, we’re not going to take ourselves too seriously. We’re not some stuffy brand and we want people to feel that.
don’t care about what’s cool or what other people are doing. That limits the project and creativity. By looking at those sort of things, it doesn’t help us make a seasonless product.
Will: That’s also why we try to make friends, not contacts. The people we work with become friends; we don’t just use people. And more than that, it’s about maintaining relationships. Even if it’s coffee or a text, I think that all that stuff is very, very important.
What do you think XXBC is contributing to the future of fashion?
We’re just two regular dudes that have a clothing line. It started as a project, and now we’re being stocked at Opening Ceremony. Now we’re working on our second collection. We have a long way to go. Where it’s going to be in ten years? We don’t know and it doesn’t matter. We’re doing something different. The industry likes to always ask, “What’s your inspiration? Where are your mood boards?” Why can’t we just make cool stuff? A lot of that is due to technology’s influence in creating new media outlets, like social media. There’s a vampiric thirst for more and more content. They can take your mood board and talk about it in a blog post, then tweet it and then put it on Instagram. There are also people that make a living, myself included, to tell these stories about the designers. But a lot of this content hysteria has polluted the industry in a way. Will: I remember it was after Patrik Ervell did one of his runway shows and a journalist was asked about her thoughts on the collection. She was going off, super…
Will: We’re letting people know, that you can go at your own pace. We’re not going along with the traditional fashion calendar. Right now, the fashion industry has become too rigid. It’s too formatted. There should be a lot more crossover. Stop labeling menswear, womenswear, or even kidswear. We’re contributing by not having a set formula. We didn’t go to Central Saint Martins or Parsons, we don’t have any technical training. We went to Boston College, but wanted to start a fashion line in New York, and we’re doing that. It’s a little intimidating sometimes because there are a lot of designers that went to these really great schools, but for me it’s more about vision and attitude than technical training. Is there anything else you want people to know about XXBC? Alex: Fashion has so many constraints, it seems like so many people are happy to follow without even thinking. Of course, it’s a business at the end of the day. But right now, it’s not our only thing. We’re both working and I’m still in school. We’re doing what we want with the brand and working with what we have. A key for us to is to remain authentic to ourselves. I don’t want to talk shit, but why are there Swedish designers making all this hip hop stuff? They aren’t about that life.
Alex: She gave like a college thesis… Will: …and afterwards, they went to Patrik and asked if what this journalist said had anything to do with his inspiration. He then said something like, “Nah, I just like uniforms.” Haha. Alex: Back to growth, money is the biggest limitation for us right now. Keys to growth for us are 1) not limiting ourselves by putting XXBC in a box, and 2) not giving into trend. You can’t be bound to trend, and we 38
Will: I mean, we’ll like that stuff. It’s alright. But when asked, all that these designers have to say is, “I really like hip hop culture.” I guess that’s fine, but I don’t know. It seems like everybody is just doing stuff because it’s what everybody is doing. No one is being original or true to themselves anymore. We just don’t want to do what’s trending. There’s nothing wrong with being yourself.
You can check out XXBC online at xxbcbrand.com and on Facebook. Peep Alex’s style blog at wirdyblog.com and his photo site at alexleenyc.com
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