Be back in a bit

New job in a new city=little time for the extras. Hope to return in the future.

(Ignore the jump) Read on...

Louis Vuitton gets seriously modest

While surveying a certain major retail store in Philadelphia I was once led into a decrepit, abandoned, former employees bathroom, with moldy ceiling tiles and long-dried (but still grubby) toilets. Pretty disgusting. Unfortunately, the room was being used as backstock, absolutely packed, floor to ceiling and 10 deep, with $400 handbags. These same handbags were on the sales floor, in limited numbers, behind clean glass and on spotless lacquer shelves. While seeming pristine and rare to the consumer the dirty truth lay behind the curtain (or stall, as it were).

Which is to say luxury is often only appreciated when in the appropriate context, particularly for luxury brands that sit at entry level and are sometimes more dependent on ad campaigns than actual quality.

Not that I’m necessarily accusing Louis Vuitton of being less than superior in construction or craftsmanship (the brand does have quite a history, after all) or that I’m saying the new effort is the equivalent of a rotting restroom (which it clearly isn’t) but is this new effort from LV, situated in the Tokyo Underground, too self-conscious? I understand the new modesty of luxury and do like Vuitton’s effort at branching away from pure opulence (their forays into a less posh luxury have been pretty nice), but I worry this concept devalues the brand. I don’t see luxury here at all. I know it’s just a brief one-off temp store, and can see the irony, but for their sake I wouldn’t make this a moveable feast. Minimalism through utilitarian materials is one thing, ironic-slumming is one thing, but a shipping hangar may not be the best inspiration.

From Blabber, Etcetera via PSFK

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Play It Again, Sam

Play It Again, Sam, while not quite as good as Annie Hall, belongs in the conversation with Manhattan and Bananas as a classic Allen film. However, it seems to never get proper consideration. Maybe that's because of it's quirks: for instance, the film is set in San Fransisco, not New York and, though he wrote the film (and the play it was based on), Allen did not direct it.

Like so many of his films, this one features a pretty sweet apartment. Also, his first film with Diane Keaton.

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Henry Cotton's Campaigns/Branding/In-Store

Was looking through Phil Poynter’s photography portfolio recently when I noticed some great shots for Henry Cotton’s. For the uninitiated, Henry Cotton’s is an Italian-owned brand with a heavily British viewpoint, sold mostly in Asia. The company is of particular interest to me because most of my work is for clients in Southeast Asia (some of whom carry Henry Cotton’s), and because I always dig British and Americana inspired brands—especially those with Henry Cotton’s level of lifestyle commitment.

2008 campaign shot by Phil Poynter

While Poynter’s campaign skews schoolboy, the brand does have a variety of styles and looks, all under the British aesthetic. I recommend checking out their website (it makes up in passion what it lacks in layout). You could probably skip the catalog and heritage sections and go straight to Spring Summer 09 collection, which is split into College Time (skip it, it’s all polo shirts), MUC Bike Polos, Khaki HC 78, Garden Therapy, and Marine Atmosphere. The collections are much better than their names, and are rigged pretty nicely. The women's line is pretty nice, too, if you're in to menswear-inspired women's apparel.

Like Rugby, the brand is positioned young, but unlike Rugby, it does so without the irony, which means it probably wouldn’t succeed in the States. Dressing British and dressing Trad (in the true tweedy sense) seems to have no mass (ie. mall) traction here, save New York and pockets of New England.

In-store shots

Detail shots

Also check out Poynter's portfolio which, in addition to a great fashion portfolio, also has awesome shots for Henry Cotton's and Thomas Pink, as well as Sportmax, Prada, Louis Vuitton, the "jump" Lacoste shots, and this season's Tommy Hilfiger.

Update: Just received an email from JG with additional info on Henry Cotton's: in the mid-90's they did have limited distribution in the States, and was once made in Italy and a higher-end competitor of Polo's. However, production was then moved to Asia, and pricepoints dropped. The last he saw the brand domestically was on discount around 7 years ago.
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Talese and The Paris Review

One of life's joys is reading a great a novel or long-form work of journalism, but sometimes an author can really show his brilliance with collections, from Hemingway's Complete Short Stories and Wolfe's Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby to Lawrence Block's Collected Mystery Stories. This is also the case in Talese's exquisite Portraits and Encounters, a well-crafted, detailed, and--most importantly--interesting collection of his magazine pieces.

While his portraits of Sinatra, DiMaggio, and Floyd Patterson are all individually amazing, I've really been considering his article "Looking for Hemingway," a somewhat critical review of the 1950's Paris Review set. After reading last year's mediocre George, Being George, an obeisant biography on the Review's editor and co-founder George Plimpton, I had this nagging feeling about that whole scene, something that was just a little off, something that Talese captured brilliantly, which is that they were pretending. The Review group was comprised of somewhat talented people who had the benefit of being born into staggering wealth, which allowed them to live the adventure of a starving artist--being inspired to take risks--while having a very protective safety net. Essentially, Talese submits that they were attempting to live the life of Hemingway, the preeminent artist as a man-about-town. While Talese failed to mention that Hemingway also was born into wealth, his hypothesis about The Lost Generation is still correct--that they lived an authentic life, where political and financial concerns were not an adventure, but a reality.

This is not to condemn the Plimpton or the Review set (blessed with the means, I probably would have done the same thing) but I think Talese's point is to be careful in not canonizing an echo chamber that had the benefit of being in New York. Essentially, the group was talented, but not that talented.

Also included in the reader, if you're into fashion, is his humorous short piece "Vogueland".
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Genius is Tara Donovan.

To me artistic genius is when an artist creates something that seems so obvious you wonder why it's never been done before–but knowing it never would have existed had the artist not thought of it. By this definition, Tara Donovan is a genius. She takes such obvious nothings and, by using them in bulk, creates ethereal, unbelievable works of art.


Paper Plates

Cash register tape

Paper cups

Tar paper


Two More

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The Stones, MSG, 1969

The best live recorded version of The Rolling Stones "Satisfaction" is this showstopper, filmed for the documentary Gimme Shelter, at Madison Square during the 1969 tour. Though the tour would end with Altamont (also documented in the film), it may have been the Stones at their peak. Mick Taylor had replaced Brian Jones, the band had just discovered/invented hanging speakers (which gave better sound), and the concerts were still mostly about the 5 core members, with no backup singers and limited horns (the tour party was only 16 people).

Especially dig Mick Jagger's 2-minute rap, starting around the 3:00 point.

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What Could've Been: Ruehl No. 925

Unveiled in Autumn of 2004, Ruehl No. 925 was the fourth concept rolled out by Abercrombie & Fitch, after the namesake brand (targeting the collegiate demographic), abercrombie (middle school), and Hollister (high school), but preceding Gilly Hicks (women's underwear). Ruehl began with a promising start...

The fictional backstory of a German leatherworker opening shop in 1850's West Village, which is then passed downed the lineage, eventually owned by his grandson, a huge James Dean fan, who introduces jeans, and a appropriately complex, and the brand showed promise for possible rollout in upscale shopping centers across America. The initial brand imagery, shot by Bruce Weber (who helped craft the look of Ralph Lauren in the 80's and Abercrombie in the 90's), showcased slim ties, blazers, and crisp dress shirts. The consumer was said to be post-collegiate, with a sophistication level was supposed to be on par with Gucci.

The store design–NYC's shoebox excluded–fulfilled that brand promise. With exteriors modeled after a Village townhouse and a great maze of darkened multi-level rooms (including a "library", "lounge", and "study") the on-site sets high expectations with stores that were undoubtedly very expensive builds.

However, the merchandise itself didn't fulfill those expectations. The apparel (faded T-shirts and cargo shorts for men, tanks and jean skirts for women) was too similar to A&F and Hollister, only at higher price points.

With the apparel shifting expectations away from young urban professionals to post-collegiate clubbers, the last promotional film was pretty much perfect for their brand. It was a Disney-ized vision of Greenwich Village and while not entirely capturing the essence of the area, it featured terrific imagery and was a good representation of what NYC represented for their consumer.

It just seemed like Ruehl never got on the same wavelength as consumers, and attempted the same language and visual touchpoints that A&F had already established. Already being in a crowded category, the economic downturn proved to be the brand's undoing, which is disappointing because the bones of the idea were deliciously relevant–and which the slightly preppier Rugby has made successful.

If you have the opportunity, I would highly recommend visiting a location, before the final closings in January (2010). If nothing else, check out their colognes and perfumes, which are exceptional.
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Look Book: The Golden Era of Basketball Sneakers

Ah, the mid-90's. Hip-hop was cresting, logos on clothing were de rigueur, and athletic shoes–specifically basketball–were in their golden age. Nike, of course, was the driving force and major player, but Converse and Reebok also contributed some leading designs, too. Adidas wouldn't really enter until Kobe Bryant's first shoe in 1998, but there were a lot of smaller players contributing: And1, Ewings, and even Fila (with Grant Hill's signature shoe). Here are a collection, in chronological order, of 9 favorites.

Converse Aero-Jam (1993)

The colorways for Larry Johnson's shoe looks dated now, but the black and teal was on-point for the times. One of the first full lace-strap covers, and the use of a translucent midsole on the heel would be a sign of a coming trend.

Nike Air Diamond Turf (1993)

A training/turf shoe created for Deion Sanders (the tongue had a logo that included his baseball and football uniform numbers).

A particularly distinctive shoe because of the unusual usage of Nike's marks. Note the absence of a swoosh from the side which, aside from Jordan's, Nike hadn't done at all (and is still rare).

This was also around the time Nike was really pushing the swoosh as its own logo mark, without the "Nike" text attached. Thus, the swoosh shows up here on the extra-wide spat strap (another new, for the era, device).

Nike Unlimited (1994)

A groundbreaking shoe in three ways. First, Nike’s swoosh, which previously had been a large design element on the side of a shoe, was made into a small, complementary graphic. Second, the shoe, being a close cousin to Nike’s Huarache line of shoes, is stripped of excess material and features visible windows with criss-crossing lace straps, giving the shoe more of a custom fit. Third, the use of a nylon inner bootie, which on the Unlimited goes fairly far up the ankle, was unheard of. Of course, the shoe–worn by Michigan in all black with baggy shorts–looked really cool, too.

Nike Air Penny 1 (1995)

My personal favorite athletic shoe, ever. The forward-flinging white outsole, contrasted with the black upper, gives the shoe a really dynamic aesthetic. The clear acrylic swoosh is a unique design element, something that would make a few more appearances in other Nike shoes. Before this time, the swoosh was always stitched or glued onto the shoe. The full Air window in the heel wasn’t unheard of, but was still unique. A shoe that really stands out when in action.

Air Jordan XI (1995)

Jordan's most popular shoe, really took athletic shoe design to the next level–particularly the patent leather upper and translucent outsole. Additionally, the customized font on the shoe, barely legible but very cool, helped launch a true push into Jordan's Jumpman clothing line.

Reebok Question (1996)

Allen Iverson's first shoe, and the most popular basketball sneaker in Reebok's history. Was the first Reebok to have windows showcasing Reebok's Hexagon material cushioning system. A great balance of white and color, too. Began a trend with Reebok where most of the shoes featured translucent outsole , so much so that they may have begun to overdo it. Has never gone out of production.

Nike Air Uptempo (1996)

A basketball shoe created for Scottie Pippen, notable for heel-to-toe air pockets, and for the austentatiousness of making letterforms part of a shoe's design. Also, the shoe doesn't say Nike anywhere on the outside, instead having an oversized swoosh, slightly offset, on the heel of the upper.

Air Jordan XIV (1998)

The shoe Jordan wore when he hit "The Shot". The 14 takes design cues from his Lamborghini Ferrari 550M, resulting in a great looking toe box and a unique use of treaded rubber on the heel's upper. Overall a great silhouette, and very light, too.

Nike Lebron IV (2006)

Nike seems to release new Lebrons every week, but the three prior were heavy and plodding, taking design cues from James' Hummer. I’m a big fan of shoes with black uppers and white midsoles–they just look so smooth–and this cleanly designed shoe features a black foamposite upper and white midsole. Cutouts reveal the shoe's structure and a strap around the tounge to secure a snug fit.

Images from:

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