New Zealand’s 2009 BeST Design Awards were held last night at the Auckland Museum. We are delighted to announce that PILOT won the GOLD Award in the graphic design for editorial category. Congratulations to Arch, Jason and the team at InHouse for their fantastic work on PILOT. Arch and Jason are now working on the design for issue 3 and it is looking epic… Issue 3 releases early December….
MailArts Project Collaboration for celebrate 10 Years Indie Guerrillas and will be show in Yogyakarta Biennal Exhibition next month
The Iyaric dialect was developed to shine a light on how hegemonic vocabularies can insidiously create and reinforce negativity and cultural oppression. Dedication becomes Livication to remove the hidden reference to death. Everliving replaces Everlasting to neutralize the implication of something being “last” and final. Rastafarians keep their eye (or ear) tuned to protect their values from quiet abuse and manipulation.
But there’s nothing inherently negative in the construction or phonetic of the word “Shoddy”. There was no reason for anybody, even a militant Rastafarian, to identify it as needing special protection. So how did Shoddy come to mean something bad when it started out meaning something good, -something nearly miraculous?
Renew, Reuse and Recyle the Cloth. Recapture, Resurrect and Reclaim the Meaning
The mainstream mechanism of contemporary fashion depends on a black magic capable of conjuring culture-wide forgetfulness. Like Obi-Wan, “these are not the droids you’re looking for…”. Like George Orwell, “we are at war with Eurasia and have always been at war with Eurasia….”. We celebrate Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin in 1793 and Sanford Lockwood Cluett’s development of Sanforization. We honor Charles Mackintosh’s creation of rubberized cloth and are still impressed by John Barbour’s refinement of waxed canvas. But untill last weekend I, at least, had never been told of Benjamin Law’s invention of Shoddy in 1813 (a mere 20 years after the cotton gin) nor his nephew’s development of its close relative, Mungo.
Benjamin Law was the first to organise, on a larger scale, the activity of taking old clothes and grinding them back down into a fibrous state that could be re-spun into yarn. The importance of the industry can be gauged by the fact that even in 1860 over 7000 tons of shoddy were being produced in the town of Bately with 80 firms employing a total of 550 people sorting the raw material. But I’m not expert enough to give a history lesson. Just check Wiki or Maggie Blanck to learn what most of us forgot.
Essentially Law created a means of grinding down used wool garments and blankets to fibers which could be respun and woven into Shoddy cloth. This allowed for the production of wool from an entirely new source in the midst of a national wool shortage and gave rise to the rag & bone trade as more widespread means of gathering these raw materials. His nephew figures out how to compliment the Shoddy offer with a more premium fabric recycled from the clippings of unused wool scaps leftover form the tailoring and garment-making trades. This recycled but also unworn material was called Mungo.
So it turns out shoddy doesn’t mean shoddy at all. Shoddy doesn’t mean slapped together, substandard or poor. Or, at least it shouldn’t. It should mean ingenious, resourcefull, renewable and loaded with character, texture and history. Nothing shoddy about that. Still, Nike called this self-same process “Nike Regrind” but we can forgive them for not using its right name.
It seems to me Shoddy could refer to the search for character, texture and history among today’s rag-piles as well. It’s the endeavor of market pickers and vintage purveyors all-over the world. Shoddy is the gorgeous output of the searchers and sellers from The Rose Bowl to Spitalfields, to Clignancourt to Waterlooplien to Brimfield and so on. Today’s rag & bone elite.
Like the folks documented in MKT. One of A-Life’s annual Cone Denim volumes dedicated to vintage pickers in the denim/workwear circuit. Like Kerry Johnston, Larry McKaungha from Heller’s Cafe, Bobby Garnett of Bobby from Boston and Takeshi Ohfuci of Post Overalls shown above.
Jennifer discovered this shoddy bit of lost history recently and couldn’t wait to fill me in. I always feel a little stupider than usual when something like this emerges. I feel stupid and a bit like I’ve been tricked. Is there some self-serving entity out there who intentionally corrupted and undermined the true meaning of Shoddy only to return a century later heralding the dawn of the new Greening and admonishing us all for being so late to cause? Yes, there is such an entity. It’s our industry with all of its narcissistic artifice and ritual forgetting. We know and we forgive it for the most part. After all, we love the field we’re all tilling in, turnips and all. We’ve also got the humility to realize that not everyone has forgotten. A simple internet query reveals companies like Remstar in Romania, Trans Americas Trading Co in the USA and the Eros Group in India (and countless others of course) actively marketing their reground wool product under the Shoddy name today. While they continue this far-from-shoddy tradition, we also fumble to find words for something that already has a name. Along with our sourcing and production partners, we work very hard at DENHAM on our own shoddy projects, re-cutting japanese boro cloth and re-using military gore-tex for recent designs. We’re not the only ones and we admire the efforts of our contemporaries occasionally involved the same pursuit. But neither us nor them ever called our work shoddy.
But now we want our word back. Give us back our brilliant inspiring goddamn Shoddy, and while we’re at it we’ll take it with a shot of Mungo for good measure.
KDU Member Amenth Thmd has been featured as Glory of Indonesian Illustration by Computer Arts Magazine (china edition)
For the last year or so, I’ve taken a break from the design world to focus on my first love – music. The current band and project I am working on is called A Lull.
Last week, XLR8R.com premiered our new single, “Weapons For War”, exclusively on their website and we have had some great responses. This is what XLR8R had to say :
“Chicago’s shape-shifting trio A Lull creates a vast sound far more massive than the sum of its parts. Their beat-heavy brand of post-rock relies equally on instrumental rhythms as it does melodic vocal percussion, a fact showcased fluidly on the XLR8R exclusive “Weapons For War.” Ripped from their current sessions for next year’s forthcoming debut album,Confetti, A Lull’s song inhales as much as it exhales—trading in swirling electronics and tribal beats for acoustic rhythms and harmonized vocal hooks as it breathes.”
We are really excited about where this is going! Go check it out and keep us the HIGHEST RATED TRACK ON XLR8R! Feel free to repost and re-blog!
DOWNLOAD LINK : http://www.xlr8r.com/mp3/2009/10/weapons-war
Something Funny Happened to Me on the Way to Utopia.
A certain set of stylistic trends have been in a tangle. One feels compelled to find substantial identifiable links between them. I attempted to find one myself connecting Otaku with Steampunk but there’s something about looking for links that seems naive. I am starting to realize that the best way to convert the tangle into a synthesis at least in my own mind is partly by treating the matter of explicit connections as a sort of Buddhist Koan. The question is the answer. Or at least the tangle is starting to seem more like a mandala as long as I clear my mind of rational connections. I realized this (or the real possibilities of this new Style Koan began to reveal itself to me) while under the wing of Simon “Barnzley” Armitage in his neighborhood in East London. But before we get to that, let’s inventory the various throbs of a gestalt.
1. We’ve been fortunate enough to have acquired some fantastic pieces from the past century as we’ve built the Denham Garment Library.
2. We’ve been inspired by the focus on quality manifested by labels unabashedly copying heritage designs like Nigel Cabourn, RRL, Hellers Cafe, Stevenson Overall Co., Sugar Cane, Buzz Rickson’s, Real McCoy, Corona, Post O’Alls, Atelier la Durance, etc.
3. We’ve been inspired by at least the intentions of designers willing to add their own twist to this common basis like Kapital, Engineered Garments, Rogan, Mr. Freedom and General Research
1. We’ve had plenty of time to internalize the textural potential of rich traditional fabrications especially experienced in combination as from the likes of Paul Harnden, Form d’Expression, Casey Vidalenc, Dries van Noten, Vivienne Westwood and many others.
Again on the Archive
The folks I work with and I have our regular say about the importance of developing a archive. I worked with a woodcarver once. He had the most astounding array of chisels and often pontifiated on how profound an effect his unique assortment of tools had on the character of his work and on his personal reputation as an artist and craftsman. His own work was modern but his reverence for both the quality and the history of his chisels connected his day-to-day pursuit of contemporary expression to the pursuits of those who went before -some of whom had worked with the self-same tools he now used. Maybe the shape of a chisel also taught the shape of the cut it could make. -Just by examining it, understanding its potential and working with it in trail and error. We’re all consumed by our garment archives for similar reasons; Connecting our current work with the tradition its part of and teaching us the potential of each detail hidden in each piece we explore. The distinct make-up of our archives can predetermine the unique look and feel of our work like the hard won chisel sets would for an expert woodcarver. And it’s not necessarily about dogmatic purism sticking only to certain eras and certain countries-of-origin. In fact, that can operate more like something covetous than something creative. It’s about each of our idiosyncratic mixes that allow for the unique wiring together of our particular originality.
But I’ve ranted about all this already. -Shoulder to shoulder with the team at DENHAM as we continue to build our Denham Garment Library. And in other contexts like the recently launched View Network. It is also a belief we share with Barnzley and Joseph Corre whose unique garment archive occupies the basement of their A Child of the Jago shop.
Sichi who does graphics and art-direction for A Child of the Jago was kind enough to invite a couple of us to his art opening in Brick Lane. He had titled the exhibition Hello Utopia. I flew over to join him and the Jago crew. Sichi’s event was excellent. His illustrative handiwork informs the Daily Terror publications done by A.C.O.T.J.. When I describe it as a blend of satyrical british political cartoons from the Punch era, urgent jutting jetting spitting ink work by Ralph Steadman and a bit of nervous anti-heroism ala Egon Schiele I’m hopefully not diminishing it by reference.
Prior to the show the day had already proved to be a revelation.
Cross Pollination, Conceptual Fermentation and Tangible New Energy
I met Barnzley and his crew in a converted tube-car sitting on the roof of the building that houses The Child of the Jago store. How this train got to the roof I can’t say but it would’ve needed to be a very big speed bump to launch it that high from the ground. The train doesn’t hum on its tracks anymore, but it was humming with activity. Japanese fashion graduates recruited for their tailoring acumen working with Sichi and Barnzley on styles for their upcoming bid during London Fashion Week. After delivering his pair of honorary and long overdue Guildsman’s Tailor Shears he took me in tow and packed in the following events prior to Sichi’s opening:
1. Spitalfields Market
It was Thursday which is the designated antiques day at Spitalfields but it was late so we needed to make a b-line over the stand Barnzley considers the best of the lot. Run by Richard Dandler and his son Cosmo let’s call it “Dandler and Son” for want of official branding. Both Richard and Cosmo manifest superlative vintage workwear style with a wide stripe of both dandyism and boro raggedness. Think Peter O’Toole meets Peter Beard. Hanging out a bit with them I realized that this thing I sometimes talk about, a possible “Rural Tailor” aesthetic, is a living-breathing reality and it’s much cooler than I’d been picturing up to now. Mostly because it’s real and ambles along without copywriting or art-direction. When I asked Richard if he’s been feeling a gestalt in his own cash-register he said he had, but he also said people still don’t understand that; “you gotta pay extra for darning….”. Fantastic.
Richard’s focus is vintage workwear and tailored military from the European continent. After spending time with dealers in Tokyo, Paris, New York, Berlin and Hong Kong it was exciting to see a thoughtful departure from the US military and workwear obsession. No discounting those areas, on the contrary they’re also an inspiration, but that ground is more than well covered.
2. Cresent Trading London Ltd.
Next stop it was to harass Philip Pittack at his Crescent Trading space. Specializing in end-runs of British made menswear fabrics leftover from the ongoing tailoring trade on today’s Savile Row. The harassment came in the form of my intentionally mispronouncing the word “Guanaco”. I kept saying “Geurnica” and insisting that there was no such thing as Guernica wool. Under the pressure of my obvious ignorance Philip sputtered and grabbed a ladder and climbed up his stockpile to pull down a bolt of Guanaco. 800.00 sterling a yard. “Makes cashmere feel like shit…” he confided. Again. Fantastic.
At this point I should mention that Joe Corre and Barnzley sell some of Dandler & Sons vintage in the basement of their shop, and they use ultra-rare New Old Stock from Crescent to produce their own collection.
3. The Golden Horn Cigarette Company
After expressing an interest getting the lowdown on the new Duffer store, Barnzley jumped on the phone, called Eddie Pendergast and organized a preview since the store wasn’t to open until the following day. When we arrived Mr. Pendergrast was saying goodbye to Barry K Sharpe of Sharpeye fame. I knew both their reputations but hadn’t met the before so I was a little star-struck. Apparently Pendergast uncovered the original storefront signage reading “The Golden Horn Cigarette Company” while renovating the space’s facade and decided to it intact despite his new concept being called; “Present”.
4. Pied-a-Terre d’Maharishi
Finally to Sichi’s opening. As if this half-day submersed in the emerging new London menswear scene couldn’t any more get symbolic, on the way to Brick Lane Barnzley insisted I cancel my hotel reservations to crash at his place. Barnz currently resides at the apartment that had been outfitted by Hardy Blechman as part pied-a-terre part hospitality suite for friends of Maharishi, or at least that’s how I understand it.
Sichi’s Hello Utopia show was the anchoring event holding me in place as the waves of East London’s menswear movement rolled up against me and it performed that roll admirably. The sinuous style, ernest attitude and overall sense of Bon Ami proved just the ticket, epitomized by Sichi’s work itself of course.
My respect for Barnzley and Corre’s work should be evident from the small assistance I’ve tried to provide them in their current endeavor. I have been an unabashed fan of Maharishi, Sharpeye and Duffer and my tastes are such that I’d been waiting to meet Richard, Cosmo and Philip without realizing they existed. Witenessing them in their element and seeing the particular passion and specific finesse manifested by Barnzley, Joe and their team of consiprators at A Child of the Jago actually tangibly increased my heart-rate. A renaissance mixing streetwear, sartorial flair, utility vintage and tough contemporary practicality can certainly be felt as you stumble about those East London streets. These are are topics on which I’ve recently postured and prattled but the thin substance of my affectations were clarified by the degree to which I was genuinely surprised to see these things in their dynamic physical form. With or without my attention, it turns out it’s all very real.
While still on the high of that very brief dip into Barnzley’s pool I happened upon a reference to something called Newgate Fiction. Newgate is an infamous London prison. An all but forgotten component of the literary apparatus helping to indoctrinate the moral hegemony of the Victorian Age, a sort of almanac called the Newgate Calendar was published and was the second most popular book (after the bible) to be found in the average household of the time. The Newgate Calendar chronicled the lives and inevitable punishments and sufferings of Newgate Prison’s most notorious inmates. This rogues gallery provided writers of the time with a cast of colorful characters in their own works. Some which were presented as full biographical treatments of particular criminals, and some which were adaptations. Dickens’ character Fagin from Oliver Twist based on a famous fencer of stolen property, Ikey Solomon, being an example. But the list may as well include Jack the Ripper and Sweeney Todd.
Anyway, these characters had no shortage of dangerous street edge and the charisma at the heart of their popularity certainly had more to do with their individual style than any desire for the public to sign-up for the moral I-told-you-so of the period’s class system. Their stories may have been published as cautionary tales in an attempt to create broad piety, but I’m guessing that intention was subverted by the irresistible appeal of their punk personalities and the extravagance of their sartorial idiosyncrasy.
East London obviously still throbs with this history so maybe it’s always been more Newgate Fact than Newgate Fiction after all.
I am using this post as an introduction to the Nooka line and some of the early models that got it all started. It began not as a watch company, but as a design studio that had a new way of telling time, it just happened to work out that watches became a natural direction to take.
The C-Series was the first Nooka watch to see production. After perfecting the interface, which would later become synonymous with Nooka and its products, I was posed with the problem of creating a simple yet elegant way of presenting this new way of telling time. Framing the interface in a stainless steel case with a brushed steel face became the aesthetic of the first round of Nooka timepieces.
The Zan watch was the second design to be released, and remains the only analog piece that has seen production. The watch design is intentionally simple, telling time with two thin hands meant to blend into the mirror finish of the face.
The V-Series was basically the second generation of the original C-Series. The biggest change was the addition of a mineral crystal lens instead of the brushed stainless face. I also expanded the line by adding two new face designs, the Zenh and Zenv, and new finishes: gold, mirror, black and white. It was a challenge to re-introduce the C-Series in a new light, with a fresh new design. Not only was the face and aesthetics updated, but alarm and chronograph functions were added to this series, creating a necessity for two additional buttons.
Nooka Zub 20 & 38
The Zub line was designed with a single-unit construction out of soft and flexible polyurethane rubber, using the same four displays from the V-Series. They were originally designed with flush buttons but due to manufacturing difficulties were released with exposed buttons. Later I was able to figure out a way to trim down the buttons as close to the body as possible, creating a nice sleek silhouette.
John Chauvin, Stephen Visser, and union-man Joe Schiavone all worked on the 20+ member strong Visual Merchandising team at Filene’s downtown flagship store in the 80’s. I joined the men’s styling squad there while still in art school. Those guys taught me to rig a men’s bust-form. Pull the suit first, select the shirt to compliment the suit, and choose the tie (the item available in the widest variety) to link the two previous items together through color as well texture and luster.
I used to love the last moment of a rig. Sliding the tie-knot up under the collar spread. To get to that point you had to select the combination, spot-clean the bust-form, steam the suit three floors down in the alterations department, starch-iron the shirt and pin it to the form back in the studio. Joe Schiavone used over 30 pin positions on the shirt, but then again he was getting paid by the hour. That effort was only paid off at that last tie-sliding moment.
Years later at Timberland we obsessed about the idea of layering. When they team at Polo put a leather jacket under a wool duffle we were jealous of their inspiration. Within the extremely limited range of expressive motion in the world of rugged casual menswear, a move like that makes all the difference. I understand the concept of layering differently now. A mix of my rugged casual Timberland days, years in the men’s suit department at Filene’s and decades of unpaid people-watching which began when I was about 12.
For me now great expressive men’s style is about setting up the strata.
Strata isn’t a fashion term obviously. It comes from geology. Contrasting layers of color and/or textured material.
For me this way of looking at it clarifies layering’s real pay-off. These are the extremely compact zones of expression and styling attitude that are born of layering decisions but which deliver nearly limitless impact despite the restricted space in which they actually occur.
This way of looking at it also clarifies the legacy of Beau Brummel whose understanding of how to maximize the dramatic effect of an individual outfit’s strata zones always struck me as self-evident. For me it also explains how dandyism can be at once minimal as well as flamboyant. Flamboyance being compressed and enhanced by the pressure of menswear’s overriding minimalism and stylistic restraint such that it bursts through these small areas with even greater force. Like increasing the water pressure of a garden hose by holding your thumb over the nozzle, or pressurizing a lump of coal into a diamond.
A simple image-Google of the sartorial legend makes the point pretty clearly.
So today we continue to accept and even embrace the practical restraint of menswear silhouette as well as it’s more limited overall use of intense color, print, translucency, shine, movement and float. Attempts to break out of these restraints remain historical novelties while the traditional restrictions represent the immutable mens style norm.
And on the street you can see, or at least I fancy that I can see, the manipulation of mens strata yield endlessly diverse style attitudes. For the Beau it was a shirt, a brocade vest, a silk cravat, a jacket and frock coat. Today it might be Polo’s cleaver use of leather as a mid-layer or some kid’s impulse to layer three tee shirts over each other. Headphones replace neckwear and untucked undershirts and boxer-short waistbands replace waistcoats and watch-chains.
It really doesn’t matter what end of the menswear spectrum I’m looking at, when the strata’s been well managed it makes all the difference.
From the pages of Alice Cicolini’s The New English Dandy or the pages of August Sander’s Homme du XXe Siecle or the pages of any of Schiffer Publishing’s Military Uniform tomes, the effect can be easily researched. The dandy, the worker, the solider, and an infinite number of style tribes in-between set up the strata in their own way because the possibilities for utterly individual style are limitless despite its seemingly very limited physical parameters.
Considering the creation of personal style on these terms also reinforces for me what the wisest arbiters of individual taste have always said. It has absolutely nothing to to with money. Those ” …contrasting layers of color and/or textured material,” from the geology book gain even greater expressive momentum when their contrasts are spontaneous and eclectic and feature the hallmarks of both personal finesse and lighthearted experimentation. Menswear vintage, military surplus, heritage workwear, second-hand designer, and any other source are all within the rulebook. And it’s a sincere kick to try and break down how guys with great style are managing their strata and what highly nuanced cultural and sub-cultural signifiers they employ to pull their look together.
And it consider some of it’s historical DNA.
Today as i was headed to do my daily gym routine, I had the fortune to run into one of downtowns local legends, Nathaniel Anthony Ayers. I have seen him around downtown a couple time but had never had the chance to listen to him fill the air with his amazing talent. I sat down on the steps of Pershing Square amongst 3-4 others, and enjoyed listening to this former Juilliard student. I must say it was the best 20 minutes i have spent all day. I hope that he choses to use the nickel (the nickname the homeless gave 5th st in the 50-60’s) as one of his frequent concert halls. I Love Los Angeles!
homage to james dean:
Porsche 550 Spyder
I’m art directing Automatic eyes next album. Got lots of work to do including new logo, cd-covers, magazine ads, website, flyers, posters etc…
Last night we had about 8hour photoshoot session. Really nice photos coming up and I got all my ideas done. Even more! Photographer was a great photographer and a friend of mine Pasi Lehtinen.
iPhone photos from the session above.