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Highsnobiety: These 10 Brands Are Killing It On the Fabric Innovation Front

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Highsnobiety: These 10 Brands Are Killing It On the Fabric Innovation Front

My latest for Highsnobiety, talking fabric innovations and the smaller firms that power the industry's growth. Everyone knows Nike and adidas, Flyknit and Boost; now, get to know the rest. 

Read the full article at the link here.

 

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The Future is EveryWear: an interview with the team behind ONU apparel

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The Future is EveryWear: an interview with the team behind ONU apparel

Since the dawn of the “Space Race” thrust fabric research into the public consciousness, our societal vision of the future has always included high-tech clothes. From Starfleet jumpsuits to Bond’s gadget-packed suit suits, the pop culture of the time reflected one simple sartorial idea: with the right technology, your clothes could passively improve your life. To a world that was still getting over Tupperware, these dreams of lifestyle-augmenting apparel were, well, a moonshot.

In 1969, the moonshot landed. That year, the father-son team of Wilbert Lee Gore and Bob Gore heated some plastic rods, got frustrated with how slowly they were stretching, and ushered in the future. The Gore family’s invention – a waterproof membrane that could be cut and sewn as readily as a textile – laid the groundwork for some of the world’s first truly-durable waterproof garments. Now, with high-tech fabric alone, simply wearing the right clothes could improve your life. While another, arguably more famous, moonshot also landed that same year, for the world of technical apparel, the invention of GORE-TEX wasn’t just one small step – it was a leap towards the future.

Nearly five decades later, technical apparel has transformed from curiosity to expectation: “athleisure” dominates sales charts, leggings have usurped denim jeans, and running shoes carved from autonomously-woven yarns cost less than a month’s worth of your afternoon coffee breaks. Our pop culture has eagerly reflected this acceptance of high-tech clothing: from the invisible camo bodysuits of “Ghost in the Shell” to the hidden armors of “Deus Ex”, our decades-old vision of the clothes we wear granting us benefits past just avoiding a “public indecency” charge is now moving faster than ever. Last July, Thomas Moon and Paul Lee decided they could move even faster.

Through a closed-list soirée on New York’s Lower East Side, Moon and Lee launched ONU – “Clothing For People Who Do Everything.” With no official pronunciation (“It’s meant to be pronounced in any particular way that you like using sounds that are native to multiple languages”) and a devotion to making technical clothing that’s as streamlined as it is stylish, ONU is seeking what it means to be truly “adaptable.” While GORE-TEX redefined technical apparel as a genre, with ONU, Moon and Lee want to carve out a whole new category: “EveryWear,” or, high-tech clothing designed for performance, well, everywhere.

Last month, we sat down with Moon, Lee, and Justin Kim – the ONU team – to discuss their vision, their research, and why the future of apparel means not running home to change.

 

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AR: How did you get the concept for the ONU brand? How did the three of you even get together in the first place?

JK: It’s been in existence since June of last year. We launched with a small event in New York City but we have no physical location, so that event was a place for us to have an introduction to the brand.

But, it’s funny that you pronounced us as “oh-new.” [The brand] isn’t pronounced in any particular way – it’s meant to be pronounced in any particular way that you like using sounds that are native to multiple languages and cultures around the world. We are really emphasizing being a global brand that’s as international as possible.

The only way this brand could even happen is through the internet. Paul is working in conjunction with people over in Taiwan, traveling all the time, while Thomas and I are working remotely as well. We’re a “tech startup” in so many ways in addition to being a product company.

TM: When you look at a lot of brands, there’s so much “strategy” in terms of rules you have to follow that at a certain point, it’s almost redactive, right? It defeats the brand and the purpose of it. That’s one of the reasons behind that particular element with the name – we allow people to say it however they want. When we do collaborations with people who do video or photography work with us, we want to bank on their expertise. Otherwise, what’s the point in hiring someone who’s really good at their craft if you’re just going to make them do it the way you want it done. That’s not really a collaboration.

JK: Every single collection is a collaboration and a capsule collection that’s presented as such.  The first one we launched in New York, with a launch event in New York, by a designer – Diana Eng - who’s based in New York. We collaborated with her on everything from the bare ideas to the final product. Then the second collection, which was launched just end of January, was launched in Shanghai, by a designer – Christina Liao – who is based in Shanghai. It’s a very international collaboration on all levels.

 

ONU Collection 2, designed by Shanghai-based Christina Liao (photo courtesy of the brand)

ONU Collection 2, designed by Shanghai-based Christina Liao (photo courtesy of the brand)

 

Could you tell me a little bit more about your vision for ONU? That phrase you guys use – “Clothing For People Who Do Everything” – is pretty ambitious. How can technical clothing really improve our everyday lives?

JK: *laughs* Well, Paul’s wardrobe has vastly improved since we got started on this. Right, Paul?

PL: Yeah, the company was really built more out of necessity than anything. I’m a creature of comfort, and all of a sudden moved from LA (where the weather is an immaculate 72 degrees all the time) to Taiwan, where it’s not just hotter but also 90%+ humidity. The three lifestyles Justin, Thomas, and I all lead are very different, so we wanted to be able to create clothes that could fit all of our lives without being defined by them.

JK: We really consider ourselves “performers” in the sense of not only how much we travel and move around, but what we demand from our clothes. What we were looking for is something that fit everything. That includes commuting to work, living your life, and then also play afterwards.

We started by saying “work, play, and live” as the three parts of our lives where one, we need to be clothed, and two, we don’t want to change our clothes just to move within those three. If I dress in clothes that make playing basketball easier because I’m going to go shoot hoops later, then everyone is going to associate me with a certain “b-ball” look. I don’t necessarily want to be associated with a certain activity and have to plan out my day so far in advance.

Basically, we started to see clothes as a limiting factor.

Thomas’ story is very interesting in particular because he comes from the perspective of being an athlete and someone who’s like an extreme performance athlete in all regards – but he started making these clothes himself, and that’s how he fell into the fashion design space actually.

TM: Yeah! *laughs* So I used to freelance in New York for a lot of ad agencies, living every year as “hustle for six months, make my year’s salary, then leave for six months.” I would travel and run races or go rock climbing, and through that I realized I didn’t want to carry so much crap because you have so much gear as it is. I wore a lot of merino, but performance cuts aren’t the most flattering. So, I decided to take it into my own hands.

I found a place here in New York that was willing to make patterns and samples for me, and then I would contact different merino vendors from different parts of the world and ask them if they would send me fabric samples. Then, I would make stuff and test it out.

*laughs* Some of the stuff worked, and some of the stuff did NOT work. It’s a little disheartening when you’re in the middle of the jungle and your shirt starts to fall apart. But it’s your shirt, you made it!

Eventually, it got to the point where the clothes I was actually making for myself were good enough that people started asking me for them. It’s interesting – I remember talking to Ricky, the owner of Isaora [another technical apparel brand], and he was like “dude, you should get into business for yourself,” and I told him that I never would. He then told me: “This is how it always starts.”

When we talk about “Clothing For People Who Do Everything,” a lot of the brands that produce clothing that is in our space promise things from their clothing that is simply unrealistic. When people say that it’s “the best t-shirt ever,” I mean, let’s be real: there’s no such thing as “the best t-shirt ever.” All we wanted to do with ONU was apply good design to innovative materials so that when you wear your garments, regardless of what you do, they almost become invisible.

I think that alone provides an opportunity to open doors for people to do more than what they were originally thinking they were capable of. If you know your jacket is waterproof, you’re less hesitant to go out in the rain – but if you have a cotton hoodie, you know you’re gonna get soaked. It’s not just the versatility of the garments and what they’re capable of, it’s that these garments almost allow you to be versatile along with it.

JK: That doesn’t just mean “sports” either. Re-envisioning and redefining performance in everyday contexts is something that hasn’t been explored really well, and that’s a big part of what we do with each of our products.

TM: We want to make sure that our clothing is a benefit to people. If you have a jacket on and it starts to rain and your jacket is waterproof, that’s a benefit in itself because now you don’t get wet and you show up fresh to wherever you’re going. That now gives you the capacity to pack lighter and still look good. You now have one garment that can handle a variety of situations.

Returning to your point about “opening doors”, did you ever think you were going to be on the “creator” side within fashion? Were you artistic when you were younger, or was your foray into design pure necessity from which you never looked back?

TM: I guess art kinda runs in my family. We’re either artists or doctors. *laughs*

I was a designer for a long time for many ad agencies, so I guess designing apparel was never really something I thought of myself doing. But, after you get to a certain point in your design journey, [your design fundamentals are strong enough that] sure you won’t understand the nuances of a new subject, but you can self-teach yourself anything.

PL: While none of us are formally-trained in fashion, we bank on the expertise of fashion designers and fashion production houses because we do know our limitations. We look to buttress our capabilities by working every season with experts in their fields and truly collaborating with them.

And that’s how you end up with incredible pieces like the Laser Lace Shorts, for example.

TM: Exactly. I think it’s also because we have a huge capacity in terms of the technologies we have access to. A lot of the time, designers don’t get access to some of these because of the minimum orders they have to create that give larger brands those same materials. Since we’re doing smaller runs, we don’t have to worry about creating hundreds of thousands of garments, we just have to worry about creating one hundred, so let’s push it.

 

The Laser Lace Skirt from ONU's debut collection (photo courtesy of the brand)

The Laser Lace Skirt from ONU's debut collection (photo courtesy of the brand)

 

Tell me about some of those innovative technologies you have access to. What really goes into ONU clothing?

TM: Right off the bat, I think one of the biggest things is that we actually have our own R&D to make our own tech. For that first collection, we created a fabric called “Synthmere” that came exclusively from our research and development. It’s a synthetic-based cashmere which has a cashmere core wrapped around with nylon and tencel to protect the cashmere.

In the second collection, we developed the fabric that goes on the Baselayer and the Qipao dress. It’s a N66 nylon facing coated with C6 DWR, with merino wool underneath [editor’s note: this is a BFD].

Then, in the third collection, we have something very special coming out which I can tell you has microscopic jade particles in it that we’re actually developing right now. For each collection, we try to create some sort of new and innovative fabric. It’s not just about innovation in terms of the design: we want to look at the design the designers come up with and think about what’s going to be the best application in terms of the material.

Our whole process is a little bit backwards in terms of how fashion designers normally work. Typically, they’ll pick the fabrics first then create a design based on that, but we’re doing it the opposite. We want to be first be mindful of the design, then choose fabrics that make sense for it. 

That sounds so exciting - you get to push boundaries with your apparel, from both sides of the design/production equation. What energizes you the most about being in this new, young “technical apparel” segment?

TM: I think a lot of people are trying to put us in the athleisure market, but we’re more of an “innovation” company which happens to make clothing and I think that’s something that’s important for us. Down the line, hopefully those initial technologies will have been fleshed out, but we have also been contacted by our manufacturers and they are very happy to develop new technologies for us and with us based on requests that we have. It’s pretty crazy.

PL: Just seeing the eagerness of a lot of these big huge companies wanting to innovate, hitching their wagon to our vision of moving clothing forward is really exciting. I never expected it this early on.

Question for Paul and Justin: being e-commerce only, I’m getting some almost “Ghost in the Shell” vibes from all of this. There’s a connected network, international reach, and then all of a sudden, ONU will materialize for events. How did you even think up this concept for the business?

JK: We took a very intentional approach to staying out of the reseller/wholesale stockists market because we really wanted to make sure that, in the end, we could provide the best value for our customers. In the end, that’s all that keeps you coming back to a brand, right? A style can change every season for different brands, but we’re not trying to make a brand signature style. We’re creating a brand with longevity that hopefully people will keep coming back to.

*laughs* The “Ghost in the Shell” reference… that’s pretty esoteric. But also really eerie and coincidental considering how this brand came to be.

It’s the whole “Deus Ex Machina” idea of it all, right? We’ve played upon those themes quite a lot in the lifestyle photography and the writing, copy, and most recently, our second collection is very technical in nature and therefore tech-inspired. But wow – I think that’s a really good metaphor for what we’re doing.

 

 

I don’t want to push this a direction it may not be, but would you classify ONU as “techwear”? Or is it technical apparel that’s bordering that space? I know “techwear” has a certain connotation in fashion as a whole.

JK: That’s why we’re working to create our own category of “EveryWear.” Hopefully, as time progresses, that will become a coined term. You know, “athleisure” had to come from somewhere, right? It’s not just about the certain demographics that already exist – we’d rather create one.

For example, women don’t have their own techwear space really. There are a couple little pockets here and there, but we wanted to really grow that out for women with Collection 2. So, we made their stuff as dope as possible.

The Qipao dress? It’s insane.

TM: Right?! Every piece is thoughtfully designed, conceived, and has just so much going on that it’s really difficult to encapsulate the whole collection into a simple theme. I think that’s why the techwear community has been latching on to us We’ve designed things in a way that it can reference certain styles – we reference “Blade Runner” in a lot of our photography, for instance, with the neon and neo-noir themes – but it can also fit normally with someone who’s just at work.

In that way, we are trying to be versatile, truly, in the clothes themselves from a utilitarian point of view, but also versatile in style. So yeah, the visual part [of techwear] isn’t nearly as important to us.

Who – or what brands - would you say are your real contemporaries in the space? Some pieces immediately take me to Arc’teryx Veilance, then there are others like the Membrane Pullover that are perhaps more on the Stone Island side.

TM: I think we’re talking about brands that are mostly menswear. I don’t think there’s really a competitive brand on the women’s side – Lululemon Lab does some cool stuff, definitely. They do have some interesting pieces, but the composition of their textiles isn’t really anything new.

JK: We don’t see many brands really innovating with any experimental technologies as much as they are experimenting with shapes and patterns. For us, we don’t really have other brands that are precisely in our space.

For instance, you mentioned Stone Island. There’s relevance there. Of course, there’s ACRONYM, and ACG, and there’s a lot of reference there. And then there’s NikeLab, which is definitely very relevant to us. Outlier is a huge one on the men’s side. And [Arc’teryx Veilance] is close to us – Snowpeak, as well.

So, I guess it’s more like other brands that are working with some of the same technology that we’re close within the space. But style-wise? That’s a tough one, man.

PL: From the very beginning, we noticed that there was not another brand that incorporated all three as very strong pillars of their company and of their vision. We knew from the get-go that there wasn’t anyone going to be like us, particularly in the space that we wanted to create.

We pick and choose what we like in other companies, whether that’s the performance here or the aesthetic value there, and we really amalgamate that into something that’s truly our own and unique. That’s kind of been the goal.

That’s a good place to be in.

JK: But also, this is not the endgame for us. There are going to be a couple “next steps” for the company, and this [the current state of ONU apparel] is just one component of a larger company we want to build out.

 

 

So where do you see ONU in the Year 2020?

TM: (without hesitation) I see us working with KAAREM. *laughs*

We’ve got our calendar pretty tight up until then. KAAREM will be working with us in 2020 – they’re an amazing brand, I mean the way they go about creating their garments is just incredible.

JK: There’s not much we can go into about it, but it is a collaboration with another brand as opposed to a single designer. That’s the future of where we’re going. We will be expanding our business along more of the business-to-business side as well. For instance, the technologies that we develop – those fabrics like Synthmere – we’ll be able to have those available for other companies to use. We want to be able to do this R&D and not just hoard it for ourselves, but eventually be able to open it up and to share this knowledge with other brands that get into this space.

TM: Right. Because somebody might be able to do something amazing with something we created that we would never think about. It’s far from us to stop somebody from doing something super dope for people to have.

JK: I mean, that’s how we started with a lot of our stuff, too. Like those laser lace shorts that you mentioned were a great example of this: why not have the mesh pattern and it be a lace, and have that have some sort of utility to it? And then why not have it be like a skort instead of just a skirt? Taking something that already exists, flipping it, adding a unique perspective to it.

But of course, ONU’s going to push that boundary first.

TM: This is almost like our test for the people that we want to eventually release it to.

Almost like Arc’teryx and GORE-TEX Pro Shell?

JK: Exactly. We’re lucky because we don’t have to deal with the crazy minimum order quantities that big brands do – they can’t even make decisions or have access to the libraries that we do just because it’s cost-prohibitive.

TM: Yeah, it’s really cool. Sometimes, you see the stuff made and get it in hand and it’s like “oh my god, we made this!”

JK: It’s almost like, “what do we do with this?” As opposed to the designer getting a couple of swatches and being told “here, pick.”

I know the brand is still young, but to wrap it up, what’s your favorite piece that ONU has ever created?

JK: The men’s stretch shorts. I wore them all summer, literally all summer long almost every day, and they’re the best pair of shorts I’ve ever owned. The shorts are all bonded around the leg-holes so you don’t have the extra weight of the seams weighing you down. All summer, my friends were like, “are you still wearing those same shorts?”

TM: My favorite is the Merino T-Shirt from the first collection. I think that piece in itself is incredibly versatile. Being a traveler, you really can take that with you and go run through the jungle, go climbing in it, but then you can also go out to dinner because of the Bemis that’s on it. It makes it look really premium. Paul, what’s your favorite piece?

PL: It would have to be is the latest jacket we just released, both the men’s and women’s. For me, it’s a testament to where this company is going. Each collection, each item we go for is going to try to one-up the last, and the jacket really was a big step because I never expected to be able to make something so amazing, so soon in ONU’s lifetime. Being able to push that boundary – not the way that it looks, but the energy, the love that went into it – that’s what really makes it my favorite piece right now.  

 

 

Finally: unrelated, but I ask this to everyone I interview. What is your all-time favorite pair of sneakers?

TM: Nike Gyakusou Lunarspider LT 2’s, 2010. Done. That is my hands-down, favorite pair of sneakers that Gyakusou has ever produced. And they don’t even carry the Lunarspider LT 2’s anymore! They were kicked out by Nike in 2012, and it’s so annoying.

JK: *laughing* Which one of us is the designer? Take your guess.

PL: I have mine – the adidas Stan Smiths that were made with Primeknit. These were the very first sneakers I had that used that knitted woven material, and that just blew my mind. They were so much better than any other sneaker I had owned in terms of comfort, and to me, that was just an evolution of the material.

JK: And mine is really similar. Mine is the Nike Flyknit Racer. They have just been the most revolutionary shoe for me over the years. I’m a bit of a sneakerhead, and these just completely changed the game for me. I like the Oreo’s the best – they’re just super pretty. They go with everything.

 

Thank you to Justin Kim, Paul Lee, and Thomas Moon for making this interview possible. For more information about ONU, check out their website at onu.is or find the brand on Instagram @onu.is

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Shoe Review: Y-3 Sport Approach Boost (2016)

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Shoe Review: Y-3 Sport Approach Boost (2016)

Shoe: Y-3 Sport Approach Boost (Reflective-Black)

Release: April 2016

Price $455 retail ($318 on sale), from Y-3.com

 

The Sport Approach Boost is a mid-top technical runner by Y-3, the undying collaboration between German sporting giant adidas and Japanese design legend Yohji Yamamoto. Partners since 2002, Yamamoto’s work with adidas has produced some of the most iconic designer sneakers of this era – most notably, the Qasa High. While Y-3 bills itself as “designer sportswear,” the brand’s less-than-functional avant garde tailoring (and Paris Fashion Week runway shows) has traditionally signaled just which half of that equation mattered more. Champion sprinters may wear Nike’s high fashion collabs to the Olympic trials, but it’s hard to imagine those same world-class athletes competing in Qasa’s – or for that matter, one of Y-3’s garments.

Y-3's Spring/Summer 2017 show in Paris, France 

Y-3's Spring/Summer 2017 show in Paris, France 

Perhaps sensing this divergence from its sporting roots, the brand made headlines last April with a proposition as bold as its sneakers: for the first time, Y-3 would design activewear. Under the sub-brand “Y-3 Sport”, Yohji’s team would apply their design talents to clothes designed for function. The label’s tagline, “The Future of Sportswear” reflects this renewed emphasis on serving the athlete.

Initial reaction, however, was critical. On the surface, Y-3 Sport appeared tone-deaf: who would wear $300 tights to the gym, let alone buy them? Yet, as with all things Yohji, that first glance disgust would develop into can’t-look-away desire. After only two seasons on the market, Y-3 Sport is selling through online. And, as also with all things Yohji, the highlight of this Y-3 collection is the shoes.  

 

Impressions:

 

To begin, a quote:

“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.’”

Whether he knew it or not, John Greenleaf Whittier was describing the winding saga of the adidas Ultra Boost Mid. After years of speculation, a late 2016 KITH collab unveiled the final shape of adidas’ mid-top sportswear flagship. Reactions were mixed; mine wasn’t. In my opinion, out of all the possible forms it could have taken, the amorphous hump shown to the world this December may have been, to quote Whittier, “the saddest.” KITH hype aside, the distended, bulbous, uncaged pudding loosely named “Ultra Boost” was an unfitting successor to the sleek, sexy, biomorphic runner from which it borrowed loose chromosomes.

Especially when it might have been a Sport Approach.

photo:  Derrick Lui

Simply put, this shoe – the crown jewel of the Y-3 Sport line – is the Boost shoe that Boost fans have been waiting for. Sleek silhouette? Check. Stealth fighter aesthetics? Check. Huge Boost sole? One final, luxurious check.

While I’ve intentionally watched the rise (and fall) of Boost lifestyle shoes like the NMD from the sidelines, seeing the Sport Approach Boost just once last spring was enough for me to rush the field. Well, sort of – in reality, I bookmarked the Y-3 web store and started saving my pennies. Eight months (and one 30% off sale) later, it is the first non-distance running Boost shoe I’ve ever bought.

It is also across-the-board immaculate.

photo:  Derrick Lui

First, let’s talk comfort. There’s a big ‘ol hunk of Boost foam under each foot, so I’ll take the liberty of skipping the “pillowy/cozy/like walking on clouds” redundancies and pare it back to this: the Y-3 Sport Approach Boost feels how walking should have always felt. The Boost cushion is both lavish and responsive, and with a structured Primeknit sock liner locking your ankle in, everything south of your kneecap will feel – and move – as one effortless whole. It’s pretty cool.

Second, there’s the styling. In my opinion, the Sport Approach Boost is beyond gorgeous. Starting from the top, the orthogonal bicolor Primeknit checks all the boxes – architectural, understated, and positively functional in both form (“locking your ankle in”) and material (those silver strands? 3M Reflective.)

This pattern bleeds onto the lower down the back of the shoe, adding reflective accents the length of the rear AND a tasteful transition between the busy upper and matte black lower. Notice how both materials seams and the Three Stripes branding are approximately the same angle as the strands of the knit upper? It’s the little things.

photo:  Derrick Lui

Speaking of little things, the real beauty of the Approach Boost is revealed through its details, and the way they reinterpret present concepts of shoe design. The minimalist lacing system, back/front sock tabs, and strategically-perforated upper are, in my opinion, a “future of sportswear” approach to the classic elements of a low-top mesh running shoe.

And here’s the kicker: the Approach Boost is a wearable shoe! I rock it with sweats, joggers, or shorts for more “athleisure” specific looks, but have even styled it well with pinrolled jeans and a long-sleeve tee. For some reason, the problems I had styling the Nike Lunar Flyknit Chukka (another techy mid-top – read my review here) just aren’t present here. Maybe it’s the monochrome colorway; maybe it’s Maybelline. Regardless, this is a surprisingly versatile shoe. It’s no Greats Royale-esque “daily driver,” but I’ll be damned if this shoe doesn’t give my Flyknit Racer a run for its money.    

The Y-3 Sport Approach Boost styled with Arc'teryx parka and DYNE sweats (photo:  Derrick Lui

The Y-3 Sport Approach Boost styled with Arc'teryx parka and DYNE sweats (photo: Derrick Lui

Third, the grand finale – Mr. Whittier, bring it on home.

While I love the shoe as a sum of its parts, the real X factor for me is that this is the Ultra Boost Mid that “might have been.” Like reality TV talent show winners, you love this shoe because it represents realized potential. Sure, the sticker price puts it firmly above anything sporting, but bah gawd does it belong there. There’s even a Continental road-run outsole – the same exact one from the mainline Ultra Boost! Compared to its Nike Running contemporaries (Gyakusou LunarEpic, etc.), the Sport Approach Boost has sacrificed some marathon performance for style. That being said: buy the shoe. In every single facet, the Y-3 Sport Approach Boost is the best techy mid-top that adidas Group GmbH produces right now.

photo:  Derrick Lui

The Y-3 Sport Approach Boost (reviewed here in Reflective Black) is the Jon Snow of the Ultra Boost line: handsome, hardy, and by any fair measure, the rightful successor. If this is truly “the future of sportswear,” consider me chuffed.

 

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New York Fashion Week: My Day Behind the Scenes

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New York Fashion Week: My Day Behind the Scenes

The following article was originally published February 4, 2017 on SHEImagazine.com.

Last week, I skipped my Social Media Marketing class to run Instagram for a brand during their New York Fashion Week debut. And that was just the beginning. Here’s what happened on the craziest, most energizing day of my life:

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6:00am: The first of five alarms rings. Although I went to bed “early” by collegiate standards, I’m waking up even earlier. Outside my window, the inky indigo predawn filters through New York skyscrapers. Inside my window, I’m scrolling through social media, clinging desperately to my consciousness and praying my eyelids stay open. The second of five alarms rings. Time to go to work.

6:30am: One final check of my bags before I jump in the shower. Packing for this trip was more actuarial than inspired, and so, my prepared checklist guides this last count while my tired brain struggles to reboot. Camera? Check. Chargers? Check. Tripod? Check. We’re in business. Clothes laid out and bags properly combed through, I can finally groom myself.

6:45am: The third of five alarms rings. I step out of the shower and get dressed, exactly on schedule. By now, at least one neuron is awake and firing, and so my mind is free to direct itself toward priorities off the checklist in my pocket. Chief among those: man am I hungry.

7:00am: I grab an omelet, coffee, and a muffin right by the 1 Train. By some pure stroke of luck, I’m running enough ahead this morning to linger over breakfast. I unset alarm #4 ahead of its trigger point, open the WSJ app, and dive into today’s events. Before long, I’ll be ripped back into reality. For now, I have warm food and the glow of my smartphone.

7:30am: The fifth of five alarms rings. In T+2, I’m waiting for a downtown 1 Train.

7:50am: Above ground on 14th Street Station. Bags in tow, this young man goes West.

7:59am: Arrive at Samsung’s 837 NYC space on Washington Street, one minute in advance of “be at the venue by 8am.” A Samsung security guard checks my name off a list and hands me a wristband. I do not, however, receive any bonus points for being early.

8:00am: Five hours ‘til showtime. I meet up with the DYNE team, receive my headset and my instructions. I’ll be running Instagram, Facebook, and Facebook Live during the show itself, but for now, I am an extra set of hands. The earpiece buzzes to life, and like that, I’m in motion.

8:15am: Task #1: set every device in the space to DYNE’s website. Armed with an NFC chip (more on this later), an hour of touch screen swipe-to-type becomes 10 minutes of “tap device, then find the next.” This is some seriously cool tech.

8:30am: I meet Nabill and Sheroid, two of the other guys helping DYNE out with the show. We shoot the shit, complain about the snow outside, then it’s back to work. Nabill and I float around with our DSLR’s, getting as much content as possible for later web use; Sheroid, a fashion designer himself, talks to the stylists to see if they need a hand. Even during this self-directed work time, the three of us are on alert for the slightest buzz of the earpiece. If God calls, we (collectively referred to as “I need somebody”) must answer. It is equal parts tense and invigorating.

9:30am: I get the Samsung devices I’ll be using to cover today’s show. Since we are in the 837 NYC space (Samsung’s gorgeous experiential retail footprint, just north of Meatpacking), anything “i” is strictly verboten. BJ, Dyne’s marketing manager, logs me into the company’s official social accounts before handing off my Galaxy. This is happening.

10:00am: I test out Facebook Live video using the Galaxy and my tripod. Live video is all about timed “fire and forget”: set up, hit play, change angles every so often. For this test, I set the camera up backstage and put 5 minutes on my watch. As the video played, I could still move around with my DSLR – or, when it came to show time, the “Instagram Live” phone currently occupying pocket #3 on my Nike ACG cargoes. I’m not sure “carry 3 phones and a mobile battery” is what Errolson had in mind when he designed these pants, but hey, if the slipper fits.

10:05am: Live test ends. Just as I move the tripod, my earpiece sparks to life: “I need someone to run and grab cases of water.”

10:10am: Nabil, Sheroid, and I are speed-walking towards Google’s algorithmic output for “grocery store near me.” Not that we’re late or anything – it just happens to be 20 degrees with reduced visibility. With Maps as our eyes and hands tucked in pockets, the 3 of us walk 6 blocks to grab 4 cases of H2O. Nabil: “At least the water will be cold when we get back.” Silver linings, indeed.

11:00am: We get back just in time to catch the 11:00 show rehearsal. Chris, Ryan, and the entire DYNE team run through technical details as the Samsung team begins prepping the venue for the real deal at 1pm. Mr. Jeremy Ellis (the beatmaker for The Roots) holds it down, mixing live in front of rows of not-yet-styled models. For a dry run, this is explosive. T-3 hours until show time.

11:15am: It’s a little after 8am on the West Coast, and DYNE’s Portland-based audience should just be settling into the morning. I fire off my first round of 3 Instagram photos – all exclusive, behind-the-scenes shots, exported from camera to Phone 2 via Nikon’s wireless utility. If the 30 foot video screen didn’t sell it, today is all about the tech. With that, phone 2 goes back into its pocket, and back comes the DSLR.

11:20am: As the models are dressed and styled, Ryan directs a lookbook shoot with a snow-covered skyline in the backdrop. From my perspective, this weather could not be better. For a technical sportswear brand launching a Fall/Winter collection, an icy cityscape as backdrop just can’t be beat.

11:50am: After half an hour of odd jobs, my earpiece is back: “Alex, meet me on first floor.” I now have a duty. Since delivery will take too long in the snow, I’m the lunch gopher. I take Jeremy’s order, turn my earpiece to high, and book it to the West Village to pick up lunch. Even 5 blocks out, my walkie-talkie is coming through loud and clear. Moe, DYNE’s master manager and all-around operations guy, calls out both a warning and a rally cry: “One hour til showtime!”

12:05pm: Juggling lunch orders and my own once-banned “i" device, I send up round 2 of behind-the-scenes photos, this time, including a callout: “Watch the show live on Instagram at 1pm EST.” One hour ‘til showtime, indeed.

12:30pm: I fist-bump Jeremy from The Roots. Intern (literally) delivers.

12:40pm: I find my checklist from earlier, grab my backpack, and start loading up for go time. Tripod? Check. Mobile batteries? Check. Phone? Check. Phone? Check. You get the idea. Everywhere backstage, both models and DYNE staff are loading up devices with the NFC (or, Near-Field Communication) tech at work.

In short: the NFC chip in each DYNE garment pushes a signal to your phone that activates a web experience, tailored specifically to the item you’re wearing. Unlike Bluetooth, NFC doesn’t require you to “buy in” to a battery-wasting signal, either – just placing your phone on your clothing’s chip activates the mobile experience for each. For a running jacket, the NFC experience may be local weather radar and a curated workout playlist. For others, it may literally drag you through a Flux Capacitor into a shiny, technocratic future – at least, that’s how it feels.  

12:45pm: BJ, Moe, and I touch base on expectations for coverage as models, stylists, and 100 other moving parts swirl around the whole of backstage. Eugene Tong (THE Eugene Tong) rushes by, while Chris gives everything a final nod. The energy is intoxicating, and best measured in kilotons.

Camera on neck and gear in hand, I head down to the stage to set up angles. On my way from third floor to first, I catch a glimpse of the Fashion Week crowd lined up outside. Even with the storm, dozens have come early to be the first to experience DYNE. Exhale, dude. This is it.

12:50pm: “Ten minutes, people. Ten minutes.”

12:55pm: Models are in place. Jeremy Ellis is in place. I’m in place. Blue lights glow; orange lights burn; a thirty-foot video screen blasts video of DYNE in action. I set up the Facebook Live phone on the tripod stage left, the IG Live phone stage right, and take some test shots with the DSLR. Then, for the first time today, I simply sit and wait. In five minutes, this will all take place.

12:59.99pm EST: “Showtime.”

1:00pm: And we’re live.

1:10pm: Switch angles.

1:20pm: Switch angles.

1:30pm: Switch angles.

1:40pm: Walk the floor with the Instagram Live phone. I’m having the best problem I’ve had all day: there are too many people here to get the phone close enough to the models for full-portrait coverage.

Ryan Babenzien sticks me on his IG story, and for a brief moment, the world sees Instagram Liveception. Front and center: my exhausted grin and messy hair. After a 6am wakeup, there are many reasons to be thankful I’m behind the camera.

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2:00pm: “That’s a wrap. Great work, everyone.”

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Chris takes a bow, joined by his wife and family. Kayt, BJ, Moe, Ryan, and the rest of the DYNE team surround him from just off-stage. From my view in the pit, today was pure adrenaline; for them, the people who made on stage possible, it was so much more. Months of work, hours of prep, and one final sensory overload: world, meet DYNE F/W 17.

2:01pm: I fire off one final round of Instagram posts, and can't help but start smiling.

Photo: Nabil Miftahi ( @nvbilll )

Photo: Nabil Miftahi (@nvbilll)

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I haven’t stopped since.  

 

Special thanks to Chris, BJ, Moe, Kayt, and the entire DYNE team for inviting me out. I was not paid to be there - I volunteered my time and paid my own way to support a brand I believe is the future of sportswear. The memories, however, came free of charge.

 

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THE PLAYBOOK: The Caveman and his iPhone

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THE PLAYBOOK: The Caveman and his iPhone

This week on THE PLAYBOOK (a new biweekly publication by Greats Brand), Playboy magazine columnist Elliot Aronow talks holidays, technology, and why eggnog with the family always beats a Facebook post. Our brains are designed for nuance and body language, not emojis. That's why in an age of social media, facetime (not the Apple version) means more than ever.

Check out the full piece at the link here, or check out more from THE PLAYBOOK on Greats.com.

 

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The Sweatshirt from Planet X

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The Sweatshirt from Planet X

This week's featured outfit: technology meets sportswear for a conventional look that's anything but. As both design geek and novelty-seeking missile, I'm drawn to the quiet brilliance of reworked staple pieces. While cotton and wool on classic shapes certainly look great, a slew of materials science has made old-school materials more anachronism than utility. Now, thanks to some truly-innovative designers in the sportswear and outdoors industries, the silhouettes of the past meet the fabrics of the future in a brilliant, understated way. 

Arc'teryx / DYNE / Uniqlo / Uniqlo / Nike / The North Face (photo:  Christina Oh )

Arc'teryx / DYNE / Uniqlo / Uniqlo / Nike / The North Face (photo: Christina Oh)

Starting from the top, there's the jacket: this Arc'teryx Commuter Hardshell is modeled after the zip-up cotton Harrington jackets of yore, but a GORE-TEX construction (and movement-friendly design) takes the silhouette to a new plane of function. The gorgeous, neutral "Chalk Stone" shown here is from Arc'teryx 24's Spring 2015 collection. Even after a year of use and abuse, the jacket has held up beautifully.

Arc'teryx / DYNE / Uniqlo / Uniqlo / Nike / The North Face (photo:  Christina Oh )

Arc'teryx / DYNE / Uniqlo / Uniqlo / Nike / The North Face (photo: Christina Oh)

For some under-shell insulation, I threw on the DYNE Heritage Mega Crew. Crafted from DYNE's water-resistant "Mega" spacer fabric, the whole package weighs less than half a pound yet keeps you toasty regardless of condition. Think down coat levels of warmth:weight, but without the "puffer" look. Then, there's that electric blue: fluorescent, hi-viz, straight from a Cosmonaut style guide. Package that all in a classic athletic sweatshirt silhouette, and this midlayer becomes borderline space age. 

Arc'teryx / DYNE / Uniqlo / Uniqlo / Nike / The North Face (photo:  Christina Oh )

Arc'teryx / DYNE / Uniqlo / Uniqlo / Nike / The North Face (photo: Christina Oh)

Rounding out this old-meets-new collection are the Nike Lunar Flyknit Chukkas. Lunar Flyknit Chukkas are a heritage desert boot silhouette, built from everything but: Flyknit, Lunar EVA foam, and high-tension Flywire collide to bring performance running features to a distinctly-casual shoe. Draped in this speckled blue/platinum colorway, the Lunar Flyknit Chukkas represent the best that Nike's lifestyle-focused Sportswear division has to offer.

Arc'teryx / DYNE / Uniqlo / Uniqlo / Nike / The North Face (photo:  Christina Oh )

Arc'teryx / DYNE / Uniqlo / Uniqlo / Nike / The North Face (photo: Christina Oh)

Innovation doesn't always mean moonshots - often, true change comes from incremental updates rather than blue-sky daydreams. The Sweatshirt from Planet XCleared for liftoff.

 

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An Interview With Lawrence Schlossman, Brand Director of Grailed

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An Interview With Lawrence Schlossman, Brand Director of Grailed

Even if you’re a lifelong fashion geek, you probably haven’t heard of Lawrence Schlossman. In fact, you’d have to be a special sort of enthusiast to know Mr. Schlossman by name - for someone who fundamentally changed Internet fashion, he keeps a pretty low profile.

Schlossman got his start in fashion with a menswear blog inspired by wasting time on a job he hated; from then, he went on to co-write one of the most popular fashion Tumblrs in existence (the evergreen “Fuck Yeah Menswear”), and even published a book of the same name. He then joined Complex as a Style Editor before launching the infamous (and unfortunately now shuttered) Four Pins, a sardonic menswear blog responsible for everything from fashion memes to the popularization of the fire emoji. Now, Schlossman is Brand Director at menswear tech startup Grailed, which bills itself as the premier online destination for designer clothing resell.

From publishing books to creating cultures to changing the way you shop online, Lawrence Schlossman is one of the prolific figures in menswear today. It’s a miracle he even has time to Tweet. Recently, Lawrence and I sat down at the Grailed offices to talk fashion, culture, and the hidden merits of just fucking around.

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AR: How did you get your start in writing?

LS: I just did it myself. As far back as I can remember, the classes that I enjoyed the most were always English and Creative Writing. I relished that writing process – not necessarily Creative Writing, but writing about perspectives to ultimately offer an opinion. I took this one Art History writing class where we wrote about our views on aesthetic topics, but even before then I always liked [that process.]

So when it comes to me writing about fashion, it stems from me having this full-time job that I did not enjoy at all – and I’m the kind of person who if they’re not really feeling what they’re doing, they’re just going to shirk responsibilities. As a result, I just started blogging instead of doing this job I hated. This was also during the heyday of blogging, like around 2009 as the whole scene was just taking off. So I poured my time into [writing] rather than my real work, benefitting from reading that first real wave of menswear blogs like Continuous Lean, Street Etiquette, The Sartorialist, etc. Plus, I’ve always been into clothes, so there’s this whole combination of: I like writing, I’m reading these blogs, I’m unhappy and I’m bored at my job. I just started fucking around and then ultimately plugging away at a Blogspot. That first site is still up, from what I remember [Ed’s note: link to Lawrence’s original blog, “Sartorially Inclined” ], and it’s not writing that I’m particularly proud of, but it was my style and my first real go at fashion writing.

I’ve always tried to be honest and transparent in my writing: I didn’t start writing to make money at it. Even a couple years ago, you had the first real wave of people starting blogs to show product, who could make money by I don’t know… lacking transparency? By being paid to show products and not disclosing that they were, all of those hot topics now. I’m not trying to call anyone out, but for me, I just started writing with that transparent bent because fashion was something I was really into already: I was already spending my disposable income on this brand, this trend, et cetera so I didn’t need to take money for it all. The signs, the timing, my interests were all there, so I was just like: “Might as well fuckin’ do it.’

So you were there in the primordial ooze, doing something you loved, cranking out these honest and transparent articles – how did a project like “Fuck Yeah Menswear” come out of that?

LS: Again, it was those early blogging days: back in that time, a lot of the people I associate with in the Menswear blogging world were really tight, because 1) it was a small community compared to the much larger Womenswear and Personal Style blogging worlds and 2) a lot of the blogging world hadn’t really ramped up yet.

Back then, not everyone had a website. Me and this small group of enthusiasts were essentially guys just doing it for fun, writing as a hobby mostly just to entertain this small group. So my buddy Kevin [Burrows, the book’s co-author] and I just had this conversation once as members of this small group about how funny it would be if there was a “Hipster Runoff” [a popular Tumblr blog satirizing hipster culture] for menswear: both are these insular worlds, with their own codes and rules, even their own languages. I mentioned the concept as a joke, but Kevin just took it and ran with it. This was around the time that “FUCK YEAH” Tumblr’s were really popping off, so he started “Fuck Yeah Menswear” and made it this weirdly lyrical, poetic… thing.

I just remember him sending it to me and me being completely enthralled. It was the funniest thing to me and I just wanted to add to it, so I shot back: “Give me the username and password, I’ve got a post.” It then became this back-and-forth where I’d just log in, check the site, see what Kevin had posted, laugh my ass off, and then just try to make him laugh in return.

It was purely an exercise in friendship: Kevin lives in L.A., so this was our way to communicate and laugh and have an inside joke. It just so happens that this inside joke between two friends started to really attract a following. Then it reached this critical mass and I just remember talking to him once like “holy shit, this is has become a real thing. It’s not just this weird ‘pen pal’ exchange.”

Basically, it was just two friends riffing off each other about a shared passion?

LS: It was really just two writers who loved menswear trying to make the other one laugh, and then it kinda snowballed. And Kevin’s hilarious – he’s a modern day Renaissance man who has written and produced comedy. He even did an animated comedy series for GQ [Gentleman Lobsters].

So it was Kevin and I trying to one-up each other, and the content apparently resonated with a lot of people a lot more than I would’ve thought; then it took off, and suddenly, there’s a book about it on the shelf at every Urban Outfitters in the country.

What I always thought made it special was that you and Kevin had such a deep, deep understanding of menswear but went on to make this anthropological view of the whole subculture – almost like an anthropologist looking from the outside. What was it like to be in that early menswear scene but seemingly always ready to lampoon it?

LS: I think it’s natural that if you love something to death like Kevin and I did with men’s fashion, you’re always going to find something hilarious and ridiculous just because you’re so embedded that you forget what that passion may look like to the outside world. You don’t acknowledge any of those ridiculous things at the time, but with any sort of perspective, that “second nature” passion part disappears and you can then either laugh at what you see and keep doing it, or get jaded. I think that when you love something intensely, you have to be able to laugh at yourself and laugh at the stuff that goes on around you as you do what you love.

Was it ever difficult to transition that laughing, joking, “fucking around” mentality we’ve talked about into building credibility within fashion, an industry characterized by its seriousness?     

LS: I’ve never had an issue where I felt a direct person wasn’t taking my seriously because I think honesty, across any medium or industry, is refreshing, but I think I toiled away a little bit when I first started because of my mentality. My first job in fashion was as a publicist at BPMW – which I loved, by the way, they’re a great company – and that was a definite grind, and not always productively.

 But oddly enough, I think that having that [joking, yet honest] writing in my back pocket was actually a big help for building my career in fashion. You don’t have this resume that’s just top-to-bottom bangers like someone who’s worked in the industry for a decade plus, but having the writing and the blog act as almost a portfolio for my taste level and opinions in a way helped validate all of the rest. I never really felt like I wasn’t being taken seriously even though my writing was based in fucking around because anyone who more experienced probably recognized some of those same absurdities I write about. I mean, they love fashion just as much as I do – they may have laughed about the same topics before. So while fashion is seen as a serious industry, I never felt like I got in trouble for like, “being too real” or even just fucking around with my writing.

Do you think that whole idea of bloggers and personalities “being too real” is a cheap trick?

LS: Absolutely. I think that idea really came about in the post-Four Pins landscape. Once Complex shut down Four Pins, menswear as this insular little thing become almost like a snake eating its own tail. Now, I think we’re back at a point where people are cravingknowledge. Not that a good joke doesn’t go a long way, but because menswear has become so hyper-trendy as the industry has changed and the audience has expanded, there’s now a large group of people seeking to know why a brand blows up one week then doesn’t matter the next. They want a little but more substance in their editorial.

That’s not to say that a funny writer or an honest writer will always be better than someone who is super clinical, but I’ve seen things move away from that whole “devil may care” attitude where part of the voice is this whole “you don’t even know what I’m talking about, so I’m going to talk down to you” shtick. That worked at a point because it made new menswear fans crave more, kinda like when you’re in middle school and the girl that likes you is super mean to you [Ed’s note: no girls liked me in middle school], but that whole angle reached a critical point. That whole Four Pins voice still finds an audience on social media – especially Twitter – but now, people want to learn rather than just make in-jokes. I think you can teach and still have fun, but as a whole, the menswear community has moved away from the “too real” attitude.

I’m interested in your comment about teaching and learning. You’d think that as the menswear audience grows, you’d have enough people getting that “first lesson” – don’t wear this with that, don’t wear these colors – that the content would be common knowledge and no longer really appealing. But you feel like we’ve gotten to a point where people crave that teaching more?

LS: I guess I don’t really find myself interacting with people who are at that first level. That’s no comment on those people, but most people that would know of me connect with Grailed or Four Pins and are almost past those first learnings. But even that is case-by-case: the community is so large and so diverse now that it’s impossible to generalize and say something like “all menswear readers are acting this way” – all we can really do is extrapolate based on what we see and who we talk to. It’s truly hard to say.

From my experiences with Grailed especially, I think there’s been a real shift towards more educational content. There are just so many trends popping up that even the more experienced customers want to know which trends have legs, which they should skip, etc. and naturally look towards a voice of authority and experience to help them.

End of the day, it’s all about knowing how to spend your hard-earned money on fashion – am I buying a Vetements hoodie that costs a ton but someone thinks has staying power? Or am I buying vintage tees because I see them on Instagram and therefore think they’re popular? With all the visual noise on social media, it’s only gotten harder to analyze trends, and therefore the teaching and learning editorial has a new importance.

So you’re now starting to see more of that “intermediate” customer coming to Grailed? Correct me if I’m wrong, but Grailed used to be a worst kept secret that catered mostly to really experienced fashion guys.

LS: Word – I mean, think about it: people want to save money. That’s the thing with Grailed. You can get what you want cheaper than retail, from the super high-end to the relatively newer sections like “Hype” [Supreme, Palace] to “Basic” [J. Crew, H&M]. There’s some crossover between sections, but the guy looking to buy 10 J. Crew dress shirts because he just started a job yesterday is way different than the dude browsing Hype looking to buy Yeezy’s for like, one penny less than two thousand dollars or whatever the fuck those go for now. They’re all different types of people, but now they’ve all got a place on Grailed.

Relating it to the editorial “teach and learn” thing, people come to the site because they trust our opinions and the general taste-level we represent, whether that’s applied to Rick Owens cargo pants or an H&M tee. I think that part has certainly helped the site’s expansion to pick up more of those interested beginners, but again: people aren’t shopping on Grailed because we have the fuckin’ funniest memes or because our blog [Dry Clean Only] has the most fire fit pics. I think they come for this more authoritative personality, both newer and more experience customers alike.

How much of that developed personality was you coming in as Brand Director vs. the community shaping itself? Was this your plan for Grailed when you joined the team in April?

LS: Nah – these guys were doing great things way before I got here. From a press perspective, me being here helps shape that authoritative personality, but it’s hard to say. I don’t want to give myself too much or too little credit, but I think that my impact here has been more about taking my journalism skills and then applying them to something new, something not in the press. The stuff I did at Complex, at Four Pins, set me up to join Grailed and help these guys navigate their brand through the world of the fashion press, but in terms of some master plan for the community, that wasn’t it.

I think that’s actually a fairly common transition in the fashion industry: journalism to brand. If you go and talk to X creative director at Y brand about their work history, you’d be surprised at how many of them have press experience. Journalism provides such a versatile skill set that it can transfer pretty much anywhere.

What are your thoughts on that relationship between the fashion industry and the media?

LS: It’s super incestuous. Maybe it’s not the most (pause) ethical. Not like there’s anything terrible happening, but fashion and fashion press have almost become one and the same. Especially now with members of the fashion press being personalities and having their own brands, thanks to social media. You can be a writer, sure, but now you can also have this whole machine running off to the side that may be more of your career than the job that put that “personal brand” machine in motion. That’s not so different than the brands you’re reporting on. A writer is curating an Instagram feed, just like a brand does.

I think that’s the nature of where we are in 2016, where everyone is quote-unquote “a brand”, but in the fashion industry, that’s even more apt. It’s a more superficial industry in some respects – well, not in some, it is a superficial industry. Compared to other stuff, I mean it’s not global security. But because it is a superficial industry, those lines between press and brand are heavily blurred. Just look at “personal style bloggers”: they release and market their own products, so are they designers? Bloggers? Models? To some extent, everyone is everything now.

And as someone there for the beginning of fashion blogging, you’ve watched this entire transition, for better or for worse.  

LS: It was honestly unavoidable, just based on how important social media has become for fashion. Even now with Snapchat – regardless of what you do for a living in fashion, it’s now so easy for you to become some level of a public figure. It’s all enabled this interest in people personally. In fashion, if you dress well and are a good looking person, regardless of what your day job is, you could very much find yourself with a profitable side job, but also as someone now managing a personal brand. Social media made this inevitable, but I honestly can’t say if it’s bad or good. I guess when it comes to actual reporting of substance outside of The Business of Fashion or The New York Times, maybe the effect has been overall negative on the journalistic product that now reaches the readers.

But, then again, it’s also fashion: I don’t know what people really expect, but in my opinion, it’s not changing the world. Some people will disagree and tell you it’s the most important fuckin’ cultural force on the globe, but I don’t agree with that. In short, it was inevitable, and for better or worse, it is that way. I’m not one to wax poetic and say “I miss the old days of dot-blogspot” because that’s a huge waste of time; and again, we’re not talking about politics, we’re not talking about global security, we’re talking about clothes. I don’t really care either way. It is what it is.

Would it be fair to say that fashion in the age of social media has almost become entertainment?

LS: Eh. I don’t know. Maybe?

But in my opinion, probably not.

I think the thing that fashion will always have is that there’s a true utility to getting dressed – there’s form but also function. When you take the “art” thing out of it, fashion still has utility. You can’t really apply that to something like watching a movie. People still need to get dressed.

Regardless of price, regardless of how cool something is, there’s a true inherent value to clothes. Because of that, I think fashion will always stay out of that pure entertainment world, like television or film. I mean, even if it’s high-end, it’s still a shirt: you need to wear one to get service at a restaurant. Unless you live in a nudist colony, you have to get dressed every day. That makes fashion always somewhat important.

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Finally, let’s play some word association. I’m going to shout something out, and you just say the first word on your mind.

 

Fashion.

My life.

Couture.

Women.

Thrasher.

Jake Phelps.

Jordan.

Crying.

MFA.

Nerds.

Aesthetic.

Fucking overused word. That people use to seem knowledgeable.

#Aesthetic.

Kill yourself.

 

One last question: since we are in the Grailed offices, what’s your all-time shoe grail?

1985 Air Jordan 1 “Royal.” Nike made the Air soles a certain way so that they don’t crumble with time – I could put those shoes on today and they’d be as solid as they were 30 years ago.

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The above text was first published in "The New Class", the September 2016 edition of SHIFT Magazine. A special thank you to Lawrence Schlossman, Alyssa Vingan Klein, and Jessica Minkoff for making this interview possible.

 

 

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WAYWT 5/27/2016

WAYWT 5/27/2016

This week's featured outfit: urban techwear and the latest from DYNE, the revolutionary clothing label I profiled earlier this year. The DYNE Tech Chinos pictured here and my first ever piece from designer Christopher Bevans' new line, and I'm already an addict. Not that I'm ashamed of it - hiding your face is just cool on the internet.

TNF/RSVP/DYNE/Nike

TNF/RSVP/DYNE/Nike

DYNE's "Tech Chinos" (pictured here) are a traditional chino cut made from schoeller waterproof fabrics, Swiss-made textiles that are some of the most weather-proof in the world. DYNE stitches these fabrics into garments, then kits them out with all sorts tech details including waterproof zippers and reflective strips. 

See? Reflective details.  Ooooh. Ahhhh.  (Supreme/TNF/RSVP/DYNE/Nike)

See? Reflective details. Ooooh. Ahhhh. (Supreme/TNF/RSVP/DYNE/Nike)

They're breathable in activity, flexible enough for a run, and best of all, a techwear pant that isn't just tapered black cargos. Despite the "chino" name, however, these are way more streetwear than office wear.

Unless you're RoboCop - and even then, wait for Casual Day. 

I paired the Tech Chinos with a Denali fleece from the North Face, extended length RSVP Gallery tee, and Nike Swoosh Hunter sneakers for a futuristic, urban explorer look. Check out my initial impressions of the Swoosh Hunter on the blog and see tons more photos of one of the most slept on shoes of 2016.

Oh yeah, one final note: shoutout to the homies at instagram.com/redditstreetwear/ for featuring my outfit as one of their top picks of the week. You heard it here first, people - direct correlation between reflective pants and Insta fame. 

A Complete Visual Guide to Spring Jackets

A Complete Visual Guide to Spring Jackets

Flowers are blooming, St. Patrick’s Day is over, and that still-hidden Easter egg is starting to smell. All over the Northern Hemisphere, spring has sprung!

The transition between Winter and Summer is defined by many things: snowmelt, pastel colors, and above all else, irrational weather patterns. Dressing for spring is a delicate act that’s both fun and frustrating. On the positive, once-covered skin gets its first Vitamin D in months! On the negative, wide daily temperature ranges and unpredictable weather means a seemingly-contradictory set of wardrobe traits.

The right spring dress is light, breathable, and ideally bright; however, it must also be weather-proof and versatile. After all, that seersucker shirt won't do much to keep you dry when clouds gather. As for stretching your cold-weather garments, I’d seriously think twice before you don a down parka in May. Asking double-duty from your winter coat will leave you schvitzing on a 60-degree afternoon, or one step from goth ninja when it’s 40 and foggy.

Picking the right spring jacket, then, is as much features comparison as it is a personal style choice. Over the next few lines, I’ll walk you through 12 popular jacket archetypes all suited for longer days and sunny afternoons. Each is lightweight and offers varying degrees of weather protection, from “partly cloudy” to “hydrophobic.” Simply read about each, consider your budget, then select the jacket that best fits your needs. Outerwear ahoy.

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Anorak

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In the modern era, “anorak” refers to a lightweight, hooded pullover jacket typically associated with nautical pursuits. Most anorak jackets are made of cotton-nylon blends, then treated with a DWR (“durable water repellent” – think RainX for your jacket) coating to resist weather. This fabric/coating combination will keep you dry during pop-up drizzles, but will quickly “wet out” (or become saturated) in anything longer than 30 minute exposures. I probably wouldn’t pack an anorak for your trip to the Amazon.

As a fashion piece, however, anoraks are second to none. Pullovers provide a visually-interesting silhouette with the added benefit of simpler chest lines than a full-zip alternative. Fjallraven’s High Coast Wind Anorak (above) is my favorite in the segment for its sleek lines and minimal detailing. However, all that sleekness does come with a cost. The traditional pullover anorak sacrifices exterior features for packability. My LL Bean Maritime Anorak, for example, has but three pockets, of which exactly zero are easily-accessible. That being said, it looks phenomenal - which makes it even more tragic that it was discontinued like last year come on L.L Bean take my money.  

My recommendations: Land's End Outrigger Anorak ($), Fjallraven High Coast Wind Anorak ($$), Brattenwear Scout Anorak ($$$)

 

Light Technical Jacket

While anoraks may have been designed for wet climates, these are the first proper rain jackets on our list. “Light technical jackets”, as I’ll refer to them, are defined by a simple formula: nylon exterior fabric, DWR coating, and a 2.5L polyurethane laminate inside to resist whatever water gets through the outside. Whereas the cotton-nylon jackets on this list are potentially compromised by an afternoon shower, light technical jackets are designed for rain exposure. Patagonia’s Torrentshell, for example, will take a full 30-45 minutes of concentrated rain before saturation. Unless you’ve got a reason to be outside and the motivation to stay there, light technical jackets will be more than enough weatherproofing for your daily use.

All this technology doesn’t look half bad, either. Gone are the days of the oversized yellow slicker: modern light tech jackets are trim, athletic, and generally minimal. Streetwear forums gravitate to The North Face’s Venture jacket for its flat front and high-contrast (but unobtrusive) branding. If you have the budget, get the DYNE Life Runner Jacket (above). It was designed by Christopher Bevans, an MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellow, and is as close to “art meets science” as a light jacket will ever get. You can probably tell that I want one.

My recommendations: LL Bean Trail Model ($), The North Face Venture ($), Patagonia Torrentshell ($$), DYNE Runner Jacket ($$$)

 

GORE-TEX Hardshell

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GORE-TEX Hardshells are the Ford Raptor of outerwear: you may never test the full extent of its abilities, and yes, that Honda Fit would’ve been lighter on your wallet… but god damn is this thing fun to own. GORE-TEX is the brand name for a family of textiles imbued with waterproof membranes that are distributed by W.L. Gore & Associates, widely considered the most influential textile innovator of the twentieth century. A GORE-TEX membrane works by exploiting the pressure gradient between you and the inside of your jacket. On the outside of the jacket, a tightly-knit face fabric backed by a PTFE membrane (think 8 billion micropores per square-inch) prevents water from entering. On the inside, the pressure difference between your body’s sweaty microclimate and the outside world pulls your sweat towards – and almost through - the microporous membrane. However, because your sweat droplets are larger than the membrane openings, your sweat is literally vaporized as it’s pulled through the micropores. Science, bitch!

Modern GORE-TEX hardshells look more like body armor than outerwear. While the style isn’t for everyone, GORE-TEX jackets are at home in streetwear, techwear, and even some Americana/outdoors-influenced wardrobes. All that fashion and function does come with a price: GORE-TEX jackets typically start around $300, and climb exponentially from there. Fashion-focused shells from brands like ACRONYM, nanamica, and White Mountaineering can easily hit 4 figures.

Worth noting: the best hardshells in the world are made by Vancouver, BC-based Arc’teryx, the outdoors innovator responsible for the look and fabric behind 99% of the world’s modern technical gear. Arc’teryx is the Blastoise to a light jacket’s Squirtle.    

My recommendations: Patagonia Piolet Jacket ($), Arc’teryx Beta AR ($$), ACRONYM J1A-GT ($$$), nanamica Cruiser ($$$)

 

Mountain Parka

Decades ago, a 60/40 cotton-nylon utility jacket was the peak of mountaineering technology: wind and water-resistant fabrics, heavy duty zippers, and reinforced seams built for trekking. Just the name “Mountain Parka” brings to mind newsreel images of explorers on windswept peaks, conquering the heavens in the name of glory and empire. The traditional Mountain Parka is a zip-front, multi-pocket garment that’s equal parts anorak and military field jacket. In its day, both summit-chasers and weekend hikers alike owned one of these venerable – and functional – jackets.

In the present, Mountain Parkas have become a rugged style piece, due in no small part to their legendary pedigree. The Mountain Parka is the best fashion-meets-function garment on this list – modern iterations are windproof, lightweight, and remarkably handsome for their age. My current favorite is the Penfield Vassan in Navy pictured above: it’s the perfect complement to neutral chinos and leather boots, with all the tech you’d want without any over-the-top features. If I had to choose a single spring jacket, this would be it. 

My recommendations: Uniqlo Mountain Parka ($), Penfield Vassan ($$), Topo Designs Mountain Jacket ($$$)

 

Retro Pile Fleece

Continuing with our celebration of the great outdoors, the Retro Pile Fleece represents all things warm and good about dressing for spring. The archetypal Retro Pile Fleece is made of polyester fleece and abrasion-resistant nylon paneling, designed to take a beating and smile through it. Polyester fleece is warm, breathable, and altogether durable – what’s more, it’s even eco-friendly. Most modern polyester fleece is made from recycled plastics, meaning your new favorite spring jacket helped save shorebirds from castaway soda bottles. That fuzzy feeling you got from saving the planet? A Retro Pile Fleece keeps you warm, inside and out.

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It’s truly hard to go wrong with a fleece jacket. I own multiple, wear them often, and love the comfort and durability of a well-made piece. Some fleece jackets may be a little toasty for 55 degree Spring picnics, but there’s nothing stopping you from shedding a layer when you get warm. As for style selections, stick to the outdoors brands that made fleece famous. Old school-inspired options from Topo Designs (above), Penfield, and Patagonia round out the package, making the Retro Pile Fleece a solid choice for Main Street and mountain trails alike.

My recommendations: Penfield ($), Topo Designs Fleece ($$), Patagonia Synchilla Jacket ($$$), The North Face Denali ($$$)

 

Mac Coat

Backing away from more technical options, our first “fashion-oriented” entry on this list is the Mac Coat. Also known as the Macintosh Jacket after its inventor, Scottish chemist Charles Macintosh, the first version of this eponymous rain coat was produced in 1823. The traditional Mac Coat is a knee-length rain jacket made from laminated fabrics coated in liquid rubber. The result is chic, waterproof, and loooooong. If your winter coat can be described with the adjectives “parka” or “Expedition”, a Mac Coat will feel right at home.

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I often recommend Mac Coats to my tall friends or those with office jobs. For all intents and purposes, it’s the functional equivalent of a “light topcoat”: Mac Coats retain the uninterrupted lines and tailored silhouette of a wool overcoat, without the heavy wool that would boil you during even the coldest March rain. The Mac Coat is right at home in Northeastern Prep/Trad wardrobes. Nearly every major fashion brand, from Gap to Land’s End to Banana Republic, produces a Mac Coat equivalent (similar styles go by the name of “Commuter Coat”, “Car Coat”, etc – just make sure you’re not buying one with winter insulation). For a particularly stylish take on the heritage design, check out the J. Crew Bonded Mac Jacket (above). It’s surprisingly technical, and handsome to boot.

My recommendations: Gap ($), ASOS ($$), Lands End Canvas ($$), J. Crew Bonded Mac Jacket ($$$), Mackintosh ($$$)      

 

Blazer

A refined jacket for a more civilized age. Internet #menswear writing voice aside, blazers really aren’t bad outerwear. They’re warm for their weight; wool is naturally water-resistant; and they’re tailored to accentuate the male silhouette. It sounds clichéd, but blazers just look put-together. Most American traditional brands will produce an exceptionally elevated piece. Own more hoodies than button-ups? No problem. Thanks to modern trends towards fashion casualization, blazers are available in a wide variety of fabrics and fits – it’s not uncommon to see a cotton blazer worn casually, sometimes even paired with a tee and sneakers. In my opinion, it’s hard to beat the classic navy wool. When it’s time to dress up, a notch-lapel blazer says “I mean business, but casually.” Just don’t touch that bottom button.

Off-the-rack blazers are a difficult game. With 95% confidence, even the jacket that “fits” you in the store won’t actually fit you right. And with anything that leans towards business attire, getting it right becomes invaluable. So, if you have the time, I highly recommend Googling “alterations near me” and stopping into your neighborhood tailor before you go shopping. Get measured, shake their hand, and promise to come back in with the jacket that “fits” once you get back from the mall. For a small price, they’ll give you the best-looking jacket on the block (and make it actually fit right, too).

My recommendations: H&M ($), Uniqlo ($) J. Crew ($$), Brooks Brothers ($$$) 

 

 

Denim Jacket

Since Levi Strauss invented the first “Triple Pleat Blouse” sometime in the 1880’s, the riveted indigo jacket has become the unofficial uniform of the frontier. Everyone from Nevada truckers to New York street gangs, Hell’s Angels to fashion designers have adopted the simple garment as a symbol of freedom, self-expression, and power. Punk rockers and auto mechanics don’t agree on much, but this piece of heritage outerwear is as close to universal as it gets. The Denim Jacket is as American as apple pie and counterculture. John Bender, eat your heart out.

Denim Jackets aren’t exactly technical. At its core, it’s simply cotton, metal, and then more cotton. In a world of GORE-TEX and coated nylon, it’s hard to argue that a denim jacket is anything but a fashion piece. That being said, what a piece.

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In my opinion, denim jackets diverge into two distinct genres: workwear and streetwear. The former are heavy, bulky, and generally unadorned. This is where you’ll find names like Levi’s, Naked & Famous, and Double RL (above left). The latter are typically distressed, customized, and designed as statement pieces. Famous examples include jackets by SupremeVisvim, and 424 on Fairfax (above right). Regardless of their expression, the two share a genealogy over 130 years old with one very common result: killer good looks for the Rebel in all of us.

My recommendations: Levi’s Trucker Jacket ($), Naked & Famous ($$), LVC ($$$), Visvim ($$$)

 

 

Leather Jacket

Continuing on our series of “manly coats” is the most testosterone-fueled piece of them all: the Leather Jacket. It would’ve been impossible to write this whole section without the word “badass”, so here goes. Every movie, book, and cultural badass owns a leather jacket. If you too would like to be badass, invest in a leather jacket. As a monument to our evolutionary prowess as a species, wearing the skin of our food is forever entwined with being a badass. James Dean. Easy Rider. Arnold in T2. Wolverine. Fighter pilots. The Road Warrior himself. All badass.

Badassery aside, for the better part of human existence, leather jackets made a lot of sense. Leather is natural, durable, wind-resistant, and readily waterproofed. It’s warm, breathable, and even receptive to stitching. Ethical concerns aside, animal leather makes sense as material for outerwear. There are too many styles of leather jacket to list here, so instead, I’ll use this space and my recommendations to hopefully point you in the right direction. Many of the brands listed make multiple styles of leather jacket, so shop based on budget/use and make your aesthetic choice at the checkout screen.

For style: Urban Outfitters ($), ASOS ($), Schott ($$), Saint Laurent Paris ($$$)

For function: Orvis ($$), LL Bean ($$), Eddie Bauer ($$), Schott ($$$)

For actual motorsports: Alpinestars ($$), Dainese ($$$)

 

Military Jacket

The more I read, the more fascinated I am with what we take for granted. For instance, the “simple” M65 Field Jacket: this olive green, four pocket utility coat was designed to provide US soldiers with a versatile, durable, and camouflaged garment that would keep them safe in the jungles of Vietnam. The original M65 featured a roll-up hood, detachable inner liner, Velcro cuffs, and a full-front brass zipper, many of which were novel features for 1965. Compared to the heavy M51 “Fishtail” parka, the M65 was a paradigm shift. Today, it’s just a “Military Jacket.”

Well, it’s not just a military jacket. Thanks to years of milsurp purchases and fashion design interpretations, the M65 has joined the ranks of the Denim Jacket and Leather Jacket to become an archetypal “masculine” fashion piece. It’s easy to see why: a utility background, attractive features, and good looks in neutral colors make the Military Jacket a menswear go-to. Like the Mac Coat, nearly every label under the sun makes a military jacket, so buy based on budget and shop with confidence. While Alpha Industries makes the original (and still best on the market) M65 Jacket, I own an American Military Jacket (above) that is easily the highest dollar-per-wear jacket I’ve ever bought.

My recommendations: your local Army/Navy ($), American Eagle Military Jacket ($$), Alpha Industries M-65 Field Jacket ($$$)

 

Coaches Jacket

Coaches Jackets continue to perplex me. I just can’t find much real historical evidence to support their athletic pedigree. In futbol, the coaches wear suits; in football, sponsored sportswear; in baseball, team uniforms. Yet, the archetype of a “coaches jacket” now has an identity all its own. The typical coaches jacket consists of a 100% nylon or polyester shell, a cotton liner, drawstrings to fit, and a simple button-front closure. All in all, a deceivingly simple garment that technically offers wind and water resistance. On function alone, they’re nothing special.

Yet, it’s this simplicity that has turned the coaches jacket into a streetwear staple. That unadorned nylon exterior leaves plenty of room for graphics, applique, and all manner of logos – in essence, turning the coaches jacket into an artist’s canvas, the outerwear equivalent of a graphic tee. Nearly every streetwear label produces a coaches jacket with some combination of the following: their name, their logo, a simple center-back graphic, and a dark neutral color scheme. I personally like overstated printed jackets (ex. the SS14 Supreme x The North Face collaboration "Atlas" jackets), but think they take a specific wardrobe to execute well. If you own Vans Old-Skools and know Thrasher as a magazine (not a sweatshirt), a coaches jacket might just be your new favorite spring piece.  

My recommendations: H&M Coaches Jacket ($), Rothco Lined Coaches Jacket ($), HUF Satin Coaches Jacket ($$), Supreme ($$$)

 

 

MA-1 Bomber Jacket

Last but not least: the simple spring jacket that's taken the fashion world by storm. The original MA-1 Flight Jacket (or “Bomber” jacket, as it’s commonly known) entered Air Force service in the 1950’s. At the time, high-density nylon was as cutting-edge as the automatic transmission: light, waterproof, and snag-resistant, the innovative material was a perfect match for high-altitude conditions. The US military wasted no time in outfitting pilots with this novel take on WWII leather jackets. The most iconic colorways of the MA-1 are its original Air Force “Midnight Blue” and the later Army “Sage Green/Orange” popularized by twentieth century youth culture. The recent reemergence of 1960’s era “Souvenir” jackets display a whole other side of this quintessential milsurp-inspired jacket.

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60 years later, bombers have carved out a niche as the streetwear jacket of choice. Thanks to the influence of designers like Raf Simons, Helmut Lang, and Demna Gvesalia (of Vetements fame), the classic MA-1 bomber is the choice of fashion bloggers and creative types alike. Seriously – I challenge you to scroll through any “Fashion Week Street Style” album from the past 5 years without finding at least one MA-1. When a tour merch stand lists a jacket alongside hats and CD’s (ex. Kanye West’s “Yeezus”Travi$ Scott’s “Rodeo”), you know it’s achieved something great. In 2016, the MA-1 jacket is as ubiquitous as Starbucks and Stan Smiths. There’s no way around it: the MA-1 Bomber Jacket is a legend in the making.

My recommendations: H&M ($), Alpha Industries ($$), Stampd ($$), maharishi ($$$), Dries van Noten ($$$)

(A special note: there are tons of jackets that follow the “bomber” genealogy but couldn’t really be characterized as MA-1’s. Varsity jackets, baseball jackets, and souvenir jackets, for example, all retain the general silhouette and details of the MA-1, but riff on the military detailing to establish their own unique identity. In the interest of brevity, I’ve linked to brands/information for each of the above, but will not devote a whole section to what’s truly a minor variation on a theme.)

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There you have it: 12 popular spring jackets, with links and pictures to boot, all curated to help you find your next favorite jacket. Do you agree with the choices? Did I miss your all-time favorite? Comment below or on Facebook here to start the conversation.

ACRONYM SS16: Any Color, As Long As it's Black

ACRONYM SS16: Any Color, As Long As it's Black

On Thursday, March 24, German performance label ACRONYM dropped its Spring/Summer 2016 collection. Founded by visionary designer Errolson Hugh, ACRONYM endeavors to merge cutting-edge materials science with aesthetic design: whereas the GORE-TEX coats of yesteryear had more neon flaps than a South London rave, an ACRONYM coat is tailored, matte black, and every inch as functional. Hugh's designs have won international acclaim, and the man himself has since collaborated with everyone from Nike to the makers of video game Deus Ex. Errolson Hugh's vision of a technology-driven near future is evident in every garment that his small Berlin team assembles, and the Spring/Summer 2016 collection is no exception. Check a gallery of the highlights below:

This season's standout piece is the ACRONYM x NEMEN J-28K, a garment-dyed 3L light shell made in collaboration with the storied Italian outerwear label. Lurid color blends add unprecedented pops of color to the ACRONYM line, complimenting everything from Blaze Orange to Nike Volt. Since Acronym's inception in 1994, the world of techwear has diversified pas the simple monochrome palette that first defined it. The ACRONYM x NEMEN J-28K is the ultimate expression of that color spectrum, straight from the godfather of techwear himself. If you have an extra $1000 collecting dust, I highly recommend the White/Orange. Check out the full range of J-28K jackets below:    

Techwear: The Future is Hi-Viz

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Techwear: The Future is Hi-Viz

Originally published Jan 19, 2016 on SHEImagazine.com.

In the November/December 2015 issue of The Economist’s Intelligent Life magazine, fashion writer Luke Leitch discusses the quaintness of the fashion trend he calls “fauxstalgia”: a harkening for anachronism not linked to an individual’s life experiences, but to an idealized version of the past worn as a costume in the present. In Leitch’s opinion, a New Yorker wearing cotton and leather on a rainy day ventures extends beyond self-expression and into detrimental fetish. “In a city that is probably amongst the most technologically-advanced in the world”, says Leitch, “so many guys wear incredibly utilitarian clothes with details… that are about as useful as your appendix.”       

If dressing like the Brawny paper towel man is viewing the modern world through rose-tinted glasses, techwear is night vision goggles. Techwear is a glimpse into a future where man controls his destiny: where plant fibers fail, GORE-TEX emerges. In essence, techwear describes clothing that renders traditional silhouettes in technical fabrics designed to imbue clothing with properties other than preventing nudity. An obsession with utility, modularity, and adaptability characterizes the genre. To the strictest tech disciples, a single outfit prepares them for double-digit temperature ranges and any wind or rain imaginable while conjuring an image decidedly more tasteful than “bright orange anorak”. Bad news for lumbersexuals everywhere.

Function? Without doubt. Fashion? That’s up to you. Techwear redefines items unfairly compartmentalized as “not stylish” for nothing more than the content of their character. Tech hallmarks include GORE-TEX shells, polyester fleece, zippers, cargo pockets, and copious pull-tabs, all paired with technical footwear designed for performance at the expense of heritage. That last part is key: while techwear borrows from classical silhouettes (see Arc’teryx Veillance’s Blazer LT), it eschews nostalgia in favor of mutation.A Nike ACG jacket may evoke the lines of a classic MA-1 bomber, but its GORE Windstopper face fabric and reflective detailing signal a fundamental change in the garment’s ability to interact with the world at large.

That’s not to say every garment in the techwear lexicon was created just to push aesthetic boundaries. As brands like ACRONYM and Isaora take intentionally bold strides into the avant garde, others (like Nike and The North Face) find their core purpose – to innovate in the name of performance - leading them towards producing techwear almost by consequence.  This blend of function, fashion, and wearable tech not only extends man’s control over his environment: it also looks so damn cool. Every child who grew up on Blade Runner and Judge Dredd holds a special place in their heart for clothing that looks straight off the streets of a smog-choked Tokyo, anno 2035. The future was chrome, until chrome became plastic, until plastic became carbon; now, the future is tech.

Yet, as Flyknit sneakers, modular mid-layers, and athletic clothing permeate our culture at large, it’s hard to shake the feeling that techwear is, ironically enough, not that functional. Well at least within a contemporary societal lens. First, almost on principle, techwear is prohibitively expensive: Arc’teryx Veillance jackets reach well into the 4 digits, and a single Boris Bidjan Saberi waterproof rucksack can command up to $400 at retail. The Arc’teryx Alpha SV hardshell pictured here is designed to withstand hours of winter exposure; but it’s also been styled, and accordingly retails for a mind-boggling $680 USD. It’s almost as if techwear’s practicioners see the hefty price tag as a barrier to entry meant to draw only the most devoted into their vision of a neon-soaked tomorrow.

Next, techwear may simply be a complicated fix to something that really wasn’t broken. Does the urban subway commuter really need GORE Pro in the event of afternoon showers between the office and 34th Street Station? Do the reflective glass microbeads woven into a Stone Island jacket really keep a cyclist more visible at night than simply mounting a light? For the same reason our culture loves the cotton t-shirt, maximized performance may just not be worth the hassle if the alternative is only moderate discomfort. And if every other 18-35 year old in the Manhattan area is dressed in traditional (if not contrived) flannel and leather, the synthetic walking shadow in the 3-layer shell will find their ability to function within society’s comfortable expectations perhaps hindered – no matter how adaptable their clothes are.

On an absolute scale, technical clothing claims top prize; adjusted to fit rational, present day relativities, it’s simply out of reach.

Now imagine the arguments presented above (high cost; superfluous technologies; conspicuous difference) in the latest issue of Motor Trend: rather than praise the Lamborghini Aventador SV, a “brutal” car with a “$493,905 base price [that’s] (on some scale) justifiable”, for its “extremely great” drive within a “thoughtfully stripped down interior”, the magazine’s reviewers would have torn the world-beating SV to shreds for its lack of economy and moderation. In other words, they would have missed the forest for the fact that it wasn’t an ocean.

Techwear, in its current form, is not pedestrian. That’s a very good thing. While it may straddle homage, techwear is also making tangible progress towards evolving the dogmatic fashion fallbacks that make educated observers like Leitch scratch their heads. There’s a grand irony to all this aversion: today’s visionary futurism often turns into tomorrow’s present. In 1987, Lamborghini’s Composites Divisions created the world’s first carbon-bodied supercar, but was told their prototype must be scrapped due to the prohibitively high costs of manufacturing that much carbon. 28 years later, BMW’s i3 – a plucky, all electric carbon-bodied city car starting around the price of a 3-series sedan – debuted to the public.

I’ll see you in the future.

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2016 NAIAS - Up Close with the Lamborghini Aventador SV Roadster

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2016 NAIAS - Up Close with the Lamborghini Aventador SV Roadster

While Lamborghini didn't have a booth of its own at this year's North American International Auto Show, the Raging Bull's latest-and-greatest was on display courtesy of the Robb Report.

The Lamborghini Aventador Roadster LP750-4 Superveloce (SV) is a collection of adjectives that, if fed to a 3-D printer, would produce a nuke. Fortunately for us, the warhead in question is kept safely behind a glass panel somewhere around the car's middle. Twelve cylinders breathe naturally-aspirated air into a mill that promises 750 metric horsepower at 8,400rpm to anyone mad enough to keep the throttle buried that long.

As a reminder: "Superveloce" means "super-light" in Italian. The new SV Roadster weighs a mere 3472lbs with an empty tank, over 100lbs less than it's full-fat brother, the Aventador. The Aventador may have been a nearly two-ton brontosaurus, but it went like a bat out of hell.

So it's no surprise, then, that the super light version threatens to hit hyperspeed as it accelerates from 0 to 60mph in 2.7 seconds. All that performance is kept tidy in the corners by a magnetic suspension system that was custom developed for the Aventador SV. Oh yeah, and a bonkers aero package that has likely floated the world's carbon fiber suppliers for the next decade. Yes, that, too.

Magnetic dampers? Huge power? A carbon monocoque that's more Siesto Elemento than sane consumer product? If this sounds like the recipe for a fast track time, you'd be absolutely right. The Aventador SV Coupe posted a 6:59.7 Nurburgring lap in May 2015, a road-legal feat bested by the Porsche 918 hybrid hypercar (6:57.00) alone.

2.7 seconds is quite a modest gap for an abyss between generations: Porsche's 918 represents the tip-of-the-spear for hybrid performance; the Aventador SV, the greatest internal combustion naturally-aspirated performance car ever made. The Porsche 918 that lapped the 'Ring included an advanced aerodynamics package that jacked its base price from $845,000 up to a staggering $929,000.

For a mere $600,000 (the quoted price of the Aventador on display), you come within a gnat's eyelash of the car that shifted the worldwide automotive paradigm. You'll save $330k (just enough for a 2012 Aventador!), the hassle of charging your hybrid overnight, and one of the world's great automotive treasures. Consumer-friendly bargain? Not precisely. But in every other dimension, Lambo's latest special edition halo car is unbeatable.

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2016 NAIAS - Day Two: American Innovation & Japanese Design

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2016 NAIAS - Day Two: American Innovation & Japanese Design

Originally published Wednesday, Jan 13 on SHEIMagazine.com.

SHEI Magazine had the opportunity to cover this year’s North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) during the show’s press preview days Jan 11 & 12, 2016. Because we were on limited passes and only had two hours of floor access per day, we had to divide the show in half to do it justice.

On Tuesday Jan 12 (Day Two), we covered the latest in American Innovation and Japanese Design from some of the world’s leading automakers. This year’s headlines: the all-electric Chevy Bolt, a Ford pickup that does 100 mph off-road, Lexus unveils a flagship coupe, Acura’s beautiful oxymoron, and more. Read on below.

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Chevrolet

Not all electric vehicles are German-engineered concept cars that cost more than your house. In December 2010, Chevrolet unveiled the first-generation Volt, a Prius-sized hatchback that promised to save the world for a mere $41,000.

There’s a reason you don’t see many first-gen Volts on the road today. Even after redeeming a $7500 government tax credit, $33.5k was a pretty penny to pay for an EPA estimated 35 miles of range per charge. Gas was pricey in 2011 – but not $950/mile pricey. Plus, a lack of developed charging infrastructure meant that you really only had 17 miles (give or take) of range. Sure, you also had an efficient gas engine under the hood that bumped your combined range to 380 miles, but that’s not why you paid 50% more than a same-year Prius (which dropped jaws worldwide with a reported 550-600 mile gas range). You bought a Chevy Volt for the early adopter cool points that came with owning unrealized potential rather than an exhaustively final product.

Now, Chevy is back with an all-new electric vehicle that promises to make good on the attainable electric future it promised five years ago. The Chevy Bolt EV, shown here in orange, leads with numbers: 200 mile electric range, 200hp equivalent, all for $30k MSRP after tax credits. While the Bolt is an AWD electric 4-door, a Tesla this is not. Which is to say there’s nothing gimmicky about the Bolt. It is innovative precisely because it is not a straight-line drag racer that happens to plug into a wall. Like the Volt before it, all signs indicate the Bolt is being positioned to be a habit-changer rather than a showpiece. The range is good; the technical suite inside is as pretty as they make it; and above all else, the price is right. In short, it may actually have an effect on the world at large instead of just the automotive press.   

The 2017 Chevy Bolt is significant because it’s a humdrum commuter car that just happens to be an EV. Practicality is boring, yes, but being cool never paid the bills. Just ask Consumer Reports. Electric vehicles have yet to truly diffuse into general consumption, but a $30k hatch with enough room for 2.4 kids and some groceries may just lead the charge.  

Ford

Photo: Kristen EisenhauerNow that the environmentalists among us have been sated: Ford Performance’s 2017 F-150 Raptor SuperCrew is a twin-turbo V6 that can hit 100mph offroad.

It is big. It is aggressive. It has shock assemblies the size of toddlers that supposedly let the overland monster eat potholes at triple-digit speeds while maintaining full driver control. Whereas the Bolt is a sterile and practical solution to society’s energy problems, the Raptor exists to make sure those problems don’t go down easy.

The 2017 Raptor isn’t all blunt force trauma, however, that TTV6 is a 3.5L EcoBoost (think Ford GT), that when mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission, becomes a surgical instrument. Shifts are sure to be optimized and snappy. Asking about MPG ratings would be missing the point, but the 500-pound-plus of weight that Ford Performance teased out by adding an aluminum body may ironically make the Raptor one of the more fuel-efficient trucks in the Ford range. You’d need to have it on the right Terrain Management setting (the new model promises six - Normal, Street, Weather, Mud and Sand, Baja, and Rock) of course, but hey, you can’t traverse the Rubicon Trail every day.

Somedays you just need to commute. Through Mud and Sand. At 100mph. Dear Santa…

Buick

As part of GM’s post-bankruptcy rebuilding efforts, the largest member of the Big Three has invested vast sums into its higher-margin upmarket brands. Last year was luxury Cadillac’s turn to show off: the unveiling of the all-new ATS-V and CTS-V models at the 2015 NAIAS stole headlines worldwide. “American luxury is back!” proclaimed the automotive press. BMW M and AMG-Mercedes finally had a colonial equal. A few booths away, little brother Buick smiled meekly behind a rebadged Opel Cascada.

One year later, the spotlight is on mid-market Buick. Only someone forgot to tell Buick they were mid-market. In fact, someone forgot to tell them they were Buick. Otherwise, I simply can’t explain the brilliance of the Avista Concept. Buick’s new 2+2 coupe concept is a 400bhp, RWD coupe that defines the word swooping.

Simply put, the car is breathtaking. It is undeniably stylish, both understated and aggressive, and with lines that evoke Maserati’s Alfieri concept from year’s past. A teardrop body full of uninterrupted sinew is an homage to the front-engine coupes of years past. Even the paint catches light differently when applied to this body. The Buick Avista is an American Aston-Martin in the looks department. GM is understandably mum about possible production (the door trims are 3D printed onto the car), but if any version of the Avista goes to dealerships, I’ll be the first in line.

Lexus

Lexus burst onto the US market at the 1989 NAIAS with an assertion: you’re paying too much for a luxury car that doesn’t always work. That assertion came with a segment-beating price tag, a 4.0L V8 engine, enough technology to raise Stuttgart’s eyebrows, and plenty of legroom, to boot. Before long, the 1989-1994 LS 400 was winning “Car of the Year” awards. The same “Car of the Year” awards BMW/Mercedes had won years before. Assertion, asserted.

Since then, Lexus has expanded to offer reliable luxury in all shapes and sizes. From crossovers to hatchbacks, if Toyota producers the chassis, you can bet a leather-clad luxury model exists. One model in the Lexus lineup remained notably absent, however, where was their large luxury coupe? Finally, we have an answer – and it is spindly.

The 2017 Lexus LC 500 checks all the 6-series/S Coupe boxes. V8? Check. Big V8? 5.0L, 467bhp/389 lb.ft. of check. RWD? Check. Luxurious interior packed with space-age tech? Check.