October 28, 2009

Grade three version of Jay Gatsby


He's sharp looking. Got money to burn and knows his bow ties.

It's the 8 1/2 year old, mini-dandy Arlo Weiner, courtesy of GQ.

October 26, 2009

Co-host and friends


From the UBC Alumi event I hosted with Tetsuro Shigematsu at Banana Republic. Also CBC producer and sometime playwright, filmmaker and character actor Charlie Cho. Very fun.

Plus the whole affair inspired the topic of my column for On The Coast - Dressing the Breast: How to deck out a heavy, yet beautiful, topside.

I'll be on air on 88.1 FM Vancouver at 5:49 PM -- Fashion Monday.

October 21, 2009

Perfect Chucks for Canucks


There was a time, way back in it's history, when the Converse Company (aka Boston Rubber Shoe Company) was all about finding ways of putting rubber underneath men's feet.

They weren't just about racquet sport shoes (Jack Purcell) or basketball (Chuck Taylor).

Instead, they made hunting boots. And they are again - in a fashion forward kind of way.

This season they've release a set of rubber soled, leather upper boots that are right on trend with the back to roots among the masculine. In black or brown, they sell for around $140. Try Gravity Pope in Vancouver to find them.

Banana Republic, Alumni, and why men should't wear stripes with stripes and stripes


Yesterday, I was organising the clothes for a UBC Alumni event at Banana Republic on Robson and Thurlow. I believe I was there for five hours. Nevertheless, it was fun.

The concept is to speak to young alumni about dressing at the next level (not dressing for a job interview) but how to dress for the workplace and advancement. Actor, writer, trouble-maker and heart-breaker Tetsuro Shigematsu will be my partner on stage and the incomparable social columnist Fred Lee will be there as well.

No John Molloy here - "Dress For Success" - that way of thinking kind of makes me gag. More importantly we look at how to dress grown-up with out dressing old.

Now, the important stuff...what will I be wearing?

So glad you asked. I will be sporting a gray flannel pencil stripe suit with a notch collar. And, because I like taking risks, I'm pairing it with a red (dominant) and blue micro plaid shirt. Both items will be from BR's Heritage Collection.

It says Heritage - but the cut is fashion forward and very young. Overall, it draws heavily on New England Americana with toggles and cabling in sweaters, patches and elements of hunting and military wear with deep patch pockets and Norfolk-like jackets.

The shirts are slim fitting with nice TAPERED sleeves. The suit has good waist suppression and very athletic cut. It's built for the heavy back of someone who is used to exercise and doesn't have a lot of padding. The cut is shoulders forward.

Their suits are great for the workplace but have achieved a highly desirable objective - they are suits that don't make a young man feel like he's in a suit.

Accessories: I'm either wearing an Italian silk knit tie (think Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate) from BR last season. A classic, nevertheless...or a bow tie. Can't quite decide.

For mixed-prints magnifilicious insanity, my socks will be herringbone and if I'm allowed, I'll be wearing a polka dot pocket square - just to drive Lisa Kwong batty. She's a bit of a clothes horse herself and has strong opinions about style - see left!

Also, gentlemen of Vancouver, watch out. If she catches you wearing striped ties, with striped shirts, with a striped suit - I've coached her to intervene and stop the abuse of stripes.

Ahem. Where was I?

My shoes are Church's custom bench brown, capped toe Oxfords. Go British or go home, I say, when it comes to footwear - but don't tell my Italian shoes that, their feelings would be hurt.

See you tomorrow night!

Makeshift Project Update: What did makeshifter make today?


One woman, one year, one promise. To wearing clothing, shoes and accessories made exclusively by her own hand. I mean, shoes!

October 19, 2009

One woman. One year. One promise. To wear clothing that she has made by her own hands.

Yes. MAKESHIFT is a project by designer Natalie Purschwitz.

Seven weeks ago, she started a year long project to wear clothes, shoes and accessories made by her exclusively.

Natalie has a website documenting the effort at makeshiftproject.blogspot.com

And though she is only two months in, it's been quite a journey so far for the Makeshifter.

Today, I met Natalie at the Makeshift showroom at 8 East Cordorva in Vancouver.

It displays SOME of the clothes she has worn or clothes based on clothes she has worn.... We had a little conversation about the MAKESHIFT journey so far. And my first question to Natalie was, what did she wear today:



The project is in part to draw attention to her work - but I wouldn't say it's a publicity stunt. If it is, it's one that has life-changing ideas. People in France and Italy are tracking her work. And now you can too.

Plus if you love what you see on MAKESHIFT - she's offering clothes based on her adventures through her Super! Surprise! program. You can find the info at makeshiftproject.blogspot.com.

From my upcoming book: Measure of a Man



I just bought a tailor's form. It's a padded male torso and neck that sits on a chrome stand. The jacket is now draped over it. The dummy will allow me to pin and baste stitch possible alterations.

Think of it as sketch drawing on the suit with needle and thread. The rig is very light and I find I move it around from the centre of the living room to near the bookcase to a corner in the bedroom depending on my need for light or to be closer to the clock radio or to protect it from kitchen smells while I'm cooking.

Sometimes in the middle of a chore or writing, I'll forget I have "him" or where I've put "him" and out of the corner of my eye I'll see my father for just a blink.

October 6, 2009

True north style gets its due in HBC's Canadian Olympic team apparel




Call it, "hoser chic."


It came with a big a splash. The Hudson's Bay Company revealed its Team Canada clothes.


Canada's Olympians will be wearning retro black, grey, red and white gear at next year's Winter games.

And with some caveats, I have to say this is a pretty fine collection.

I love it because of what it does for an iconic retailer. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the Hudson's
Bay Company has the best brand in Canada when it comes to evoking Canadiana. It has the history and heritage. Or, rather, it should.

Yes, over the years, HBC has forgotten this. Adopting the generic (non-Canadian specific) abbreviation was symptomatic of the tendency to leave the past behind. It was deplorable.

But with their recent Olympic campaign, on TV and through their Olympic apparel, they are putting the Hudson's and the Canada back in The Bay.



So, this is a major move on the part of the retailer to get its identity back.

For the longest time, Roots had taken the mantle, making their brand synonymous with Canadiana and Canadian style but I see HBC's long term plan to wrest the Olympic sponsorship from Roots is finally paying off (Turino's trapper hat was a hint of what was to come).

A perfect example of the synergy between red and white patriotism and corporate branding is the Team Canada Cowichan sweater.



This is a heavy, hand knit, made-in-Canada, zip-front wool sweater with a turn-down collar. It is entirely indigenous to Canadian design.

The Cowichan, originally made by the Cowichan First Nations on Vancouver Island, is as unique to Canada as tweed is unique to the River Tweed region of Scotland.

However, I couldn't confirm if the suppliers are Cowichan knitters. So, it's more accurate to describe it as a Cowichan-styled sweater.

Nevertheless, it plumbs the data bank of our national unconscious to put forth a pitch perfect image. Like a stubby beer bottle.

Is it all too "Hoser" or too "Bob and Doug Mackenzie"?

It is - but only a bit. Which is ironic after all Canada went through about presenting a backwoods, Rockie and Bullwinkle version of Canada during the closing ceremonies at the Turin Olympics.

I think the biggest weakness is the collection may need a bit of, let's say, urbanity.

For example, in recent Olympics, Armani provided Team Italy with cashmere long coats and Borsalino brimmed hats for their athletes and the French have been known to wear blazers and fedoras at summer games.

So, I hope to see more than good athletic and technical wear from HBC in the coming months.

For all the positives, there were a few negatives.

Yesterday, I bought one of the last Cowichan sweaters at The Bay Downtown. They've been a total hit. Even though they sell for $350. Nearly sold out, The Bay is taking people names and numbers and there is a wait list for the
sweater.

But here's the important thing: when I bought the sweater, I found out they don't take anything but VISA
or cold hard cash. NO Mastercard? Not even DEBIT!

NO!

I was told by the store staff that VISA is the Olympic sponsor. The merchandise belongs to VANOC and guess what, it kind of feels like if you don't have VISA - they don't want you to buy it.

I was kind of choked about it and tracked down the store director of The Bay Downtown about this.


Her name is Dana Hall. She says they've had no negative feedback about the payment method limits. She also said, they've set up ATM machines in the store to accommodate cash purchases.

Unfortunately, they don't approve VISA cards on site but Hall says, "Nobody has walked away and said I'm not going to buy this."

A clarification from HBC further explained the reason for the restrictions:

The Olympic Superstore is an Olympic venue, and therefore it can only accept the Official Card of the Games: Visa.

At past Games, the Olympic Superstore was housed inside a temporary structure, like a tent, and again it would have only accepted Visa. This is the first time the Superstore is located inside an existing retailer, the Bay. As such, we still have to abide by the rules of an Olympic venue.


Still, I think it's really unfortunate. The payment limits puts HBC in a hard position. No retailer wants to say no to its customer but HBC didn't make the rules.

Nevertheless, it's a sour negative in what I think is a positive re-visioning of the Hudson's Bay Company and its reappropriation of its heritage (though acknowledging the First Nations in its TV campaign would be a good idea).



Final thought: What would I do to urbanize the look?

I think a duffle coat in the repertoire would be good. The Team Canada collection has parkas and quilted coats but I think a signature duffle with toggle buttons would really give a city look to a very rural outdoorsy collection so far. There's a Holden Caufield/Wes Anderson feel to it all, non?

In heather grey, please. You'll find samples in the company archives.
Final analysis: 9 out of 10 for artistry.

October 5, 2009

In preparation for the 2010 Olympics: a repost of my thoughts on Beijing 2008

Today, I hope to look at Canada's Winter 2010 look.

But while you're waiting, check out my Vancouver by Design (my old blog) story from the last Olympics. Or simply read below:

Fashion Olympics - forget medal counts, who are the best dressed?


Canada goes for red, gold and white
chinoiserie - go to cbc.ca for more pics.

Gold, silver and bronze are the only colours that matter in the Olympics unless you're me.

Today, I joined On The Coast's host, Stephen Quinn, in studio to talk about Olympic fashion and about which country gets the high score when it comes to high style. Listen.



If you want a fuller analysis, read on.

Canada has yet to win a medal in Beijing but who cares? A opening ceremony fashion Q & A with JJ Lee...

Q. You've decided to focus on the Opening Ceremonies. What are you looking for when it comes to judging a county's fashion acumen during the parade of nations?

It's not easy to compare what the countries are wearing -- though I think it's patently obvious to anyone when it comes to figuring out who looks good and who looks bad.

The reason why it's hard is because the delegate nations pick clothes for different reasons.

Generally, there were three genres of clothes at the opening.

1. National costume - this is where athletes are forced to wear clothes as if it were multicultural day at their local high school.

2. Athletic wear - this is where countries dress as if they are ready to take the field at any moment.

3. Traditional sportswear - Not to be confused with track suits, this is the prevalent neo-traditional approach that evokes the time when athletes wore blazer, white pants and cricket sweaters when they weren't on the field of battle. One of the most iconic examples of that style of dress is - historically speaking - is Rene Lacoste or Le Crocodile, the French tennis star of the 1920s who later became a fashion giant.

Q. It sounds like you're comparing apples and oranges -- who do you think came off the best in terms of fashion?

I thought I could break things up in categories like weight classes for boxing -- for example "BEST in RED".

Q. Okay, which countries made it into the Best in Red category?

Angola did. They went with a hybrid look of patterned pants with red tops that seemed to straddle athletic wear and national costumes. It was a nice red. The shirts featured an rather delicate detail at the neck line. It was a circular opening below the neckline like a peekaboo that would show cleavage on a woman -- but it was predominantly the men who were wearing it. It's just a blouse but the circle is a nice detail.

Q. What did you think of China, the host nation, in red?


They were unfortunately one of the WORST. They went with red blazers, white pants and yellow shirts for the men. They looked terrible. Wear red or wear yellow but don't wear them together.

The women looked better with yellow blazers, red kerchiefs and white skirts that went BELOW THE KNEE-- but I think they should have deviated from looking exactly like the Chinese flag and picked a yellow that was softer and more forgiving.

I think though there should be a rule where hem lengths should only be determined by body type and not by designer edict. If you have the legs, you should show it. If not, find a length that suits you. Say "no" to totalitarian regimes and uniform hem lengths.

Q. Did anyone look good in red?

My favourite team in red was Serbia.

The men looked lousy but the women wore ruffle v-necked front buttoned blouses.

You have to understand Serbia has tennis star Ana Ivanovic on the team. She just dropped out of competition because of an injury...but she looked absolutely gorgeous in her blouse during the opening ceremonies. She showed showed some clavicle a bit of skin below that.

Q. And isn't that the whole point of the Olympics?

It is. If you look at the classical roots of the Olympics, the display of the body, naked, without adornment, in physical struggle was the whole point.

And despite the National Socialist baggage of the Berlin Olympics, Leni Riefenstahl's film of the Olympics really suggests a modern template for the cult of the body in the Olympics. She had images of athletes in the nude much like Greek statues -- it's kind of corny but it makes a good point. We need to see more skin at the Olympics.

I used to disdain the uniform rules of beach volleyball because they forced women to essentially wear bikinis but I've come around. I think celebrating young athletic bodies is a good thing...I would even suggest eliminating the jersey for men's boxing. Let us see heaving chest muscles. I think that would be a great first step in the right direction.

Q. What marks do you give to Team Canada?

Six point five or a seven out of ten.

My reason, I think track suits are a cop out.

The reason why I don't talk about designers who make hoodies or t-shirts is the reason I don't think Team Canada looks so hot...track suits are boring.

There's none of the flare of let's say, Mexico's ruffle skirts which had a flamenco-mariachi feel to them. That was nice.

But Canada was entirely invested in it's graphic approach.

And it's bad. Some people have complained about the chinoiserie of the uniform -- which is understandable but what is worse is how the pattern of red and white and degrade - which means fading - gold number "eights" on the clothes obliterates the sense the human form.

The more I talk about it the more I dislike it.

Q. Which country did you like?

I think you have to give credit to Ralph Lauren for creating a consistent vision of Gatsybyesque sporting elegance.

And remember, Ralph Lauren did the costume for the film version of The Great Gatsby.

The other film reference was Chariots of Fire - the motif was simple. Blue blazers, white buttons, white pants and newsboy caps -- which are not as nice a the trapper hats Canada did for the Turin Olympics nor are they as nice as the Roots Cap of the Nagano Olympics -- but they do the trick.

A lot of countries went this direction but Ralph Lauren did it the best. Though the look was a bit androgynous on the women. They did fit nicely enough. Unlike the Chinese blazers. Terrible.

Q. Enough stalling....give me your fashion winner...

My flat out my favourite would be....okay, the women of France wore seersucker and red sashes...that was okay

Hungary had skirt-suit combos with a bold poppy pattern which was interesting...

But I have to say I like Poland because the women wore red dresses with a red peek-toe sling backs and the men wore black and white wing tip shoes.

So, the red dresses are nice but they only favoured the fittest of athletes

They didn't wear read but I think Brazil gets the gold. Their women wore dark mini skirts with green jackets and black lapels. They didn't look like flight attendents, and they showed some leg.

Definitely, I award Brazil the GOLD.


JJ, why weren't you at BC Fashion Week?

For a decent answer, check out Victoria Potter's post about BCFW at demi COUTURE. In this matter, VP captures some of what has gone out recently.

Addressing The Continuing Failure Of Vancouver’s Fashion Weeks
Sunday October 04th 2009, 8:45 pm
Filed under:
2009, BC Fashion Week

There are three massive issues occurring with BC and Vancouver Fashion weeks; the model talent is sub par, clothing design is poor and there is a division between the organizational committees that put forth both productions.

The basics are simple; designers should be paying qualified and talented individuals to model their final vision and if they cannot afford to pay the models then they shouldn’t be paying the registration fees to reserve runway time. It’s as the old saying goes - you get what you pay for, and clearly the free ‘talent’ isn’t working.

There are legitimate reasons why Vancouver and BC Fashion Weeks aren’t taken seriously. The team running the show didn’t even instill enough confidence in BCFW’s creditors that they could repay them that the show was shut down. If they cannot fulfill their obligations to their creditors, then they cannot even begin to fulfill their obligations to those attending and expecting a functional production. (continue at demicouture.ca)