November 25, 2010

The 12 - little things that count

Instead of making a list of new things I want for the holidays I'm reflecting on the dozen objects that make a difference to me - kind of like counting blessings.

Number 2.  I had this idea I should buy a foot treadle Singer sewing machine from 1911. And I did. I had a dream of making jeans without the use of electrical mechanical devices. Nearly hand-made kind of concept.

These days I use the sewing table as my writing desk. It has six drawers in cherry wood. In one of them I found this  key chain mixed in with buttons dating between the First World War and the Seventies (there were some very groovy buttons in there).

The key chain was wrapped up in tape and attached to it was a metal rod. I freed it from the rod and unwrapped the tape to find this very, simple utilitarian key chain. I like it because its not as grandiose as those wallet chains. And don't need very many keys (because I don't own any stuff).

It's just right. The key chain clips nicely on a belt loop and wears just a titch on the front edge of my right front pocket of my jeans. Plus its short enough it won't wear a hole at the bottom of the pocket. Best of all, I use it everyday, unlike my 1911 Singer.

November 24, 2010

The 12 - little things that count

This week I am compiling a new pocket luxury piece for the Vancouver Sun.

The idea is small gift ideas for men which are of superlative quality and yet fall under the $150 price tag. I think of them as heirlooms of the future.

And considering our austere times, and by that I mean my austere times, it nice to give fine objects, which have a greater destiny than the landfill, as gifts. (I finally saw Toy Story 3 and the garbage incinerator was a vision of hell and existential despair. Thank goodness for squeeze toy aliens, "The Claw is our master.")

BUT, it got me thinking about the little things I already own that matter to me. That I use everyday.

Here is the first of The 12 Little Things That Count.

The 12 little things that count

Number 1. This pocket knife belonged to my great grandmother. The larger blade is broken. The smaller blade has been sharpened so often it has changed shape. It doesn't quite close.

My paternal great grandmother was terrible to my mother. But she adored me. I loved touching her hands and her face. They were wrinked but always soft. I never learned Cantonese, so I never really got to know her, but I always felt special around her.

As a baby, she collected scraps of fabric from the garbage bins of the garment factories along St. Laurent and made me a quilt with them. Even though she lived in a one room boarding house in Montreal's Chinatown. Every time we visited she made a meal for me out of a rice cooker. My siblings were allowed to balk but I always had to eat some or she wouldn't be happy. Salted fish. Chinese pork sausage. There was always something.

There were occasions I begged my parents not to visit her. The rooming house had cockroaches and there was powdered cockroach poison along the floor moulding. Eventually, she became to feeble to live there and she was moved to an old folks home. Most of her belongings were thrown out because of worries of infestation. But I remember opening her night table and palming this old knife.

In university I used it as a palette knife in painting class. Now, I save it for opening CD cases and opening boxes. It's always right beside me.

November 12, 2010

Kdon - Maps and legends

An Evening | Kim Cathers & Leigh Righton
(CC) Phillip Jeffrey.

Kim Cathers, I've decided, was destined NOT to win Project Runway Canada.

Don't get me wrong. She is a great maker of clothes.

But reviewing her latest collection of Fall Winter clothes, I now understand Kim Cathers is a fairytale teller and urban fantasist with  strong regional inflections. Her sense of fashion is very hard to digest through television and the fast hard cuts of reality television editing.

Cathers' clothes are like a dusk snowfall among a stand of arbutus trees. It is poetic, frail and very West Coast.

She is telling a story about a place where a city of millions and a massive rain forest sit side by side. A mountain could shrug its shoulders and what we call civilization could be flung into the sea.

Cloak-ish hooded coats, bloomer- or britches-like knee pants and horn buttons combine into a tale from the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen, if Little Red Riding Hood carried an iPhone and loved buying studded riding boots.

I once met a bearded man who lived in a log cabin on the edge of the town of Hope.

Against the back wall where the fireplace was located he had carved an entire bas-relief inspired by JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit  -- with a chainsaw! To Cathers' collection--somehow they are connected.


November 11, 2010

Tux redux - wear a tux like you really own the night

To rent or to buy is not always the question.

What really matters when it comes to wearing black tie is looking like you belong in a tuxedo.

Admittedly, all men can't be James Bond or Barack Obama, but it is possible to achieve some true panache, thereby avoiding any associations with Batman's flightless adversary, the Penguin (who technically wore a tailcoat and therefore was dressed in white tie), or high school graduation.

Guy Voglino, New York-based divisional merchandise manager for Brooks Brothers, offered the following advice: "Buy something that is classic, that will stand the test of time. When you stay classic, you'll never be ashamed to take it out of your closet."

Look for traditional lapels. Notches, at Brooks Brothers, are the most popular and easiest to wear of the classic cuts; peaked lapels are considered more formal; shawl lapels are re-emerging as a classic option favoured by the very hip. The softer line looks good on the thinner man. If you have rounded features the peak will sharpen you up and maybe even shave some pounds.

Personally, I would avoid patterns of any kind or odd colours or details. The lapels should be fully satined, not "framed," which means there is only an edge of shiny trimming. It is impecunious and I mean cheap.

You may feel like a peacock, standing out in full trim, but black tie is party clothes. Half-measures are pointless and erode the sense of glamour one may wish to convey.

If you can't handle the full sheen, try grosgrain lapels. They are ribbed silk without the super shiny qualities of satin. It is very elegant.

Striped suits must be avoided at all costs. In the secret language of experienced black tie wearers, they come across as callow and in snobbier environs striped pants are worn by those who earn their living by opening car doors and hefting luggage. Don't be surprised if someone hands you his car keys and a five dollar note when you're wearing stripes.

Even if you own the striper, it will simply give off a "return by Monday" reek.

When it comes to buttons, Voglino says: "If you're more average height, I'd steer you into a one-or two-button cut. It definitely gives a longer look to the individual." With three-button jackets, be wary. The tubular torso created with too many fasteners can ruin the careful balance of black and white in a tuxedo. Only use the middle button on a three-button. Ultimately, one button is all that is ever required.

On the opposite end of the button spectrum are double-breasted dinner jackets. Offering sometime up to six fasteners, they are considered one of the Duke of Windsor's contributions to menswear. His reason for championing the DB are still relevant today. It dispenses with cummerbunds, vests and braces. It prevents one from indulging in a major faux-pas: unbuttoning a dinner jacket. Almost never do it. It is considered very rude in some circles. I avoid doing so nearly at all costs.

DB's also prevent a man from sticking his hands in his pant pockets. What are we rummaging for anyhow? A slingshot? My next dinner jacket will be a grosgrain DB - though I should check my closet. I might already have one.

Voglino also emphasizes fit. "One of our things is making sure people are walking out of our store with a proper fit and that he's comfortable and feels his best when he is in his tuxedo," he says.

For the final touch, a man should always tie his own bow. Nothing says "ownage" like a knot with a little personality.

November 1, 2010

Fashion Icon: Interview with Jeanne Beker of Fashion Television on the EDIT collection at The Bay

NOTE: I used my flash video as a microphone (because audio is everything to me) and the camera kind of catches odd angles but it's kind of funny, so I hope no one minds.

Jeannie Beker of Fashion Television has been asking fashion designers questions for the last 25 years.

Today, I had the chance to turn the tables and ask her some questions.

Fashion has a lot of surface and spectacle to it. But I wanted to understand how Beker connected to fashion and clothes personally, so I asked her about her personal view of fashion and the influences in her life. So check out the RAW interview above. Note, I used my Kodak ZX1 as a microphone. Don't mind the wonky images (though I find it kind of cool).

Now regarding the EDIT collection at the Bay:

Overall, it’s very smart. It hits a middle demographic. I think it would do well with woman who are older than 30, who have a bit of money but they are not millionaires, (they’re fashion conscious and don’t want to settle for middle of the road looks.

I see it as a suitcase collection. If you want to fly off to Paris and still feel glamourous on a budget, this might be the clothes for you.

Two items I really like are her jeans and Beker's take on the cape coat.

The jeans are $85. They are skinny but the aren’t low rise. They have a nice medium rise which can be very flattering and is, as Beker told me, muffin-top proof.

The camel coloured cape coat $195 is really chic and classic and would look good on the street in Vancouver or Paris. Of course, the camel has nearly sold out. But they also come in black.

Overall EDIT is an easy on the go look – it has the feel of the clothes fashion designers would wear as opposed to what  a fashion desinger would put on the runway – it's glamourous, simple and casual not a bad combo and you can find it at The Bay.