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TOTEM SARTORIA - Encouraging signs that menswear can carry meaning at Pitti 86

In the press-kit for this season’s Pitti Uomo Agostini Poletto, the show’s deputy general manager, promises that the event will explore “a new way of interpreting the wardrobe of today’s man”.

It was encouraging to see some of the fair's attendees demonstrating this simple idea.  Interpretation. Namely to approach menswear as a language –that can be read and its messages be assigned meaning – the very definition of interpretation.

Fashion is famous for operating in the realm of the esthetic. Its variable moving parts encompass; the harmonizing of color, the balancing of proportion, the interplay of texture, the incorporation of optical pattern, as well as the integration of comfort and practical function.  How all these elements come together within a man’s individual style can also be explored in primarily esthetic terms, an analysis that leads sometimes intriguing and sometimes banal conclusions. “Brown is the new Black” or “Smokey the Bear’s Hat is Back in Style”. And it is often devoted to the simple notion of male attractiveness. The proverbial peacock whose stylistic intent is primarily to attract the female of the species.

The Pitti Uomo is internationally renowned for triggering robust esthetic debates, as well as providing a stage for peacocks to parade. The swell in the number of photojournalist and street-style photo bloggers attending the show has grown exponentially and increased the focus on these aspects since esthetics and peacockery both reproduce well in photographs.  In a gathering of peacocks, finding a community using style to say something more about themselves than merely “look at me” might be a big ask – but one can see encouraging examples that it is starting to become a bit easier lately.

 

 

Ouigi Theodore – “How Cool was Bill Cosby”

On esthetic terms, a finely calibrated juxtaposition of optic white and ivory against soft mocha with shots of chestnut accented by warm brass and silver. Not to mention the unexpected proportion-play led by the plummeting hem of his vintage kurta. -Undeniably “fresh” in the parlance of seasonal fashion.  But what does it mean?  Ouigi is man who was born in Haiti and whose parents instilled in him the importance of education as a means to achieve personal success and realize personal freedom. He’s also a man who ultimately landed in Brooklyn having earned a degree in history and cultivated an interest in graphic design. As to his role models he recalls passionately; “I was very inspired by the Cosby Show – that show motivated me to continue my education and triggered an interest in historically black colleges,”– He responded to the shows premise that it could be cool to be smart. Like most New Yorkers he’s also enamored by a particular brand of toughness and the notion that an educated man should also be able to handle himself on Scorsese’s mean streets, or as he puts it; “I’m a bad boy as much as I am a gentlemen”. Ouigi’s style can easily be interpreted as a unique statement of this history and these values. His unique mix of garments and accessories blend ancestral references, harmonize diverse but relevant cultural cues and indicate a balance of pragmatic ambition with romantic optimism. In other words; Ouigi’s style manifests who he really is and who he fully intends to become.

 

Helio Ascari –“I Want to Ride my Bicycle…”

On the level of color and texture - a rich modulation of indigo shades and tints. The perfectly balanced high and low tones set off via vegetable tanned leather accessories that share the same characteristic beauty-through-aging quality as the wear-pattern of his 5-pocket jeans. A resounding victory for those on the “pro” side of the double denim debate.  But what does it mean in Helio’s case?  Wiliamsburg resident, Helio was born and raised in South Brazil. Gaucho country.  His late father was a long-haul trucker in the 40’s and 50’s – Helio laughs; “he was a total bad ass with a love of music and outlaw style who stayed on the road for months at a time”. Helio’s own connection to the freedom of locomotion is his work as a bicycle builder who employs excruciating levels of workmanship to produce dazzling transport for the modern urban gaucho. On his custom bikes he fearlessly mixes white, yellow, and red metals with rugged leathers like the trucker’s belt inherited from his father –“For me its very important that what you do matches how you express yourself – like in music, you create the rhythm, layer the melody and then the lyric”. His style proclaims his reality – a modern gaucho artisan working in Brooklyn addicted to the simple freedom symbolized by a bicycle.

 

YOUNGJUN KOO – “A Pleasure to Meet You…”

An effortless removal of any trace of “anti” from an essentially anti-fashion style; high-end against low-end, new against vintage, classic against kitsch with just hint of K-hop, a dollop of neogrunge and an undeniable celebration of Fashion with a capital “F”. But why? After earning a fashion degree in his native South Korea, Youngjun Koo bumped into a language barrier while perusing the path to Paris to become a fashion buyer. Later he resolved to learn English and threw himself into the fray in New York. After being shot in Soho by a Japanese style blogger he began taking style shots himself; “at first I shot with a small compact camera – it wasn’t about the photographs actually, it was about being new in town and wanting to make friends”. Starting out with a love of fashion and no money, the DIY approach has always been natural.  Not the London punk aggression of Sid Vicious but the friendly Daniel Johnston ‘Hi, How Are You’ greeting of Kurt Cobain. For Koo, Cobain represents the optimism that you can make something beautiful out of nothing and the possibility that punk can be upbeat and playful.

 

Yuki Matsuda – “The California of Christian Hosoi ”

Sun soaked sartorialism from the Chinatown ear interrupted by the young-at-heart cult of 1980’s California casual. Softly textured and impeccably selected seersucker awning-stripe in washed-out pacific blue and white treated to the unexpected compliment of a white with deep blue varsity tee popping between the lapels where a vibrant novelty necktie might have been. Sea straw, faded horn, natural silver and turquoise washed up against the easy coastal pallet. Besides looking fantastic, what does it mean to Matsuda?  Yuki moved to California from Osaka Japan when he was 18 to help identify youth oriented labels for a Japanese export company. A passionate man with a singular style perspective, he’s recently resolved not to let things in his world get too old or stuffy. He recalls; “When was younger and I first saw the Japanese-American skateboarder Christian Hosoi I thought he was the coolest guy I’d ever seen – a guy all about freedom…”. Based in California, Matsuda’s footwear and clothing label, Yuketen celebrates a modern fusion of Native American craft and a Japanese design ethos. “The native American approach is sort of like mine.  -Very simple, almost bare-handed craft using no specialized tools or machines”. You’d expect Yuki’s style to reflect the things that are meaningful to him.  A deep respect for simple craft, the famously laid-back culture of his adopted California and his naturally irrepressible spirit. And as it happens, what you see is what you get.