Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Eman B Fendi, 33rd St, New York

Monday, September 28, 2015

Urban Fieldnotes X Indochino X Elegant Men's Style

A few weeks back, while out scavenging the streets of Philadelphia for some street style shots, I passed the new Center City showroom of Indochino, the online custom-suit company, who is busily bringing the concept of personal tailoring to the mass menswear market. I don't normally let my eyes linger too long on window displays when I'm shooting. It just makes me want stuff. I can't afford to want stuff. But this time, for whatever reason, I let my eyes be caught. "I would love to have a suit that actually fits me right," I thought to myself. As a street style photographer, walking the streets of a city with a long history of menswear, I have seen plenty of examples of what a well-fitted suit can do for a guy. It is past time for me to upgrade my own style and look like the tenured anthropology professor that I am. Perhaps, it occurred to me, Indochino and I might be able to work something out. So I contacted the PR team at Indochino to see if they wanted to do a collaboration. To my great surprise, they did. They are currently doing a campaign with bloggers in 5 cities entitled #YourCityYourSuitYourStyle and thought I would be a good fit. Readers will know, this isn't my first brand collaboration. I have approached collaborations with the same wide-eyed curiosity that I have approached all aspects of the street style game. In other words, collaborations with brands are a great opportunity for research. I had never, however, contacted a brand before. It had always been the other way around. I gotta say, I found the experience kind of empowering. I can see how bloggers start easing their way into making a career out of this.

A week later, I had a fitting set up for Indochino's local showroom on Chestnut Street. Since I am a street style blogger, not a personal style one, I needed to find someone else to shoot, and the first person to pop into my head was menswear blogger and "style influencer" Akief Sheriff, who I have worked with in the past. He knows his suits, and I could use his expertise in picking out my own. This post is about our experiences getting suits made for us at Indochino. It is also about the suit Akief had made for him, and 3 separate ways he chose to style it.

So here's how this works. Once you have decided to order a suit from Indochino, you've got two choices: either measure yourself and buy the suit online, or set up an appointment at a showroom and work with a real human being. Currently, they have showrooms in New York, Boston, LA, San Francisco, Vancouver, Toronto, and, of course, Philadelphia. Since I don't trust myself with a tape measure and still am something of a neophyte to the cult of menswear, I set up an appointment at their showroom. I could use all the help I could get. Akief came down at the same time, so I could document him going through the process.

We began by looking through material samples from the fall line, all knotted and draped over a rack near the front of the shop. Akief, who works as a sales representative in menswear at Saks Fifth Avenue—when he is not working on his own menswear line, or taking pictures of himself looking dapper—inspected the materials with all the artful seriousness of a sommelier sampling fine wines. My own inspection, when it came time for that, was more like a series of clumsy swoops. This looks cool! Yeah, this too. I had no idea what I was doing. But I came in with the idea in my head that I wanted a classic navy suit, and I found myself leaning towards subtler materials—flannels, wool-blends, herringbone, and pinweave patterns. Akief, on the other hand, is not a subtle guy. Being a personal style blogger sort of rules that out as a possibility. He spent the bulk of his time with the plaids and windowpanes.
Once you've chosen a material, the next step in the process is to go through a checklist of options with a sales rep. Single or double-breasted? Peaked or notched lapel? How wide? How notched? What kind of lining would you like on the inside? Do you prefer real or fake pockets? Functional or decorative buttons on the sleeve? To a seasoned menswear aficionado, like say, Akief, these questions all have easy, obvious answers. But to a novice like myself, they instill no small sense of dread and anxiety. I am an educator. I like to do well on tests. I had no way of telling if was acing this one. My sales rep simply nodded and smiled reassuringly at each of my choices. When I seemed entirely at a loss, she might make a suggestion. But the choices remained decisively my own. Akief, as it turns out, was too lost in his own choose-your-own-adventure suit shopping spree to spend his time coaching me.

The next step is to get weighed, poked, prodded, and subjected to some 17 different measurements, all in order to ensure a proper fit. It is a thorough process, and it felt sort of like going to the doctor's office, only without any clear prognosis. The sales reps may have very well have been secretly diagnosing our taste-levels, but they had the good sense and common decency not to do so out loud. It is a weird thing to stand and be inspected before a three-way mirror. But I imagine for regulars, it just becomes one of those rituals of casual intimacy, like a haircut or a manicure, where you find yourself relaxing into the competent touch of a professional stranger.  
Then, the waiting game begins. There's nothing to do but obsessively check your order status and wonder if you made the right decision about your suit and its optional features. Am I really so sure I wanted slit pockets? Is a monogram with my blog's URL on it the dorkiest thing ever (for the record, yes, it is. I did it anyway). Three weeks later we were called back for a second fitting. Pins were inserted. Alterations were made. And then... more waiting, while the suit was sent to the tailor's. This ain't buying a suit off a rack, you know. You want it done right, you gotta wait. And the'll have to wait to see the results. My suit is flannel and warm. It fits me like a second skin. I'm going to need to wait until it's properly Autumn to wear it. But I have to say, I do kinda love it. It's a new look for me, but it's one I could get used to. For now, let's talk about Akief's suit.

"Philadelphia," says Akief, "is a major influence on my style." "It's got all kinds of different people." It's got edge. It's got grit. Akief chooses to face that grit with the steady resolve up a suited up warrior. His suit is his armor—his shiny, flashy, "hey look at me!" armor. When he walks down the sewage-saturated alleyways of Philadelphia in his suits, he alters their very semiosis. What was once borderline disgusting is now epic.

 Akief chose a double-breasted indigo windowpane suit with four-inch peaked lapels, two-inch cuffs on the pants, and all sorts of subtle personalizations, like red stitching on the left lapel's button-hole. "A lot of guys," explained Akief,"are afraid to wear a windowpane suit." It's a bold look. On the dressed-down streets of Philadelphia, you notice it from a distance. Akief, however, is not one of those guys. "It's a statement suit," he says. "But it's a business suit as well." "I love to bring out the windowpane on a Friday," he told me. It's as if windowpanes are building up inside him all week, suffocating beneath more sedate hues of navy and gray. By Friday, the windowpane can be held back no more. For this first look, Akief chose to pair his suit with some cat toe shoes by To Boot New York. Akief loves To Boot New York. He wore a different pair of their shoes on our last shoot.

Akief is also wearing "this amazing baby blue shirt by Indochino," (Indochino calls it a premium "ice blue" shirt—I ordered one too) a pair of black RayBan Wayfarer sunglasses (classic—at least for those of us who grew up in the '80s), and his signature rose-gold Burberry watch. Akief is hardly ever seen without that watch. But then if you're gonna invest the money in a piece like that, you better wear it. He offset the suit and shirt with a blue plaid pocket square and a "brown tie to bring out the flavor."
"The next look," said Akief, "is about leaving work, feeling comfortable on a Friday afternoon, and meeting up with your boys." Did I mention, by the way, that we did this whole shoot on a Friday afternoon? Dressing for Friday night, he explained, doesn't require a major change in styling, or even, you may notice, a change of shirt. "[Just] take off your tie, open your shirt, and change your shoes." Instead of cat toes, he has opted for some comfortable loafers, without socks. Taking your socks off makes every look more casual. This, by the way, is nearly as casual as Akief gets. 

Again, Akief offset this look with a plaid pocket square and gold watch. Notice also the suspenders instead of a belt. Both Akief and I opted for suspender buttons on the inside waste band of our suit pants. The suspenders look sharp on him. I may have to invest in some myself.
Akief's final look is for the weekend. The week is over. The tie hangs in the closet. The socks remain in the drawer. Most people , said Akief, just pull out a T-shirt and pair of sweats on the weekend. Once again, Akief is not most people. "I'm a fashion guy," he told me, "so I can't do that." Instead, Akief has kept on his Indochino, double-breasted jacket. He's pushed up the sleeves, but he's keepin' it classy. This time he's paired the jacket with a striped T-shirt and an ice-blue pocket square. He has swapped his slacks for jeans, and his serious pose for a smile. "The ladies are always asking me why I am always so serious in my posts," he told me. "You've got to give the ladies what they want." Ok ladies, here it is. 
So what do you think? Inspired? To order a custom suit of your own, follow this link to the Indochino website, or, if you're located in Philadelphia, you can stop by their showroom at 1606 Chestnut Street.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Fun with Taxis outside HBA

I gotta tell ya, I was a little annoyed when I found out the Hood By Air show would be happening in the plaza of a hotel on 7th Avenue, right across from Penn Station. That's a lot of foot traffic. In fact, it's a lot of traffic period. And there aren't a lot of places to set up a shot. So we photographers did the obvious thing: we set up our shots in the middle of traffic. There's no place like the middle of the street for capturing street style, especially when you have awesome-looking dudes like this, bedecked in cutting-edge streetwear. 33rd St and 7th Ave, strangely enough, became my favorite shooting location of NYFW.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Ashley Owens, outside Creatures of Comfort

Monday, September 21, 2015

New York Street Style: Luanna Perez-Garreaud

Friday, September 18, 2015

New York Street Style: Jenny Walton, outside J. Crew

I enjoy Fashion Week the most when I get a chance to stop my subjects, interact with them, and properly compose my shots. With the areas designated for photographers growing exponentially smaller this season, and a general sense of hostility towards them by the event organizers, that wasn't easy to accomplish. And so, those briefs moments, as few and far between as they were, became even more precious. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

NYFW Day 7: Outside J. Crew

So long, New York Fashion Week! I can't say I'll miss you. You are shallow and often ridiculous and your security staff are assholes (I don't hold them accountable as human beings — I know they are paid to be that). But you did yield me this shot. And for that I am grateful. So many of the people who attend NYFW are so busy flattening themselves into a brand image, it's easy to overlook those (and there are some )with a genuine sense of style and grace. Cheers to them. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

NYFW Day 5: Csaba (Chaby) Hubert, outside Jeremy Scott

The trick for me for surviving the frenetic sidewalks of New York Fashion Week is slowing down, taking fewer pictures of fewer people passing by, and concentrating my attention instead on interacting in a more meaningful way with a select few. This is not fashionable these days. Most of the photographers out there have taken their cue from Adam Katz Sinding, Nabile Quenum, and the scores of other black-clad cool kids who run (quite literally) up and down the sides of the roads to get their shots. If you ask them, they'll say they have to run. Otherwise they'll miss everything. But this is not at all obvious to this observer. Tommy Ton doesn't run. He hangs back with his giant zoom lens, snaps when he sees something interesting. Nam doesn't run. He sits on the curb waiting, rangefinder cupped in his palms, like a seasoned street photographer of days past. Phil Oh doesn't run. He just sort of slowly meanders through the crowd. And Scott Schuman, The Sartorialist, sure as hell doesn't run. He just ain't that desperate for a shot. He's taken to cruising Manhattan, Bill Cunningham style, on a vintage, army green bike, hanging outside a show for a while, then moving on. The runners, no matter what they tell you, like to run. They like approaching photography as a competitive sport. They like the adrenaline rush. They like the kind of shots it produces: jagged angles, dismembered body parts strewn across the frame. 

Most of the time, it's all in good fun. Yesterday, however, outside the Jeremy Scott show at Skylight at Moynihan Station, one of the Korean street style photographers took a serious spill chasing Susie Bubble. When the crowd cleared, I saw him curled up against the curb, unable to move, his knee apparently broken. Photographers moved immediately to help him. It was, in fact, rather heartwarming, like we were suddenly all part of a team, instead of a bunch of individual competitors. He soon had an icepack, his leg propped. I called 9-1-1 and talked to an almost completely unhelpful dispatcher who couldn't seem to figure out where Skylight at Moynihan Station was. "You know, across from Penn Station in the big old post office. 33rd and 8th." "Foynihan Station?" asked the dispatcher. This was not a good sign. With a congested 33rd Street to contend with, the crowd of photographers decided to lift him up and carry him to an Uber, rather than wait for an ambulance to push its way through the crowd. It shook me up for a while, as it did for some of the other photographers. But it also increased my respect for the people out there. As Tyler Joe, photographer and editor for Elle and Marie Claire told me the other day, this is a group that hangs out together in NYC, London, Milan, and Paris for two months out of the year. "We are a big happy family," he said, at least for those months. It doesn't always feel that way, with all the frantic running and crouching, dashing across intersections to get in front of a style star. But when a man goes down — which happens far less often than you might think — people will come immediately to his aid. Fashion Week may be a circus, but that doesn't mean it's chaos. Circuses after all, need a lot of cooperation to pull off. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

NYFW Day 4: Hirakish, after Hood By Air

I had a much better time at Fashion Week yesterday. I don't know if it was me or it. Most likely me. I stopped trying to make Fashion Week into something it isn't. Instead, I embraced it for the big dumb spectacle it is, zigzagging across Manhattan on the subway for Public School, Derek Lam, HBA, and Thakoon, taking rapid-fire shots of street style stars (Anna Della Russo, Irene Kim, Shea Marie) as they scuffled between shows, dodging traffic on 7th Ave to get shots of kids with tattooed faces doing tricks on skateboards. Of course it helped that the shows were ones with an aesthetic that more matches my own. I dig the gender-fluid hip hop brashness of Hood By Air, the streetwear sleek of Public School. And the people who attend these shows (some of them at least) are more like the people I might shoot on the streets of Philly. They still have some edge. They still have some grit. They still feel like they're on the margins of the industry, even if it's a margin manufactured for marketing purposes. I need a dose of the street in my street style, yellow cabs included. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

NYFW SS 2016 Day 1: Gilda Ambrosio, Houston St

I have never found New York Fashion Week quite so depressing as I did yesterday. Perhaps it was the rain, that unsteady drizzle that occasionally gave way to actual downpours and continually threatened to derail the street style show on the sidewalks. Perhaps it was those ever-growing hordes of photographers, taking shelter under awnings, bridges, and gifted Y-3 raincoats. Perhaps it was the neon vest-clad security, ushering away poseurs and documenters alike from the parking lot ramps, intersections, and other semi-interesting backdrops that we sought out amidst the chaos and construction.  Or perhaps it was that odor of desperation that seems to cling more and more forcefully to the bloggers, "influencers," and other would-be fashion insiders that descend on fashion week like mosquitos on a picnic each season. Whatever magic NYFW once held for me, I didn't feel it yesterday.

But that's ok. I wasn't alone. The other photographers were largely in a foul mood too. Editors refused to stop. Models fled the scene as quickly as they could. I felt deeply cynical about fashion week, and had all sorts of half-baked social theories to employ to justify the feeling. Most of them begin with the descriptor "neoliberal." But it's not as if there is an easy culprit to blame for the exhausting spectacle fashion week has become. No one, after all, is more cynical about fashion week than the people employed in the fashion industry. They are tired of being sized-up by street style photographers, tired of having to fight their way into shows, tired of running madly across town from one show to the next.  

Nonetheless, the efforts to rid fashion week of its circus-like qualities, at least for me, have made fashion week even more depressing this season. The last five years of shows at Lincoln Center had generated its own merry band of misfits who hung out in the courtyard waiting to be noticed. They wore outlandish outfits, they courted photographers, they did what they could to catch the attention of the industry. With the change of venue to Skylight Moynihan Station and Skylight Clarkson Square (along with dozens of other off-site venues) there is officially nowhere for the fashion wannabes to hang out. Call it fashion week's new zoning policy. Like a city enacting ordinances to keep the homeless out of its town center, fashion week has pushed the misfits further to the margins. 

So that's enough self-pity for one post. There is still plenty of excitement to go around at fashion week, and I am going back out on Sunday, determined to experience it. In the meantime, enjoy this shot of Gilda Ambrosio from Grazia Magazine, one of my favorite shots from yesterday.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

New York Street Style: Stüssy T-Shirt and Awesome Hair

This is my last post before I head to New York Fashion Week bright and early tomorrow morning. I have that familiar mixture of anticipation and loathing I always get just before it begins. And I'm curious to see how the venue change and new ownership of IMG (by WME) affects things. I'll let you know. Stay tuned for lots of imagery and commentary.  

Monday, September 7, 2015

New York Street Style: Jillian Mercado, Washington St

Jillian Mercado (AKA Jilly Peppa) has to be one of my favorite street style stars of the moment. The fashion blogger turned model is doing more than anyone to change the public face of muscular dystrophy. In my mind at least, that's what street style is all about: expanding the boundaries of fashion, depicting people who aren't typically represented in fashion magazines, and drawing the industry's eyes into new directions. And that's exactly what Jillian is doing. After last year's Diesel campaign and her recent signing with IMG Models, she is poised to blow up in a big way, and open the door to other people with disabilities to do the same. I'm looking forward to seeing her pop up all over the place.

Friday, September 4, 2015

New York Street Style: Denim Jumpsuit, Washington St

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

New York Street Style: Saira, Canal St