Sunday, February 28, 2010

5 Thangs for March

Hey Everyone!

Happy almost Spring!  As this is posted, I am enjoying a bit of r&r with my hubbie, John Esty in Parrot Cay.  I hope to be able to immerse myself in yoga and meditation once again, after a long fashion-frenzy induced absence. You can only obsess about clothes for so long before you need to shed them (and hopefully some winter poundage as well!)…so here are some of my favorite thangs for March. I only have five this time (I usually like to highlight ten) but I promise to keep adding as the mood strikes.

See you in March!

Love, JB

1. The Modern Terrarium
I have always been a fan of the terrarium (believe it or not!) and have fond memories of many a 70's "contemporary" home having one.  Happily, today, a very groovy guy has updated the 70's standby with his uber updated and chic terrarium.  Jeff Schnieder has re-envisioned the terrarium and has created quite a niche for himself here in NYC among upscale designers and Zen urbanites.  For those of us with a black thumb, this is a perfect king of greenery to have at home, office or store.  Makes a very inspired gift!

2. The Return of the 90’s Supermodel
This past Fashion Week (which showed the Fall 2010 collections) saw the triumphant return of many 90’s supermodels. Francisco Costa of Calvin Klein used a number of the 90’s famous faces for his show, such as Kirsty Hume, Kristen McMenamy and Stella Tennant. Yours truly (moi) also used some of the famous faces from the 90’s like Jenny Shimizu and the super babe of Sports Illustrated bathing suit fame, Shirley Mallman. Using these more seasoned women, as opposed to the 17-year-old waif added a more believable and more accessible edge to the collections. Women need to be able to see themselves in these clothes and presenting them on both the young and the not-so-young is a wonderful addition to the catwalk cul-de-sac.

3. Gay Themed Plays
There is an exciting new trend on and off Broadway. A number of gay-themed plays are up and running and even Elton John and his husband David Furnish are producing a play called “Next Fall”, which will make its Broadway premiere at the Helen Hayes Theater. It is exciting to me, as a gay man, to see plays that speak to my experience but bridge the cultural gap so that everyone can relate to the stories at hand. Running now are two plays that I have yet to see but are on my wish list, namely “The Temperamentals”, a play documenting the early gay political group, the Mattachine Society and “Yank!” a musical about the bittersweet love affair of two men serving in WW2. I must admit that I way behind on theater, but I am excited to see these productions.

4. Matching Shirt-and-Tie Combos
I love a match set and was an early customer of customer of Garanimals when I was a kid. For Spring I am featuring matching shirt and tie combos that make wearing a tie (or a bow tie) exciting again. Below are some of my faves. The windowpane oxford cloth button down shirt ($185 retail) and the matching skinny tie ($65) is a very cool update to the whole Americana mood that has permeated menswear this year. This look is perfect alone or paired with a navy blazer and a pair of beaten up khakis.

5. The Man Clutch
Ok, I am not one who is into borrowing from the women’s accessories but two of my favorite customers were recently photographed carrying the banker’s envelope that we produced as part of our RGJB (Rogue’s Gallery for John Bartlett) line. Along with a great line of t-shirts and thermals, we collectively introduced the banker’s envelope and sold out in a flash. Some came in black leather, some in black/white buffalo checks and some screen-printed with a grizzly bear. We will be making more of these for our upcoming RGJB Spring delivery now that the trend is established. I promise to keep you “post-it”!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

To Haiti with Love

Now available at the John Bartlett Retail Store located at
143 Seventh Avenue South at Charles Street in NYC.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

God Is In The Details

Howdy Everyone!

So fashion week is upon us here in NYC and I am happy that my own show is behind me!  As usual I am a bit post-show pooped, but thrilled with the experience and what I was able to convey in just a few minutes  (shows these days last about 7 minutes or so…).  The show took place during the biggest snowstorm of the year (wouldn’t you know) in a gorgeous warehouse space in Tribeca.  It was an amazing night and the snow added to the mood of the collection, which had an outdoorsy, wintry theme.

I entitled this entry “God is in the Details” because I wanted to highlight the details of my collection and how these ideas and design features often go unnoticed when a show is in full flight.  Designing a collection is an incredible challenge. Not only do you have to figure out what fabrics you are going to use and in what colors and patterns, but you also have to decide on what details are going to make or break a garment, and how these small ideas are going to add up in the long run.  I opened my show with a gorgeous sweeping double-breasted coat cut to the calf.  The model was actually over 6’3” and was the perfect guy to sport the look.  I finished the back of the coat with a few pleats to gather at the waist and a back belt. With such volume (4 yards of fabric altogether), this coat needed to have some expression at the waist in order to balance the longer coat length.

This is going to be my most expensive piece in the collection (by far) but one of the favorites of the editors and buyers who braved the elements to attend the show.

Also, when designing I tend to be drawn to the play of textures and how fabrics will work together.  For my first girl’s look (I re-introduced women’s after a ten year absence!),  I wanted to make a chocolate brown statement but in varying shades and textures.  The effect is one of my fav’s!  I love the plaid on tweed on tartan on a redhead feeling.

While many are familiar with my design aesthetic for men (i.e.: Butch/Masculine/Rugged and “total guy”),  I wanted to establish a strong identity for the JB woman right out of the gate.  For me, nothing is sexier than a woman in men’s clothing.  She can exude the confidence and power that is historically associated with men while feeling every bit a woman.  I love this next image of a tweed shrunken vest, paired with a plaid tartan shirt, a beaten up old belt and an elbow length driving glove.  Sexy huh?  To me, it is the details that make this outfit ultra-femme, although all of the components are borrowed from the guy in her life.

I love working in leather and this season has been a big one for black leather, in particular.  Black leather connotes a harder edge, which is why I also offered a softer loden green that reminded me of traditional lederhosen and other “Sound Of Music-y” references.  For years I have designed and sold leather jeans, but I wanted to do something a bit more military in feel.  I added button-up belt loops to these leather “chinos” and paired it with a groovy striped merino turtleneck, perfect for an apr├Ęs ski alpine moment.

And speaking of alpine influence, I had the wonderful opportunity to work with the historic shoe and boot company Frye.  Besides their incredibly iconic boots that are a hipster mainstay, they also produce super sexy hiking boots, which went perfectly with my khaki cropped jodhpurs.  You can also see the subtle seaming of the pant leg that helps contour the shape of the pant and accentuate the calf, which is one of most guy’s sexiest features (at least to me).

From the images, it may appear that the collection is quite neutral in palette.  But hits of color go a long way, and I wanted to introduce accents of imperial purple and electric blue.  Cashmere takes color exceptionally well and so I did this wonderful tri-color v-neck in Scottish cashmere (the back is another color altogether!)  I love how the astrakhan grey band at the waist joins the grey check of the pant to the purple body of the sweater.

And while most “hard pieces” (what peeps in the industry call tailored jackets and coats) are made up in charcoals and browns, I also wanted to inject color by way of the accessories.  For example, I accessorized a dark grey check tailored blazer with an electric blue “Sam Brown” belt.  Normally these belts, that cross the shoulder, come only in black and are traditionally part of a military or police uniform.  But here in electric blue leather, I think the whole outfit goes to another level altogether.  I love how the blue leather plays against the purple shirt and tie combo and how all of these hues work nicely with the grey check in the jacket.

I wanted to point out these smaller details, as they are critical to the ultimate customer’s decision making when buying a garment.  Fashion shows are wonderful (albeit expensive) opportunities for a designer to showcase his or her vision.  But rarely are the tiny details that go into making a garment seen while an Amazon model is strutting past you on the catwalk.  God is indeed in the details and “she” creates those little extras that the wearer will treasure for years to come (one hopes at least)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Jersey Shore!!!

Wow, I feel like I have arrived!!!

AOL Style List compares designers to characters from the Jersey Shore.

Monday, February 1, 2010

10 Thangs for February

1.  Vampire Weekend’s second album “Contra
I am such an old granny when it comes to music.  My music tastes haven’t changed much since 1985, but every now and then I will invest in a new artist sight unseen (or unheard) after reading about their critical aplomb (and in this case, their Ivy League pedigree).  And like a bottle of wine, which I sometimes buy just for the design of the label, I loved the name “Vampire Weekend” and the album’s cover of a young preppy girl in a polo shirt with the collar upturned.  Happily, I have been listening to Vampire Weekend all week and am digging the indie-carribbean-self produced sounds of a new generation.  Move over Bananarama!

2.  Butch Bakery
I love cupcakes and swear by Billy’s Cupcakes in Chelsea.  But, a new player has thrown his proverbial hat into the cutesy ring of cupcake-dom.  David Arrick, a former Wall-Streeter, has founded “Butch Bakery” and has created an offering of super dude cupcakes that have totally captured my sweet tooth.  Decorated in patterns such as camouflage, houndstooth and wood-grain, these cakes are not your typical guy themed dessert (i.e. a putter’s green or a football field).  Check them out for your man’s next big day.

3.  Women In Love by D.H. Lawrence
When working on a collection I always seek a visual cue or period to frame my mood.  Women In Love, both the 1920 novel and Ken Russell’s 1968 film, explores modern day themes like gender roles, sexuality, and free love.  I just re-read Women In Love after absorbing the film (for the tenth time) earlier this month and did some research on D.H. Lawrence and found his history and his politics intriguing. He was indeed gay and, for his time, he dealt with sexuality in a way that was controversial and even condemned as obscene.  By today’s standards the book would be considered “quaint,” but the feminist issues and the definitions of love as defined by each character’s needs is universal and very of the moment.

4.  Ping Wu from Project Runway
The new season of Project Runway is off to a great start and one contestant has strangely captured my attention.  Chinese born, Ping Wu, is more of a fabric sculptor than a designer and creates idiosyncratic items by draping fabric on her own body.  She definitely did not have the technical expertise in pattern making and construction that her other co-contestants have, but what she brought to the show was a distinctly Asian, distinctly left brain, and interpretive way of working with fabric to express oneself.  Her pieces were typically a mess and the one that lost her a place on the show was described as a “statue of liberty” disaster and was indeed totally unwearable.  Still, I liked her chutzpah and her wacko personality.  As compared to some of last season’s peeps, her heavy-handed design sense and Martha Graham approach to interpretive draping was really charming.

5.  C.F.D.A Fashion Incubator
The Council Of Fashion Designers Of America is an incredible group that has, for many years, supported the design industry as well as raised money for such causes as AIDS, breast cancer and most recently, Haiti.  Their latest innovation is the Fashion  Incubator," a program that has given 12 lucky emerging designers a workspace in the garment center for two years at a very reasonable price as well as two years of mentoring and industry support.  In an industry that is as cutthroat as fashion, it is wonderful to see new talent being supported with a workspace in the garment center.  Some of the designers who won berths on this maiden voyage are Prabal Gurung, Sophie Theallet, and Bibhu Mohapatra. 

6.  Thimister
After a decade away from the fashion industry a strong voice has re-entered the fray, Josephus Thimister.  Josephus is a renegade designer with a brutalist aesthetic and a romantic heart.  He showed his return collection during the spring couture shows in Paris as he is a member of the Chambre Syndicale, a major honor in French fashion.  However, instead of showing Spring, he showed Fall 2010 and presented a very raw, elegant, and striking collection based on the first world war and Russia’s falling Aristocracy.

7.  American Fashion-Menswear by Robert Bryan
In conjunction with the C.F.D.A. (Council Of Fashion Designers Of America), Robert Bryan, a highly respected menswear editor and fashion historian, has written the best overview of American menswear ever published.  The book covers everything from Levi Strauss to the Ivy League look and yours truly has two wonderful images in it!  This edition is the third book published by Assouline with the C.F.D.A. The first two books were about women’s fashion and accessories.

8.  Parrot Cay Resort
For my hubbie John Esty’s 50th birthday, I am taking him to this incredible resort in Turks and Caicos, Parrot Cay. This is a private island and houses a holistic spa, super healthy cuisine and private villas with their own pools…

9.  Food Fights
For my hubbie John Esty’s 50th birthday, I also wanted to help him realize one of his fantasies – and, no, it is not what you might be thinking.  He has always wanted to have a food fight. So a good friend offered her apartment up which was to be painted the next day as the scene of the food fight.  After dinner, we blindfolded John, who was expecting a cake, and we proceeded to smash three pies into his face. Thus began a wonderful 30 minutes of full on food fighting…

P.S.  I just watched Drew Barrymore’s film, Whip It, which has a brilliant food fight in it, too! I am feeling a trend coming on …

10.  Frye boots
For Fall 2010 I am channeling my inner 70’s child by using Frye boots and lots of their other great items for my show.  I have always loved their iconic boot and its seventies, almost awkward, dorky shape. Even the colors are super seventies, which makes these iconic boots a great foundation for my show.  Earthy, free-thinking models in earthy post-hippie boots spells heaven in my book..