Thursday, June 24, 2010

SideWalk CatWalk

The "Sidewalk/Catwalk" project was just unveiled today on Broadway in the fashion district. The mannequins are designed by various American designers and will be outside on display through the summer. 

To check out the John Bartlett Mannequin, it is located on Broadway between 40th and 39th Street.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

At Home with John Bartlett - Vevant

by Lauren David Peden
Designer John Bartlett has been putting his signature spin on menswear since launching his eponymous collection in 1992.  The Cincinnati native – who studied menswear design at FIT after receiving a sociology degree from Harvard (you know how you do) – subsequently went on to win two CFDA awards, was named Creative Director of Byblos and Liz Claiborne’s men’s collection, and took a year-long sabbatical in 2002 to study Ashtangha yoga and Buddhism in Thailand and Cambodia (you know how you do) before relaunching his namesake line a year later, and introducing womenswear for fall 2010.
Three years ago, he opened a store in the West Village, just around the corner from the duplex apartment he shares with his partner, John Esty, and their three dogs, Huff (a Bernese Mountain Dog), Millie (Jack Russell/Chihuaha/Cujo) and Tiny Tim, the three-legged mutt – “I think he’s a Rottweiler/Shepherd/Pit Bull mix, but everybody has a different opinion” – who serves as the official John Bartlett logo (that’s Tim’s handsome visage on JB’s store window, shopping bags and t-shirts).
Vevant recently stopped by the duo’s chic lair, and the always-charming designer took a break from working on his spring 2011 collection, preparing his mannequin for Seventh Avenue’s upcoming Sidewalk Catwalk project and getting ready to accept the American Image Awards’ Designer of the Year prize, to give us a tour.
When John [Esty] and I moved in here, he and I had both been through very rustic, Adirondack, Stickley – for me, Joseph Beuys-ian –periods, but when we moved, our aesthetic became a little bit more colorful and eclectic.  And it’s definitely a combination of weird, early seventies Regency with a lot of handmade artisan details.
After living and working in Italy and traveling around the world for so many years, my goal when I turned 40, was I wanted to make my world smaller, not bigger.  So I wanted to live in the West Village.  I wanted to work in the West Village.  I wanted to have a store in the West Village.  And John Esty’s framing shop is right next door, and this place became available through his landlord.  So he actually designed the whole space; it was a raw space. John recommended that they raise the ceilings, he created the wall dividers. They gave him free rein. He did work here every day; it was probably a six-month project. And once the architectural plans were finished, he designed my store, too. So he’s a man of many talents.
This chair [gestures to a green leather chair on a white circular base] is from a company called Espasso in Tribeca, which represents Brazilian furniture designers.  I was able to go in and pick which acrylic material I wanted, and which leather color I wanted.  So I was able to really personalize the chair.  I love it. It’s on a swivel and it’s kind of a two-person chair or a human-and-a-dog chair. These shoes are ours.  We wear the same size shoe and we do share. The horns were a Christmas gift from John and came from one of my favorite home stores, Mantiques on West 22nd. The owner finds a lot of industrial, really heavy, unwieldy objects. I’m drawn to anything that’s pointy or you can hurt yourself.  Anything that you can, like, impale yourself on, I love. And we wanted to have more color so John designed these industrial rugs.  He got to really use color blocking, with the fuchsia, the brown, the orange. They’re great for the work space and they’re great for the dogs.
My work, to John’s dismay, has slowly found its way into the the dining room area.  This worktable used to be there [gestures to the adjoining room], and then one Thanksgiving we had a big dinner and we moved it here and it stayed.  It’s an incredible worktable. It’s a reproduction of a bricklayer’s table from a company out of Atlanta called BoBo. I like the rustic feel.
My style [as a designer] has evolved over the years, but it is always a personal reflection of where I am in my life. It’s very American.  It’s very sensual and sexual. It’s moved away from being for, like, the fashionista kids and is much more reality-based, great clothes for guys.  I get a lot of really cool, young families who live in the Village, and the wife is kind of pushing her husband to take a step forward. It’s a nice way to take a step forward without him feeling silly. And with the women’s collection, it’s pretty much the same idea.  A lot of it is made in America.  There’s a lot of tailoring, great cuts – something that you want to just throw on every day.  And my woman is very strong and very independent.
Right now I’m working on spring ’11; I’m in the early throes. Basically I go through and see every vendor, every mill, and then I start putting down all my [fabric and inspiration] boards. It’s always like creating a meal where you have all these ingredients but you don’t know what it’s going to be like until the last minute.  So I have an idea of what I want and then hopefully the pieces will start coming together. I always have loved camouflage and military’s always been a part of my inspiration, so I’ve developed a Tiny Tim camouflage, which is really cool [shows us a dog-print camo fabric]. Isn’t it sweet? I worked with a guy, Tom Cody, who’s got an amazing print studio, and he took my logo and color ways, and we played around.  It took a while to get the right dimensions.  I always circle around the same ideas.  I think it’s what most designers do.  One of my earliest shows was based on Hare Krishnas.  I love orange and pinks, obviously, and I really get very inspired by Eastern dress, and a lot of dress that people in different spiritual movements wear. So the whole Hare Krishna thing I love. And my guy, you know, he loves military details.  So I’m working on a combination of the two.  We’ll see where that goes.
John made that in, like, an hour [gestures to a geometric mirror]. I think it’s inspired by a designer he likes. It actually cracked a couple of places, but he just threw it together one day. I mean, I’m all thumbs. But he can make anything.
This is kind of our ceramics setting. The [owl] is a ceramic porcelain piece, made by an artist named Jon Rappleye. He worked with John Esty in his frame shop, and he’s become an incredible artist on his own.  He had gone out to Kohler – the porcelain/bathroom people – and they taught him how to work in porcelain.  So while he was there doing that, he created these very eerie images. And I love John Derian’s work, but I loved these plates especially because it’s all different types of men from different cultures. And my friends have a company called Carter & Cunningham and create really interesting mirrors.  They take antique, re-found mirrors, and develop really beautiful ceramic tiles that are inlaid into them.  So they create all these different thematic mirrors; this is one is more Moorish.
I was up late last night trying to find a vegan cooking school because I’m trying to move towards veganism, and I know I’m going to end up eating salads and vegan cookies. The vegan thing is new and I’m trying to figure that out.  What I’m finding that makes it even more important, is how the environment is so affected by factory farming and that the plot of land that it takes to feed one meat-eater could feed ten non-meat-eaters because it takes so much water and so much gas.  I mean, half the fuel and half the water that we use in our country is to fuel the farm factories – and the methane gas that these cows are burping into the environment [contributes to global warming]. It’s so fascinating how this is all connected – the environment’s affected, animals’ lives are affected, our health is effected – all these things. I had no idea.
John Esty designed the couches. The fabric is some kind of high-tech micro fabric that you can basically wipe down with Windex or whatever. We put this [inflatable air mattress] bed up about two months ago for a friend who was staying and I refuse to take it down, even though it kills the room, because the dogs are not allowed on the couches. So Tiny Tim and I lay on this when we watch TV.  John’s like, “That is going down.”  I’m, like, “Okay, then the dogs get to go on the couches.”  He’s like, “No.”  I’m like, “Okay, then it’s never going away.”  It’s unsightly, but I love it.
I’ve done two fashion shows here. Fashion shows are really crazy expensive and when I started doing shows again, I wanted something that was very personal.  I wanted to invite people into my space and make it very intimate. The reason I had to stop having them here was because the guest list kept growing, and I kept insulting people who wanted to come so it just became harder to do.  But I loved doing it here because the guys got dressed over at John’s [framing shop].  I love that kind of homegrown, grassroots approach – and especially in light of the economy, it made so much sense. So I loved doing them here.  It just felt like home.
I do a lot of work with North Shore Animal League; they’re an amazing place. We do adoption events with them three or four times a year; they come to the store with a big mobile unit. I’m good friends now with a lot of people there so we’ll talk beforehand and they’ll be like, “Okay, are there any requests?  Somebody looking for a certain type of dog?” And they’ll hand-pick the dogs and cats that they bring. More and more now, there are a lot of purebred dogs that have been rescued from the puppy mills, and there’s a lot of people who have a specific breed that they love. Like [men's fashion editor/consultant] Michael Macko got his gorgeous dachshund, Crystal [at a JB/North Shore event], so a lot of people are able to find a breed that they love there, rather than going to a pet store. When I turned 40, I wanted to get a dog so I went out there and that’s when I met Tiny Tim. And when I opened the store, we came up with this idea of doing the adoption events. It’s my favorite day in the store because you get to play with all these dogs and I get to see dogs – and cats – find homes. It’s a win-win.