Sometimes an image is so good that it renders any text obsolete. Snoopy in the legendary Gucci Tennis from the book to coincide with 1984’s Japanese Snoopy in Fashion exhibition is a perfect case study. Idea Books Instagrammed it this morning and made my day. Even better than Donald Duck in Timbs. Speaking of wheat workboots, a couple of good promo print projects arrived in the post this week — Oi Polloi’s always excellent Pica~Post is back with some extra metal, an interview with Patagonia Alpine Outerwear Christian Regester and Mr. Gary Aspden (it’s heartening to see the low-key looks of the SPEZIAL Ardwick become an object of desire in a world where the same old Technicolor yawns get eBay bids) who really, really went on the campaign trail for his labour of love after years of not doing too many Q&As — Next’s role in casual culture, a picture of Gary with a spaniel and a Preston b-boy crew called Mystic Force makes this amazing. The increasingly prolific David Hellqvist (aka. the Baron) has done a good job with the Document project on the Timberland topic — there’s fashion talk in there, design talk and a really good conversation between my friends Nick Schonberger and Ronnie Fieg on the topic of the brand and its connection to NYC that I loved (sample quote: “Chris Webber used to buy 15 pairs of Timberland at a time”). That’s the kind of insight I want to read when we’re talking about brands that I’m smitten with.
For those who work in it, fashion is very, very important — all eating disorders, catty emails, crying interns and 60 pages of ads before the content page. I would normally sneer at that kind of thing, but it maintains a certain seriousness in the face of triviality on a grand scale that I respect. As far as I’m concerned, it’s no less ludicrous than the way approach religion, but these houses of the holy contain more mystery. I’m also fascinated by it because I’m often in the no-man’s land of the non-fashion sporty or easy-to-wear side of things, which makes me an outsider. That means I have to imagine what goes on in the inner sanctums of the big houses. Being in the ASOS building frequently and dabbling in some Dazed & Confused writing I can’t help but become increasingly curious.
Until recently I never knew that there were degrees in fashion journalism. I assumed you did your work experience and withstood the withering glances and snide remarks until somebody paid you a tenner for 2,000 words one day. Incorrect. I’m just glad there’s a media-based degree that makes job hunting even more fiendish than my communications one did. But while the press release pasters get no respect, you’ve got to hand it to anybody who can bring something so visual and tactile to life in their prose — personally, I’d rather watch a documentary on the topic, but for those that do it well, there’s the Fashion Monitor Journalism Awards, with the main long and short lead journalism awards sponsored by Wave Gang favourite, True Religion. Isn’t that like Bernard Matthews sponsoring the Slimmer of the Year award?
While nothing touches the Men Without Hats meets Kanye power of Rusty’s outfit from the boutique scene in National Lampoon’s European Vacation, as far as real-world fashion documentaries go, YouTube is awash with uploads of them. Of course, those that stumble across this post in a few month’s time because I used a misleading keyword will find a load of pointless links to removed videos, but that’s just the way fashion goes, isn’t it? It’s fleeting like that. L’amour fou about Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Berge is there and well worth watching to see their homes and possessions, Valentino: the Last Emperor has the greatest pugs on a private jet scene ever and Wim Wenders’ Notebook On Cities and Clothes about Yohji Yamamoto is an excellent way to spend 77 minutes (click captions for subtitles) if you want to understand Yohji’s philosophies and how far ahead of everything he was in 1989 (remember when having a tiny television was the most aspirational thing ever?).
James Franco’s The Director — a documentary about House of Gucci creative director Frida Giannini — is an interesting prospect. Indiewire just upped the trailer. There’s a lot of interesting stories in Gucci’s history (Maurizio Gucci being killed by a hitman hired by his wife Patrizia “I would rather weep in a Rolls-Royce than be happy on a bicycle” Reggiani would be a great documentary topic too), but Franco shifting from starring in a film with a Gucci Mane cameo to creating an exploration of what makes a Gucci lynchpin tick is an intriguing move too. Hopefully this one will join the ranks of the best studies of the big houses which, thankfully, don’t do the whole transparency too-much-information thing that’s expected of all businesses right now. Without mystique, my interest in this whole realm would be slaughtered on the spot.
With Christmas fast approaching, it’s time to reflect on those less fortunate than ourselves. As a result, I’m reflecting on the tragic younger form of me in 1985 and in 1994, when I requested amazing things I never got. On the back of a TV showing of ‘First Blood’ and the release of ‘Rambo: First Blood Part II’ everybody wanted a Rambo-style knife and sewing kit for mending yourself post self-surgery in the wild while on the run for knocking a policeman out a helicopter with a well-aimed rock. When novelty stores started cashing in by selling badly made weapons with a compass at the end of the handle and an enclosed wire that was meant to cut down trees, but everybody knew was for garroting enemies, everyone suddenly decided they needed one and we got on that camo hype early. I was denied one, but my brother was allowed a “survival knife” which he subsequently ruined while away at camp while throwing it at a tree to show off (or so he claims – maybe he killed a man and had to dispose of the weapon). Not only did it not stick in the tree, but the self igniting matches are alleged to have somehow lit themselves in the process and melted the handle. And that was that.
I wanted a pager because rappers always had them, name checked them and made them seem important. The fact I only needed to get hold of about two people who were glued to their Super NES anyway was irrelevant and after coming close to getting hold of a Motorola numerical pager that would involve elaborate number codes and some premium price to contact me, the plan was dropped. Looking at ads like the ones above, you can’s blame me for willing Santa to gift me the goods though, can you? The brilliantly-named Knifeco also made the more expensive and even more terrifying Survivor model that was like a grown-up version of the Survival Knife Kit. In 2012, the “Answering machine for your pocket” is totally redundant and I’d be arrested and face a custodial sentence if I marched around with Knifeco’s handiwork in a sheath (though I want this official version). There’s still part of me that wants to receive both of them on the 25th of December, just for some closure, but it’s safe to say that the ads are better than the actual items. They don’t do ads like this any more. What can I link this talk of bowie hunting knives to?
Putting together the Christmas list, there’s plenty that’s due to drop after the big day. If we fast forward over a year, Mike Tyson’s autobiography has a publication date of the 22nd of May, 2014, but to tide us over, ‘The Undisputed Truth’ by Mike Tyson and Paul Sloman (presumably based on the Broadway show) is released on the 16th of July 2013 and yes, there’s an audio book of it too. Hopefully there’ll be an audio book of the autobiography too. I’m also saddened to see that the ‘David Bowie Is’ book doesn’t come out until a couple of weeks before the exhibition of over 300 items picked from Bowie’s art, outfits and objects that the book ties in with starts at the V&A museum (sponsored by Gucci). Seeing as the majority of men’s fashion editors appear to have just noticed that mid 1970s David Bowie looks awesome, despite the rest of the world knowing this several years prior, this exhibit and book should give them more to copy a little too late, thus defeating the object of Bowie’s masterful re appropriation and ability to stay ahead of the curve.
Image taken from this Flickr account.
Mr. Matt Collett upped a link to a Flickr collection of Nike archive visit images from a few years ago via Facebook and it opened up a whole can of nerdery for me. We’ve all seen the Mag, the Batman boots made from Air Trainer SCs and the Batman Jordans created specially for films, but even on a trip to those fabled vaults recently I didn’t spot the ‘Jurassic Park’ raptor shoes (and I’m not talking newcomer slang for a particular pair of VIIs) there. In Donald Katz’s ‘Just Do It’ it mentions these models as an inspiration on the Air Carnivore because they were supposedly loosely related to, “…a shoe that Tinker Hatfield had worked on for the people running around inside some of the animal costumes in Jurassic Park (Tinker called those shoes Air Dinos and had since encouraged an “Animalistic” design motif).”
Oliver Hutton’s Flickr account is excellent and worth checking out, but is this image of an object credited to the Hulk, the mysterious “Air Dino”? Was it created for motion capture of raptor actors (inadvertent double rhyme) in the original ‘Jurassic Park’? I know there’s a few Beaverton-based boffins who can help me out here and the gift of weirdo knowledge would be gratefully received this Christmas.
If I had to single out one moment that sent me down the curious route of amassing sportswear with a certain intensity, it was a moment in the late 1980s where I stared in amazement at a kid walking out of a parked Rolls Royce with a man in full baller Saudi Sheik attire and two presumed bodyguards into onetime stronghold of premium sportswear, Lillywhites and stacking up at least fourteen Fila tracksuits with a £170 youth size RRP for each set. At the time, it may well have been the single most powerful display of wealth I’d ever witnessed. Fila was powerful. I don’t recall seeing anyone wear Fila in my hometown (though terrace culture revisionism seems to have several people claiming to have owned pieces) during the early 1980s, but it was a brand spoken of in reverence. It even had a car, in the shape of the Ford Fila Thunderbird from 1984 (not as premium as the MCM Jeep, but pretty impressive nonetheless, with the ‘F’ displayed as a badge at the rear and those classic colours.
Those bootleg tees with the rainbow fade that incorporated a cluster of illegally boosted logos always had the Fila logo next to BOSS and Valentino – this was something that seemed to be a tier above the Nikes and PUMAs; something completely unattainable. Fila, Sergio Tacchini, Cerruiti, and Valentino made sweatshirts and tracksuits for rich James Spader-esque jerks to play tennis in or wear to the alps because they were too damned rich to bother with cheaper workout wear – Fila was as close to a high-end brand as I ever saw sportswear get, just as the likes of Gucci were dumbing out in 1984 with athletic offerings for the wealthy. Bjorn and Boris were the right guys to be repping it, but less legal co-signs elevated it.
Appropriately, Fila became some top-tier hustler gear, but while ne’er-do-wells have endorsed some crap over the years just because it was expensive, Fila’s designs were strong (the T1 is untouchable). The DOC got his break in the Fila Fresh Crew before the NWA affiliations, Bed Stuy based Jaz O and Prince Markie Dee affiliate Fresh Gordon of the Choice MCs was a Fila fan who dropped ‘My Filas’ as a Run-DMC diss that popped shots at the shelltoe and stole their branding for his album cover, while Lo Lifers Fi-Lo and Ant-Lo wore Fila rarities religiously. The ads at the time brag about the price, with some Stella Artois ‘Reassuringly Expensive’ elements to the campaign, but press reports of kids being maimed and killed for T1s meant that some stores pledged not to restock. I doubt it was detrimental to the brand. The Fitness was another superior shoe too.
By 1990, colourful suede and nubuck F-13s and leather Trailblazers soared at pricetags we could nearly afford, and after a few months of wear in my Johnny-come-lately town, around May 1991, they were done and we were Jumpman preoccupied once again, hunting for the apparel to match the shoes. During that pinrolled denim and corduroy period, there were some Fila oddities on the market, like convertible aerobic looking silhouettes, and the Mindbender, Larry Johnson endorsed FX-100 and 1993 Cage basketball shoe were all interesting. Grant Hill gave the brand a spot of extra longevity, but they just seemed to fade away. Terrible ads for a White Line vintage range with Danny Dyer and Tamer Hassan — patron saints of mockney mediocrity with a voiceover — in the adverts, oddly timed Wu hookups, more Borg retro work with blokes trying to pretend they were “casuals” once upon a time and the South Korean takeover in 2007 seemed to dead the brand’s premium aspirations entirely.
Looking at the JD Sports and Sports Direct positioning of the brand, licensing has rendered it as a budget offering. That’s not without success —the F13 and £14 Foggia Hi in lurid colours are a popular shoe round my way among the younger generation, which is more than a lot of more well-known shoes have managed in market penetration, but it’s a long, long way from the brand’s late 1970s and 1980s industry clout. Brands like Ellesse (though that Wood Wood project did a good job of channeling the brand’s older essence) have been killed by mistreatment and careless licensing, but I still think Fila have a legacy that can be salvaged at some point. On my visit to NYC this week I was a little disappointed at the lack of shoe variety on display — nothing but retro Jordans and the rare, refreshing glimpse of LeBron Lows and Nomos. I reckon if I’d clocked a pair of T1 Mids on some feet during the heatwave days, I would have lost my mind. I’m sure from a profit angle, Fila’s doing fine, but I’m sad to see the aspirational ambience stripped away to end up on the bargain bucket list — fallen luxury at its finest. Fila was not meant to be the people’s brand — that was for the Golas and Hi-Tecs. Fila needs to get snobby again.
‘Brooklyn Bound’ magazine looks like a pretty interesting project. Focusing on the borough that dwellers swear is the centre of the universe, itself part of a city that residents adore, it seems to be a celebration of everything Brooklyn with former ‘Vibe’ and ‘XXL’ man Benjamin Meadows-Ingram as editor (who I believe, hails from Memphis) and Jeff Staple as creative director, plus Sophia Chang on art direction, the subject matter could yield strong results. Everyone seems to be hopping onto print at the moment, but a central regional concept might give this a point-of-difference from every other attempt to make the paper thing work.