Is Your Mail Carrier
The Next Fashion Icon?

UspsEveryone knows that The U.S. Postal Service is under pressure. Since it's the only government agency that is required to be self supporting, it has to find new sources of revenue as Americans migrate to paperless communication. Would you have guessed the solution to its financial woes would be a fashion line?

Well, we wouldn't have either, but it's happening. The Postal Service is joing forces with the Cleveland, Ohio based apparel company Wahconah Group, Inc. to produce and market a menswear line called “Rain Heat & Snow", named after the famous motto, "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."

The line is planned to go beyond basic sportswear items to include all-weather 'smart apparel' meant to work technologically with various electronic devices and accessories. It's an ambitious target, to be sure, especially since, hardworking and valiant though they may be, letter carriers have never exactly been noted for their fashion inspiration. Look for the new “Rain Heat & Snow" label to appear sometime in 2014, and maybe next year, your mail carrier will get a more stylish look as a bonus.

U.S. Postal Service to Introduce New Product Line (U.S.P.S.)
U.S. Postal Service to Launch Clothing Line, Open Garment District Showroom (The Cut)


Man Of Many Lines, Thom Browne Goes Grey For A Capsule Collection

Thom-greyCult designer Thom Browne continues to realign his signature brand by reaching out to a younger customer with a capsule collection set to launch this fall called Thom Grey. A play on his own name, the new line is meant to offer a more casual, relaxed take on Browne's classic point of view at a somewhat lower (but still decidedly upscale) price point.

Since receiving new Japan-based backing in the past few years, observers have noticed a new emphasis on lower prices and casual items like khakis and cotton knits in the main Thom Browne label that have pushed the brand into more casual retail doors like Barneys Co-op and Odin. Even the designer's tailored items have come down a bit in price with noticeably different production quality. The new Thom Grey label, if it is a success, should ultimately delineate his offerings into a luxury collection and a sporty, casual line pitched at different markets.

Still, it won't be cheap. Outerwear will run from $795 to $1,100, jackets from $725 to $1,000, trousers for $325 to $550, knits from $450 to $600 and his signature cotton oxford shirts will start at $195.

Brown is no stranger to juggling multiple labels. Aside from his own men's and women's collections, he continues to design Brooks Brothers' Black Fleece line for men and women as well as Moncler's Gamme Bleu premium collection

Look for the new brand later this month exclusively at Barneys New York which will carry it for one year, as well as select retailers in major cities around the world which will have a similar arrangement.

Thom Browne to Launch Capsule Line (WWD)


John Bartlett's Latest
Puts The Focus On Farm Animals

JB+FS-22-1There may be few designers as dedicated to their personal causes as our friend John Bartlett. His Tiny Tim Rescue Fund has been saving animals from high-kill shelters for a few years now, and this Monday, the designer turns his attention to the farm. Bartlett's latest line will turn over 10% of its proceeds to Farm Sanctuary, a nonprofit organization dedicated to work on behalf of abused and neglected farm animals. Each of the tees features a Bartlett-style silhouette of a cow, chicken or pig, the three most recognizable farm animals in our country, and a subtle reminder sleeve of how many of them are killed each year (9 billion chickens? Perhaps that's another reason to stay away from Chik-Fil-A —but that's a whole other discussion right there).

Of course, there is no better way to sell these tees than to get them on a handsome model, and the bucolic, new campaign has been shot at Farm Sanctuary’s 175-acre shelter in Watkins Glen, NY. If you are feeling an agrarian mood, click below for a slideshow of some of the images. The tees for men and women will retail for $40 each, and will be available on Monday August 6th at

John Bartlett (Official Site)
Farm Sanctuary (Official Site)
John Bartlett's Spring Tiny Tim Collection Is Here—Muscles Not Included

  • JB+FS-15
  • BartlettFarm-1
  • BartlettFarm-2
  • BartlettFarm-3


Barneys Brings Back BASCO,
Its Own Blast from The Past

BascoOldWhile the current management team at Barneys New York has shown a distinct lack of sentimentality in revamping the store for the future, they are looking to one of the company's great past successes as they revive the BASCO sportswear label this fall. Barney's All-American Sportswear Company, as it was originally known, was started as a private label for the store in 1978. The brand proved successful enough within a few seasons to be spun off into its own company, run by founding family scion Gene Pressman and designed by Lance Karesh. Based on classic sportswear styles from the mid-century (think khakis, checked shirts and leather flight jackets), the men's and women's sportswear label could eventually be found in over 500 stores during the 1980s and early 90s. Despite its association with the exclusive, luxury store, BASCO was actually created to be a casual affordable brand, selling in the $40 to $200 range, with few items over $500. Barneys ultimately wound up as one of the brand's smaller retail accounts with its future competitors like Bloomingdale's, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus carrying it in abundance.

Though it had been separated from its parent company, BASCO coincidentally fizzled around the same time as the Pressman family lost control over its legacy through a series of lawsuits with their Japanese partners and bankruptcy. We don't know yet what the new Barneys' plans are for the revived label, but the collection will reportedly be a men's line, initially. We will all get to see if the retailer can recapture the excitement of its early heyday when the new version hits the store (and, presumably, Co-op locations) later this month. In the meantime, have a look at one of the original BASCO logos (above, right) versus a new one below.

Barneys New York Relaunching Basco Brand (WWD)
BASCO: Updating the Classics (NYTimes Archives May 27, 1986)


Helmut Lang Launches A Second Collection Next Month

There's original cutting edge Helmut Lang, the current, contemporary department Helmut Lang version 2.0, and starting in May, there will be HELMUT by Helmut Lang (pictured above). That popular yet redundant labeling format can only mean one thing, and that is a new secondary collection from the Link Theory owned label. The Cut has a slideshow of some key pieces to be included in the label's inaugural collection, and it looks like the label's most popular items and signature looks will be repurposed as classic basics. That's not Helmut Lang classics so much as Michael and Nicole Colovos for Helmut Lang classics which means lots of lightweight, draped jersey with uneven hems rather than shocking pink laser cut latex sheaths. (Sorry, the name Helmut Lang still makes The Shophound think of all those razor sharp tailored suits, sleek camel coats and unexpected clashing materials from the late 1990s. Flowy draped jersey was not on the menu then.)

In fact, it turns out that Helmut Lang 2.0 seems to have been far more profitable than the original press darling, High Fashion version. When Link Theory relaunched the line without its namesake, it stayed fairly low-key until the brand was rebuilt as contemporary label, and then a few seasons ago, it re-joined the Fashion Week runway race. Now that a secondary collection is on the way, one wonders if the Colovoses (Colovi?) may push the main collection back up towards the pricier designer category. Time will tell. In the meantime, HELMUT will debut in the brand's own stores next month, and then, presumably, in department stores everywhere shortly afterward.

First Looks: Helmut Lang’s New Diffusion Line By Charlotte Cowles (NYMag)


CARR Launches A Posthumous Label For Fall 2012

CarrJohnAquinoWWDIs it possible to launch a label for a designer who has been dead for over a decade?
George Carr and Edward Jones III are about to find out when they debut the CARR label this fall. The brand is named for designer Zack Carr, who briefly had his own label in the 1980s but was best known as Calvin Klein's longtime Creative Director. He also happened to be George Carr's brother and died from a rare blood cancer in 2000. Well known and liked by fashion insiders, Zack Carr never achieved the kind of immense fame that could help promote a new label, but the new brand's founders are betting on the quality of vast archives of sketches that the designer left to creatively fuel the new collections. Jones tells WWD, “I think there’s an authenticity of design coming from Zack that is the foundation, which is really important, but we don’t have to live on that.” Carr's naturally clean-lined style should lend itself to a timeless point of view, and a design staff will adapt the thousands of sketches for modern modern sensibilities. And major retailers are already on board with the effort, too. Bloomingdale's and and Saks Fifth Avenue will be exclusively carrying the women's and men's collections respectively through Fall 2013.

Priced solidly in the Designer price range, there may also be a secret customer in wait for the launch: former, faithful Calvin Klein Collection customers who haven't been as charmed as the press has by Francisco Costa's take on the label since its namesake stepped away about a decade ago (The Collection component of the brand has diminished commercially since Klein retired). Who would have guessed that their solution would come from beyond?

George Carr Launching New Brand for Fall By Marc Karimzadeh (WWD)


Our Picks From (capsule)

WolverineXFilson-FW2012Click all images for a larger view in a new window

 The Capsule Men's Trade Show is over in New York, but with its move to a larger venue, it took us a few days to process the barrage of stuff we saw. There were definitely some growing pains for the new location including a sprawling setup and truly awful lighting in certain sections that had The Shophound and man other showgoers seeing spots. One of the reason we have featured a lot of shoes in this post is because, A. We love shoes, and B. they were often easier to see than pushing through poorly lit racks of garments. There were lots of familiar booths like Naked and Famous whose innovative jeans we still love, Wolverine 1000 Mile who has new collaboration with Filson (pictured above) and with Samantha Pleet for women's shoes and Tanner Goods, whose artisan leathergoods are all over the place these days, but here are the things that stood out and caught what by they time we finished were pretty crossed eyes.

Yuketen-FW2012This Japanese designed and North American made shoe brand is a major destination for most Capsule visitors. It has hugely influenced the trend of brightly decorated and patterned men's shoes. This season, we saw fewer hand-sewn styles from them, and more structured models including an expansion of dress styles. Of course, for Yuketen, that means wingtip boots in at least three different materials mixed together.. Many of these more structured styles were made in Mexico to mitigate costs, but they still don't come cheap We loved the new, lower lacing monkey boot styles at right as well as the brogued ankle boots. As usual, they shared their booth with the Japanese line MONITALY, which offered lots of the remixed classic they are loved for and a slippery rug made of woolen camouflage material which represented one of most popular patterns throughout the show.

OvadiaAndSons-FW2012This pair of Brooklyn twins made big splash last season with their expertly tailored handmade suitings, and this time around they appear to have expanded their line with more sportswear and casual looks. They are unabashedly luxury minded, and avowed fans of Ralph Lauren, but they may want to tread lightly on ground that America's favorite designer has covered exhaustively (The mannequin display at left looked particularly Madison Avenue Mansion-y). Though they are still finding a more individual point of view, it's hard to resist their incredibly well-executed collection, which may turn out to give Ralph a run for his money at the high end.

DuckieBrown-Florsheim-FW2012In case you were wondering if the folks at Duckie Brown had any crazy ideas left for Florsheim's classic dress shoes, we present the longwing brogue covered in multicolored caviar beads. In less elaborate designs, they offered the same shape in brightly colored suede with ring lacing on the ubiquitous white Vibram wedge sole. Get on board, guys, the days of plain old dirty bucks are over forever.

Ovadia's and Duckie's booths were placed in an area that clustered them with hot, young, attention-getting labels like Riviera Club, Billy Reid, Garbstore, Burkman Bros. and our favorite new designer IAN VELARDI who apologized for the fact that most of his Italian-made collection was stuck in U.S. Customs and probably wouldn't make it out before the two-day show ended. Velardi's debut collection has been selling well exclusively at Barneys and Park & Bond, and for Fall, he is sure to add more retailers. He was at the top of our list of designers we were excited to see at Capsule, so we fully plan to take him up on his offer to show us the collection when he gets it to the showroom. Expect a follow up post soon. In the meantime, you might still be able to pick up some great pieces on sale at Barneys and Park & Bond —we did!

MarkMcnairy-FW2012Because the New York trade shows overlapped with Pitti and the Milan runway shows, some booths looked a little thin, but this is the first time that we have found men's shoe deity Mark McNairy's booth without shoes! A slightly spacy rep told us that, aside form some basic, in-stock styles, the new shoe samples were with the designer in Italy, which didn't help us or anyone else at the show. It's certainly not his fault that he and his samples can only be in one place at a time, but perhaps the shows should be scheduled a little more carefully next season. At any rate, his expanded clothing line was there, including your definitive camouflage business suit, and a denim motorcycle jacket with crisp yellow zipper detail.

Eastland-FW2012While everyone else has been trying to find how many disparate materials they could pile on a shoe, the folks at Eastland have been doing very nicely by offering subtle tweaks to the classic, impeccably made hand-sewn styles in their premium Made in Maine collection. The newest styles had a new leather and rubber lug sole that gave a dressier edge to more casual styles in premium Horween leathers. Eastland also brought its 1955 Edition line which offers more fashion colors and details at a gentler price, like these classic boots in offbeat colors and that omnipresent white Vibram sole.

UniformWares-FW2012Most of the watch vendors at both Capsule and Project were showing off how elaborate and generally bulky their new styles were, so it was totally refreshing to stumble over (literally, they were in the middle of the walkway) Uniform Wares' sleek, streamlined and thankfully scaled down watches. We hesitate to classify them as "minimalist" because they are full of clever details like bands that fasten cleanly to the back of the watch, but they are a welcome change from the current rage for dinner plate-sized watches.

VanishingElephantRose-FW2012Of course, plaid will never go away, but it took a back seat to camouflage this season. By next fall, you may be looking for something different, and you may find VANISHING ELEPHANT's oxford shirt dotted with tiny rosebuds. While nobody thinks of florals as especially butch, somehow this shirt looks remarkably masculine for something decorated with, well, tiny rosebuds.

GrensonCapToe-FW2012The popular British shoemaker also had a booth that looked a little thin, and we suspected that a lot of their samples were also still in Europe, but we couldn't help loving new versions of the label's signature classic balmoral shoe and derby boot in black with a shiny silver patent leather cap toe. For a moment, we thought of early 1990's club-kid boots decorated with metal panels put through an ingenious filter of taste and refinement. Maybe we just love them because they are shiny, and isn't that reason enough?


Our Picks From Project NY

NIckWoosterXOrlebarBrownClick all images for a larger view in a new window

It's Men's Trade Show week in New York again. While the European designers have been sending their Fall 2012 collections down the runways of Milan, American retailers have been checking out the goods at the popular Project and Capsule trade shows. Today, The Shophound hit Project, which turned up some more exciting surprises than we usually find there. We had always found it to be the more mainstream of the two, but probably due to participation of men's style guru and general internet fashion icon, Nick Wooster who now acts as the show's creative adviser, and probably has a lot to do with a lot of the smaller more exclusive designers who have been added to the roster. His collaboration with luxury swimwear brand Orlebar Brown is pictured above, and marks the first time we know of that Wooster has leveraged his internet fame as a brand name. We're pretty sure it won't be the last.

GHURKA-FW2012Our first stop was a visit to the folks at Ghurka, where the much loved brand is undergoing an invigoration thanks to a new owner and a new creative director, Steven La Guardia. We visited the new store in midtown last week, and we continue to be impressed by how the new team is bringing the accessory brand back to its roots while moving it into the future. Familiar, classic styles in new fabrics and colors looked refreshed, while newer groups of softer, lighter weight bags pointed to a younger look to attract new customers.

DickiesFW2012In the past year, the "Heritage" movement of reviving much-loved but dormant or simply off-track American companies has reached a fever pitch, but our favorite remains the Dickies 1922 collection which we discovered at its debut a year ago. A new denim western shirt with simple ring-topped snaps looks like a modern minimalist take on a classic, but Dickie's charming rep Ann Richardson explained that it was replicated exactly from their archives in Texas as she walked us through a beautifully photographed lookbook shot by friends of the company in their longtime headquarters. The disarming combination of pride the product and a deceptively canny curatorial sense continues to make Dickies one of our favorite booths to visit at Project.

AdidasSLVR-FW2012There is obviously a lot of outerwear at these shows, and tons of down, but out favorite pieces were this jacket and vest from Adidas SLVR, the athletic shoe giant's line for people who care nothing about athletics. The bronze, mottled nylon fabric tailored with a slight military touch looked like nothing that anyone else had to offer, and worth waiting until the Fall to pick up. As for sneakers, another thing that there's no shortage of at these show, out eye spotted an olive green high-top with metallic detail that conflated sneakers with just a touch of hiking boot and a dash of disco. Bravo!

ToddSnyder-SS2012The J.Crew alum who made a big splash at retail this past fall with his debut collection moved over from project with an impressively expanded collection that now includes an extensive collaboration with Southwick for tailored suits and dress shirts and London's Tricker's for shoes. The Shophound fell in love with this camel-colored shearling version of a military jacket that begs for a blizzard. Happily, Snyder's collection has gotten more tailored and sophisticated, gaining some more welcome distance from the look of his previous employer.

BlackSweater-FW2012In the small but focused category, documentary filmaker and Band-Aid scion Jamie Johnson brought his collection of tailored clothing, shirts and sweaters to the show for the first time this season. While a pharmceutical heir working on his second career might raise an eyebrow, selling the line at Bergdorf Goodman and Ron Herman gives him some real credibility, and we were impressed with the classic shapes and military details Johnson combines in his meticulously tailored line. The Black Sweater namesake is based on a story of a socialite who would send a black sweater to someone as a signal that they had been ostracized and should steer clear of the country club. Johnson's sweaters are the only ones we have seen that are actually made in the U.S., and he remains committed to prioritizing quality and construction over rapid expansion. We look forward to seeing more.

RhettBonnett-FW2012We can't tell you who is selling Rhett Bonnett's collection because he doesn't know yet, but we can guess which stores will be competing to launch his tightly edited collection of sportswear made in New York exclusively of innovative Japanes fabrics. We loved a crisp navy jacket with a drawstring waist, and a pair of gray tweed pants that looked like scratchy wool but turned out to be cotton as soft as a pair of pajamas. We are expecting big things from him in the future.

HerschelSupplyCo-FW2012We couldn't miss this relatively new brand's smart set of desert camouflage printed luggage, a surefire winner in a season where camouflage prints flirt with overexposure, but we almost walked right by the bright group of rugby striped backpacks, totes and duffels, a design idea so simple that we can't believe we hadn't seen it executed this well before. They proved that the simplest concepts invariably make the most appealing products.



Reed Krakoff's Lavish Launch


Not since Tom Ford has anyone been able to kick off a new label with the kind of resources Reed Krakoff has been able to garner this year. The soon-to-be-former Coach creative director is jumping off with a major splash, launching an accessory and ready-to-wear collection including shoes, jewelry, sunglasses and even watches in not just the Madison Avenue boutique that opened yesterday, but also another in Tokyo plus one about to open in Las Vegas, and wholesaling to just a handful of prestigious, influential retailers like Colette, and 10 Corso Como. Of course, the big bankroll here comes from Coach. Krakoff made his reputation by transforming the brand from a sleepy, preppy leathergoods brand to a contemporary accessory powerhouse, and now, they are returning the favor by backing him in the luxury line that, finally, fully reflects his sensibilities. Does the world need another expensive handbag maker? We probably don't need as many as we have already, but Krakoff has paid his dues and has decided that now is the time to cash in his chips with Coach.

And what sensibilities they are. The former Miu Miu store has been gutted and reconfigured as a high ceilinged setting for the new brand's debut. The new shop is dotted with showpiece furniture, but the focus is on the goods with the handbags at the forefront. Leather-lined and luxurious they are meticulously detailed and often feature Krakoff's Art Deco-inspired logo integrated into the design which, surprisingly, is subtle enough to pass as a design element rather than blatant status-mongering. The other surprise is that the bags appear to be made in China, not the norm for this particular stretch of Madison Avenue, with Prada, Ralph Lauren, Dior and Lanvin, just to name a few, all nearby. And most retail for under $1,500 —no small change, but just the opening price point for the luxury market these days. Country of origin issues aside, the quality of the leathergoods is excellent for the prices.

As for the clothes (made in the U.S. and Italy), they fall firmly in the designer price range, and reflect the sort of rich utilitarian style seen at Chloé and Céline right now. They are interesting and occasionally tricky, but the main event here are the bags and shoes.

Krakoff liked to oxymoronically refer to the made-over Coach as "accessible luxury", but he never quite managed to convince real high-end customers that even a deluxe Coach collection was for them. Now his challenge is proving to those same customers that a luxury brand materializing out of nowhere named for a designer they probably haven't heard of is worthy of their investment. This shop should go a long way to translating Krakoff's credibility in the industry to shoppers likely to be less familiar with the name.

Reed Krakoff 831 Madison Avenue between 69th & 70th Streets, Upper East Side

Mike Albo Goes Shopping:
Renaming Neighborhoods Edition

05critic1500In today's Thursday Styles, Critical Shopper Mike Albo errs on the side of snark, and it suits him well. He seems to have his pretension meter set on high, and while there is a real aesthetic appreciation of newly opened Aloha Rag's cutting edge hipster style, the low value/price ratio leaves him pretty cold. In this case, the often documented limitations of Mike's means actually work in his favor, giving him credibility.

Offerings by the label Golden Goose made me guffaw: a purple hooded sweatshirt with an artfully torn collar was $310, and a pair of white elastic-waist sweat pants went for $290. For sweat pants. Very ghetto fabulous, but until I’m in Mariah’s entourage, I’ll just wear my Champions while I slob around my apartment and spill red wine on my lap.

When this sort opinion came from Mike's predecessor, the much missed Alex Kuczynski, (remember shopping with Alex? Good times.) we would guffaw, as such penny pinching from a Botoxed Birkin bag carrying denizen of Park Avenue seemed disingenuous at best. We can totally believe, however, that Mike slobs around in Champion sweatpants.
His best moment comes as he renames Honolulu transplant Aloha Rag's newly luxe, western SoHo neighborhood:

Real estate developers are trying to call the neighborhood Hudson Square, but I think SHNOT (South of Houston, North of TriBeCa) is so much better.

It's catchy. Let's hope it sticks.
Critical Shopper: Aloha Rag - Obscure Labels of a Boldface Kind (NYTimes)
Aloha Rag 505 Greenwich Street at Spring Street, SHNOT
Previously: Aloha Rag Settles Away From The SoHo Crowds