A handful of centimetres can have a lot of power in the business of shoes. Recognising a market for well-designed, well-made men’s ‘heels’, Jennen Ngiau-Keng’s began his company Taller Shoes in 2007 and now offers a range of over one hundred elevated men’s shoes. The company stocks a range, from black formalwear shoes to boating loafers, each of which add between five and thirteen centimetres to the wearer’s height with a reinforced insole.
‘The system is what it is and fashion can’t change that. Are you going to change the world with fashion? I don’t think so. Fashion is just a reflection of society at large. We live in a culture where poor people can dress up in nice things for cheap, and where rich people want to know that they’re the only ones to have what they have. That’s not new. Some people have yachts in the Caribbean; others have a shack to sleep in if they’re lucky. My point is that we need everything – ultimately it’s about balance.’
Adrian Joffe in the first part of a long narrative interview conducted by Anja Aronowsky Cronberg for Vestoj ‘On Failure.’
In a business where designers often become figureheads for large corporations, to be rolled out when a perfume or handbag needs promoting, Christophe Lemaire is an unusually outspoken exception to the rule.
Hussein Chalayan became known as a ‘conceptual designer’ in the 1990s and it’s been bugging him ever since. Rather than getting attention for his more extraordinary designs (there have been dresses made of giant plastic bubbles, a table turning into a skirt, LED lights and lasers incorporated into garments as well as black chadors either covering or exposing the naked bodies of his models), he would like the focus to be on his wearable clothes, the stuff that people actually buy.
In 2009 FIDM Museum in Los Angeles, exhibited Betsy Bloomingdale’s vast collection of haute couture, donated to the museum over some forty years. The wardrobe, amassed between 1961 and 1996, includes pieces from Marc Bohan for Dior, Oscar De La Renta, Hubert de Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent and André Courrèges, among others. For Vestoj’s inaugural issue, On Material Memories, the collector is interviewed by Kevin Jones, Curator and Christina Johnson, Collections Manager at the museum.
Dries Van Noten speaks with care and reserve, like someone well aware of his privileged position in the fashion industry. In Dries’ case this is a standing that has been deftly and meticulously carved over the years, a feat which, in the eyes of many, makes it even more well deserved. Today he is one of the few remaining independent designers, an accomplishment that makes his brand somewhat of an anomaly in the contemporary fashion industry. Nevertheless, Dries, as the designer himself coyly intimates, has to start thinking about his future. Could it be that another of the enduring bastions of fashion sovereignty is about to end up in the hands of a business conglomerate?
‘Idealistically power should lie in the origins of creativity. A true and clear vision is ultimately a source of power. Realistically however, we’re dealing with a much more complicated organism. Fashion has its own ecology, built on a hierarchy of psychological and cultural relationships, with a bit of internal politics thrown in for good measure.’
Mary Ping from Slow And Steady Wins the Race on power politics in fashion.
‘I wear blue most days; I keep falling back into this colour. I must be a blue kind of person, though not necessarily in the melancholic sense. My eyeballs are blue and they fry out in the sun, because of their lightness.’
Surfer Ryder Jones talks to Shana Chandra about the blue-lensed sunglasses he wears daily.
The clothes we wear and the items we carry represent us so fully, they can speak of who we are even in our absence. As such they become talismans of our presence, helping to calibrate our selves with our environment.
As well as a harbour for stories and memories; dress has a protective force, guarding us as we present ourselves to the world each day. There is comfort in this, the act of dressing each day connects us with the social world.
Spending time with Nigel Cabourn is a little like being carried along by a minor tornado. He talks a mile a minute, makes friends with just about everybody, and is, by his own admission, ‘like the fucking Pied Piper’.
The items we possess and clothes we wear have unspoken power in our lives; in function, but as anchors to our stories, memories and identities.