Miansai’s “Hook” Bracelets

The accessory label Miansai offers some pretty phenomenal products (and not just because they make a 14K solid gold iphone case). Launched by designer Michael Saiger, Miansai developed a quick reputation for it’s signature nautical bracelets which embody an odd mix of the nostalgic and the timeless. Of course this depends somewhat on one’s  aesthetic, but with a plethora of colorways available to choose from, it is not hard to find the perfect piece.

Burgundy Leather with Rose Gold Hook

Navy Rope with Silver Hook

These bracelets are crafted from either custom military-grade rope or premium Italian leather straps. The most impressive aspect of this bracelet is the metal hook, which is pounded, formed, stamped, and polished by hand. Naturally this process leads to minor variations in size and contour, but that offers an added character and personality to each piece. All in all, It certainly beats scooping some plastic off of a conveyor belt.

Check out the video below which highlights the handiwork which goes into making the “Hook” bracelet.

  [vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/31774864 w=400&h=300]

(Literal) Case Study: Carrying Your Glasses

It makes no sense to buy a nice pair of sunglasses only to let them get scratched up. If you’re shelling out for your shades, you might as well get a handcrafted leather carrying case to keep them safe. Below are my top two you need to consider before making the jump. While they approach the case from two very different perspectives, they are both premium examples of true American craftsmanship.

1) Tanner Goods Sunglass Case

Tanner Goods – Sunglass Case Back Profile in Russet

Hailing from the Tanner Goods studio in Portland, Oregon studio, this case is cut, sewn, and finished completely by hand. Crafted from 4/5 oz. Horween Chromexcel leather, this case has enough cushion to keep your glasses safe while remaining malleable enough to conform to a variety of different frames. It is pictured in the gallery below in Natural, Russet, & Black but is also available in Olive, Havana, Tan, & Oxblood. Any of the seven different colorways are sure to develop striking contrasts in hue thanks to the tried and true 100+ year old tanning formula developed at Horween Tannery in Chicago.

2) Barrett Alley “Dom” Sunglass Case

Barrett Alley – Dom Case in Russet

The goods at Barrett Alley are all completely benchmade with an extreme attention to detail. This case uses one piece of domestically tanned leather, whether it’s shell cordovan from Illinois or straight bovine from Pennsylvania. Each case is lined with one of three antique textiles from America, France, and Japan – or is left well enough alone exposing the soft underside of the leather. As always it will develop character with use and abuse, just mind your glasses.

As always, scroll through the gallery for detailed images and different colorways:

Often Overlooked – León Ferrari

            Those who are familiar with artist León Ferrari tend to know him based on the injustices he has endured throughout his career – whether it be political censorship or simple the fact that he (along with many other Latin American artists) was long overlooked in favor of modernist painters from America and Europe. Yet the status of many South American artists in the art market has greatly improved throughout the last decade. Acting on the relatively recent praise of MOMA and The Tate, investors and art collectors are scrambling to acquire pieces from the now 92-year old artist’s portfolio before he is unable to produce any more work.

[Untitled] 1977; Ink on paper; 24″ x 16 1/4″

            But all art exploitation speculation aside, Ferrari’s work has become synonymous with social criticism and political protest. Yet while most are content to talk about conceptual backing in art, it seems few step back to simply appreciate the sensory qualities of the works at hand. Ferrari is an artist who requires both sorts of appreciation from his viewers. It is imperative to discuss and debate the meaning behind his work, but it is equally as important to enjoy his execution.

            Of all the aesthetic qualities throughout Ferrari’s portfolio, his relationship with line is particularly striking. There is a great diversity throughout his line-based drawings and prints. The pieces are all unified by approach, but differ in terms of character.

 For example, the violent and frenzied scratching in his “Escritura” 1976 starkly contrasts his untitled drawing of the same year (both pictured below). The latter piece evokes a sense of music, both in it’s overall resemblance to score sheets and the fluid, dance-like swaying of the line.

“Escritura” 1976; Ink on paper; 18 1/4″ x 13″

[Untitled] 1976; Ink on paper; 19 3/4″ x 113 1/2″

 Conversely, the following untitled piece from 1963 not only recalls both pictographic and hieroglyphic scripts, but also investigates a synthesis of the two.

[Untitled] 1963; Ink on paper; 18 3/4″ x 12 1/4″

   His scribbles on polystyrene evoke a Cy Twombly-esque energy, only to be revisited on the surface of a three-dimensional plexiglass cube in 1999.

[Untitled] (date unknown); Graphite on Polystyrene; 19 1/4″ x 13″

“Prism” 1999; Ink on Plexi; 23 5/8″ x 7 7/8″ x 7 7/8″

     Though it is merely a small facet of an overall artistic ability, the variety by which Ferrari employs line offers a sound insight into his approach. As his better known, politically-charged pieces demonstrate, there are always different perspectives on a given idea or issue; even those as mundane as line.

18 Waits – Yorke Shirt

18 Waits – Yorke L/S Lookbook Collar & Cuff

18 Waits is a young clothing and accessories brand emerging from the endless treasure trove in Toronto. Perhaps the most striking aspect about them is their overall attitude and approach to what they do. As they put it, they are inspired by a collective joie d’vivre and an appreciation for quality- traits which are both reflected by and perpetuated through their products. Not many labels are open to outside influence, but 18 Waits places a great emphasis on collaboration in inviting graphic artists, photographers, and even filmmakers to bring their unique angle to the brand’s creative drive.

18 Waits – Yorke L/S Collar Detail (white)

Among other pieces in their Spring/Summer 2012 line, the Yorke shirt is one of the best examples of what 18 Waits is about. Given their emphasis on quality goods, the lightweight cotton fabric used for the shirt is sourced from textile mills in Japan. For this shirt in particular, colorful threads of polyester are woven into the fabric to create sporadic, yet vibrant flecks of color throughout the garment. The subtle inclusion of color gives a bit of life to an otherwise standard button-up. The Yorke comes in three colorways (charcoal being a personal favorite) as well as in both short-sleeve and long-sleeve versions. They currently have stocklists throughout North America, China, & Japan so check them out if you’re close!

As always, click the link to their website above to learn a bit more about their process and feel free to scroll through the gallery for some high-resolution images of the Yorke.

Corter Leather – RFID Wallet

The one-man operation at Corter Leather out of Massachusetts is a great source for good old fashioned, honest innovation. Rooted in traditional processes, his leather goods will nonetheless dip into more progressive design work – all while maintaining a simple aesthetic.  Perhaps the most shining example of his ability to meld the old with the new lies in his RFID bifold wallet.

Corter Goods – RFID Profile

The wallet itself is an unassuming 7 pocket bi-fold crafted from 4 oz. natural vegetable tanned leather. Rather than using patterns and formulas, each piece is cut by memory. Obviously like the hand made goods of yesteryear, this results in small variations of character for each piece. Yet Corter does employ a modern touch to the wallet: an embedded RFIDstrip sandwiched between the two outer layers of leather.

Corter Goods – 7 Pockets & RFID Strip Detail (in notes compartment)

‘But what is an RFID strip’ – I can hear many of you asking. The latest trend in thievery relies on a device which scans your credit cards through your back pocket or bag. This somehow enables them to piggyback onto or take over your account. The stainless steel RFID fabric embedded in Corter’s wallet prevents this sort of nonsense, while remaining lightweight and flexible. It’s sad that these measures must be made to protect ourselves, but at least Corter has devised a non-invasive way of doing so.

Neon Without the Nausea

Judging by the recent popularity of neon colors in fashion, it’s obvious that people are in the mood for something bold. Unfortunately for our collective limbic systems, neon colors have been mined and exploited more ruthlessly than our natural resources. Luckily there are designers out there who practice a certain level of restraint when it comes to employing vibrant colors. In that spirit, here are six flourescent finds that won’t result in vertigo:

1) The Knottery – Lime Laces

The Knottery – Green Laces

Jack and Jay of The Knottery make it their mission to offer affordable accessories for men.   In addition to their neckwear and pocket squares, they offer a great selection of colored shoelaces to spice up your outfit without going overboard.

Laces on Brogues


2) Mads Nørgaard – “Klemens” Fisherman Zip

Mads Nørgaard – Klemens Zip Grey

Straight out of Copenhagen, fashion designer Mads Nørgaard adds a twinge of neon to the otherwise understated “Klemens” fisherman’s knit. There are similar colorful accents throughout his recent lines, but this juxtaposition between the orange zipper and the contrast knitting is particularly striking.

3) Comme des Garçons – Pink Trim Socks

Comme des Garçons - Pink Trim Socks

Comme des Garçons – Pink Trim Socks

Accessories offer great opportunities for neon accenting. Socks in particular are often overlooked – or simply not all that visible. These dress socks from Comme des Garçons have just enough color to not be overbearing.

4) Caran d’Ache – Fluorescent Ballpoint Pens

Caran D’Ache Ballpoints

Though they come in all the colors you could imagine, Caran d’Ache has released a special edition of four fluorescent colored ballpoint pens. While they write incredibly well, any one of them would add a volatile touch of color to your shirt or pants pocket as a design element.

5) Sperry – Two-Eye Boat Shoe with Blue Sole

Sperry Boat Shoe – Blue Soles

Another great update to an otherwise traditional piece, the Sperry boat shoe with blue sole adds an unexpected embellishment to an outfit. It’s enough color to stand on its own without demanding too much attention. It’s as understated as neon blue can get.

6) Toms – “Maseru” Sunglasses

Toms "Maseru" Aviators

Toms “Maseru” Aviators

These aviators from TOMS are super subtle. When worn, the hand-painted yellow accents would barely stick out from behind the ear, leaving the natural walnut temples to be appreciated in tandem with the neon rather than being overpowered by it.

Follow Up: Yasuaki Onishi at Rice Gallery

"Reverse of Volume" RG, 2012; Commission, Rice University Art Gallery, Houston, Texas; Photo: Nash Baker

“Reverse of Volume” RG, 2012; Commission, Rice University Art Gallery, Houston, Texas; Photo: Nash Baker

A while back, I wrote about Yasuaki Onishi‘s upcoming “Reverse of Volume” installation at Rice Gallery in Houston. Having attended the opening, I had the pleasure of speaking both with Onishi as well as the curator who were both thrilled at the final product. As with most installation work, this piece was a site specific work that took advantage of the high ceilings – thus offering the first opportunity for the viewer to step underneath the work to experience the piece from below. Suffice it to say that the show has generated a great deal of hype around town. Here are some images and a short video documenting the installation at Rice Gallery. Be sure to go and check it out in person before it comes down on the 24th of June.

Yasuaki Onishi: reverse of volume (RG) from Mark & Angela Walley on Vimeo.


Liliana Porter’s “Trabajo Forzado” Installation Series

            Instances of humor in contemporary art are as sporadic as they are fleeting. That said, it was a refreshing happenstance to stumble across some recent photographs by Liliana Porter.

       Overall, her work tends to be playful. Porter incorporates strong element of interaction and theatre into her pieces, which help to develop a relationship between the viewer and her work. Yet in her “Trabajo Forzado” (Forced Labor) series, she graduates from mischievous abandon to rely rather on a somewhat derisive sense of humor to connect with her audience.

“Man with Axe” 2011; Photograph; (dimensions unknown)

            The “Trabajo Forzado” photographs capture the plights of tiny, nameless workers who are tasked with the most ridiculous and insurmountable of chores. They are commanded to drive in gargantuan nails with tiny hammers, deconstruct the ledge on which they are supported, and sweep a perpetual trail of dirt which stretches into the distance. While on the one hand her prints may draw attention to the injustices that many laborers face throughout the world, the obvious sense of dread and impossibility within those images appeals to a common schadenfreude amongst the viewers. Faced with such hopeless assignments, the absurdity depicted throughout this series is nothing short of laughable.

“Nail” 2008; Metal figurine on wooden base and nail on wall; 2 x 3.5 x 4

            But this tacitly malevolent humor offers something of a life lesson. In varying capacities, we are all laborers who must stare into the rictus of life’s unassailable challenges. Assuming the viewer is the least bit self-aware, these images may very well embody an ever-beneficial dose of humility. Much of life is mundane and insurmountable. Yet as Porter’s work reminds us, perhaps humor is a gift by which to abate the pangs of such (forced) labor.

            Feel free to scroll through the gallery to take a look at a few images of her “Trabajo Forzado” series. You can also see more images on her website through the link above, or you can click here.

Rag & Bone – Yokohama Oxford

Made in both a longsleeve and shortsleeve version, the latest iteration of Rag & Bone‘s Yokohama Oxford is a great study in minimal detailing. The design energizes an otherwise simple shirt by employing a red, white, and blue stripe embellishment throughout the garment. While the vertical stria on the front are reminiscent of other designs in mind, the horizontal line above the back pleat is particularly intriguing. The rustic white-painted buttons add a nice final touch. As always, take a gander in the gallery for some detailed images.

BioCouture – Synthesizing Biology and Fashion

For any type of designer, materials play an incredibly important role in determining the outcome of each project. Yet while the major fashion houses are playing with black silicone and PVC, Suzanne Lee has been at the forefront of what promises to be a revolution in terms of fabric engineering. Having teamed with a group of biologists and material scientists, Lee has actually begun to grow her own textile biomaterial, which she uses throughout her limited and experimental line of BioCouture clothing.

One Dip in Natural Indigo

It is somewhat challenging to appreciate exactly what it means to grow your own textile material. Rather than planting, harvesting, and weaving, Lee simply manipulates natural fermentation processes to create her “textile” material. Oddly enough, the first component is a lukewarm vat of green tea. Having added sugars, yeasts, microorganisms, and a culture of bacterial cellulose, the solution is left to ferment for two to three weeks. As the different bacteria feed on the sugar, they produce threads of cellulose throughout the mixture. Over the course of fermentation, these threads will amass together – forming a 1.5 cm thick skin on the surface of the liquid. Once it is finished, the skin is simply removed and the liquid can be reused to create future batches of biomaterial.

Coagulated Material at Top - Vertical Cellulose Strings Underneath

What is even more remarkable is the diversity of this material. It can be cut and sewn like conventional fabric or it can be molded into three-dimensional forms. Depending on the project, the material can be manipulated to resemble anything between a lightweight paper to a flexible leather. It is 18 times more receptive to dyes than cotton and thus eliminates a great deal of strain on the environment. On a similar note, it is completely biodegradable.

Although this process has obvious implications for the future of fashion, Lee suspects that there are even more wide spread uses for this technology. Although there are still kinks to smooth out, it is reasonable to assume that in the near future we may be granted the option to grow materials with specific characteristics in mind– whether they be tensile, tactile, or talismanic.

Click on the images below to see some examples of her recent work, including a look at the fermentation process. If you are interested in learning more, visit the BioCouture website for more information.

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